The Ever-Changing Scandal
Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is he who is not scandalized in me.”
John the Baptist was a fascinating man. Josephus said that he was “a good man who commanded the Jews to exercise virtue, both as to righteousness towards one another, and piety towards God.” Jesus said, “Among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist.” Traditionally, he is given a lot of attention in the church year. In the Eastern liturgical cycle, there are special services for John’s conception, birth, and beheading, as well as for three findings of his head! His life and death have all of the ingredients one could wish for in a TV miniseries: illicit love, exotic dancers, soldiers, violence, murder, and the hint of scandal.
The notion of scandal is hinted at by Jesus, but it is a far cry from the Clinton-era escapades. Perhaps John and his followers were scandalized in thinking that Jesus wasn’t what they had expected. Too free-spirited, willing to eat and drink wine and attend parties with disreputable people. Compared to John, the arch-conservative Nazarite who ate bugs and wore caveman clothes, Jesus appeared to be a left-winger. After all, he wasn’t a stickler for the law: He touched lepers, spoke to single women, and did strange things on the Sabbath. John expected Jesus to be a bit more like him. The scandal of John was that he appeared to doubt that Jesus was the One because John feared he was a bit left of the mark.
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Thomas S. Buchanan is the George W. Laird Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Delaware. He has studied at UCSD, Northwestern University, and MIT, and has held visiting professorships at the University of Western Australia and the University of Aix-Marseille. He has served as department chairman, deputy dean, and institute director, president of the American Society of Biomechanics, and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Applied Biomechanics. He is on the Board of Trustees of Saint Katherine College, the editorial board of Touchstone, and the board of The Fellowship of St. James.
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