CHRISTIAN CLASSICS

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JESUS
by Muggeridge

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MARGIN NOTES
Malcolm Muggeridge
Born in 1903, Malcolm Muggeridge has become one of the notable figures of the twentieth century. He is well-known as an author, journalist, media personality, and in his later years, a leading spokesman for Christianity. His upbringing was, as he termed it, "socialist;" his father was involved in politics and served as a member of Parliament. He attended Cambridge University, and after his graduation in 1924, went to India as a teacher. He returned to his native England in 1927, where he married Katherine (Kitty) Dobbs and worked as a substitute teacher. After six months, the young couple moved to Egypt to assume another teaching post. It was here in Egypt that Muggeridge's career as a journalist began in earnest, a life of writing that would include work for the Manchester Guardian , Calcutta Statesman , Evening Standard , Daily Telegraph , and other newspapers.

Malcolm and Kitty Muggeridge spent the fall and winter of 1932-33 in Moscow, where he was a correspondent for the Manchester Guardian . He witnessed the Ukranian famine and was the first western reporter to write truthfully about the resultant death and devestation. This sojourn in the Soviet Union ended Muggeridge's infatuation with Communism as a panacea for the ills of the world.

Returning briefly to England, he subsequently accepted a post in India as assistant editor for the Calcutta Statesman . While there he completed a biography of Samuel Butler. During the Second World War, Muggeridge joined the Army Intelligence Corps and served in Mozambique, Italy, and France. Resuming his career as a journalist following the war, he spent almost two years in Washington, DC as a correspondent for the London Daily Telegraph.

Muggeridge's wit and style endeared him to many as he became a popular (and controversial) figure on radio and television. From 1953-57 he served as editor of the British humor magazine Punch . During the 1960s this former Socialist and vocal agnostic gradually modified his positions on religion and became a Christian. This journey is recorded in his book Jesus Rediscovered . From that time his writings reflect his increasingly orthodox stance on matters of faith. In 1983 Malcolm and Kitty Muggeridge became members of the Roman Catholic Church.

In his latter years, Muggeridge expressed a growing concern about moral and ethical issues. He opposed abortion and euthanasia while supporting the rights of the mentally and physically handicapped. His opposition to birth control led to his controversial resignation as Rector of Edinburgh University. He was greatly influenced by Mother Theresa of Calcutta and her efforts on behalf of the forgotten people of the world. She is the subject of his book Something Beautiful for God.

A leading Christian apologist, Muggeridge is sometimes cited as the G. K. Chesterton of the latter twentieth century. There appears to be a widening audience hungering for his sometimes cynical, yet always insightful opinions.

Malcolm Muggeridge, after a fruitful life of constant interaction and tension with life, entered eternal rest November 14, 1990.








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JESUS
by Malcolm Muggeridge


The sick who crowded Jesus wanted...
of course, to get near him, if possible to touch or be touched; in any case to catch his particular attention. There was, for instance, the woman with a long-standing issue of blood who managed to get close behind him and reached out her hand to his clothing, calculating: If I may touch his clothes, I shall be whole. It worked; straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed. Jesus at once knew something had happened; he was conscious of power going out of him, and asked who had touched his garments. In view of the crush of people, the disciples considered this rather a ridiculous question, but the woman herself, fearing and trembling, knowing what was done in her, came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth. Whereupon Jesus told her: Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague, which I am sure she did, never forgetting till the end of her days the deliverance that had come to her; possibly boring people by talking constantly about it. Not that issue of blood again!

Reductio ad absurdum is built by God into our lives and all our history.
The first requirement in Jesus' miraculous cures - underlined in the particular case of the woman with an issue of blood precisely because she had no other contact with him than just to touch his clothing - was faith on the part of the recipient that Jesus could effect a cure. Any doubt on this point ruled out all possibility of one. Good doctors always say that they don't and can't cure their patients, but only provide the circumstances for them to cure themselves. It is the same with miracles; an age that believes in miracles is likely to witness them, and an age like ours which dismisses the possibility, correspondingly unlikely. We get, not only the government, but the miracles we deserve. Although the woman with an issue of blood made no appeal to Jesus, established no contact with him, yet just touching his clothing sufficed to cure her. Jesus, for his part, was at once conscious that thereby something had been taken from him. In other words, just as the person cured had to believe in the possibility of a cure, so the curer, in effecting one, had to give of himself, of his love, of his vitality; as it might be, of his heart's blood. Walking with Mother Teresa among her lepers, it was obvious to me that her mere presence soothed and revived them. Just by being with them she gave them life and hope. Afterwards I could see that she was drained of life herself. She never admits that she is tired, or that what she has to give can be used up; but at times a greyness comes into her face, and her eyes momentarily go out like a lamp when there is no more oil. Is it surprising that, confronted with the task of reviving Lazarus, Jesus groaned aloud at the prospect of so spending himself?

In the early days of blood-transfusion, before the use of plasma, the donor was connected visibly to the recipient by a glass tube. Then the doctor would pump, so that the donor actually saw the blood being drawn out and pumped into another body, producing almost instantaneous revival; color and expression and shape coming back into a grey, lost face. If the face was familiar - often pored over; creased and crumpled, like a much-used map - then the experience was ecstatic, almost sensual in its intensity. Once, in this situation, I heard myself shouting out to the pathologist operating the transfusion to keep at it, and draw blood lavishly without any concern about the available supply. If, however, it was the face of a stranger - in the particular case I am thinking of, a man in his middle fifties, with a sparse red beard growing spikily out of wan cheeks and chin - curiously enough the experience was in some ways more harrowing. There was something infinitely moving and tender in thus disgorging blood for a nebulous figure, never seen before, never to be seen again. Just a man, any man, ashen-lipped, with glazed eyes and bad breath. Someone who would pass for being totally insignificant, of a kind encountered in railway compartments, whose remarks, if he made any, were bound to be banal, but for whom none the less I was giving my blood, and in the process feeling for him an overwhelming concern and love. If I had known him at all, or wanted to know him, detected in him some particular charm or grace, seen some specific reason why the protraction of his life was desirable - he would write books, make discoveries, he had children to support and work to finish - our tubular connection and blood-sharing would have been less uplifting. The Unknown Soldier interred in Westminster Abbey or under the Arc de Triomphe; the Unknown Recipient to whom blood is dispensed, in hospitals and at altar rails.

Jesus' healing may be compared, though of course on an immeasurably higher spiritual level, with this giving of blood to a stranger. With certain particular exceptions like the raising of Lazarus, the people he healed were unknown to him. It might be two blind men shouting after him to have their sight restored, or a fellow worshipper in a synagogue who happened to have a withered arm, or some poor, possessed soul yelling and grinding his teeth, or an infirm man who had come year after year to a sheep-market pool in Jerusalem where it was said an angel from time to time troubled the waters, and that whoever bathed in them first after the troubling would be healed of whatever disease he might have - but this poor man had no one to help him down to the pool, so that year after year he missed his chance. These were cases which for one reason or another attracted Jesus' attention, so that the two blind men got back their sight, the withered arm was held out and healed even though it was the Sabbath, the poor possessed soul became sane, and the infirm man by the pool was instructed to rise, take up his bed and walk, which he duly did, also on the Sabbath. On other occasions when the sick gathered, we are simply told in the Gospels that he healed them, without specifying how many or what their ailments were.

Sometimes Jesus' healing involved touching the afflicted parts, or some simple action like using his spittle to make mud which he put on a blind man's sightless eyes to bring back their sight. There was, of course, no question of treatment in the medical sense, still less of drugs or medicine. His commonest, indeed, his almost invariable, procedure was to tell those who were to be cured that their sins were forgiven them; by thus relieving them of their moral infirmities they were automatically relieved of their physical ones. This was especially infuriating to the legalistic Scribes; they considered it amounted to blasphemously making himself equal with God, who alone was competent to forgive sins. Jesus brushed their objections aside with: For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk? In any case the man in question, who was sick of the palsy and lying in a bed, did arise and walk, thereby proving Jesus' point. Jesus likewise brushed aside the legalistic objection of the Scribes to healing on the Sabbath. Would they not, any one of them, go after one of their cattle that had fallen into a ditch on the Sabbath? Of course they would! How much more, then, was it permissible on the Sabbath, as on any other day, to save a fellow human being who had fallen into sickness or demon-possession.

Then touched he their eyes,
saying, According to your faith
be it unto you. And their eyes
were opened.


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"Jesus' healing may be compared, though of course on an immeasurably higher spiritual level, with this giving of blood to a stranger."