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Jefferson's Bible

Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. John 20:30-31
Happy Presidents’ Day- the day we celebrate those who have led our nation through moments of glory and moments of strife. Our Presidents- now 46 of them- have ranged across the political spectrum; some were men of faith and others faithful only to themselves and their political future; some held the moral high ground and others were morally questionable. Today as I think about this diverse gallery of leaders from our nation’s history, I am drawn to one of our founding fathers- Thomas Jefferson. What I find fascinating about him is his hubris. Most people remember Thomas Jefferson for his writing of the Declaration of Independence. They remember his leadership as our nation struggled to find a design that would allow the high ideals of democracy to work practically. They remember him as an architect, a diplomat, a lawyer, a statesman. And in these days of increased awareness of the racism woven into our nation’s history, Thomas Jefferson is remembered as a slave owner, who abandoned his ideals of freedom leaving humans enslaved in our country for another 100 years. Thomas Jefferson’s legacy shaped our nation from its founding, for better or for worse.
There is much we could discuss when considering the legacy of Thomas Jefferson, but today I am remembering a little-known act that Thomas Jefferson did while he was our 3 rd President. He edited the Bible! Jefferson used a razor and scissors to carefully cut out small squares of text from his red leather-bound Bible. Each cut had a purpose, each word was carefully considered. Using those clippings, the third President created a New Testament of his own- one that most Christians would hardly recognize. The Bible focused only on Jesus, but none of his mystical works. This edited Bible did not include major scenes such as the resurrection or the ascension into heaven. Jefferson edited out all record of miracles such as when Jesus fed the thousands on the hillside and turned water into wine. The Jesus that Jefferson displayed in his Bible did not walk on water, and never healed the sick. Jefferson’s Jesus was a man of morals, a teacher of truth, but not an expression of God’s presence and power on earth. This 84-page Bible, that was Jefferson’s private edition intended for his own devotions, now rests secure at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. And, of course in our day of modern communication, those pages are available online for your consideration.
The Jefferson Bible shocks and offends many Christians. How dare Jefferson edit Jesus? But the truth is, many Christians secretly agree with Jefferson. While we yearn for the miraculous, we doubt the possibility. When we look at the Biblical record we wonder if those miracles would be easily explained by science in our modern age. Surely, it was the ignorance of people in an ancient time, perhaps bordering on what we would call superstition, that made them portray events as miraculous. We look around at the world today, and most often we see brokenness not miracles. Even those who believe the Biblical record often wonder if the age of miracles has passed. Are we now left to whatever science can provide? Even as we claim to believe in an all-powerful and allloving God, we wonder if God can win the battle against what seems to be an increasing wave of darkness. Do we believe in the Super-natural anymore?
My answer is a resounding YES! On this President’s Birthday, I am standing… not sitting… not waiting… I am standing in faith that our God is the Creator. Our God is not only able but willing to redeem the brokenness of this world for our good and His glory. Our God has not abandoned us in our hour of need. In fact, our God has already won the battle in the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Each day we are invited to watch His victory unfold in new and miraculous ways. Too often we acquiesce to the darkness as if it is inevitable; we accept brokenness as the definition of what has become ‘normal.’ We have become so conditioned by the skepticism of our day, and the darkness of this world, that we often are blinded to the creating and re-creating work God is already doing. Jurgen Moltmann, a 20th century German theologian, once wrote:
“Jesus’ healings are not supernatural miracles in a natural world. They are the only truly ‘natural’ things in a world that is unnatural, demonized and wounded.”
Moltmann argued that Jesus’ miracles do not contradict natural law, but rather they re-claim God’s created order and purpose for the world. Jesus began the re-creating work two thousand years ago, and continues that work in us, through us and around us every day. Look at the miracle of a vaccine created in less than a year. Look at the healing of 5-year-old Kane after brain surgery two weeks ago. Remember the beauty of the snowflakes last Sunday and the amber sky of the sunset last Thursday. Be encouraged by the bold faith statements of our Genesis youth in the face of their skeptical generation, and the mission heart of our youth as they create care packages for our seniors. Take a breath and feel the beat of your heart, and know the Creator is still on the job, breathing life into His people. Thomas Jefferson was wrong! Miracles do happen, every day, all around us. Open your eyes. Open your heart. Stand in faith with me today!
Trusting the Savior,
Anita
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