All posts tagged Giotto

  • The Slaughter of the Innocents: The Dark Side of Christmas


    The Slaughter of the Innocents: The Dark Side of Christmas
    Brian Zahnd

    As the Gospel of Matthew tells us, Jesus was born in the time of King Herod, and the history books tell us that most of civilization has been lived in the time of kings like Herod — that is, in the time of tyrant kings. I’m talking about the time of Herod, the time of Pharaoh, the time of Nebuchadnezzar, the time of Augustus, the time of Nero, all the way into modern times — the time of Hitler and Mussolini, the time of Franco and Salazar, the time of Pinochet and Putin. It’s tragically true that most people have lived their lives in the time of tyrant kings. But the gospel also announces the glad tidings that with the birth of Jesus heaven has invaded the time of tyrant kings!

    Matthew tells the story of the first gentiles to receive the revelation (epiphany) of Christ the King. This is the beloved Christmas story of the Wise Men. These Oriental magi (or magicians) were most likely Zoroastrian priests from Persia skilled in astronomy, astrology, and dream interpretation who evidently somehow discerned in the stars an astrological sign announcing the birth of a new King of the Jews. The Zoroastrian priests regarded this birth as so auspicious that they embarked upon a dangerous and difficult thousand-mile journey from Persia to Judea in order to perform obeisance before the child and present their famous gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Because the magi were looking for a child king born in Judea, it made sense for them to inquire in the capital city of Jerusalem, but by doing so they unwittingly set in motion terrible events.
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  • Blessed are the Meek


    “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” —Jesus

    At the top of a list of things Jesus said that we don’t really believe I would place the third beatitude. Here are some of my thoughts on this most unsettling saying from Christ.

    What is Jesus really saying in the third beatitude? Is it something like this?—

    Blessed are the quiet and content, the humble and unassuming, the gentle and trusting who are not grasping and clutching, for God will personally guarantee their share when heaven and earth become one.

    Matthew tells us that the multitude which formed the audience for Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount was a mixed multitude coming from different places and representing diverse ethnic, religious and political backgrounds (see Matthew 4:25). There were religious Jews from Judea with their devout commitment to Torah observance and keeping kosher. There were Galilean Jews for whom synagogue life, though important, was not the obsession it was for the Judeans. There were non-observant Jews who, having dropped out of religious life altogether, were dubbed “sinners.” There were Greeks from the Decapolis region with their sophisticated love of art, philosophy, and athletics. And of course there were the Romans—the triumphant foreign occupiers from the dominant superpower. What Jesus has to say in the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount he addresses to all of these people. His sermon is not instructions on how to be religious or how to be Jewish (or Christian)—Jesus’ instructions are on how to be human. Jesus is revealing to the human race the narrow way that leads to life. Jesus is teaching us the counterintuitive way of God that makes life livable.

    Perhaps the most counterintuitive of all the Beatitudes is the third blessing Jesus bestows. Jesus blesses the meek—the quiet, the gentle, the non-assertive, the non-aggressive—saying they will inherit the earth. But I doubt we believe this. We would say something different. Something like—“Blessed are the meek, for even though they come in last, they’ll be called a nice guy, receive a certificate of participation, and be named ‘Miss Congeniality.’” That’s what we think about the meek—but it’s not what Jesus says! Jesus says the meek will inherit the earth. Inherit the earth?! Really? Read more