The last few days and the next few days the Office of Readings follows the books of Maccabees. They're some of those books I haven't spent much time reading and they're pretty fascinating.
At this point in
the story, Judas Maccabeus has finished what his father started; driving
out foreign invaders who defiled the temple in Jerusalem. Today's
reading described in detail how Judas and his men were cut to the heart at the sight of the temple in ruins and the effort it took to restore the temple to its former glory.
This really helps explain why so few Jews of Jesus' day thought Jesus
could be the messiah. The messiah was supposed to be their new king and
ruler. He was supposed to drive out the Romans-the foreign invaders of
the day-with the sword and with fire. The messiah was expected to be
an even greater military genius than Judas Maccabeus. What they got was
a humble carpenter who was executed by the foreign powers he was
supposed to defeat.
This is a lesson for all of us to be
careful how we judge God's gifts; to be careful to see things as God
sees them and not let our expectations get in the way. Judas Maccabeus
was certainly a model of the messiah to come. Reading about him
cleansing the temple immediately brought images of Jesus driving out the
money changers (Mt 21:12-17). In addition, looking at how faith in
Jesus has lasted while nearly every other government and religion
present in Jesus' day has fallen there's no doubt that Jesus Christ is
the greatest conqueror of all time.
Thankfully, he chose to conquer with love and truth instead of sword and fire.
That leads to the second lesson. God's incredible power is most
manifest in you and me not when we fight but when we love. The
victories won but Judas Maccabeus through the sword were lost again.
The temple he restored was destroyed again. Yet the victory of Jesus
the messiah has not and will not ever pass away. The temple of your
body and mine will be raised up on the last day and there's nothing any
enemy of ours can do about it!
Isn't that just like God? To
deliver on his promises in a way we never expected but that ends up
infinitely better than we could have dreamed?