2011-04-24

An Easter Story

Once upon a time, long before there was the internet or video games or even electric lights, before there were e-books – before there were books – back when stories were preserved only on scrolls and in memory – the world was different yet also very much the same. For instance, today there are poor people and rich people – and so were there then. A child was born into a poor family. His name was Yeshua: a quiet boy, with bright eyes, curious and kind.

When Yeshua was 12, his family traveled into the big city for the festival. In the big city, Yeshua got separated from his parents. They searched all over for him for three days, worried sick. When they found him, he was sitting with a circle of grown-ups next to the temple. The wisest elders in the whole city were gathered, and Yeshua was paying careful attention and asking questions.


YESHUA: Why are some people rich and others are poor? Why is there suffering? Why do we make mistakes that hurt others or ourselves? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do bad things happen to bad people? Is there really any such thing as bad people or good people? How can we learn how to be more kind and more loving?


Every elder had a different answer because nobody was sure.

When Yeshua became a grown up, he was still trying to find the answers. He read all the scrolls, and asked every teacher he could find. He went into the desert to get away from other people and be alone to think and to feel, to hear the quiet message of his own heart, and to experience more deeply the Earth and the sky.



Yeshua stayed in the desert many days with very little food.

One day in the desert a gazelle walked up to him.


GAZELLE: Why are you here, human?

Yeshua didn’t know if he was imagining, or if a Gazelle was really talking.

YESHUA: I want answers.

GAZELLE: What are the questions?

YESHUA: Why is there suffering? Why are some rich while others are poor? Why do we make hurtful mistakes? Why do bad things happen?

GAZELLE: Why, why, why.

Gazelle left. She came back the next day. Yeshua looked at her and repeated his question.

YESHUA: Why?

Gazelle looked at him, and spoke quietly.

GAZELLE: What do you already know?

YESHUA: Everybody I ask gives a different answer.

GAZELLE: There are many different reasons then.

Gazelle left again. The next day, the sun was sinking low before Gazelle trotted by where Yeshua was sitting. Yeshua looked up.

YESHUA: There are many different reasons.

GAZELLE: Yes, many reasons.

YESHUA: So how can we learn to be kinder?

GAZELLE: Good question. Much better than the other ones.

Gazelle left and did not return. A week later, Yeshua left the desert and returned to the villages of people. He began talking to people and teaching them.

YESHUA: I know that you suffer, and are poor, that you have made mistakes and are sorry, and others have made mistakes that harmed you. I have some good news.


CROWD: What? What? What is the news?

YESHUA: The kin[g]dom of God is within and among you.

CROWD: What did he say? What was that word?

PERSON 1: He said "Kingdom" of God. Like God is the King and will rule over us.

PERSON 2: No, he didn’t say "Kingdom" of God. He said the "Kin-dom" of God. Like we’re all kin – we’re all related to each other. When we know we are kin, that’s when we live in a holy way, like God.

YESHUA: The good news is the kindom of God. It is where love rules. Where love is the only law. Love is inside you, and love is among you. Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you.

Wherever Yeshua went, he tried to teach people how to be kinder. One day a man approached him.

PERSON 3: How can I live from love and for love?

YESHUA: Follow the rules and follow the love, for the rule is love.

PERSON 3: What’s the rule?

YESHUA: There are really only two. The first is: love the lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind. And the second is like the first: love your neighbor as yourself.

PERSON 3: My neighbor as myself?

YESHUA: Your neighbor as yourself.

PERSON 3: Who is my neighbor?

YESHUA: Let me tell you a story. Once there was a man who was robbed and beaten and left by the side of the road. Two people passed by and did nothing to help. A third person went to the man, bandaged his wounds, brought him to an inn and took care of him, paid for his care. So who was a neighbor to that robbed and beaten man?

PERSON 3: The one who showed him mercy.

YESHUA: Go, and do likewise.

Another time, another man approached Yeshua.

PERSON 4: How can I live from love and for love?

YESHUA: You know the commandments: don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t lie.

PERSON 4: I have kept the commandments since my youth, yet my heart is not satisfied. How can I have a larger love?

Yeshua looked at the man and loved him.

YESHUA: Go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor.

When the man heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions. Wherever he went, Yeshua talked to people and taught them to have hope in each other, taught them to care for each other, and how to be together in a community where love is the only law – a community that he called the kingdom, or the kin-dom, of God.

PERSON 5: Sounds like a liberal.

Yeshua especially emphasized taking care of the poor: providing everyone with housing, and food, and health care.

PERSON 5: Yep. Definitely a liberal.

- - - - -

Sources (from NRSV):
When Yeshua was 12 . . .
Luke 2: 40-48:

The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him. Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a day's journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, "Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety." [No parallels in other gospels]

He went into the desert
Mark 1: 12-13:

And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him. [Parallel passages: Matt 4: 1-11, and Luke 4: 1-13]

The news
Luke 4: 43:
But he said to them, "I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose."
Luke 8:1:
Soon afterwards he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God.
Luke 17: 21:
For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among (Or within) you.
Compare:
Deut 30: 11-14:
Surely, this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away. It is not in heaven, that you should say, "Who will go up to heaven for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?" Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, "Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?" No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe.

Love your enemies...
Luke 6: 27-28:
"But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse your, pray for those who abuse you." [Parallel passage: Matt 5: 44]

The rule is love
Matthew 22: 37-40:
He said to him, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. [Parallel passages: Mark 12: 28-31, and Luke 10: 25-28]
Compare:
Deut 6:4-6:
Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart.
Leviticus 19: 18:
You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.

Who is my neighbor?
Luke 10: 29-37:
But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, 'Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.' Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers? He said, "The one who showed him mercy." Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise." [Parallel passages: Matt 22: 34-40, and Mark 12: 28-34]

Sell what you own, give to the poor
Mark 10: 17-22:
As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: 'You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.'" He said to him, "Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth." Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, "You lack one thing: go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions. [Parallel passages: Matt 19: 16-22, and Luke 18: 18-23]
Luke 12: 33:
Sell your possessions and give alms
Luke 14: 33:
So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.