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Friday, August 13, 2010

What I’m Reading Today: Matthew 21:1-22

Today’s passage contains one of my very favorite stores about Jesus. Hearing that, you might try to predict what that favorite story is. In doing so, you’d probably try to stick with the stories that get a lot of press.

For instance, you might say, “One of Craig’s favorite stories about Jesus must be the story of Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem.”

You’d be wrong.

“Okay, how about the story of Jesus kicking the moneychangers out of the Temple? That’s a good one. That’s got to be it, right?”

Wrong again.

“So what’s left?”

The story of Jesus cursing the fig tree.

I realize it’s a rather odd story to identify as one of my favorite for a couple of reasons. First, it’s a story that rarely gets talked about. Second, it seems to be a teaching story where the moral to the story outshines the incident itself.

I can certainly understand why folks would have a hard time with my selection. The reason I love it, however, is because it reveals a very personal, VERY human side of Jesus that we don’t often get to see.

Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of the story begins by saying: “Early the next morning Jesus was returning to the city. He was hungry. Seeing a lone fig tree alongside the road, he approached it anticipating a breakfast of fig tree.”
I’m so there. I’ve been in that situation a thousand times (though usually not with fig trees). Let’s continue with Jesus’ story.

“When he got to the tree, there was nothing but fig leaves. [Jesus] said, ‘No more figs from this tree – ever!’ The fig tree withered on the spot, a dry stick.”

Once again I can totally relate! Jesus went into a situation expecting a certain outcome, the outcome didn’t happen, so he expressed his frustration by impulsively lashing out at the source of the frustration. That’s me!! That scenario plays out often in my life. One of the most frequent parallels is when my touch screen Blackberry Storm freezes and won’t respond to my attempts to answer a phone call – but I digress.

Now lots of folks lose that very human moment in Jesus’ life because of the way the author(s) of Matthew immediately use that situation to set up a teaching moment that uses the story to emphasize the power of Jesus. NO MENTION whatsoever is given to the fact that Jesus – like each of us – had a moment where he acted impulsively.

So – since the author(s) of Matthew chose to ignore Jesus’ impulsive nature – is there a lesson we can learn from that?

For me, the lesson lies in what we do with those impulsive moments in our life when we perhaps aren’t at our best. Jesus could have taken that impulsive gesture and simply stormed off. He also could have used his display of power to threaten the disciples (i.e. “Stay in line or you’ll be next”). He didn’t. He transformed that moment and used it as a teaching moment.

Each of us has the same opportunity in those moments of reactivity when we say or do something out of character. We can either try to cover it up and move on; or we can do something radical – like use that impulsive moment to accomplish a greater good (i.e. perhaps humble ourselves and apologize or use it as an excuse to address an underlying frustration that helped set you off).

Carry that awareness with you today and see if you can use it to inform the way you conduct yourself today.

Til next time …

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