Headlines (Page 31)

Stephen Colbert Reveals the One Person He Wishes He Could Interview

Image source: CBS News

If talk show host Stephen Colbert could interview anyone, it would be Jesus — and he has quite a few questions about that afterlife.

In an interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” the “Late Show” host said he would ask Jesus if he would ever be able to see his loved ones who have died again. He told CBS’ John Dickerson that he would also ask the central figure in Christianity if “this is all there is.”

“Is it all here, or is there something after this,” Colbert said of the questions he would ask Jesus. “Is the Kingdom of Heaven around us, and we just don’t see it? If I’m good, do I get something? Or is just being good what I get?”

Image source: CBS News

Colbert, who has been outspoken about his Catholic faith, said he doesn’t “put that much in it anymore.”

“I’m actually much more enjoying being with the people that I’m with now,” Colbert said.

The venerable comedian said he’d also ask Jesus for an “interim grade” and for him to “put a good word in to his dad” for him.

Watch the clip of Colbert’s interview, to be aired Sunday, below.

Archaeologists Find ‘Impressive’ Ancient Statue That Could Symbolize Jesus or the Flock of the ‘Good Shepherd’

The ram with the Caesarea coast in the background (Photo courtesy: Vered Sarig/The Caesarea Development Corporation)

Israeli archaeologists announced Sunday the discovery of a ram statue in the ancient port city of Caesarea they believe may have been meant to depict either Jesus or the Good Shepherd’s flock.

“In ancient Christianity Jesus was not portrayed as a person. Instead, symbols were used, one of which was the ram,” excavation directors Dr. Peter Gendelman and Mohammad Hater said in a joint statement announcing the Christmas Eve discovery of the marble ram.

The ram with the Caesarea coast in the background (Photo courtesy: Vered Sarig/The Caesarea Development Corporation)

The Israel Antiquities Authority offered this historical background on the biblical narrative that may have inspired the artist who created the sculpture:

In Christian art the ram is often depicted carried on the shoulders of the “Good Shepherd” (that is, Jesus, who is portrayed as the shepherd tending his flock), and sometimes the ram is situated to the left or right of Jesus. In Christianity the ram, like the lamb, represents the faithful, or Jesus himself, whose anguish and death were meant according to Christian belief to atone for original sin.

John 1:29 reads, “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!'”

The Israeli archaeologists took note of the special timing of the discovery.

“It may or may not be a coincidence, but the statue was uncovered on Christmas Eve,” Gendelman and Hater said.

Archaeologists explained that the ram has been used to portray both Jesus and his flock in ancient art. (Photo courtesy: Vered Sarig/The Caesarea Development Corporation)

The ram depiction – which the archaeologists described as “impressive” – was found near an ancient Byzantine period church in the city along Israel’s northern Mediterranean coast.

“The statue that we found might have been part of the decoration of a Byzantine church from the sixth–seventh centuries CE at Caesarea. By the same token it could also be earlier, from the Roman period, and was incorporated in secondary use in the church structure,” the excavation directors said.

In addition to the Christian significance, the ram was used in Greek and Roman art, sometimes appearing alongside the Greek god Hermes and his Roman equivalent Mercury. It was also used to represent the Egyptian god Amun.

The excavation is being conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Caesarea Development Corporation.

Obama Calls for Celebrating Values of Jesus, Honoring Troops in Christmas Address

President Barack Obama waves as he walks with first lady Michelle Obama on their return to the White House from a trip to California, Monday, June 16, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama talked about the values of Jesus and “one American family” during the White House weekly address, broadcast on Christmas Day.

“Today, like millions of Americans and Christians around the world, our family celebrates the birth of Jesus and the values he lived in his own life,” the president said in the pre-recorded address from the White House made before the first family traveled to Hawaii last week for the holidays.

(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

“Treating one another with love and compassion, caring for those on society’s margins – the sick and the hungry, the poor and the persecuted, the stranger in need of shelter – or simply an act of kindness, that’s the spirit that binds us together – not just as Christians, but as Americans of all faiths,” the president said. “It’s what the holidays are about: coming together as one American family.”

They also called on Americans to recognize the sacrifice of the American military during the holidays.

“During this season, we also honor all who defend those values in our country’s uniform,” the president said. “Every day, the brave men and women of our military serve to keep us safe – and so do their families.”

The first lady, who has led the Joining Forces effort to promote employment and opportunities for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan concurred.

“Let’s also take time to pay tribute to those who have given our country so much,” Michelle Obama said. “Go to JoiningForces.gov to see how you can serve the troops, veterans, and military families in your community.”

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3E2afKzJekU&w=640&h=315]

This Christmas, What is Jesus Worth to You?

Photo credit: Shutterstock

With the war on “all things Jesus” this Christmas, it was so refreshing to see a beautiful nativity scene made completely of ice displayed at the famed “ICE!” exhibit held at the Gaylord Texan hotel in the Grapevine, Texas.

The room was packed with people adoring the spectacular event which draws thousands each year. I stood in the 9 degree room looking at the display, grateful that the Gaylord Texan had taken a stand and included Jesus this year. In our culture, which is fighting to remove Jesus from all corners of society, it was especially meaningful.

As I viewed the sparkling nativity, I couldn’t help but recite the great prophet Isaiah in my mind.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Isaiah 9:6, “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will be on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.”

Jesus was born with great value. Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace were just a few of the things that He represented, even as a baby. However, whether you are able to comprehend Jesus’ worth depends on your perspective.

This holiday season, I was drawn to Matthew 26, which relays the story of a woman who came to Jesus while He was eating. She brought her alabaster box filled with perfume so expensive that it cost about a year’s wages. She took the marble vial of perfume and poured it on Jesus head as he sat to show Him the honor and value she placed on Him.

Of course, the disciples were appalled that she seemed to have wasted this expensive perfume on Him, but she saw it as a way to honor Jesus. Jesus then promised that wherever the Gospel is preached she will be spoken of as well.

The verses immediately following this story, in Matthew 26:14-16, says that Judas Iscariot went to the chief priests and asked, “What are you willing to give me to betray Him (Jesus)?” And they weighed out thirty pieces of silver to him. From then on, Judas began looking for a good way to betray Jesus.

After seeing the nativity scene of ice this weekend, this passage of scripture resonated with me as I thought on the differing perspectives on Jesus represented in the story.

Mary, the woman with the vial of perfume, believed Jesus was worth all that she had. However, Judas sized up Jesus and saw him only worth 30 pieces of silver, the equivalent of about $750. Their perspective changed the value they placed on Jesus.

It is clear that the woman with the vial of perfume had been radically changed by Jesus. She knew and was aware that He was the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace, because He had changed her life. She understood His power and ability and valued Him with all that she had.

Despite spending three years with Jesus, Judas clearly hadn’t been affected the same way. He didn’t see Jesus as the Prince of Peace; he only saw Jesus as a bargaining chip for selfish gain.

Both people were in Jesus inner circle, but they had a totally different perspectives of Him.

This Christmas season, I ask you, what is Jesus worth to you? Is he worth everything to you, even a costly sacrifice like Mary gave? Or would you sacrifice your relationship with him for a small price like Judas? In your life, is he more a status symbol than a Mighty God?

Now, more than ever our world needs the love of Jesus. I challenge you to find the amazing value in the gift of Jesus this holiday season.

TheBlaze contributor channel supports an open discourse on a range of views. The opinions expressed in this channel are solely those of each individual author.

‘They Are Our Martyrs of Today’: Pope Prays for Peace and the Persecuted Church in Christmas Day Address

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis issued a Christmas Day prayer that recent U.N.-backed peace processes for Syria and Libya will quickly end the suffering of their people. He denounced the “monstrous evil” and atrocities they have endured and praised the countries that have taken in their refugees.

Pope Francis delivers his “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and to the world) blessing from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, Friday, Dec. 25, 2015. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

Speaking from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica, Francis issued a plenary indulgence for Catholics in hopes of spreading the church’s message of mercy in a world torn by war, poverty and extremist attacks. The sun-soaked St. Peter’s Square was under heavy security, as it has been since the Nov. 13 Paris attacks by Islamic extremists that left 130 dead.

An indulgence is an ancient church tradition related to the forgiveness of sins. Francis announced it after delivering his annual “Urbi et Orbi” (To the city and the world) speech listing global hotspots and his prayers for an end to human suffering.

Francis referred to the “brutal acts of terrorism” that struck the French capital this year as well as attacks in Egypt’s airspace and in Beirut, Mali and Tunisia. He denounced the ongoing conflicts in Africa, the Middle East and Ukraine and issued words of consolation to Christians being persecuted for their faith in many parts of the world.

“They are our martyrs of today,” he said.

In an indirect reference to the Islamic State group, he urged the international community to direct its attention to Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and sub-Saharan Africa, where atrocities “even now reap numerous victims, cause immense suffering and do not even spare the historical and cultural patrimony of entire peoples.”

Francis said he hoped the plenary indulgence he issued for this, his Holy Year of Mercy, would encourage the faithful “to welcome God’s mercy in our lives, and be merciful with our brothers to make peace grow.”

“Only God’s mercy can free humanity from the many forms of evil, at times monstrous evil, which selfishness spawns in our midst,” he said.

Libya has been in a state of lawlessness since dictator Moammar Gadhafi was overthrown in 2011. Syria has seen a five-year war that has killed over 250,000 people and forced millions to flee the country. The surge of refugees flowing out of Syria to Europe has created a migration crisis for the entire continent.

The U.N. Security Council last week threw its support behind a peace process for Syria including a cease-fire and talks between the Damascus government and the opposition. The council has also recently endorsed the U.N.-brokered deal to form a unity government that Libya’s rival factions have signed.

“We pray to the Lord that the agreement reached in the United Nations may succeed in halting as quickly as possible the clash of arms in Syria and in remedying the extremely grave humanitarian situation of its suffering people,” Francis said. “It is likewise urgent that the agreement on Libya be supported by all, so as to overcome the grave divisions and violence afflicting the country.”

Francis praised both individuals and countries that have taken in refugees fleeing “inhuman conditions,” saying their generosity had helped the newcomers “build a dignified future for themselves and for their dear ones, and to be integrated in the societies which receive them.”

Francis’ Christmas celebrations, which began Thursday night with a late-night Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, continue with a noon blessing on Saturday and a Mass on Sunday dedicated to families as part of Francis’ Holy Year celebrations.

Washington Attorney General Urges Court to Uphold Decision Ordering Florist to Serve Same-Sex Couples

Marchers walk down Fifth Avenue during the 2014 Gay Pride March on June 29, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Eric Thayer/Getty Images)

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP/TheBlaze) — The state attorney general says the Washington Supreme Court should uphold a decision ordering a Richland florist to stop discriminating against same-sex couples.

The Tri-City Herald reports Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a 64-page brief Wednesday supporting the Benton County Superior Court decision.

(Photo by Eric Thayer/Getty Images)

“Defendants refused to serve Mr. Ingersoll when he sought flowers for his wedding to his partner, Mr. Freed. This was discrimination based on sexual orientation, pure and simple,” Ferguson wrote in the brief.

The decision found the refusal to provide flowers because of sexual orientation by Adele’s Flowers owner Barronelle Stutzman violated Washington’s anti-discrimination and consumer-protection laws.

Stutzman has appealed, saying she believes the decision prevents her from practicing her Southern Baptist faith.

Ferguson says the incident was discrimination based on sexual orientation. He says free speech and free exercise rights do not prohibit states from outlawing discriminatory conduct in business.

The Supreme Court is expected to decide if it will hear the case or send it to another court in early 2016.

The conservative religious liberty group, Alliance Defending Freedom, has asked the attorney general to withdraw his suit and has launched a countersuit, which is pending in the U.S. District Court of Eastern Washington.

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A Casualty of the Ukrainian War Finds Hope and Inspiration from Wounded Air Force Veteran

Mykola in Ukraine before he came to Canada. (Brian Kolfage)

The war that has been quietly raging in Ukraine for three years has produced a casualty that literally landed in my lap.

On Aug. 24, 2015, while most of us enjoyed the dog days of summer, halfway around the world in Ukraine the life of an 11-year-old boy named Mykola was turned upside down.

Mykola was just like any American 11-year-old, but the landscape he lived in is not like America. He was playing tag with his brother and friends when he came across a crate of Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPGs). Being a curious 11-year-old, he picked up one of the RGPs and began running with it. When he was tagged by a friend, he tripped and fell. The RPG hit the ground and exploded.

Mykola in Ukraine before he came to Canada. (Brian Kolfage)

The massive blast killed Mykola’s brother and wounded his friends. Of those surviving, Mykola’s injuries were the worst. He lost both legs and his right hand; becoming a triple amputee. He has no teeth, and he has internal injuries, hearing problems, and severe facial trauma; he faces a long road to recovery.

An unknown to the world, Mykola sat for three months in a hospital bed in Ukraine with no hope or future until a Canadian medical mission group found him in November and realized how important it was to get him to proper medical care.

By mid-November 2015, the media was covering Mykola and his tragic story.

Articles about him began appearing around the world. In one of them, a media reporter asked Mykola about a photo he had above his bed. It was a photo of another triple amputee holding his newborn son. Mykola explained to them that the photo was of an American soldier injured in a war. He said, “This is my hero. I want to be like him.”

It was a photograph of me.

On November 24, I received a message through my website with the article and the photograph. In the article, I saw a child with the kinds of wounds that shatter seasoned war veterans. The wounds he had were similar to what I saw when I was hospitalized at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, seeing the worst of what war can do to a person. My heart sank for Mykola. I knew the demons he was facing.

A photo of Brian Kolage and his son Beckham that sits over Mykola’s bed. This is the photo that sent the media and hospital staff on a search to find Brian (Brian Kolfage)

I messaged a charity known as Veterans Airlift Command, which arranges travel on private planes for wounded veterans at no cost to the veteran. I explained to them Mykola’s tragic story. And in less than fve minutes I was told that a jet from the Carrington Charitable Foundation would be made available to fly us round trip from Florida to Montreal.

On December 1, which also happened to be my birthday, I received word that Mykola had arrived at Montreal’s Shriners Hospital. This day now had more meaning than ever before for both of us.

On December 13, my wife, Ashley, and I boarded the jet and headed north. The Shriners hospital staff told me that Mykola loved Legos and Star Wars, so en route we stopped in New York City. We went straight to the huge Lego Store at Rockefeller Center and bought Mykola the biggest Star Wars set they had, leaving the next morning for Montreal.

Getting off the plane, it was 30 degrees, but I had the warmest feeling knowing what was about to happen. When we arrived we were warmly greeted and taken directly to Mykola’s ward. This was my moment to help Mykola.

When I walked into the room, there was Mykola, lying in bed, with no legs. He looked up at me, and after our eyes met, he abruptly turned away, curled up into a ball and cried. His mother tried to console him, but he kept crying. I asked all but the medical staff and the translator to leave the room.

I handed Mykola the Lego set, but he couldn’t stop crying; I felt terrible. Then I took off my robotic prosthetic hand and laid it on the bed in front of his face. He suddenly stopped crying and was soon grinning like any 11 year-old boy might. I had his attention. I had his trust.

With only a couple of hours together, I communicated through the translator as much information as I could. I showed Mykola and others my video showing how I could swim, scuba dive, surf, walk, dress myself, drive, and just be independent. And then I explained how I even got my Bachelors degree in Architecture without my dominant right hand. By the end of our time together, Mykolas was smiling, goofing off, exhibiting a cockiness that he would conquer his challenge, and knowing that I was his friend.

Brian Kolfage and Mykola checkout the lego set that the Kolfage family brought for Mykola.  (Brian Kolfage) Brian Kolfage and Mykola checkout the lego set that the Kolfage family brought for Mykola. (Brian Kolfage)

The day following my time with Mykola, I received an email from the staff saying how excited he was, and how he couldn’t stop talking about our visit and the videos that I showed him. I cannot describe how that makes me feel.

My wife and I are now back home in Florida but I can’t stop thinking about Mykola and the battle he is facing, something I faced at twice his age. As we sit in the comfort of our homes this Christmas, wars rage on around the globe. So many that we’ve most likely forgotten that the war in Ukraine is approaching its third anniversary.

As Christians and Americans we need to not take for granted the freedoms and safety that our military provides us. Our children can run free outside and we dont have to worry about these things.

Life is at best uncertain, and while people measure a successful life in many ways, maybe the best measure is the impact we have on others.

If you want to help Mykola, please visit his website and Facebook page.

Brian Kolfage retired from the Air Force after being severely wounded in Iraq and is a 2014 graduate of the University of Arizona’s school of Architecture. Contact Brian at BrianKolfagejr@gmail.com or on Facebook.

Feature Image: Brian Kolfage

TheBlaze contributor channel supports an open discourse on a range of views. The opinions expressed in this channel are solely those of each individual author.

With All The Turmoil This Christmas, We Have But One Gift To Offer: Have Faith in God

Photo Credit: www.solawakening.com

It is Monday evening. I’m sitting in my library staring at a porcelain manger scene that my sister made for me over 30 years ago.

One of the wise men’s camels exploded in the middle of our son’s football game with his pal when they were young, but it is otherwise complete. I wonder if the wise men worried about the world exploding. I doubt it.

The existence of the “Star in the East” may have been enough to give them pause about their fate. Indeed it must have. They followed it and discovered a new world.

Photo Credit: www.solawakening.com

There before them lay a baby. Born in poverty and unencumbered by the trappings of influence and power, this baby gave new meaning to life.

He arrived unheralded traveling in his mother’s womb on the back of a donkey. His mother and father were subjects coming to be counted by the government.

The counting originated with the governor of Syria. His father, Joseph, “also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David).”

Mary and Joseph were coming, volun­tarily, to be taxed.

The Syrians are counting again today. They are counting bodies. The tribulations in the land we call Holy seem to know no end. The circumstances change with technology, but they remain the same.

Jesus came to bring eternal life. His quiet supplication for civility and respect bring people to altars across the world, but have we become more civil? Do we respect others?

Today’s news brings us videos of a marauding army of true believers crucifying children, beheading infidels and burning others alive.

They are moving into Europe and are in our own nation. To do what? To kill in order that the god that they worship prevails.

Fanatics are lopping off the heads of others in the name of the lord, and we wonder.

We see the leader of over a billion Catholics focused, not on the crucifixion of Christians in the Middle East, but on the weather.

We see our own president refusing to brutally confront this atrocity. Nor will he confront the irredentism of Russia, which occupied our best and brightest for 50 years.

The people of Ukraine are cold and lonely and watching tanks on their borders. The people of Taiwan are watching the military maneuvers on their borders. China is building islands to expand their influence in the South China Sea and the free and thriving nations of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania watch and worry.

They too will be in the churches on this Christmas Eve. They will be praying for deliverance from mindless killing and Godless statism.

In the pews they will kneel and say, in words that cannot be refuted, “I serve but one Master. You may take my freedom, but you will not take my soul.”

And, in their message, we see the message of Christmas. Jesus did not come to deliver the millennium for “the people” of the world. He came to give each “person” a way for eternal life.

God sees us one by one. Irrespective of our color, nationality or place in life we are all just one person before the Lord with the same promise of salvation.

All of the despots of my studies, and many of the popularly elected leaders, have failed in that one lesson on leadership.

It is not their job – or indeed within their power – to create a nation or a world to satisfy “the people.” I have never known anyone who could even define what “the people” wanted.

They have only the obligation to create a world in which each “person” can achieve his or her goals, unencumbered by governmen­tal restraint or cultural bias.

The wise men were for­tunate to recognize the significance of this event and were in a position to honor it with splendid gifts. That is ap­propriate to such an auspicious occasion.

The “Little Drummer Boy” was not so fortunate as to have a precious gift. According to the song he had “no gift to bring…fit for a King.” So he asked if he could play a song for Him on his drum. “Mary nod­ded… and he played his drum for Him… the baby smiled at him.”

And so it is for us all. Our gift on this Christmas need not be riches or splendor, merely an effort to honor the life He lived and live the life He taught: To love God – and to love our neighbor as ourselves.

Merry Christmas.

If you would like to be added to John Linder’s distribution list please send your email address to: linderje@yahoo.com or follow on Twitter: @linderje

TheBlaze contributor channel supports an open discourse on a range of views. The opinions expressed in this channel are solely those of each individual author.

Who Were the Wise Men from the East? And Why Should We Care?

Photo Credit: www.solawakening.com

It is one of the most beloved parts of the Christmas story, an event celebrated by Christians all over the world: the arrival of “wise men” from the East to pay homage to the newborn Christ child.

The story exists solely in the Gospel of Matthew and there is no reference to it anywhere else in the New Testament.

According to Matthew 2: 1-12, in the days of Herod the king, “wise men” (magoi) from the east, not “kings” as Christmas carols proclaim, came to Jerusalem looking for the “newborn king of the Jews.” The wise men explained that they had seen his star in the east and came to worship him.

Photo Credit: www.solawakening.com

King Herod assembled all the chief priests and scribes and asked them where the Christ, the long-expected Jewish messiah, was to be born. The Jewish experts replied that the messiah was to be born in the tiny village of Bethlehem as some of the prophets had foretold.

Herod then summoned the foreign visitors in secret and questioned them in detail about the astrological portent they had seen, and then told them to go find the royal child and report back to him where the child was to be found for he, Herod, wanted to pay him homage as well.

The wise men followed the miraculous star until it “came to rest” over the exact spot where the child was. They went into the house where the child was, worshiped him, and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. But after being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, the wise men departed for their home country by another way.

New Testament Scholars Consider the Magi to Be Legendary

It goes without saying that many mainstream New Testament scholars consider this entire episode to be legendary. There is no confirmation of the wise men in any secular sources or in the other texts of the New Testament.

Despite attempts to find an ancient astronomical event that could correspond to a traveling star – Halley’s comet, a super nova, or a planetary conjunction – none really fits exactly either chronologically or in terms of what the text actually describes (a moving star that “comes to rest” over the exact spot).

That’s why experts such as the late Catholic New Testament scholar Raymond Brown – author of the authoritative “The Birth of the Messiah” – conclude that, as Brown put it, “those who wish to maintain the historicity of the Matthean magi story are faced with nigh insuperable obstacles.”

In addition, the experts see evidence of the evangelist copying aspects of various Old Testament stories, a technique known as midrash. For example, just as pharaoh sought the life of the newborn child Moses and massacres Israelite children, so, too, King Herod seeks the life of the new lawgiver, Jesus, and is willing to massacre all the male children of Bethlehem to do so.

Thus, the argument goes, the Magi story, like the story of George Washington cutting down the cherry tree, is not meant to be taken as literal history but as a myth.

Intriguing Confirmations from Ancient Historians

Nevertheless, the story about the visit of the Magi does have many intriguing plausibilities that should give even the die-hard skeptic pause. For one thing, we know from historical sources that there were, in ancient Persia, a priestly caste or order of “Magi” who were world-famous as astrologers.

In fact, according to the Roman historians Dio Cassius and Suetonius some of these eastern Magi even visited Rome. Further, Suetonius and another Roman historian, Tacitus, report that there was a belief in the ancient world that a world-ruler would rise from Judea. The Magi, Suetonius wrote, “had spread over all the Orient an old and established belief, that it was fated at that time for men coming from Judaea to rule the world.”

In addition, much of the story makes sense in light of what we know about that period. While there is no record of a massacre of newborn male infants in Bethlehem at this time, there probably wouldn’t have been. In a tiny village such as Bethlehem, with only about 300 residents, the number of newborn males would have been only a handful.

Secondly, we know from the writings of the first-century Jewish historian Josephus that wiping out potential rivals is precisely something that Herod would have done. He was so paranoid and ruthless he famously executed 45 members of Mark Antony’s retinue, his brother-in-law Aristobulus, his mother-in-law Alexandra, his second- and much-loved wife Mariamme and no fewer than three of his own biological sons.

In fact, around the time when Jesus was born Herod went on a murderous rampage against anyone who supported a potential successor to his rule. He executed 300 of his own soldiers and a number of Pharisees who predicted “Herod’s throne would be taken from him, both from himself and his descendants.”

What Does the Visit of the Magic Really Proclaim?

But what’s really interesting is this: Whether you view the visit of the wise men as literal history or as midrash, what was Matthew’s purpose in including this episode right at the beginning of his gospel when the other evangelists don’t even mention it?

After all, most scholars agree the Matthew is the “most Jewish” of the Gospels, and he repeatedly quotes Jesus as saying that his disciples are to go to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

But while there are versions of Christianity that see Jesus as coming solely for the chosen few, for good Christians only, throughout the Gospels there are passages that suggest Jesus’ mission was actually meant for the entire world.

In fact, in Matthew’s Gospel the very first people who recognize Jesus as divine — as someone to be “worshipped” — are not his fellow Jews, or even his closest followers, but the Magi, pagan astrologers from “the East.”

In addition, Matthew also contains the story of the Roman Centurion in Capernaum, who tells Jesus he knows that Jesus can cure his servant because he, as an officer, knows what it is like to give a command and have it immediately carried out. Jesus marvels at this and says, “Amen I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith (8:10).”

The visit of the Magi, whether historical or not, proclaims that Jesus was born for everyone – rich and poor, Jew and Gentile, righteous and sinners. In fact, in Matthew’s Gospel Jesus tells the religious elites of his age that prostitutes and swindlers are more righteous in the eyes of God than they are. “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you” (Matt. 21:31).

Imagine if someone today walked up to the pope, or the archbishop of Canterbury, or the latest TV evangelist, and said, “In God’s eyes, the drug addicts and hookers on skid row are more likely to go to heaven than you are.”

And that is ultimately the secret of the Magi, lost to Christians over the ages:

The whole world can celebrate the birth of the Christ child because he came, and died, for the whole world.

“I see that God shows no partiality,” says Jesus’ follower Peter after the Roman centurion Cornelius joins the Jesus movement. “Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him” (Acts 10: 34).

TheBlaze contributor channel supports an open discourse on a range of views. The opinions expressed in this channel are solely those of each individual author.

Pope Issues Christmas Indulgences to Spread Message of Mercy

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis has issued a Christmas Day indulgence for Catholics around the globe in hopes they spread the church’s message of mercy in a world torn by “murderous evil,” war and poverty.

Speaking Friday from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica, Francis said he hoped the indulgence would encourage the faithful in his Holy Year of Mercy “to welcome God’s mercy in our lives, and be merciful with our brothers to make peace grow.”

An indulgence is an ancient church tradition related to the forgiveness of sins.

Francis announced the indulgence after delivering his annual “Urbi et Orbi (To the city and the world)” speech listing global hotspots and his prayers for an end to human suffering.