08 January 2009

The coming of the wise

I am fascinated by the Gospel birth narratives. The coming of the wise, who were certainly
Gentiles, their acts of devotion, speak volumes of how the early church thought of the coming of this man Jesus.

Consider, the Gospels are not a photo book. The authors chose the material they used, and they chose its placement. So for instance a fair number of Jesus' sayings are found in Mathew 10, where the context is very different from Mark and Luke. There are reasons why the Gospels place the coming of the wise into the birth narrative, they did not have to tell the story.

So, what were those reasons? Consider, the wise come from the East, that is from outside Roman and Palestinian civilization. The wise are not Jews. The wise are among the first to recognize the greatness of Jesus. The wise see through Herod.

I think the Gospels show us this radically inclusive Jesus. He says throughout the sermons and actions that all may become his disciples. He rebukes Peter, after the resurrection, as he and the first evangelicals want to subject Gentiles to their reading of the law.

The wise come, worship, donate, and go home. They do not become Jews. Pius medieval legend to the contrary, they do not come to be disciples. And yet, the Bible seems to approve of them. If they were real people (I consider that doubtful) they are likely to be in heaven. They seem to have gotten there without even going to confession, having a conversion moment or proclaiming the scriptures 'inerrant.'

God has God's standards. And the church have been trying to impose others for 2,000 years. It is perhaps time to stop. Proclaim the Good News, love God and shut up about other requirements. Let the believers find their own way to 'amendment of life' as they understand the requirements. That I submit is the Gospel imperative.


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