Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Discovering Truth

The story may not be true, per se, but that’s no reason to avoid telling it.

Archimedes was really good at math and things. He lived in Syracuse (the one in Italy) in the third century before Christ. Among the things he’s reputed to have done (like creating death rays!) one of them stands out for the simple fact that he was naked when he discovered it.

John was Jesus’ cousin. We know that Mary and Elizabeth spent some time together before Jesus and John were born, but we don’t really know if they cousins played freeze tag at the family reunions, or if they forgot about each other until they were adults.

We do know that John had quite a beard and people went to hear his beard preach (actually it was his mouth behind the beard). John taught about the one who would come. He taught about repentance and the kingdom of God. He proclaimed the coming Messiah. Remember that for the Jewish people the word “messiah” or in the Greek, “christ” simply meant “anointed one” which was a different way of saying “king.” For the Jewish people they had seen messiahs come and go (it wasn’t that hard to get some oil and be anointed), but they kept waiting for THE Messiah who would be their King forever.

The king in Syracuse wasn’t a nice guy. He thought his crown-maker was trying to cheat him by diluting the gold in the crown with silver. He told Archimedes to figure out if the crown was legitimate or not. The problem was that Archimedes couldn’t melt down the crown to test it. He had to come up with another way. With time running out and the pressure mounting (let’s just say that tyrants aren’t kind to people who fail), Archimedes went to have a bath. I don’t know, maybe he thought better in the tub.

In the middle of one of John’s baptizing sessions, Jesus shows up. John knows who he is and refuses to baptize him, but Jesus insists and is baptized by John. Afterward, God speaks and the Holy Spirit comes down on Jesus. It’s a pretty big moment and John is right in the middle of it. He sees a person anointed, not with oil, but by the Holy Spirit of God coming down from the heavens.

When Archimedes stepped into the tub for his bath he noticed the water rise up and flow over the sides of the tub. By getting into the water he displaced some of it, which would allow him to calculate his density by figuring out how much water got pushed out compared with how much space he took up (it’s all Greek to me). The short of it is that he figured out how to determine if the crown was fake or real. He was excited and shouted: “I have found it!” The story goes that he kept shouting that all the way home (and that he forgot to put clothes on first). The Greek word for “I have found it” is Eureka.

John’s eureka moment was when Jesus, the Father and the Holy Spirit had a party together two feet away from him (he needed the space for his massive beard). Jesus was not just a messiah, but The Messiah.

Or was he?

Not long after all that, John was imprisoned. Some think that it was because Herod was jealous of John’s beard, but the bible says it was because John wouldn’t leave Herod alone for marrying his brother’s wife. Herod really wanted to kill John, but he didn’t want the people to get mad at him, so he just put John in prison (without the possibility of parole, because it hadn’t been invented yet).

John sends a message over to his cousin asking: “Are you the one or should we wait for someone else?”

After his eureka moment. After Jesus was vouched for by God from on high and the Holy Spirit anointed him as The Messiah, John still wasn’t completely sure. He was sitting on death row after preaching that God’s kingdom was coming back and he wasn’t sure.

Jesus’ response was this: “The blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news proclaimed to them.” (Matt 11:5 NET).

Asking questions, looking for answers, and finding meaning are all great pursuits, but even all of that might not be enough. You might have a eureka moment and see God clearly working in your life and, for a time, have no doubts about who he is or what he’s doing.

But you aren’t static. You don’t stay in the same place, mentally, physically, or spiritually. The eureka moment won’t be where you live forever, but a moment in your life that informs who you are.

By all means seek out those eureka moments, those holy experiences, those answers to the deepest questions of life. Find them. Cherish them. But don’t expect that they will be everything you need. Don’t expect one moment of your life to carry you through all the rest.

For both John and Archimedes all of the little questions and little answers came together and created meaning for them. Think of each question and answer as a clue to the path, it might be a tree or a rock or stream that you can use to determine where the path is. The meaning you find is the path that you walk. The answers to all the questions came together and pointed you in the right direction, but the path isn’t the goal. As you walk along the path you’ll get to spots with amazing views and picturesque scenes. These are the eureka moments. They confirm your path, emphasize your meaning, and should serve to spur you on down the path. You might rest there, take a few selfies, and post your progress to Facebook, but those moments aren't the end of the path.

Keep going.


Have you had a moment where you realize that the person on the show you’re watching was also on something else? How did that feel? What about before the existence of IMDB?

Do you like puzzles? If so, what kind and why? If not, why not?

Is there a question or problem that you worked on for a long time before finally getting the answer? How did that feel?

Why do you think John doubted Jesus? What do you think you would do in his situation?

How has discovery been treated in your religious life? How do you wish it would have been treated?

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