Christmas Reflection: Jesus, King of the Gentiles

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So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God.

Ephesians 2:19

Jesus came to call all people, regardless of culture or background, to become children of God. Make it a point today to reach out, with respect and love, to someone whose background or opinions differ from yours.

Going Deeper

Read Psalms 2:7-8, Acts 13:32-33, and Ephesians 2:17-22.

keystone-at-golgotha

When Jesus arrived on earth, the Jewish people were watching for a savior. They were eager for someone to rescue them from the oppressive Roman rule. They never imagined that the messiah would come to save not only the Jewish people, but the people of all nations, including the Romans. Some of the first visitors to the Holy Family after Jesus’ birth were the three magi, Gentiles from a country far from Bethlehem. This was one of the first clues that Jesus’ ministry and reach were going to be much wider than people expected.

There are many divisions in our world, just like there were in the time of Jesus. There are “proud deplorables” and “nasty women” who still stand “with her.” One group of people holds “Black lives matter” signs, while another holds “Blue lives matter” signs. And those who state “All lives matter” are accused of opposing one or the other of the two groups.

No matter how hard we try to be accepting and inclusive, it can be difficult to imagine that the mercy of God is available to everyone.

When you see on the news the story of a man who beat his wife or a woman who shook her baby, do you hope they “get what they deserve,” or do you hope they experience the mercy and forgiveness of Jesus?

Picture Jesus, approaching a member of ISIS who had beheaded innocent people, and saying “I’m going to have dinner at your house today.”

Imagine running into Adolf Hitler or Saddam Hussein while you are walking the golden streets of heaven.

You’ve been working in God’s fields since dawn. How will you feel, at the end of the day, when the Boston Marathon bomber, who joined the work crew just before sunset, gets the same pay as you?

 

None of us can be good enough to earn the mercy of God. God extends his mercy as a free gift to all people. In fact, Jesus himself said “I did not come to call the righteous but sinners” (Matt 9:13c).

Who is most difficult for you to love and forgive? Perhaps it’s one of the groups or people mentioned above. Or maybe it’s a family member you just can’t get along with, or a coworker who constantly rubs you the wrong way. Pray for that person.  Pray that they would come to know God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you the strength to forgive. Try to imagine you and that person “being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit” (from Eph 2:22).

Who do you say that I am?

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Today’s Gospel reading, from Luke chapter 9, begins:

Once when Jesus was praying by himself, and the disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” They said in reply, “John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, ‘One of the ancient prophets has arisen.’ ” Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter said in reply, “The Christ of God.”                                      Luke 9:18-20

Reflecting on this passage, I wondered how Jesus’ questions would be answered today.

Who do the crowds say that I am?

According to Barna research (https://www.barna.org/barna-update/culture/714-what-do-americans-believe-about-jesus-5-popular-beliefs#.V2Da8rsrLIU):

  • 92% of Americans believe Jesus was a real person who actually lived.
  • 56% of Americans believe Jesus is God, while 26% say he was just a religious leader, on par with the Buddha or Mohammed.
  • 46% of Americans believe Jesus remained sinless throughout his life, while 52% believe Jesus committed sins, just like other people.

On-the-street interviews asking the question “Who is Jesus?” garner a variety of answers (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OB2cvvHtqsA, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=johNLhZ5y48, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hm308hopZhU, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YztvjePz0uk):

Who do people say I am Word Cloud

Who do the Bible and the Church say that I am?

Who does the Bible say I am

But who do you say that I am?

This is perhaps the most important question. I challenge you to think and pray about it, and write down your answer to this question. I would love it if you would share your answer with me.

Here is my answer, at this time in my life:

Who do you say that I am Word Cloud