Archive for August 24th, 2018

About St. Bartholomew, Apostle:  St. Bartholomew (or Nathanael, as he is called in St. John’s Gospel) was one of the first of Jesus’ twelve disciples. His home was in the town of Cana, in Galilee (John 21:2), where Jesus’ performed His first miracle. He was invited to become one of the Twelve by Philip, who told him that they had found the Messiah in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. (John 1:45). Bartholomew’s initial hesitation to believe, because of Jesus’ Nazareth background, was quickly replaced by a clear, unequivocal declaration of faith, “You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” (John 1:49). He was present with the other disciples (John 21:1-13) when they were privileged to see and converse and eat with their risen Lord and Savior. According to some Early Church Fathers, Bartholomew brought the Gospel to Armenia, where he was martyred by being flayed alive.

Reflection:  In 2013, in an Italian town a 83 year old widow ‘restored’  a beloved painting of Christ (see above)  in an Italian church.  The painting  depicts the moment when Pontius Pilate said to the crowds in the mood for a crucifixion, Behold the Man!  See John 19:5  Or as it is the Latin Vulgate: Ecce Homo. She  obviously botched the restoration!   The Italian press said the painting should  be called, Ecce mono, Behold the monkey! People were saying she should be sued.  The elderly woman who did this, had the permission of the parish priest and she said she had the best of intentions. A year later the town was elated over the botched restoration because of publicity it caused bringing in many tourists into the town of Borja, a rather unremarkable town.  The mayor of Borja said it put the town on the map!

Many people have the best of intentions in redoing the image of Christ to burnish His meaning for us, but it becomes a botched job and yes, done with the best of intentions. As C. S. Lewis famously and correctly wrote:  

“There have been too many historical Jesuses – a liberal Jesus, a pneumatic Jesus, a Barthian Jesus, a Marxist Jesus. They are the cheap crop of each publisher’s list, like the new Napoleons and new Queen Victorias. It is not to such phantoms that I look for my faith and my salvation.” 

These new “Jesuses” do put their authors and artists on the map of publicity for awhile, like in the town of Borja, or back in the ’60s when a theologian declared God is dead, or the artist putting a crucifix in a vial of urine, or various Christian despising atheists, or supposed Christian theologians declaring heir views on the Christ.  Like a monkey, people have trained Jesus to do their bidding for what they think are the solutions to our problems.  In one congregation that I served the Word, we wanted a booth at local festival but the leadership balked at the possible brochures I had regarding the Lord: “Too strong” “Might be offensive”.  In other words, a Thomas Kincaide version of the Light of the World.  But they had the best of intentions!  Remember the saying that the path to hell is paved with good intentions. The botched restoration filled the village coffers of Borja…for a time.   But a solution is not the same as salvation. Solutions are temporal and if according to the world, not truthful…to say the least! Then we end up with a distorted version of the Lord, as distorted as the erstwhile restoration above and we can only say, Ecce Mono.

There is an ancient tradition that The Apostles’ Creed was written by the Apostles and each wrote 1/12 of the Creed.  This has no basis in historical fact, but on this Apostle’s day, it shows there is only one authorized version of the Lord Jesus Christ:  His chosen apostolic witnesses, like Bartholomew (or Nathanael), accurately recorded the work and Word of Jesus, the Son of the Father, the Word made flesh, in the  inspired Four Gospels and the entire corpus of the New Testament. The Creeds are the accurate summaries of the Holy Scripture.  

Look at Nathanael: When Nathanael was told by Philip that he had found the Messiah, Nathanael famously quipped:  “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”  (John 1: 46).  He did not know what he was saying.  After Jesus meets Nathanael, He comments that he is an Israelite in whom there is no guile.  Nathanael seems to have been dumbstruck, How do you know me?  Jesus said before I called Philip, I saw you under the fig tree.  This really gets him!  Nathanael answered him:  

 “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” 51And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

Ecce homo!  Nathanael began to give his confession, his apostolic witness: He is the Son of God, King of Israel.  Yet, Jesus deepens Nathanael’s confession  with the prophecy of Golgotha and the Resurrection:  Heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.  This refers to Jacob’s dream of a ladder with the angels of God ascending and descending on it. See:  Genesis 28:11-13.  Jacob called the spot Bethel, literally House of God.  Jesus is the House of God (see John 2: 21).  The Apostolic Witness is to the Incarnation and His Crucifixion and Resurrection.  This witness, this Good News, for sinners was preached by the 12, clearly.   When the Savior and His work is clearly taught and preached, according to the Bible, received and yes, eaten and drunk, by hungry and thirsty sinners (see Matthew 5:6then the Holy Spirit is working faith in you.  This is the clear picture of Ecce Homo and needs no restoration by the likes of me or  a theologian with a 100 doctorates.  Do not trust any theology that deviates by invention and innovation the clear apostolic witness in the Bible.  

Please pray…

Almighty God, Your Son, Jesus Christ, chose Bartholomew to be an Apostle to preach the blessed Gospel.  Grant that Your Church may love what he believed and preach what he taught;  through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen

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