Something Greater Than Solomon Is Here

Posted in: Spirituality by bill-o on January 01, 2009

Jesus said many radical things. One of the things that he said was that “something greater than Solomon is here”. Jesus said this in response to certain religious leaders of his time. These religious teachers and scribes had asked to see a visible, miraculous sign from Jesus.

It was clear in the rest of the gospels that Jesus could and did perform miracles (signs). Yet Jesus never performed miracles because he was commanded to do so by other people. If he had done so, it would have demonstrated that he had had the power but not the authority to do what he was doing. It would have shown that he was working under the authority of earthly authorities, religious or political.

To Jesus, authority was more important than power. It was the authority of Jesus that first impressed the people who had first listened to him (see Luke 4:31-32). And, later on, the direct question of authority from the religious leaders led to the puzzling response that Jesus gave back to them: A question about authority that they chose not to answer. This led Jesus to say to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.” To Jesus, you must know who truly are before you can know what to do. To humanity, the natural thought process is usually reversed: in other words, might makes right. If you have the power, then others must obey you. For Jesus, this was not the way of life, … the way of love.

For the people of Jesus’ time, Solomon, the son of the great king David, was the most powerful and most wise king. Solomon reigned almost 1,000 years before Jesus. His kingdom’s boundaries were greater in extent than at any other time in the history of Israel. The capital of Jerusalem was so wealthy during his rule that silver was considered to be as though it were worthless: only gold was valuable. And, of course, his wisdom was legendary. In┬áJesus’ time, the authority of Solomon as a great king was unquestioned.

For Jesus, however, Solomon the king was a symbol, a shadow of something greater that would ultimately come later in history. Solomon’s reign was one of visible displays of greatness. Yet, with this story about Solomon in the common thoughts of everyone in his society, Jesus made the amazing statement that something greater than Solomon was there.

Rather than the restoration of the kingdom of Israel to the greatness of the days of Solomon, Jesus spoke of another kingdom, the eternal kingdom of God. What is the kingdom of God? Rather than answer that question directly, Jesus invites us here to think about the greatest rulers that the world has ever seen. (And don’t restrict yourself only to thinking about political rulers: think about business leaders, scientists, and others, also, who have made significant contributions for the greater good.) Then, once you have carefully considered the greatest qualities of each of these rulers and their kingdoms, then consider each of them, even at their very best, to be a mere shadow and preview of the goodness of God ruling in and through people. … And what is goodness? It is power carefully constrained under proper authority to do things that will be beneficial to others, especially the less powerful, in love. … When goodness is reflected from God into the world, then this is the kingdom of God, and this kingdom has a king.

The familiar leads to the unfamiliar. The knowledge of the best of the kingdoms of this world present a shadow and a type of the kingdom of God.

A Lamb and a Basket of Fruit

Posted in: Spirituality by bill-o on December 13, 2008

Near the beginning of the history of humanity, in the second generation of the human race, there were two brothers. Unlike their parents, neither brother had had the opportunity to know God personally by talking with him face-to-face. Yet both brothers had the desire to please God, and so each one prepared a gift for God. One brother worked hard in his field and brought a basket filled with a variety of fruits to present to God as a gift. His younger brother brought a lamb as a sacrifice to God.

For some reason, God liked the gift of the younger brother, but God didn’t accept the fruit basket from the older one.

Yet we might ask ourselves today: why would an all-powerful God care about one particular gift and yet disregard another? Could he not create anything that he wants at any time that he wants?

Well, it was not the actual gifts that counted, but, rather, the attitudes of the hearts of the brothers that mattered to God. The older one said to himself as he put his basket of fruits together: “Look at what I’ve done for God. I’ve worked hard for many months, from sunrise to sunset each day, to grow these pieces of fruit for God. Surely God will recognize all of the hard work that I’ve done for him and accept my gift with great pleasure. With this gift, God will also grant me a favored place in the sight of my family.” The younger one, on the other hand, said something like this to himself as prepared his lamb as a gift for God: “You know, there is really nothing that I could give to God that he couldn’t provide for himself if he really wanted to do that. I also see that my parents had once had a much closer relationship with God, even to the point of speaking with him face-to-face on a daily basis. That opportunity is now closed off to me and my brother because my parents stepped outside of the spiritual boundaries that God had carefully set up for them. I have no power in and of myself to repair that breach of trust and relationship with God. Yet, I truly desire to show God that I love him. I love him because I can see that, since God did not destroy my parents even though they had disobeyed him, God must still have a plan for my family. The one way that I know how to demonstrate love is to make a sacrifice. If I let go of something that is very meaningful to me while expecting nothing in return, that’s the best that I can think of to show my love. After all, God made everything anyway, including all of the animals that I watch over. By giving one of them to God, I honor him and show that I’m not interested in hoarding what he has given to me for myself. By shedding its blood, there is no way back: It’s life will be poured out and I can never recover my loss. Yet, I’ll show God that I love him the most, by giving up one of my finest lambs to him. Its very life will demonstrate the love that I have for him.”

The older brother approached God by an attitude of exchange and barter: I do something for God; now God should do something for me. The younger brother came to God with an attitude of love and sacrifice: I give up something special to him, one of my lambs in the prime of its life, simply because I love him.

This way of the lamb is the way of love.