Saturday, January 12, 2013

To Know Christ Jesus – The Later Years

As you last recall, I recently finished a book called “To Know Christ Jesus” by theologian Frank Sheed. The book goes through the entire life of Jesus offering analysis you may not have run across in other literature, or heard in a typical Sunday homily. The last post highlighted some insights from the first thirty years of Christ’s life; this post will cover some things from the last three. Consider that this could be of immense use to you the next time you’re stuck in a game of Christian trivia, so here we go.

Ø  The public life of Jesus starts after the wedding at Cana. What were the very last words of Mary in the gospels? At Cana she says, “Do whatever he tells you.” If there must be last words from Our Lady, what could be more appropriate?
Ø  What really drove out the moneychangers during the cleansing of the temple in the second chapter of John’s gospel? Jesus was of average stature and He was “cleansing” with a whip made of ropes. It’s not like Jesus was 6’5” and 300 pounds. He did not have a knife, sword or spear. He was a carpenter, not a professional whip maker and there is no indication that His followers jumped-in to help. If buying and selling at the temple was a significant part of my livelihood, I might have grabbed a few friends and said, “Let’s take this guy out before he gets to our tables!”, but this was not the case.
What made the moneychangers scatter? Sheed suggests there must have been something in His manner as God that they could not stand against. Perhaps it was the blaze from God’s own eyes burning a fiery condemnation upon them.
Ø  What was the first record of Jesus saying He was the Christ? The woman at the well says, “I know the Messiah is coming” and the Lord answers, “I am he, the one who is speaking with you” (John 4:26). He had always avoided this direct statement until now. It is startling that this is first revealed by Him to a Samaritan, and a woman.
Ø  What was the most astonishing phrase to ever come from Jewish lips? After the beatitudes Jesus speaks of the law. “Moses said……, but I SAY to you”. This was unspeakable arrogance or madness, or – what? To make this sort of claim and not be stoned to death would indeed take a miracle worker.
Ø  What were the first words of kindness we hear from Jesus? When Peter tells the Lord to depart from him because he was a sinful man, the Lord replies, “Fear not” (see Luke 5:8-10). Peter did not know at the time that the more you were a sinner; the more you needed Jesus. It reminded me of JPII’s “be not afraid”.
Ø  What did Jesus do just before choosing the twelve Apostles? He spent the entire night in prayer (see Luke 6:12-16). Seems appropriate given the indescribable amount of permanent authority He would pass on to them.
Ø  What was the curious request of Jesus from the demons of Legion? “And they begged him repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss” (Luke 8:31). Sheed speculates that demons not only torment humans, but may also torment each other, to the point where some would prefer the company of pigs to the company of other demons in the “Abyss”. It reminded me of The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis when the older demon, Uncle Screwtape, was getting frustrated with the younger demon, Wormwood.

The case in which our Lord says of a demon, “This kind cannot be cast out, but by prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29) seems to confirm a higher and lower level of demonic power, yet even the highest fall subject to those who totally subject themselves to God.

Ø  What was the only miracle of Jesus to appear in all four Gospels? The feeding of the five thousand. Sheed remarks that the Gospels do not state that the loaves were first multiplied and then passes out; it was more the presence of the loaves that was somehow multiplied. Multi-LOCATION of loaves might be a more precise term than multiplication of loaves. This reminded me of the Eucharist as being more of a Multi-LOCATION of Jesus instead of a multiplication of Jesus.
Ø  For those who think the bread of life discourse is figurative language, Sheed mentions that figures of speech are used to make obscure ideas more clear. Eating flesh and drinking blood would be monstrous examples of figures of speech, and would NOT help to make things more clear. Jesus was not known for this kind of bizarre figurative teaching.
Ø  Why did Jesus seem so harsh to those that would not accept Him? “For unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins” (John 8:24). To those who truly want to do God’s will, the grace to accept Him would have been given. Remember that Jesus could read the heart. The failure to accept was sure proof to Jesus that they desired their own will, not God’s. His harshness was reserved for those who had set their will against his Father’s.
Ø  When was the only time the invitation from Jesus to “follow me” was refused? The rich young man went away sad in Luke 18, Mark 10 & Mat 19. Jesus must have been sad too.
Ø  Who was the only character in all the parables of Jesus to have a name? Lazarus (see Luke 16:19-31). The name means “God has helped”.
Ø  One more piece of evidence that Satan is not omniscient is in Luke 22:3, when he entered into Judas, which ultimately led to the crucifixion of Jesus. Satan helping to bring about the death of Jesus, and thereby his own destruction, demonstrates a startling misjudgment on his part.
Ø  On the cross, Jesus says to His mother, “Woman, behold your son” and to John, “Behold you mother”. This is not merely a domestic arrangement. If He chose to say it at this time it must be a part of the redemptive process. John went on to live with Mary and one can only imagine the dinner conversation in that house and how much they must have learned from each other, but we would suspect John learned more from Mary by virtue of her immaculate intellect. John’s gospel is said to be of “High Christology”; since he spent so much time with Mary, it would be strange if it were otherwise.
Ø  For those who hold that the resurrection of Christ is a myth, Sheed points out that a myth-maker would surly elaborate on a spectacular emergence from the tomb, but there is not a word about it in the Gospels. The angel had rolled away the stone, but this was not to let Him out, but to let others in. His resurrected body would have been able to pass through a sealed tomb just like He passed through a locked door in the upper room later on. This is a body wholly subject to the soul, to which the matter of our world was no longer a hindrance. The glorified body was not even at the mercy of men’s eyes, since many did not recognize Him unless He willed it.
Ø  When is the first and only time we hear Jesus addressed as God? When doubting Thomas believes and says, “My lord and my God”.
There are many other such reflections in the book not mentioned here, but I’d like to end with a direct quote that relates to the very blueprint of the Church and The Great Commission. “Catholicity is in it, for catholic means universal, a word which brings together the two ideas of “all” and “one”. Here is the threefold “all” – all nations, all teaching, all days – brought into “one” – in Him”.


  1. RE: "What was the most astonishing phrase to ever come from Jewish lips? After the beatitudes Jesus speaks of the law. “Moses said……, but I SAY to you”. This was unspeakable arrogance or madness, or – what? To make this sort of claim and not be stoned to death would indeed take a miracle worker."

    Actually, that's how Rabbis commented on the Law. "You have heard it said/Moses said...but I say to you" is rabbinic language. Sauce:

    Identity of Jesus video I made:

    1. Hi Nick,
      I’ll look at your links when I get some time. Fr Robert Barron was saying basically the same thing as Sheed during a talk of his I attended about a year ago at Elmhurst College in IL. I think he mentions it in the Catholicism series also if I remember correctly. Thanks for your comment.

  2. Frank Sheed in his book "Theology and Sanity" has the best explanation of the Blessed Trinity I have ever read.

    1. What Anon said. The book uses philosophy and science to illuminate the Faith.

      You can read it by clicking on my name, or going here:

  3. Does this topic has to do with your professional position or maybe is it mostly about your leisure and kinds of spending your free time?

    1. Hello,
      We do this as non-professionals. We like to share what we learn.