WEEK 12 — March 25, 2015



week 12


Salome, Wife of Zebedee


Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him. “What is it you want?” he asked. She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.” “You   don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. Matthew 20:20-22a

One of the saddest figures in the history of America during the century of the 1900s was Joseph Kennedy, Senior. Rising from a relatively humble background, he became a multi-millionaire, friend of the great, and ambassador at the Court of St. James.

The sad part came when Joe Kennedy started trying to arrange things for his sons. Once Joe was convinced that his own hereditary adherence to Roman Catholicism and other factors would keep him from ever becoming President of the United States, he started grooming Joe Junior for the job.

Joseph Kennedy, Junior died in a plane crash during World War II. Then the grieving father started grooming Jack, the next son in line. Kennedy’s millions helped sweep John F. Kennedy into the Presidency in the tumultuous 1960s. But – as everyone knows – JFK was shot down in the streets of Dallas.

After that it was the turn of Bobby, the third son. In 1968 he seemed well on his way to becoming President when he, too, fell to an assassin’s bullet. By that time old Joe Kennedy had suffered a devastating stroke; one commentator remarked that he was a “mute and helpless witness” to the destruction that had befallen his family and his grandiose plans for them.

Of course there was still one son left, and he served ably for many years as a United States Senator. Yet Ted Kennedy’s career was also shadowed by unfortunate events, . . . and he never became President.

Do you see a parallel between the story of Joe Kennedy and his sons on the one hand, and the story of Salome and her sons on the other? Note Salome’s request in the verses quoted above. By “right and left,” she was in effect asking that one son should be prime minister and the other a high royal councilor in Jesus’ coming kingdom.

Like Joe Kennedy the father, Salome the mother didn’t realize what she was asking for. Jesus hastened to warn her; he also bluntly asked her sons if they were prepared to suffer and die along with him. They answered stoutly that they were. (Does your church still sing sometimes a hymn about this conversation, beginning “‘Are Ye Able,’ Said the Master”?)

Could Mother Salome have possibly guessed that one of her sons would be the first of the Twelve to die a martyr’s death?

Could she have guessed that her other son would be exiled in his old age to the barren Isle of Patmos?

The following Scriptural meditation tries imaginatively to follow the thoughts of this devoted but misguided mother:

I couldn’t understand it when my sons both left their jobs.
They wouldn’t stop to listen to a mother’s pleas and sobs.

They had such possibilities, yet left it all behind. . . .
Might there be opportunities of quite a different kind?

I buttonholed their Boss:“Sir, here’s the thing that you should do:
Promote these sons of mine to number one and number two.”

I only did what any other mother would have done.
Some mother’s son would get to be the first – why not my son?

What Jesus mentioned next caused me to fear what time would                            bring:
He asked my sons if they were brave enough for suffering.

O yes, they got promotions, . . . but it caused my heart to break: 
My James was first among the Twelve to die for Jesus’ sake.

Have mercy, O Lord, on all parents who don’t know what they’re doing when they seek a certain preference, position, or honor for their children! Amen.

Copyright © 2014 by Perry Thomas

WEEK 11 — March 18, 2015



week 11


A Mother in Galilee: The Wife of Jairus


When he arrived at the house of Jairus, he did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John and James, and the child’s father and mother. Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. “Stop wailing,” Jesus said. “She is not dead but asleep.” They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. But he took her by the hand and said, “My child, get up!” Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. Her parents were astonished, but he ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened.
Luke 8:51-56

Once when we were young marrieds with no children, we opened our home to a friend from my hometown whose child lay sick in a city hospital. Privately Fran and I talked about how foolish our friend was in staying with her little son so constantly, refusing to take any but the most minimal rest.

After we had been blessed with children of our own, then we better understood how a parent feels when a beloved child lies in danger of death. My own mother reminded us, “God gives special strength to mothers when their little ones are suffering.”

According to the Bible verses quoted above, both Jairus, the ruler of a synagogue in Galilee, and his no-doubt-distraught wife were present when Jesus came to heal their daughter. The problem was, Jesus had been delayed along the way, and the twelve-year-old girl already lay dead.

The verses quoted above also relate that Jesus ordered Jairus and his wife to tell no one about the miracle he proceeded to perform. If they obeyed his command, then how did news of the girl’s resurrection become so widely known? Three of the four Gospels relate this incident, with vivid and only slightly varying details.

Was it the sorrowing mother who couldn’t keep the great secret? Surely she was the one most intimately affected by Jesus’ wondrous act, for Luke 8:42 tells us that the child was her “only daughter.”

Whether Jairus’ wife was the original source for the story or not, how would it be to try to see all that happened through the eyes of this mother in Galilee?

You can do just that as you prayerfully read the Bible-based poetic meditation that follows.

                         Our daughter!
My twelve-year-old moans in her sleep.
My husband’s the chief of the synagogue, yet
he can’t rule the shadows that make mothers weep.
He tries now to comfort me: “Dearest, don’t fret.”

                         Our daughter!
Our only one lies as if slain.
My Jairus and I fear our hearts must soon break.
The Healer from Nazareth might ease her pain,
but now he’s away somewhere over the lake.

                         Good news!
Now the Healer comes back here once more.
I’ll send my good husband to ask for his aid.
Almighty Lord God, let him get here before
our darling one dies. O, she’s only a maid!

                         Too late!
She has drawn her last breath; it’s too late.
I’ll send a kind neighbor to say, “Never mind.”
The mourners now gather, they wail at our gate —
but I sit beside her as one deaf and blind.

                         What’s this?
Did my messenger stop on the way?
My husband, a crowd, and – who else do I see?
“Be still!” says the Healer. “No mourning today.
The girl is not dead, she is sleeping,” says he.

                         “Ha, ha!”
laugh the mourners; they know she lies dead.
The Healer ignores them. He closes the door
and walks toward that slim silent form on the bed.
He greets her as though he had known her before.

                         “Get up!”
He invites her, caressing her hand.
“You’ve slept long enough, little girl, now arise!”
Our daughter sits up as she hears his command.
She yawns, stretches, turns with a smile in her eyes.

                         “I’m hungry!”
She scrambles up, gives me a hug,
then asks, “Mother, what can a hungry girl eat?”
The Healer nods gently toward platter and jug.
“She needs food and drink.” Then we bow at his feet.

Jairus sta-stammers at last.
“We’ll tell the whole synagogue what you have done!”
“Say nothing,” he warns us, “of all that has passed.”
We know in our hearts now: He must be The One.

Have mercy, O Lord, on mothers all over the world who must watch their children sicken and die. Send help to them, for the sake of Your own only-begotten One, our great Savior and Healer Jesus Christ. Amen.

Copyright © 2014 by Perry Thomas

WEEK 10 — March 11, 2015



week 10


The Tenth Christmas


When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong.
Luke 2:39-40a

“The Hidden Years”: That’s the name some people give to the first thirty years in the earthly life of Jesus our Lord and Savior.

We know a great deal about events surrounding his birth. We know a great deal about events surrounding his death. We know a great deal about the three years leading up to the cross and the empty tomb. Other than that, . . . we really know very little about the life of Jesus.

Only once in those thirty years does Scripture lift the veil and let us see Jesus as a boy. This, of course, is the well-known story about the trip to Jerusalem when Jesus was twelve, as related in Luke 2:41-52. Other than that, . . . silence.

Pious imagination has long been at work, trying to fill in the gaps. One ancient story tries to tell us that when Jesus and his playmates were making toy birds out of clay, the little birds made by Jesus sprouted feathers and flew up into the sky. That sounds to me more like a fairy tale than it sounds like the childhood of our Lord. Many other legends about the Boy of Nazareth seem equally fanciful.

Yet . . . human curiosity still longs to know more about “The Hidden Years.”

What was Jesus really like as a boy? We know he did not live a pampered life: In adulthood he was known as “the carpenter.” We also know he did not live a solitary life: Christians have differing ideas as to the exact meaning of Biblical references to Jesus’ brothers and sisters, yet all agree that he grew up in a family setting.

Ten years after the birth of Jesus, what did Mary most remember about that extraordinary event? When Jesus was a ten-year-old, to what extent could Mary see anything unusual about her firstborn son? Remember, at the time of “The Tenth Christmas,” it was still two years before the boy Jesus would linger with the teachers in the Temple; it was still twenty years before the man Jesus would begin his public ministry of preaching and teaching and healing.

The Bible tells us that Mary was a thoughtful person; she “treasured” things and “pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). The Bible also tells us that Mary was specifically warned, in connection with the young Jesus, that a sword would pierce her to the very soul (Luke 2:35).

What follows is not just another fanciful legend, trying to fill in the gaps that Scripture has left in “The Hidden Years.” Rather, it is a Bible-based poetic meditation, reverently wondering what might have been going through Mary’s mind when Jesus reached his tenth birthday.

                    “My, how tall he’s grown!”
Mary stood and watched him lift
a block of cedar, idly thrown
beside the bench. How strong, how swift
his sun-browned arms, his sturdy hands!
How quick when Joseph gave commands!

                    “Soon he’ll be a man.”
Mary wondered where he went . . .
that tiny Babe whose life began
in stable for her chamber lent.
Not long ago? Ten years, ten years
of pondered hopes and piercing fears.

                    “Not a Babe today.”
Mary smiled to see him run —
half boy, half man, half work, half play,
his shadow stretching in the sun
past chasing playmates, teasing friends,
past saw and plane and ox-yoke ends.

                    “What will come of him?”
Mary slowly shook her head.
The memories would never dim:
The shy young shepherd by her bed,
the myrrh, the kneeling noblemen,
the Egypt road and home again.

                    “Father, use my Son!”
Mary wiped her eyes, her cheek.
Had his work for God begun?
How to know it? Where to seek?
Only God sent grief and joy.
Only God could guide her Boy.

O Lord, help all of us as parents who believe in You today to realize what Mary had to realize long ago: The future of our children lies in Your hands, not in ours. Amen.

Copyright © 2014 by Perry Thomas

WEEK 9 — March 4, 2015



week 9


Dr. Luke Interviews Mary


Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. . . . His mother treasured all these things in her heart.
Luke 2:19, 51b

How do you suppose Dr. Luke met Mary the mother of Jesus?

We’re virtually certain they must have met, because Luke’s Gospel gives us many details about the early life of Jesus that are found nowhere else in Scripture. Apparently Luke never met Jesus in the flesh. From whom, then, did he get his information? Who but a member of Jesus’ earthly family? And who would have known more about it than Jesus’ mother?

If we needed a “smoking gun” as circumstantial evidence to strengthen our belief that Dr. Luke must have interviewed Mary, then the two verses quoted above virtually give it. Luke 2:19 and Luke 2:51 are almost like ancient footnotes, in which the writer of the Third Gospel carefully documents his sources.

So the question arises once again: Where did they meet – this urbane Gentile physician and this uneducated Jewish woman from rural Galilee?

On the cross Jesus entrusted the care of his mother to “the beloved disciple,” who is generally believed to have been John Son of Zebedee. Strong tradition places the Apostle John’s later life at Ephesus, that great Greco-Roman city in western Asia Minor. If John indeed lived there, then did Mary live there as well?

Tourists in today’s Turkey are shown a place near the ruins of Ephesus which is alleged to be Mary’s home. Historical proof for this identification is well-nigh non-existent, yet the possibilities are intriguing.

Dr. Luke most probably went to Ephesus. The use of the pronoun “we” in Acts 20:13-16 proves that he at least got as close to it as Miletus, where Luke’s traveling companion, Paul, had arranged a meeting with the elders of the Ephesian congregation. If Paul could have arranged to meet the Ephesian elders, isn’t it likely that Luke could have arranged to meet one of the oldest and most respected members of the Ephesian church?

However it may have happened, we can thank God that it did. Humanly speaking, if Dr. Luke had never interviewed Mary, we might never have known about the stirring events that surrounded the birth of Jesus. We might not have had the one priceless story from Jesus’ boyhood which is related in Luke 2:41-52.

Luke must have been a remarkable individual. To grasp the measure of his uniqueness, see also “Women Tend to Trust the Doctor” (week 77 of MIDWEEK MEDITATIONS). In imagination the following Bible-based poetic meditation takes us inside the mind and memory of that sensitive physician/writer, as he tells us how he got those blessed details we love to read again – every year at Christmas time, and other times as well.

Being a physician gives me insight into life;
people share their thoughts with me,                                                                                          their times of pain and strife.
Maybe this is why I thought to take my quill in hand,
writing down the story so that all may understand.

Mary knew some things that no one else had heard about,
facts of Jesus’ early life before he moved about,
ere the wondering world had seen how wonderful was He;
no one else had guessed the blessed secret: Only she.

Mary was no longer young, but yet her mind was keen;
readily she told me all that she had heard and seen:
Fears before the Baby came, great hardships at his birth,
shepherds sharing angel songs that told of peace on earth.

Then she told of going to Jerusalem one year,
searching for a missing Boy with mingled hope and fear.
Carefully I marked it down to make the scroll complete,
writing for the centuries the memories ever sweet.

Thank you, God, for Dr. Luke and all the rest of those who were inspired by the Holy Spirit to write down the stories of Jesus, so that we can still read and hear and sing and treasure them today. Amen.

Copyright © 2014 by Perry Thomas