Son of Man – Son of God

Jesus combined strength with tenderness (see previous blog), demonstrating this balance of excellence. Today I will explain how Jesus combined both attributes of the Son of Man and the Son of God. I realize the depth of this subject. Who am I to write on this difficult subject with my limitations? Besides, I am far from my home in Canada, and my library. On second thought, this can be a blessing in disguise, when I can write my own reasoning, free of the fear of reprisal.

Jesus purposely adopted the name “the Son of Man”. He most likely chose that name from the book of Ezekiel. This was a genius move. Sometimes we can get so familiar reading the Bible that we fail to catch the unique and distinctive features of certain terms or phrases. Ask yourself “Why did he not accept the honourable title of a Prophet, or at least a Rabbi or the Son of David etc.?” He could have easily taken any or all of them.

In the first place – in line with his Mission Statement – He came to seek and to save that which is lost. How could he accomplish the mission without fully identifying with human beings? After all, didn’t He voluntarily take the form of man?

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Furthermore, He identified himself as an ordinary person. In fact, he was a carpenter for most of his life – 30 years out of 33. In many parts of the world, even today, a carpenter is of the lower strata in society. The religious leaders asked, in condescension, “Is not this the carpenter’s son? (Mark 6:3)” Do not forget that carpentry, in those days, didn’t include driving around in a bad-ass F-150 with power tools and a heavy load of respect. It is generally accepted that Joseph –his father – died earlier, leaving the family responsibility to Jesus.

Jesus – this lowly son of man – wanted to show that his religion is not only for the privileged, but for all. Coming from India, I am well aware of the struggles between classes. Comparing the Jewish classifications, he was neither Brahmin (priestly) nor Kshatria (kingly). He made sure citizens in his new kingdom would be casteless and colour blind, welcome from ALL parts of the world.

He also wanted to demonstrate that ordinary folks can become extraordinary! Allow me to go a step higher. As son of man, he respected human personalities. Remember Zacchaeus? This little man was a hated publican and Sinner. But to Jesus he was the son of Abraham (Luke 19:9)!

Jesus subjected himself to human needs; hunger, thirst, rest, sleep, and emotions. He purposely did not isolate himself to a monastery or a cave. On the contrary, he was a party man. Recall the wedding at Cana, or the party hosted by Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7:36). There are more examples, but I must stop here.

Though fully man, he did not waver one inch from his belief and claims that he was the Son of God. He boldly appropriated, from the very beginning, the prophecy of Isaiah (Luke 4:18-19) concerning himself. Recall the famous few verses of St. John’s gospel 1:1-5. Then there is the most popular verse of The Bible (John 3:16). Notice the words, the “only begotten son” of God. Remember those famous words “I am”. I am the bread of life, I am the light of the world, before Abraham was I am, I am the door, I am the way, the truth and the life, and so on. Indeed, there is too much to mention in this brief blog. These are very strong words. No religious leader came even close. Kings and kingdoms, emperors and empires, religious leaders and thinkers, prophets and holy men have come and gone, but the Kingdom of Heaven which Jesus started is still advancing. No one can stop it.

Throughout his life, he maintained one goal: establishing a kingdom! Not provincial, but universal and eternal. How did he do it? He combined in his own life, without any defects of virtues (read my blog on this), the two most important factors – fully Man and fully God. You see this co-relation in the healing of the man with paralysis, recorded in St. Mark 2:7-12. The Doctor’s Law of his time said “only God can forgive sins”. Verse 10 confirms that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins as well as heal.

I would like to end this blog with a quotation from St. Thomas* the Doubter, one of the 12 disciples. Thomas’ final recognition and exclamation of Jesus was; My Lord and My God. St. John 20:28.

God bless,

Danny Paul

*On a personal note, I studied at St. Thomas College, Trichur, India. The tradition strongly suggests that St. Thomas landed in Kerala, India (my birth place), in the very first century, before Christianity spread to Europe. The popular road in Madras, South India, is called St. Thomas Road. This leads to St. Thomas mount, where Thomas was martyred. The Doubting Thomas lived, preached and died for the Son of Man and the Son of God!

tomb of st thomas

Holy Cow – Part II

After much discussion on this topic, I offer my own interpretation of the holy cows of India. First, though, in response to “when does respect stop and worship begin?” one of my readers commented: Respect is deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities or achievements. Worship is formal expression of reverence, devotion and adoration for deity. Personally I think holy cow is an example of a crossover or an overlap.

Cows on the streets in India
Cows on the streets in India

Allow me to explain.

The cow is one of the most useful animals to mankind, supplying milk, butter, buttermilk, yogurt, cheese, clarified butter (also known as ghee). In addition, food and sweets are often made out of milk products. Hindus knew it more than 3,000 years ago. They used butter for burning lamps and even dried cow dung for cooking and heat. In short, Indians utilized – or depended – on cows. However, cows are not deities in Hindu religion.

There are references in their epic stories that some holy men, in their need, were sustained by cows. One incarnation used a bullock (Nandi) for transportation. By the way, bullock carts are still used in India today for ploughing the fields and for transportation. Lord Krishna, another incarnation was a cowherd, just like king David, the Shepherd king, who wrote the famous 23rd Psalm. There is a similarity between the cows of Hindus and the sheep of Christianity. Christians picture Jesus as the gentle shepherd.

I believe it was a tactical move to cross over from deep respect to religious respect. It immensely affected the social and economical necessities of life, and rightly so. Without a religious influence, would cows have been protected or unwisely slaughtered just to feed an exploding population? It is not uncommon to see some garland and offer the usual vanakam with folded hands. Indians meet each other with Vanakam, or Namasthe. Handshake is a western import. This does not signify worship!

No matter how I explain this phenomenon of crossing over from respect to devotion, it will not be accepted by all. Christians are no exception. For example, many Christians venerate Mary, the highly favoured, and pray to her to intercede – even calling her the mother of God. When we immigrated to Canada, many of our friends gave us medals (trinkets) of St. Joseph for travelling mercies (I still have them). Don’t Christians travel to Jerusalem and bring back their own trinkets? Just like visits to Mecca, Medina, or Benares? Of course, they omit the word pilgrimage.

On a personal note, cows sustained our family during the lean years of Second World War. Times were tough. I remember walking to the market – Ration Card in hand – for rice and kerosene! Dad lost his job. Mom – mother of 8 – started teaching to make ends meet. During this time, Mr. Israel, my mother’s only brother, (they were orphans and were very close to each other) recognizing the need of our family, BOUGHT A COW FOR HER! This cow Kalyani, then Kannu, and then Ponnu, sustained our family. We had enough milk for the whole family and some for our immediate neighbour (kind of like barter). It was almost like the Menorah! Did we worship our cows? No! We worshipped God Almighty who supplied us the cow. Did we love and respect the cows? Yes, a hundred times over! Besides, they were part of the family!

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I did not think about this crossover seriously until an old classmate of mine enquired; does your God need rest like our Gods? Of course, he was referring to Genesis, when God, after creating the world in six days, took rest on the seventh day; referred to again in the Decalogue. This day of rest, called the Sabbath, was absolutely necessary to relax, meditate, play, worship and spend time with the family. Is today’s lack of which the major contributing factor for so-called stress, breakdowns, broken relationships, etc? So who needed rest – God or man? Have you asked this question yourself?

Now why did I choose this subject of Holy Cow particularly in relation to my theme In Search of moderation? How does it relate to the balance of all virtues or excellence? I am learning to cultivate the more excellent way (even in my old age) to be slow in saying or joking or criticizing those of different background, culture, language or religion, before I present the love of God through Jesus Christ. This reminds me of the prophet Ezekiel. You see, he had to proclaim some harsh words and warning to his people. But he was not ready until “he sat where they sat” (Ezekiel 3:15). Is it not similar to the Native American saying “judge not my brother until I walk in his moccasins for a mile”?

This is precisely the reason why Jesus did not want his disciples to go beyond the border of Israel with the gospel. They had their baggage and were not ready yet. They had not “sat where they sat”. They had to wait till the outpouring of the Holy Spirit of love.

God bless, Danny Paul

Defects of Virtues

Before I get into this, I realize there are few other holy things as well besides the Holy Cow, like holy mackerel, holy Toledo, holy jumping, etc. There are others, which I will not mention in my blog for obvious reasons. I will wait for some more comments from you before my next blog on the holy cow.

Meanwhile, do you recall in my introductory blog, a quotation from Bishop Liddon? In describing one of the unique human aspects of Jesus, the good bishop said “In Jesus, there were no defects of virtues.” It sounds like an oxymoron. How can virtues have defects? Let me try to explain. One of Liddon’s readers explained it this way. “If my left foot is longer, not necessarily shorter, I am a lame person.” Using the same maxim, allow me to add: If my left hand is longer than my right hand, it is uncomely and cumbersome. If both my hands are longer in proportion to my body then it is awkward. Can I drop in another Sanskrit word here? It is called Ajanabahu, or persons with longer hands. Now, that is a good word for my old friends with some background in Sanskrit. Hey, I thought I forgot all those quaint Sanskrit words! Those longer hands can be very useful technically but not necessarily comely.
The point I am making is that anything out of proportion and unbalanced is normally uncomely! Ah, here I come again to my theme of moderation. Let me give some unique examples from life experience. Mind you, the following are not 100% accurate. There are always exceptions, but these are close enough with a degree of exaggeration to illustrate the point. After all, did not Jesus similar tactics to drive a point home?

Have you ever come across one who is a personification of so called integrity? You may find him/her an intolerable person. Perhaps you are living with one who is extremely fussy, given to or looking for perfection, insisting on minute details at all times? This person can be difficult to get along with. Do you know someone who feels totally given to righteousness? You may be close to one who has a tendency to be unforgiving.

It is interesting in this regard, to read the story which Jesus told, of a Pharisee (religious leader) and a Publican (sinner). In the interest of brevity, I will simply give the reference as recorded in Luke 18:9-14. You will enjoy reading it. Jesus was a great story-teller.

Here is an odd joke. Have you seen a guy who is always organized, methodical, with his desk always tidy? He has a sick mind!

Surely you can add plenty to this collection from your own experience. You get the trend of my thought. This is what I describe as the defects of virtues or as the good Bishop described as warping or disturbing influences.

Now, you must be thinking, “Danny, I agree (or disagree) with what you are writing.” But are there any real or living people with the defects of virtues? My answer is – with fear and trembling – yes. We have already found out that Jesus did not have these defects of virtues (more on this subject in later blogs).
I have often wondered if this was one of the reasons why Jesus purposely called himself the “Son of Man” – manushyaputra (in my mother tongue as well as in Sanskrit).

Despite significant human limitations, there are occasionally men and women who have balanced this excellence. Let me make a reference to a Biblical character. King David was given a strange but lofty title – man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14 and Acts 13:22). The question is – Why David? Why not father Abraham, the man of faith, or Moses, the great liberator, or Joseph the spotless, Daniel the Statesman or Elijah, the fiery prophet? These men had less “shades” than David, so to speak. After all, David had blood on his hands, didn’t he? The point is not simply that David was a great king, a great song writer or a valiant man; but along with all those attributes, he redeemed or balanced himself with a human spirit constantly seeking after a merciful God. He combined his strength with tenderness. In fact, he expressed sincerely his own need and desire for God when he wrote “as a deer panteth after the water brooks so panteth my soul after thee” (Psalm 42:1).

On a personal note, I had observed this balance of virtues and moderation in my own dear mother (late Mrs. Chandramathi (translated, beautiful face like the moon). Also my own father, Paul, orphaned as a child, married to a rich aristocrat, later lost all wealth, yet maintained throughout a smiling face, trusting God weathering all obstacles.

Yes, there are those who did not have the defects of virtues. Think on this; maybe your own father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, your teacher, mentor, children, or one of your close friends. Perhaps you cannot name one yet. Then consider Jesus Christ, the friend of sinners.

HOLY COW!

HOLY COW! Is this a slang term, a pious line, a joke, a funny outburst, or a religious expression connected to India? Besides, what has this got to do with my blog In Search of Moderation? I figured I could write a few words, suitable for a blog – brief, fitting in one page and not a long and comprehensive essay. Now I wonder if a few words would suffice. So allow an ageing man some literary latitude. Hey, I am new at this. Whatever the outcome – here it is.

This may sound strange. Cows played an important part in my life growing up as a child in south-west India. Here I must give a word of explanation. In those days, there were no established farms or dairy boards. It was a natural thing for families to own a couple of cows. It was not a luxury, but an absolute necessity. Many families depended on cows for at least one nutritious drink/meal a day, made of a cow’s milk. These were harsh wartimes, with food shortages a regular occurrence. Products derived from milk include butter milk, yogurt, butter,ghee (clarified butter), sweets and delicacies. By the way, yogurt was part of a daily menu for hundreds of years in India, long before others discovered the “probiotic yogurt.” Some of my senior blog readers will recall the thatched coconut leaf branch booths set up at major street corners to give FREE, cool butter milk to young students returning from schools (Viyyur village) in the summer! This was under the reign of the old Maharajahs of Cochin.

As to feeding, the cows would go to pasture each morning. They knew where to go. In the evening, they came home by habit or it was in the unwritten “job description” for the youngest kid, to walk up to the fields and bring the cows home – namely a much younger Danny Paul. I was the youngest of eight children!
The relationship with the cow is phenomenal. At the age of six, I still vividly remember our cows’ names: Kalyani, meaning blessed, the mother cow. Her daughter, Kannu, meaning one with beautiful eyes. Then Ponnu, the grand-daughter, meaning golden. Ponnu had a beige coat. I will come to these later on and show how, at one time, these cows sustained our family.

When we moved to Canada in 1969, I was often asked “Hey, what about the Holy Cows in India?” People meant well. This, however, was a good conversation starter. Most believe Hindus worship cows. Why? They thought Indians (of the Eastern variety) lack a pure concept of a monotheistic God and are reduced to worshipping cows. Really?

This brings me to the important question – What is worship? Where does deep respect end and worship begin? Do we worship for what we can get out of it – cows, dollars, prosperity, or even heaven? Do we have our own holy cows? As to the connection with the blog In Search Of Moderation,forget not what Jesus taught about the mote and the beam in our brother’s eye (Mathew 7:3).

Think on this and write me your comments.

Power and Tenderness

The above two words – for some – are kind of incompatible. They don’t jive. When we think of power, our imagination takes us to a DC8 or a Boeing 747 taking off with a thundering noise. Or a Caterpillar machine plowing into a hill – flattening it out. Or a team of horses with a wagon at the Calgary Stampede. On the other hand, when we ponder tenderness, we imagine a grandmother rocking her grandchild softly to sleep. While both are unique in its own separate scenes, the combination of both – strength and tenderness – is not common in some human personalities. Can a person so powerful and strong be at the same time soft and tender? Why not?

I am thinking of historical Jesus in this regard. Artists, I believe, portrayed him wrongly, as someone weak, fragile and almost effeminate. They forgot that he was a brown, sinewy, muscular labourer. He was a carpenter for 30 years before he started his “father’s work”. Just imagine, thirty years of preparation for 3 years of divine work! In those days, well, even today for that matter, in many parts of the world, carpentry is a low-class job. It is different now with the dignity of labour and with electric tools and power saws and yes, even computers and F150 trucks, it is a different story.

Would it surprise you that this labourer turned Rabbi stood up against the top religious leaders of his day and openly exposed their hypocrisy?
He even publicly called King Herod a fox.
He single-handedly drove out a bunch of hucksters, backed by temple authorities from the holy temple. I often wondered why no one dared to stop him; neither the high priest nor his deputies or the temple guards. They all stood by powerless.
At one time he even challenged the leaders and asked “which of you convinceth me of sin”?

Let us not forget that he was named after the greatest military commander of the old books, Joshua.

At the same time, ah, here comes the combination of excellence; Jesus was so tender that little children ran to him. They were attracted to him. It goes without saying that they were attracted to him as well. He did talk about little children.

On one occasion he was forced, rather trapped, and insisted upon by the authorities in the temple, to deal with an unfortunate woman, caught in adultery. They demanded stoning her, quoting the law. He simply wrote on the ground with his finger for a while and then told them “he that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her”. Again he started writing on ground. Accusers were so convicted of their own sins hat they left one by one, leaving the woman alone with Jesus. Then Jesus, now the liberator, asked her “Woman, where are thine accusers? Hath no man condemned thee”? She said “no man Lord”. Notice, one of the most tender and kind hearted statement from Jesus; and I must quote the exact words to preserve the grand but simple beauty of his words: “Neither do I condemn thee, go and sin no more”. John 8:3-11

Here is the display of my theme of moderation the altogether loveliness. Or the combination of excellence. There will be more on this in the coming blogs.
I plan to write in the next blog my interpretation of the holy cow.

The Equal Balance of All Excellence

I guess I need to explain what I mean by “In search of Moderation”. It is not a descent to mediocrity by a middle-of-the-road principle. It is not a black and white becoming a battleship grey or “a fifty shades of grey.” Neither is it toning down a passion for excellence.

It is best expressed in words like beauty or loveliness. Allow me to introduce a Sanskrit adjective for perfection: “Sarwa Swarupa”; Sarwa meaning altogether and Swarupa meaning perfect form. For folks familiar with the Holy Bible it is best explained by King Solomon (Songs of Solomon ,5:16 kjv). The words used are “altogether lovely.”

Did I confuse you with my definition? Let me try again. This time I am quoting Canon Liddon on Jesus Christ. He said “(Jesus) did not have the defects of virtues. It is not in the unrivaled exhibition of any one form of human excellence, whether purity, or humility, charity or courage, self-denial or consideration for others, that we appreciate the significance of our Lord’s human character . It is in the equal balance of all excellence, in the absence of any warping, disturbing, exaggerating influence.”

There it is, the “equal balance of all excellence.” There will be more on this as we continue on this important theme. In my next blog I would like to give an example of how one can combine two so-called opposing views: “strength with tenderness.”

Getting Started

The thought behind the idea of “moderation” started many years ago. It was the combination of many life experiences and lessons.

The journey from my birth place, Kerala to Calcutta in 1954 as a teenager, moving away from parents, my struggles as a young man. The lack of funds for higher education, a quest for freedom. At one point, I stayed in Kathmandu, Nepal for 2 years.

My rebellion as a youth, the experience of being “born again”, regrettable mistakes and deeds. The importance of moderation as taught from Indian poet, Kunjan Nambiar and Hindu epics. Having to learn various languages. Study of the Bible; atrocities and intolerance of Christians, both past and present. Reading of hundreds (perhaps thousands) of books on theology, philosophy, novels including the story of Pi.

Becoming a father, then a grandfather, with its own perspective – all the above and much more convinced me the importance of moderation.

Now an old man reviewing the past and looking to the future.

God bless, Danny