April 25, 2008

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.” — John 1:1-2

“Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” — Matthew 10:39

“Only the beginning of what I want to feel forever;
Only the beginning,
Only just the start…”
Chicago, “Beginnings”

Quite an eclectic selection of quotes, no? I’ve never claimed myself to be anything even remotely resembling a genius; in fact, the title of my post from last week, “Dawn Breaks Over Marblehead”, might well make for a damned fine quote on my tombstone. And in this regard, the underlying message and theme from Robin Griffith-Jones’ book, “The Four Witnesses” might well go down in my own personal history as a kind of life-changing event. Allow me to explain…

Anyone picking up Griffith-Jones’ book might find it (as I did) incredibly frustrating; you just want the author to simply get to the damned freakin’ point. But that’s the whole idea at work here, for he has taken great pains to make sure his readers understand fully the context (not the theology) by which each of the four authors of the Gospels strove to write about Jesus in a way their target audiences would understand – after all, their communities were struggling (as each of us still are two thousand years later) to make sense of this extremely uncommon human being during difficult times.

And it wasn’t until the end of Griffith-Jones’ book – actually, the final pages! – where everything finally fell into place and it all made sense to me. So, what is the author’s underlying premise? Simply this: that for each of the Gospel writers, Jesus’ message was all about beginnings. For example:

* For Mark, the critical point comes when, by tyhe tomb on Easter Sunday, the angel instructs the women to “tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you.'” (Mark 16:7) For Mark’s readers the instruction is clear – if you want to know about the Risen Lord, go back to the beginning, where at the start of Mark’s Gospel you have Jesus’ first appearance and his calling to Peter.

* For Matthew, the beginning is all about repentence and baptism, so much so that his Jesus instructs the disciples to usher in new beginnings for the church’s converts by “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19)

* For Luke, the beginning lies in the opening of the disciples’ minds and understanding that first Easter night when he appeared to those gathered and “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures”.

* For John, the scene set in the garden that Easter morning (where the risen Lord appears to Mary) re-enacts the Garden of Eden, signifying a new beginning for Creation; here, the end of John’s Gospel recalls the beginning of John’s Gospel, equating God’s creation where “let there be light” becomes “the true light, which enlightens everyone… coming into the world.” (John 1:9)

So what does all this have to do with dawn breaking over my “Marblehead”? Simply put, I don’t think I every truly understood – or maybe I did understand but never took it seriously enough – the whole idea is that to walk with Jesus requires a new beginning, a desire to allow the Holy Spirit to bring about a new creation in each one’s own self. Being the stubborn guy I am, I’m all too aware that I’ve always resisted God’s calling to give up any more of myself than I’m comfortable with – like most people, I guess, there’s a bit of ego and a fear of the unknown going on there.

Even given the flaws in Griffith-Jones’ book (and there are many, not the least bit being a disturbing – and in my view, unnecessary – lack of bibliography), what he has succeeded in doing was pulling together the various strains and contexts by which Jesus’ life and teachings were documented, communicated, translated, and lived by those who followed him (both figuratively and literally) in those early and formative years of the early Church and chip away at that wall of ego and will I’m so protective of. After all, it’s not just a change in head and heart that God is seeking from each of us, but behavior as well. One would think behavior would follow (at least in some regard) head and heart, but I just sense that God doesn’t want just 80 or 90 percent of me, he wants all of me.

Now to find the courage and will to let Him both take it and have at it.

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 01:52 | Comment (1)
1 Comment
  1. “You see, it’s all clear
    You were meant to be here
    From the beginning.”

    by ELP

    Comment by Tightwad — April 30, 2008 @ 8:08 pm

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