Monday, September 5, 2011

Me First? Not Here.

In a former life I was a book publisher.  I had the opportunity to do some interesting and profitable projects, but none affected my life like the book I did with Kansas City journalism / broadcasting legend, Walt Bodine.  Hanging out with Walt was just about the most delightful time I've ever had with another person.  He was bight, witty, colorful, and engaging.  Walt is also virtually blind and that wound up impacting me in an unexpected way.  Watch this short video as I explain the impact of being with Walt.

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But when Herod’s birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before them and pleased Herod, so much that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked. Having been prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.” Although he was grieved, the king commanded it to be given because of his oaths, and because of his dinner guests.  He sent and had John beheaded in the prison.  And his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother.  His disciples came and took away the body and buried it; and they went and reported to Jesus.
Now when Jesus heard about John, He withdrew from there in a boat to a secluded place by Himself; and when the people heard of this, they followed Him on foot from the cities. When He went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them and healed their sick.
When it was evening, the disciples came to Him and said, “This place is desolate and the hour is already late; so send the crowds away, that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” But Jesus said to them, “They do not need to go away; you give them something to eat!” They said to Him, “We have here only five loaves and two fish.” And He said, “Bring them here to Me.” Ordering the people to sit down on the grass, He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food, and breaking the loaves He gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds, and they all ate and were satisfied. They picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve full baskets.  There were about five thousand men who ate, besides women and children. (Matthew 14:6-21)
If you were to ask a hundred people to list Jesus’ top three miracles, feeding the five thousand would be on virtually everyone’s list.  But the immediate context of that miracle might not be mentioned.  The scene in Herod’s palace is disgusting and despicable in every aspect – a young tart dances in such a way that her uncle/step-father (yes, both) offers her anything.  Her desperate housewife mom coached the girl to ask for John the Baptist to be slaughtered.  Herod obliged.  Now remember that John was Jesus’ cousin (see Luke 1).  What would you have done if you had just found out that your cousin and partner in ministry had just been beheaded?  Personally, if it were me and I had the power that Jesus had, I would have snapped my fingers and the heads of Herod, Herodias, and that tramp daughter would have all exploded like water balloons hitting a brick wall.  That’s how I roll.

But followers of Jesus are compelled to see the world as Jesus does and to respond to events in the world as Jesus did.  Instead of seeking retribution against Herod, Jesus tried to get some time alone to grieve for John.  But the people discovered Him and crowded to Him.  Jesus' response, rather than anger and revenge, rather than isolation and grief, was to heal, teach, and ultimately feed five thousand people.

Seeing Jesus put even His own grief aside is a powerful lesson for His followers to learn.  My moments with Walt gave me a glimpse of what it meant to put others first.  It’s a lesson I have to embrace every day if I am going to show the world what it means to follow Jesus.

Clark H Smith

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