Jesonian… May 20th, 2017

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“A certain lawyer.”

This is how the King James Version of the Good Book describes a chap who comes to hear Jesus teach. We do not know his real name, but we are made aware of his agenda.

So was he “a certain lawyer” because he was identical to the other lawyers around him, or was he referred to as “a certain lawyer” because he had a legal mind–already made up and sure of itself?

As the story unfolds, we find that actually he’s a bit of both. He’s on a mission. His job is to take his intellect, his knowledge of Mosaic law and his wit, and trip up the bumpkin would-be prophet from Nazareth.

He crafts a plan. It’s the classic trap. He asks Jesus “how to gain eternal life.” He figures this will cause the over-wrought preacher to launch into a series of crazed statements which are easily contradicted by existing spiritual philosophy. Imagine how astounded he is when Jesus defers to him.

“What does the law say? How do you read it?”

The lawyer was not expecting this response, but seeing the crowd of people, he thought it would be unwise to be absent a reply. He grabs a safe answer. (That’s what “certain people” do. Even “certain lawyers.” They grab safe answers.)

He said, “You should love the Lord your God and love your neighbor as yourself.”

To which Jesus replied, “Fantastic! Go do that.”

The certain lawyer is embarrassed. He has been out-maneuvered by a former carpenter. He has been managed. He has been handled. He gained no additional information, and made the audience think he was completely in tune with the teachings of Jesus.

So he does something truly dastardly–he tries to justify himself. Every lasting malady happens when we come across a reality and explain why we’re already doing something else.

The certain lawyer (who is losing certainty by the moment) asks, “Who is my neighbor?”

In other words, there must be some restriction. Jesus is not talking about Gentiles, is he? He’s not referring to nasty whores and thieves?

“I need you to clarify. And in the clarification, it is my hope that you will foul up, so I can go back to those who hired me, and have a good laugh concerning me bettering the Galilean.”

Jesus doesn’t miss a beat.

He tells a story about a man who fell into a situation where he was robbed and beaten. He immediately establishes that those who “the certain lawyer” respected–a priest and a Levite–passed by and did not help the bleeding fellow. Instead, he offers a hero. He introduces a Samaritan–which by the way, to that “certain lawyer” was even worse than a Gentile–who comes to the aid of the gentleman, binds his wounds, takes him to an inn and then leaves real money behind to make sure he’s cared for until he recuperates.

Jesus directs the story. In politics, they refer to it as “controlling the narrative.”

A lawyer who thought he was so smart was side-stepped; trapped by question from Jesus which could only evoke one logical response. Upon finishing the narrative, Jesus asks the certain lawyer, “Who was neighbor to the damaged man?”

The lawyer was surrounded by people, and the answer was so obvious that any hem-hawing or parsing of words would make him look foolish, not thoughtful. So he splurted out:

“The neighbor was the one who showed mercy to the wounded man.”

And even though the “certain lawyer” had hoped that the end of his dialogue with Jesus would leave the Master speechless and him dominating, instead Jesus turns and as he walked away, says, “Go and do thou likewise.”

There must have been a chuckle throughout the crowd.

The humiliated, foiled, aggravated and convicted lawyer left to go lick his wounds.

Over the next few weeks, he devises his own story–a retort he should have given to Jesus. Why do I feel that? Because the Gospel writer never told us his name.

The “certain lawyer” didn’t matter. He was a prop–a vehicle to share wisdom.

A story for the ages: The Good Samaritan.

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Ask Jonathots… July 28th, 2016

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Why did Jesus say it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom? Is there something evil about having money?

With all due respect, I think you’ve asked the wrong question.

For a discussion about evil–its sources and implications–is the best way to leave yourself paranoid and frightened to do anything.

The real question: Is there anything good about money?

1. It can allow us to be free of the tension of sustaining ourselves, and cause us to begin to “consider the lily.”

2. If we can convince ourselves that we actually have enough of this money stuff, it is possible to stimulate a wave of generosity in our actions which will be a blessing to those around us.

3. If we find ourselves in the black instead of the red, we grant our spirit an energy to generate creativity and come up with inventive ideas.

4. Having money gives us a chance to give opportunity to those who have talent but just lack funding.

5. If we’re able to convince ourselves that we are accomplished, and therefore do not have to fear losing our finance, we can expand our vision and become less critical.

When Jesus said “it is more difficult for a rich man to make it into heaven than a camel to go through the eye of a needle,” what he was referring to was not the presence of money, but rather, the failure to exorcise the demon of insufficiency.

Just because you have money does not mean you cease to believe you’re poor.

For it is the love of money that is the root of all evil–the yearning, the despair, the nervousness, the feeling of inadequacy–that launches all sorts of vile actions.

If you’re going to have money, you must reach a point where you’re convinced that you have money.

That frees you up to become generous, turning money into a gift of the spirit, which grants you angelic potential to be a Good Samaritan to the world around you.

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Jesonian: The Bad Samaritan… April 5, 2015

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It was Charles Schultz, the conceiver of the Peanuts comic strip, who once said, “I love mankind. It’s people I can’t stand.”

Let me give you my resurrection message. It’s all about Samaritans. In the ministry of Jesus there are four major references to these people from Samaria.

There is the case when Jesus stopped in to Sychar and talked to a woman at a well, who coyly wanted to avoid any discussion of her personal life by becoming embroiled in a conversation about religion. Jesus side-stepped the theology, touched her heart and because of that, a little revival broke out in the region, which led to many wonderful conversions.

The word “Samaritan” is also brought up in relationship to one of ten lepers, who returned to be thankful after being cleansed. Jesus commended him for his great insight.

Then there’s the classic parable of “The Good Samaritan,” who stops off to help out someone wounded along the side of the road.

But the fourth case is what we might call the “Bad Samaritan.”

Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem once again and decides to pass through Samaria and sprout a few more blessings. But upon arriving at a Samaritan village, the town council meets him outside the city limits and tells him he is no longer welcome there, because they are angry because he is heading toward Jerusalem.

This prompts two of the disciples to offer the suggestion that these ungrateful people should be killed off by fire from heaven.

Perhaps that’s the problem we have today.

We like people, even those we used to be prejudiced against, as long as they do exactly what we want them to do.

On this Easter Sunday morning I would like you to remember the true message of the season. For after all, Jesus did not resurrect from the dead and go seek revenge on Caiaphas and the Jewish Council. He didn’t behead Pontius Pilate.

The true message of Easter is the same one Jesus spoke to those two disciples when they wanted to kill off the Samaritans, who had a bad day.

It’s a three-step process–a Jesonian perspective which will make your Easter Sunday last all year long:

1. Know the heart of God.

It’s simple: God doesn’t want anyone to perish.

He certainly doesn’t want them to be driven to hell by people who condemn them.

2. Know your own spirit.

Once again, not complicated: we get mercy when we give mercy.

And by the way, we require mercy.

3. The rest is obvious.

Yes, when we walk around pretending that life is difficult, we are admitting that we have abandoned the heart of God and we really don’t know our own spirit.

In conclusion:

  • You can’t change bad Samaritans into good Samaritans.
  • You can’t change bad people into good people.
  • Jesus’ response to the Samaritans who rejected him was simply to go to another village.

Let God take care of all the business of dealing with people’s inner workings.

There are “Bad Samaritans.”

There are people who have nasty attitudes.

Our only recourse is to know the heart of God, know that our own spirit demands that we give mercy, and the rest is obvious:

Move on.

Sometimes … it takes another village.

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