Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Gift of Snake Oil

Both our current world and history are ripe with men and women with satin-coated though forked tongues.  The wild West had a name for such individuals:  snake oil salesmen.  A recent example on a national scale would be Bernie Madoff.  By all accounts he was intelligent, charming, remorseless, conniving.

As a newborn, Jesus faced just such a person: Herod.  But in addition to the above attributes, Herod was also deadly. Herod applied his craft to the Magi, telling them to "Go and make a careful search for the child.  As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him." (Matthew 2:8)  The Magi listened politely but did not swallow the snake oil.  Instead, they returned to their land by a different route.  Herod, finding himself bested, showed his true colors and ordered the massacre of possibly hundreds of little boys, Jesus' contemporaries born in and around Bethlehem.  Herod not only sold snake oil, he was indeed a snake.

If only history would cease to repeat itself, but alas, Jesus was offered a drink of the same kind of toxin from the chief priests and teachers of the law in Luke 20:1-8.  Sidling up beside Him, they hoped to entrap Christ by asking, "Who gives you your authority?"

Jesus, of course, has had much experience with snakes dating all the way back to the Garden of Eden.  His response was classic: sure, I'll drink with you, but you take a draft from your own elixir first.  Guess who slithered away to await another round.

In the end, Jesus drank their poison.  He drank deeply, swallowing every drop - knowingly, willingly, obediently.  The end, it turns out, was just the beginning.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.  It isn't Christmas yet...

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