February 25th, 2007


Fourth day of Lent, John 1:43-51, Bragging

In the story from John that I have read today (John 1:43-51), Jesus gets another two other pupils. One is called Nathaniel. A friend had told him about Jesus. “Oh,” Nathaniel said when he heard were Jesus was born, “You tell me he comes from Nazareth? Nothing good can come from Nazareth.”

After that, Nathaniel goes to meet Jesus, and Jesus says about him: “Here is an honest man, he is honest as gold.” And Nathaniel asked: “How on earth do you know how I am?” “Oh well,” said Jesus, “I saw you sitting under the fig tree before your friend came to call you.” Nathaniel was really impressed by that. “Oh”, said Jesus, that is nothing, You will see something much, much bigger, you will see how the heavens open and angels will ascend to come down on the Son of Man.

I wonder, what is it that Nathaniel is impressed about, and what of this is relevant for my life? That is the question I have asked the tarot. I’ve used the Fantastic Menagerie Tarot and I pulled the King of Wands as an answer to my question. 


Meant with this card is a charismatic man who is able to lead others with his vision (that is in the book with the cards). That is what Nathaniel falls for in his encounter with Jesus: his charisma, the miracle Jesus performed by knowing who Nathaniel was.

When I look at this King of Wands I see a very self-confident, bragging man, who is showing off, a bit of a Magician really. That is how I see Jesus in this story as well, as a man who brags and manipulates, using miracles to lure people into following him. I am not captivated by this. The dove, well, okay, that was beautiful, a bit on the weak, Chesed-like side, but I could live with that, but with this bragging, no never!

Of course bragging and showing off is socially not clever. But condemning bragging as vigorously as I do here has a downside. Because if it is put in your mind firmly that bragging is bad, the inner censor senses much bragging. Just normal showing yourself already feels then as showing off. This can lead to putting yourself down in a bad, bad way, being ashamed about yourself (this is pictured on the card as well: the grovelling beetle). The line and balance between bragging and just come forward with yourself is gone then, is not known even.

When I look at my own life I can see that is more often than not difficult for me to show myself: who I am, what I do and what I am standing for. I do not always see the line between bragging and just coming forward with myself. I tend to grovel at such moments, being ashamed for myself like the beetle on the card. Just last week I struggled with this issue. A these times I really could use some powers of the King of Wands as well as some of the flair of this charismatic, fresh Jesus who is showing off his powers. That is the relevance for my life in this story. 

Schedule of texts: Dienstboek, Zoetermeer, 1998.

First Sunday of Lent, Mark.2:18-22, Butterflies

The text that I have read today is Mark 2:18-22. In the story people go to Jesus to ask him why the disciples of John and the Pharisees fast, and his disciples do not fast. Jesus then looks forward to his coming death and departing, and compares himself and the disciples with a bridegroom and his groomsmen. While the groomsmen are together with the bridegroom they cannot not fast. This is how it is with Jesus and his disciples. As long as Jesus is among them they do not fast and when he is gone, they will fast again. For at that time, there is no reason not to fast, because with the dead of Jesus this happy and extraordinary circumstance is gone.

This story makes me wonder what it means for the disciples to have Jesus among them. I have pulled the Tarot of Jane Austen made by  chelsearoadout of my little bag with tarot-deck-titles to pick a card from as an answer to this question. I received Two of Teacups (Two of Cups). 


The card shows that the disciples love having Jesus in their midst. The two people on this card are Catherine Morland and Henry Tilney from the book Northanger Abbey. At the end of the book they become a couple and plan to marry (Ten of Teacups), but here they have just met. They adore each other, but do not really know each other yet. They have no inkling of the flaws of the other one and, the habits that are not so nice, or the differences in interests. At this time it is all happiness and expectation. It is the tantalizing stage, “the initial sizzle”, as Diane Wilkes says, but “not the steak”. It is the beginning of a love-relationship. This is what it means for the disciples to have Jesus in their midst: they are attracted to Jesus, they are falling in love.

Catherine, who is young and not world-wise, loves from the start being taught by Henry, who is much older and knows the ways of the world. The disciples want to learn as well, Jesus is their teacher and they can learn from him as long as Jesus is in their midst. That is also what it means to the disciples to have Jesus in their midst. They are able to learn from him, and they enjoy that.

So, it is all happy new love for the disciples. Just as in a new relationship when you do not know the other yet and only feel butterflies, the disciples do not see what is coming, what it really means to follow Jesus and his teachings. They focus on an idealized future in which Jesus performs miracles and probably becomes king. We as readers know what will come, what rough and dark road Jesus will walk, but the disciples do not know this. They are not aware of the impact this rough road of Jesus will have on their lives.  

The number of the this card is two, a number of balance. The card warns to keep your head together, to stay balanced, listen not only to the sizzle and the butterflies. The disciples enjoy and learn, but they also need to get their wits together; they need to know what they are doing and where they are heading for. Not-fasting is a way to let that sink in, at least, it is meant to do that.

Schedule of texts: Dienstboek, Zoetermeer, 1998.