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Conversations with Mary's Son
At least, theoretically...
At the request (inner conviction) of a certain Someone during a recent renewed re-acquaintance, I was nudged to start my study again of the New Testament. I had to go looking for a Bible, it's been so long. I finally found one that was a communion gift to my son many years ago. It's one of those pretty "Precious Moments" Bibles with the cute kids on the front.
A bit of history...
It used to be that my Bible never left my side but life changed, and eventually so did I. I spent the majority of my life, however, sure to the depths of my soul of two things: one, that Jesus was my best friend in the world and two, absolutely nothing could hurt or touch me without his permission so long as I renewed our acquaintance on a daily basis and "plugged back in" to the Source. This daily renewal was crucial. It was as if I became disconnected from my soul during dreams, and wandered lost. Dawn was a renewed promise of yet another day of life and with it came the need to reach out to the source of all life. I did it eagerly.
As I grew older, I'd often forget. I don't have data, but I did get the general overall feeling that the days I forgot do plug in didn't go half as well as the days I did. As I grew older still and more skeptical, I began to wonder if my brain had manufactured this feeling and fulfilled it's own dire prophecy. But since I'd forgotten, often until the night, that I hadn't "plugged in", I don't see how it could have had any influence one way or another. It's a mystery.
About 15 years ago I began writing in a notebook all the questions I had while reading the Gospels. I love to read about Jesus' life especially, and his recorded words as disclosed by the first four books of the New Testament. But because I'd also studied other religions, I had some skepticism when I took up the study. I wasn't the same young girl who had dedicated her life to service and gone to Bible college to be a missionary to that end. I hadn't yet lost my faith -- that would come later. But I had questions. So the notebook was fun, and it made me feel closer to Himself.
In the intervening years, several things happened which are too long to list here. Life happened, at full speed and maximum damage while I held on for dear life. When it was over I found a safe shelter in my new husband's arms. Sickness came after that, panic attacks and aggoraphobia. I handled those. But what cut me to the core and nearly felled me completely was my loss of faith.
It didn't go all at once. I think it had been going for years, like grains of sand leaking from a tiny hole in a pocket. One grain at a time, one moment at a time, my faith ran out. When the last grain fell, it hit with the force of a thunderclap. I was suddenly, utterly, alone. The great barrier that had protected me from all the predators in the world was gone. In a very short time, fear had boxed my life so thoroughly that I couldn't move.
I was diagnosed with multiple blood clots in my lungs in January 2007. I was told I would have died that day had they not diagnosed me -- and if not for the words of one nurse in ER, I would have been sent home. He asked the doctor to check for blood clots. The doctor was skeptical, but did it anyway. They found too many to count. I was admitted to the hospital and put on two kinds of blood thinners. I was told by the specialist that I'd be on the blood thinners for the rest of my life. I asked her if these clots were an immediate threat and she told me that any one of them could move to my heart or head and kill me. Heavy stuff. I went home and waited to die. I had never been a quitter so that "waiting to die" bit didn't last l. I have supportive friends who were there for me whenever I needed them. With the help of some wonderful people, a lot of soul searching and the guidance of a gorgeous guru named Bill Phillips and Transformation.com (one of the best healing sites I'd ever found) I stopped waiting to die and began to live again. Now I'm fully present in each day. Now I am grateful for every moment.
And now I have made an agreement with Himself to read the New Testament again, one chapter a day, and to write down any question that pops into my mind. The questions will be pretty simple. I was a student of the Bible for years, but I'm no theologian. I do this not so much as a Christian but as a student of all the world's religions. This is my first step out of the darkness.
Matthew, Chapter 1 (Part 1)
1 The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham...
The first question I had was this:
How did Matthew get the courage to write that?
Straight out, first sentence, he dooms himself. The word "Christ" is a title meaning "Anointed One", "Deliverer" or Messiah -- in short, the long-awaited savior of the Israeli people. The Sadducees and Pharisees must have howled for Matthews blood as soon as they read it. Not only did he write heresy, Matthew was a tax collector (say that in the same tone of voice as you would say, "used car salesman" and you get the idea of the kind of esteem Matthew could expect from his neighbors).
These religious leaders had studied ancient scriptures all their lives. As I understand it, every Jew prays to see the Messiah in their own lifetime. These scholars and religious leaders, probably the same who had hounded Jesus' public years, may have reasoned, If a Messiah was going to be recognized, it would come from them, not some dirty, money-grubbing man who had admittedly traveled with a convicted criminal. How dare he tell the world that he knew these sacred texts better than they did?
So, I'm guessing the religious leaders would have reacted to this first Gospel much the same as the Inquisitionists would have reacted had Dan Brown somehow managed to travel back in time and suicidally hand them a copy of The DaVinci Code. The huge outcry from religious leaders of our time was quite media worthy, but it didn't result in Dan Brown's death as it would have 400 years or so ago.
Matthew on the other hand, paid for his statements with his life. In fact, I think the only disciple to have lived to a ripe old age was John, author of Revelation. So how did Matthew get the courage to do this? Did his association with Jesus give him that divine state of "no fear?" Or was he truly afraid, and did it anyway -- the definition, some say, of courage.
Immediately I'm struck with wonder and admiration for this man, Matthew; sadness too. I think of Jesus' mother often, and of her grief at what happened to her beautiful, first-born son. Thinking of Matthew's courage made me think of his mother and family as well. I hope she was given some solace.
Since I've given so much background leading up this, I'll end this here to be continued in Part 2. After that, I'll do approximately one chapter at a time. I'm hoping to get some really good, insightful, non-judgmental conversation going about this. I am sure there are others here who have some answers to these questions, or some theories, and that would be terrific.
PS One of Jesus' forefathers was named "Salmon." Do you think that has anything to do with the symbol early Christians chose?