Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Lion or the Lamb?

Last Friday I asked a question. Is Jesus safe?

The question is more loaded than I initially thought which is why I’m having a problem to write this post. I couldn’t do it for Friday’s post and I’m not any wiser now after having the weekend to think about it further. But my lack of ability or knowledge has never stopped me from moving headlong into a challenge so I invite you to come along with me for the journey to answer this question, reading through the gospel of Mark to look at the life and works of Jesus. Add to the conversation with your own thoughts and perceptions. This will be a multi-post theme.

I am so familiar with the Christmas story I can easily tune out when I hear, read or listen to sermons on Bible passages pertaining to his birth. I’ve on the story for 30+ years but this year a small fraction of the scripture in Matthew 2:16 gave me cause for pause. Herod ordered all the boys in the vicinity of Bethlehem ages 2 and under be killed. Two thousand years of hindsight later and safely tucked away in our western freedom and culture, we can say Jesus is safe but would the mothers of boys born around the time of Jesus say that?

John 1:1-2 says Jesus is the Word and in Hebrews 4:12 it says the Word is sharper than a double-edged sword, which penetrates and divides. Jesus himself said he came to bring a sword and turn sons & fathers, daughters & mothers against each other (Matthew 10:34-36). Revelation 1:13-16 describes his likeness as eyes of fire, a voice like rushing waters, large enough to hold 7 stars in his right hand and a double-edged sword in his mouth. No wonder John fell as though dead – better to play dead than be dead. These scriptures seem to say Jesus is unsafe.

But what if that’s not the whole picture? The Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:5-26) or the demon-possessed man at Gerasenes (Mark 5:1-20) or the woman caught in adultery (John 8:2-11) would probably testify that Jesus was the only safe person they had ever known.

Who is right? Could both pictures of Jesus be right? Jesus is called the Lamb of God, but also the Lion of Judah. One is meek and mild – in other words, safe but the other is fierce.

Mark’s gospel jumps right into the start of Jesus’ ministry – at his baptism by his cousin, John. The scene at the baptism opens up the question – is Jesus safe? The heavens were torn open; an act of violence, of rending and dividing and out of the violence descends a dove. The dove is a symbol of peace and tranquility; the dove rests on Jesus. Is Jesus safe? Maybe, but it depends on which side you perceive him. Where Jesus goes, there is a rending and a division but we can’t forget the dove rests on him, also.

There is definitely more to discuss and discover with this topic. I love the challenge to understand both aspects of Jesus – the lion and the lamb. I want to hear your thoughts, too. What is your experience with Jesus? Is he a lion or is he a lamb?

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