The Words of Jesus

A reading for Tuesday, May 6, 2014: Matthew 3:7-12.

Phyllis Tickle, a self-described "religionist" and writer, published "The Words of Jesus: A Gospel of Sayings of our Lord" in 2008. In the book, she simply strips away everything in the gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, that is narrative or story and focuses only on the words of Jesus. It's a kind of "Red Letter Edition," focused and clear not on what Jesus does, but on what Jesus says.

Tickle writes that she is surprised at how such a focus changes her view not only of Jesus, but also of faith. We have so internalized the details of the stories around Jesus life, death and resurrection that in many ways we have lost some of the power of what Jesus says. There is too much of this to share here...

One thing I want to share, however, is the one subject Jesus addresses more than any other according to Tickle. More than grace, or love, or friendship, or even service to others Jesus talks about the end of times. There is a Kingdom that is coming, and we disciples have a job to do in telling the world about the coming of that Kingdom. We are to get the world ready to receive the Kingdom. We are called to proclaim the truth.

In our lesson today, John the Baptist has already started the clarion call. When the Kingdom comes, it will be centered on the fruits of the Spirit. It will be a demonstration of what is good and lasting in the world. The scribes and the Pharisees in the story appear to believe they are privileged because of their heritage and religion, and not because of the fruit of the Spirit. John tells them that in the end of times, all that is extra (chaff) will be burned away. It's a stern warning, and might even make us a little uncomfortable? Are we focused on the words of Jesus? Are we listening?

"I lift up my eyes to the hills— from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth." (Psalm 121)


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