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Jesus between doves and wolves

Scriptures abound in stories in which animals perform important pedagogical functions.

ZOE AUTOR 102/Antonio_Cruz TRADUCTOR Roger Marshall 25 DE JUNIO DE 2023 11:00 h
Photo: Antonio Cruz.

The men and women of Biblical times had a closer relationship with animals than we have today. Basically this was because they belonged to agricultural communities with livestock that depended on them for their survival.



Besides certain domestic animals were so important for the Israelites because they constituted their means of worshiping God as they expressed their faith through sacrifice.



Fortunately Jesus Christ abolished, by means of his own sacrifice on the cross, all those bloody sacrifices and the shedding of innocent blood.



According to Genesis, animals have the same material origin as human beings. That is to say, the dust of the ground (Genesis 2:19). And, needless to say, this is also true from the chemical point of view, as all the elements that make up the body of every living thing are present in the rocks of the earth’s crust.



Scriptures abound in stories in which animals perform important pedagogical functions.



The afflicted Job, for example, uses them for the purpose of apologetics: “But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? (Job 12:7-9) The Biblical doctrine of a creation designed by the Almighty emerges everywhere throughout Scripture.



Many years later, we read about the high degree of corruption that even at that early stage had reached.



God decided to destroy every living being, except for Noah and his family, along with a significant number of created species, who would be destined to replenish the new earth (Genesis 7).



Divine justice tolerates no injustice. Neither before, nor now, nor ever. However, the description of the punishment in the form of the flood shows, among other things, the great interest God has, not only in the human species, but in every living thing he created.



He could have merely extinguished the whole primeval biosphere. However, he showed his preoccupation for the continuation of all living creatures. This attitude towards other creatures should be an example for us of responsibility and compassion for all animals and all created ecosystems.



Jesus relationship with organisms, so evident in his teaching and parables, also has pedagogical significance for believers, as it teaches us how we should relate to the creation.



The gospel of Matthew refers to camels, locusts, bees producing wild honey, and also to vipers. In fact, John the Baptist dressed in camel’s hair and fed on the little locusts that he found in the desert (a far cry from the succulent and expensive sea crustaceans, but rather more like grasshoppers), and wild honey (Matt. 3:4)



Thus dressed and nourished, he appeared to be in perfect shape, physically, when he called out many of the Pharisees and Sadducees as a “generation of vipers” when they made a public show of their repentance.



He also preached to them that every three that did not produce good fruit would be cut down at its roots and thrown into the fire (Matt. 3:10), and likewise for wheat and straw - the former stored in barns and the latter burnt in a fire that will never be put out.



It is inevitable that see in this preaching certain moral connotations that the Bible attributes to animals and plants. The hypocrisy of certain religious figures is equated with the toxicity of certain reptiles.



The Hebrews knew well the many types of poisonous snakes that abound in the desert. This also applies to the trees that produce good fruit and those that are only apt for firewood, and also to the image of the wheat and the straw. Actions, good or bad, are evidence of that which truly moves a person’s heart.



When the Baptist saw Jesus coming towards him, in the river Jordan, he refused at first to baptise him, because he felt inferior and inadequate. However, the Lord soon convinced him by telling him “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness.” (Matthew 3:15).



Of course the Master was without sin, unlike all the others who came to be baptised by John, so why did he have to submit himself to such an act?. “Fulfil all righteousness” is to obey God in everything, and, on being baptised, Jesus was showing that John’s baptisms were legitimate and approved of by God.



At the same time, he was fulfilling will of God, and identifying himself with the Jewish people. It would be an example for all of his compatriots to follow.



Matthew describes a theophany at this point, a manifestation of God in the world of men and women. The heavens were opened, the Spirit of God descended in the form of a dove and a voice was heard to say: “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17).



It would seem that only the Lord Jesus himself saw this miracle manifestation as the term “he saw” suggests, in the New International Translation. “At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.” (Matt. 3:16). In the same way, Stephen saw the heavens open before he was stoned (Acts 7:56).



It is obvious that this story in the gospels - among other things – would frame for ever the way in which doves are perceived: as simple, gentle, innocent and inoffensive birds, with no hint of malice.



The dove was also a symbol of the people of Israel and of the Spirit of God which moved over thee face of the primeval deep. When it rested on Jesus, the middle of the waters of the Jordan River, it ratified him as the beloved Son of the Almighty.



In the same way, Jesus acted throughout his ministry with gentleness, tenderness and humility of heart. These verses serve to refute the ancient anti-trinitarian heresies, as in this scene all three persons of the Trinity are present: Father, Son and Spirit.



In subsequent articles, God willing, we will see how the Master humbly related to animals, showing his solidarity with them and the rest of creation. This relationship should be instructive for us today, in the face of the havoc wreaked by global warming, the extinction of species as a result of the destruction of their habitats, the cruelty inflicted on animals by industrialised breeding systems, the merciless exploitation of fish reserves, the contamination of rivers and aquafers, etc.



In the face of such devastation it is worth asking, how would Jesus act if he were among us today?


 

 


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