A Bad Hair Day?

bad hair day

Remaining in the Olivet discourse, Jesus’ teaching on “the end”,  mainly working from Luke.  Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven.   Jesus is teaching in AD 30, by the 60s, this was all coming true.   Wars and civil wars, Jewish uprising and revolt, a great earthquake in 63, a plague, crop failure in Egypt which led to famine in some parts, assassinations and coup attempts, and don’t forget a decade later the eruption of Mt Vesuvius!!   How many signs could you want??

christian-persecution-first-century

But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. This will be your opportunity to bear witness. Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives.   Never forget that Jesus was talking to a specific audience here.   He was talking to his disciples, those who had been following throughout his ministry.  Those who had witnessed firsthand the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, the long awaited Messiah of Israel.   Again, what Jesus is telling his disciples would happen to them and in the world around them, happened.   Ever hear of the book of Acts?  That is exactly what Jesus is referring to in this passage.  But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake.   In the 30s, 40s, 50s, before the wars, rumors of wars, and tumults of the 60s, the book of Acts tells us exactly of all these things happening.  It tells the stories of Peter and Paul being arrested, persecuted, and brought before kings and governors.  It tells of Stephen, the first Christian martyr, being dragged before the council, giving witness which none of his adversaries could withstand or contradict – “And they stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and seized him and brought him before the council, and they set up false witnesses who said, “This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law, for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses delivered to us.” And gazing at him, all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel.” Acts 6:12-15 ESV.  Stephen gave an eloquent witness that  those opposed to him could not stand, so just as Jesus said, he was put to death with the approval of Saul of Tarsus, who maybe in part because of the witness given that day by Stephen had his own conversion and encounter with the risen Christ.

pauls-three-testimony-sun-27-sept-15-5-638

Speaking of Saul, also named Paul, it was he and Peter who went about spreading the Gospel, the leaders of the movement called “the way”.   They were going through the land, Paul to the Gentiles, Peter to the Jews.  They were witnessing and preaching about the Lord Jesus Christ, being hauled before synagogues, Sanhedrin, Jewish courts, brought before the Roman governors.  They are giving eloquent witness to Lord Jesus Christ.   They are being persecuted and arrested, making escapes and being lowered from baskets under the dark of night, and giving witness and spreading the Gospel.   Peter being arrested and freed.  James being executed.  Paul going before the governors Felix and Festus, ultimately making his appeal to Caesar.

hated for jesus name

Ultimately, both are arrested and executed by Nero sometime in the 50s, Peter by upside down crucifixion, Paul being beheaded.  Because, as Jesus had told them, some of you they will put to death.  You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives.  This is interesting, that they might be put to death, but not a hair of your head will perish.   So at least they might die on a good hair day!   Somehow, I don’t think that’s what Jesus was talking about.  By your endurance you will gain your lives.   Paul and Peter, James and Stephen, do we somehow think that they somehow died falling short of becoming all they could have become because their lives were cut short by execution?   Maybe, they didn’t fulfill their potential, never became all they could have been?  NO!  To this day, we name our sons Peter and Paul.  We name our dogs Nero.  Not a hair on their heads perished, by their endurance they gained their lives.  They lived some of the most significant lives in history, because they walked in obedience to their Lord Jesus Christ.

some of you will be put to death

He told them what would happen, and they did it anyway.  Just like Jesus knew what was coming in Jerusalem, but he went anyway.   We know that the world around is becoming increasingly hostile, some would say dangerous, to our message. Are we going to sit in a circle, inside our locked panic rooms, telling each other how bad it is out there?  Or are we going to carry the message, knowing what might come?   Really, what are we threatened with, anyway?   A little social discomfort, maybe someone won’t like us because we believe in Jesus Christ?    Maybe they’ll hurt our feelings?

Old-Sparky

Somehow, I don’t think we are facing ol’ sparky for our faith.  Do we believe and trust Jesus enough to go into the world knowing our economic security might be threatened?  Do we trust Him enough to be made uncomfortable, even for a few minutes?   We might even have to endure a bad hair day.  But ask Peter and Paul.  They might tell you it’s worth it.

peter and paul

“Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. This will be your opportunity to bear witness. Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives.” Luke 21:10-19 ESV

John Lewis

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The End Will Not be at Once

The End Will Not be at Once

end-of-the-world

I’m continuing what I started last week, really following the story of Jesus in the road to Jerusalem, coming into the city in that triumphal entry, then clearing out the temple and generally disrupting things for the “principal men”.  Now we are coming to the whole point of why I’m so interested in following this chain of events.

Olivet_lg

Luke 21, Matthew 24, Mark 13.  We call it the Olivet Discourse.   It is given only a couple of days, maybe one day, before Jesus’ arrest arrest and eventual crucifixion.  Jesus knows the time is at hand, and he is really laying out some of his teachings, being very direct with his disciples (this teaching is not a public teaching but private, with only his core disciples being with him).  Jesus connects here the end of the temple with the coming of what he has been teaching from the moment he began his ministry, which of course is the kingdom of God.   So let’s begin…

one stone left

“And while some were speaking of the temple, how it was adorned with noble stones and offerings, he said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” And they asked him, “Teacher, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?” And he said, “See that you are not led astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them. And when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified, for these things must first take place, but the end will not be at once.”” Luke 21:5-9 ESV

beautiful temple

First thing – Jesus disciples were fisherman, we might say they were country boys.   They were very impressed, bring in Jerusalem, with the temple and the temple complex.  And very impressive it was.   Look at how Mark puts it – “And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!”” Mark 13:1 ESV.   They were very impressed with the architectural achievement that was the great Jewish temple complex, which had been under construction for over 40 years.   Jesus Himself, however, seemed thoroughly unimpressed didn’t he?   “As for these things that you see, the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”    Nothing but brick and mortar.  This is the second time in just a few days that Jesus had made this prediction.   And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.   

when

His disciples ask the question I might have asked at this point.  And they asked him, “Teacher, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?”   Okay, you keep talking about it.  WHEN??!!   And he said, “See that you are not led astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them.   World history in a nutshell.   We are always led astray.   When Jesus says here many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’, he doesn’t mean people will come saying “I am Jesus“, or even “I do this in Jesus name“.   No, he’s talking specifically to a Jewish audience, and audience waiting for a messiah, a savior.  And history bears out the truth of what Jesus said, there were many who came before and after Jesus claiming to be Messiah,  claiming to bring salvation for the Jewish people.  When I say this is world history in a nutshell, this is not just limited to the experience of the Jewish people.  Throughout history, even today, leaders rise up claiming to be the one to save us, claiming to be our Messiah.  Maybe they are, and maybe they aren’t.  But Jesus tells his disciples, that at least for those that would come in the decades following his own death, burial and resurrection, they would be wrong.  Do not go after them. 

war

And when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified, for these things must first take place, but the end will not be at once.  Jesus is teaching in or about AD 30 here.  He is teaching on “the end” to his disciples, telling them what they should look for to know the end was near.  Wars and tumults will come, he told them.  And wars and tumults did come.  The 60s were a tumultuous, crazy time.  Not the 1960s, the the 0060s.  Wars, civil wars, Jewish uprisings against Rome.  In the year 68 Rome went through 4 governors.  In one year.  There were assassinations, people killing each other all over.  All leading up to “the end”.   The end of the temple and the temple age, which Jesus tied to the coming of the kingdom of God.

destruction of the temple

The year 66 brought the beginning of the “Jewish War”, called that because the history is told by the Romans, because they ultimately won the war.   The war was not without some major Jewish victories.  The end did not come at once.  But eventually, enough got to be enough.

And yes, we shall return.

John Lewis

They Could Have Been Saved

They Could Have Been Saved

rebuke your disciples

I’m continuing what I started yesterday, looking at Jesus on the road to Jerusalem with the full knowledge of what the outcome would be.   Beginning today with his entry into Jerusalem, that triumphant entry where the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”   To which, of course, the Pharisees responded with this admonition  – And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.”   This was actually good advice from the Pharisees to Jesus, because his followers were declaring him King when Israel already had a king.  It was the kind of thing that might get one crucified for treason – which had happened plenty of times before.  Of course, Jesus knows what his purpose is, and the time to fulfill that purpose has come – He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”   Jesus is the king, and the time for his coronation had come.

They could have been saved

And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”    The king has come with tears in his eyes.  He knows that in their hosannas there is a darkness still present, a kind of triumphalism which maybe we still share to this day.  Jesus followers were looking for a revolution, and they got one.  They were looking for a Messiah, and they got one.  But their revolution was not of violence, and their Messiah was not a conqueror.  He would not take up the sword and lead his army into a great battle, conquering his enemies by spilling their blood.  No, Jesus knows that despite their hosannas, the crowd cheering him would melt into the crowd jeering him.  They would choose a Messiah named Barrabas (which, by the way, means “Son of the father“) a violent revolutionary who saw the world as that crowd saw the world, as an us vs them proposition, we are right and they are wrong, we are good and they are evil.  They would choose the messiah who believed in violence as they believed in violence.  And some of those crying out Hosanna! on Palm Sunday would cry out “crucify him” as Pilate asked what to do with this King of the Jews.

king-jesus-2

But back to my original point here.  Jesus has come to Jerusalem, to the climax of his earthly ministry.  He has come to Jerusalem with tears in his eyes, weeping as he prophecies The End for Jerusalem and the temple.   Understand the real drama that is going on here, and high drama it is.  Because at the same time the temple establishment is seeking a way to bring and end to Jesus,  Jesus is predicting the end of the temple and the temple age.   His entire ministry, Jesus has preached almost nothing but the kingdom of God.   Kingdom of God, kingdom of God, kingdom of God, it’s all Jesus talked about.  Jesus believed the end of the temple was coming, and that the end of the temple would mark the coming of the kingdom of God.

Kingdom of God

The king had come to Jerusalem.  No longer was he telling his disciples to keep it under wraps that he was Messiah.  He comes to Jerusalem with tears in his eyes, because they simply do not know the things that make for peace!   Things did not have to go the way it did.   For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.   Again, the whole story did not have to play out the way it did, and has.   Jerusalem could have been saved.  If they had recognized their true King when he visited them, they could have been saved.  But they don’t.  And 40 years later, in AD 70, what Jesus predicts would happen, happens.   40 years later, undoubtably with some of those who were in both crowds, before that generation had passed away, the crowd crying Hosanna and the crowd crying crucify him!, the Romans set up siege barricades around Jerusalem, hemmed them in on every side, and tore the city to the ground.  Men, women, and their children with them.  And no, not one stone was left upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.

crucify him

 

They could have been saved had they known the things that make for peace!   

peace

Lucky for us, we can…

FergusonTruth

“And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.””

Luke 19:36-44 ESV

http://bible.com/59/luk.19.36-44.esv

John Lewis

Protest and Parable

Protest and Parable

tissot-the-merchants-chased-from-the-temple-746x471

Back in Jerusalem, after the triumphal entry.  Jesus has cried his tears over Jerusalem and gone into the city.   He’s received the hosannas and been warned by the Pharisees.   Upon entering the city, Jesus goes into the temple.   “And he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. And when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.” Mark 11:11 ESV.  Notice it says he looked around at everything.   So the next day, when he actually prophetically blesses the temple, we know that it was a planned action, not a heat of the moment temper tantrum.

Jesus-curses-fig-tree

So on Monday, Jesus is headed to the temple, but first he comes upon a fig tree.  “On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. And he said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it.” Mark 11:12-14 ESV. Now, this is not the season for figs, and Jesus knows it.  He is enacting a parable.  He is making a point, just as the gospel writer is making a point of including it.  Jesus is using the fig tree as a symbolic representation of the temple.  Mark told us he entered the temple and looked around following his entry into the city.  Know he tells us Jesus is looking for fruit on this fig tree, and finds none.  Just as he finds no fruit in the temple.   The next morning, remember, Jesus and the disciples pass by the fig tree again.  As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. And Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God.” Mark 11:14, 20-22 ESV.  The withered fig tree which was not producing fruit, on the way to the temple which was not producing the fruit of righteousness and faith in God.

whip for the sheep and cattle

Jesus then goes back into the temple and does his prophetic reenactment of Jeremiah, driving out those inside conducting business during the Passover week.   And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.”   And he was teaching daily in the temple.  Notice here it does not mention the whip, and neither do Mark or Matthew.  The only gospel that mentions the whip is John’s gospel, because John is the only one that mentions the sheep and cattle.  The whip was for the sheep and cattle, not the people.

seeking to destroy him

The chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people were seeking to destroy him, but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were hanging on his words.   How about that translation – the principal men!   Those principalities and powers that control society to this day, those men who control the money, the military, and the religious institutions, as well as the spiritual forces behind them.  And what does it say about them?  It says they were seeking to destroy him, but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were hanging on his words.   

jesus teaching in the temple.jpg

So Jesus is teaching daily in the temple.  Those in control of the money, the power, and religion were seeking to destroy him.  The people are hanging on his words.  Jesus is teaching in the temple about the end of the temple, while those in charge of the temple are planning the end Jesus.   They can’t arrest him during the day,  because they fear starting a riot or revolt.  Jesus remarks on this as he gets arrested a few days later – “And Jesus said to them, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But let the Scriptures be fulfilled.”” Mark 14:48-49 ESV.

Judas

This is why Judas was so important to the story.  Jesus correctly points out that he was every day right there teaching, in the open.  They could have taken him anytime.  But they feared the people, who were hanging on his every word.  They feared starting a riot during Passover.  But Judas gives them a way, a way to take him into custody in the dark of night, away from the crowds.

Jesus

He gave them a way to fulfill their plot to put an end to this Jesus of Nazareth.  Principalities and powers to this day are trying to figure out how to put and end to this Jesus business.  He’s just so inconvenient.

end of the temple

But none of them could prevent the end of the temple.

“And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.” And he was teaching daily in the temple. The chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people were seeking to destroy him, but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were hanging on his words.”

Luke 19:45-48 ESV

http://bible.com/59/luk.19.45-48.esv

John Lewis

Beginning of the End??

Beginning of the End??

end times

I have something I’ve been studying and thinking about for quite some time now, but I just don’t know where to begin with it.   So I’m just going to start with it today, hopefully short and sweet, and prayerfully attempt to have a coherent thought come through.  In any case, coherent or incoherent as I may be on a daily basis, today’s message is only the beginning.

jerusalem jerusalem

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’

road to jerusalem

Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem.   Fact is, Jesus actually spent very little time in Jerusalem.   It doesn’t seem or feel that way when we read the gospels, because so much happens in Jerusalem.   But most of his life and ministry were outside of Jerusalem, in Capernaeum, Galilee, Jericho.  But like this teaching, it seems that so much happens on the road to Jerusalem.

jesus ready to die

Jesus is on the road to Jerusalem, on his way to die.  It was not unforeseeable, what was to came.  Some of those Pharisees who heard him speak and teach tried to warn him.  At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.”   Then again, later at his triumphal entry into the city, he gets another warning.   “And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”” Luke 19:39-40 ESV.  Funny thing is, before this point, Jesus had always told his followers not to tell who he really was.  “Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered, “The Christ of God.” And he strictly charged and commanded them to tell this to no one, saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”” Luke 9:20-22 ESV.  Jesus was fully aware of what he was going to endure, and he also was fully aware that the time had come.

 

“Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”” Luke 19:38 ESV.  Just as Jesus had said in Luke 13 above, Jerusalem will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’  

stones

When Jesus followers would proclaim him to be the Christ, he would always tell them to keep it quiet.  That’s because Israel already had a king, a Messiah.  His name was Herod Antipas, appointed by Caesar, confirmed by the Roman senate.   To claim to be king without these confirmations could get you killed for treason, which ultimately is exactly what Jesus was crucified for.   So when Jesus says to the Pharisees I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out, he knows he is setting up a confrontation that could end up just as it did, with him hanging on a cross.

hosanna

Now, to the chorus of Hosannas as he comes into Jerusalem, Jesus is coming to the zenith if his ministry.  He had always silenced his followers who declared him messiah, because it would not have accomplished anything to die in the first month if his ministry.  But now, he lets them shout, just as he said they would.

rapture

I am working to a point here, but won’t get there today.  Today, as in Jesus’ day, we live in tumultuous times, both at home and abroad.  Jesus had much to say on “the end”, many of us get very excited when we see conflict and “rumors of war”.  We see our craziness and try to tie the teachings of Jesus and the Bible to it.  We start dreaming of raptures and second comings.  But where does it all fit in?  That is the point I’m working toward.  It’s not going to take weeks, but I can’t finish it today.

i'll be back

As someone once said, I’ll be back.

John Lewis

There is a Temple

There is a Temple

the temple

Been offline for a week (again), was enjoying a nice family vacation in Myrtle Beach, SC.   I’ve been a little inconsistent the past couple of months, for various reasons.   I hope to get back to a little better consistency in writing, pray for me on that, if you will.

Receive-the-holy-spirit

When last I did write, I wrote on John 20:19-23, particularly verse 23, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”   We are all commissioned  by Jesus as priests in his kingdom, commissioned to offer his forgiveness to the world.  Commissioned to flood the world with the forgiveness of Jesus Christ.

destroy this temple

If you’ve spent any time in or around church, you probably remember the story which we call the “cleansing of the temple“, when Jesus drives out those doing business in the temple, turning the temple into their own house of business rather that a house of worship.  He did this right in the middle of Passover week, their busiest time of the year, really costing these money changers and businessmen at the time when they would do their greatest business.  Really interfering with the way things are done.  So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?”   Who are you do stop us from doing our business??   Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

temple of his body
Jesus challenged those in authority, challenged their economic systems and their hierarchical system of power and control.  When he answered their question about his authority to interrupt their commerce, “The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body.” John 2:20-21 ESV.  Seems like a logical response to me, they’d been building that temple for 46 years, how in the world we Jesus rebuild it in three days?   Some of us are still waiting for that temple to be rebuilt.  Undoubtedly, some of those Jews thought they were standing in the temple prophesied by Ezekiel hundreds of years earlier.  Ezekiel saw a new temple coming, a temple from which would flow rivers of forgiveness.   The temple Ezekiel saw coming in his ancient prophecy is the temple Jesus refers to when he gives them his response  Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.   The temple Ezekiel saw coming was not a physical temple, but the temple of the body of Christ.

Body-of-Christ

It is from this temple that rivers of forgiveness flow.  Then he brought me back to the door of the temple, and behold, water was issuing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar. Then he brought me out by way of the north gate and led me around on the outside to the outer gate that faces toward the east; and behold, the water was trickling out on the south side.   

Trickling water
At first, closest to us, it is just a trickle.  But the temple of the body of Christ is not just one place.  The temple of the body of Christ goes anywhere the followers of Christ go.   And as we go farther and wider into the world, the water begins to get deeper.  Going on eastward with a measuring line in his hand, the man measured a thousand cubits, and then led me through the water, and it was ankle-deep.   As we go into the world, out of our locked panic rooms, through our fear and eventually out of our fear, sent by Jesus, we become salt and light in the dark, ugly world.  As we carry the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ into the world, the world we fear and want to escape, the water begins to get deeper.   Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was knee-deep.   At first it’s just a trickle, then it’s ankle deep, now it’s knee deep.

knee deep

Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was waist-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and it was a river that I could not pass through, for the water had risen. It was deep enough to swim in, a river that could not be passed through.   Now we are swimming in our river of forgiveness.   It eventually swells and grows to overflowing, we can’t get away from it.

rushing-river-1500x1015
Then he led me back to the bank of the river. As I went back, I saw on the bank of the river very many trees on the one side and on the other. And he said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, and enters the sea; when the water flows into the sea, the water will become fresh. And wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish. For this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes.   The water keeps rising, keeps flowing.   It eventually flows into Arabah, or as we know it, the Dead Sea.  The sea which is at one of the lowest altitudes on the planet, the sea which, I believe, is a hundred feet below sea level.  The sea so salty nothing can live there (which of course is why we call it the Dead Sea).  The water which flows through the desert, healing the desert as it goes, growing trees where no trees grow, makes it into the Dead Sea, turning even that dead space into fresh water.

dead sea

But here’s the thing – the great problem if the world is not the saline content of the Dead Sea.  That is not the point of Ezekiel’s vision.  The great problem of the world is hate and retribution.  The world we live in is a scorched desert of hate.

scorched_desert_1

But there is a temple from which a river flows.  The temple of the body of Jesus Christ.  The temple which was raised after three days.  The body of which all who believe are members.

CA18632

Fishermen will stand beside the sea. From Engedi to Eneglaim it will be a place for the spreading of nets. Its fish will be of very many kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea. But its swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they are to be left for salt. And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.   If we want to stand in the swamps and marshes, we can do that.  We can even build walls to protect our swamps and marshes (or dams.  Or whatever we might build to protect a salty swamp or salty marsh).  Sometimes our salt tastes good to us.  We think everybody should be a little salty like us.

tree producing good fruit

But we are sent by Jesus to flood the world with rivers of mercy and forgiveness.  We are sent to grab rods and go fishing.  We are sent to heal that scorched desert of hate, heal it with mercy and forgiveness.  We are sent to bring water from the sanctuary, to nourish the trees that never fail, to provide good fruit for the world to eat.
raised on the third day
Jesus gave us his sign.  He raised that temple in three days, just like he said.  That temple has water flowing, water that can heal the desert and make the Dead Sea fresh.

living water

Didn’t Jesus say something about water?  “Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.””John 4:10 ESV.  The living water is flowing, flooding the world.  Why do we keep trying to dam it up?

So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”” 
John 2:18-19 ESV
http://bible.com/59/jhn.2.18-19.esv

“Then he brought me back to the door of the temple, and behold, water was issuing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar. Then he brought me out by way of the north gate and led me around on the outside to the outer gate that faces toward the east; and behold, the water was trickling out on the south side. Going on eastward with a measuring line in his hand, the man measured a thousand cubits, and then led me through the water, and it was ankle-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was knee-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was waist-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and it was a river that I could not pass through, for the water had risen. It was deep enough to swim in, a river that could not be passed through. And he said to me, “Son of man, have you seen this?” Then he led me back to the bank of the river. As I went back, I saw on the bank of the river very many trees on the one side and on the other. And he said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, and enters the sea; when the water flows into the sea, the water will become fresh. And wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish. For this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes. Fishermen will stand beside the sea. From Engedi to Eneglaim it will be a place for the spreading of nets. Its fish will be of very many kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea. But its swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they are to be left for salt. And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.””
Ezekiel 47:1-12 ESV
http://bible.com/59/ezk.47.1-12.esv

John Lewis

Flood the World

martin_john_-_the_deluge_-_1834

Continuing on thoughts from my last post.

Duccio_di_Buoninsegna_-_Appearance_Behind_Locked_Doors_-_WGA06734

On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.

huddled in fear

Jesus disciples were huddled, locked in fear in a closed room.  They feared  the Jews, the Judeans.  After all, they had crucified Jesus.  Who knew if some of the chief priests and scribes might come looking again, maybe one of them would be next.

peace be with you 1

But Jesus comes into the room and says to them "Peace be with you."   Doesn't knock, doesn't come through the door, doesn't pass through the walls.  He's just there, standing among them.  By his presence, he makes the impossible possible and brings peace into that frightened room.

refugeees

His disciples were locked in fear of the Judeans, afraid they might be next.  We like to lock ourselves up in fear of plenty, don't we?  Who are we living in fear of?   Are we afraid of Muslims, afraid that in every mosque there is a terror attacking waiting to happen?  Are we afraid of immigrants, afraid that they may be immigrating to our land of immigrants for the wrong reasons   Are we afraid of refugees?   Maybe we're afraid of liberals, because whichever talking head we listen to says it's all their fault.  Are we afraid of conservatives, because the talking heads we listen to say it's all their fault??

 

Are we afraid of sinners??   Or maybe the big, bad world?   Are we just trying to get through every crappy day hoping to make it to next Sunday, when at least we can get together behind the closed doors of our own religious panic room, and at least for an hour or two feel protected from this evil world??

zombies

For some of us, this is what we are inviting people into when we talk about Christianity.  We think the good news means that we have a safe place to hide from all those evil zombies walking about all around us, just waiting for the chance to eat us alive.

glad

But let me make this plain, simple, and easy.   The Good News in NOT inviting people to share our fear and join us in our religious panic room.   Those disciples in their locked room had no Good News to share.  No one wanted to come join them in their fear.  But when Jesus breaks into that room and says "Peace be with you," things change.  Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.    How many of us are glad to see the Lord?

peace be with you
Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you." And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld."”

The-Commission

All four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, have some form of the Great Commission.   This is John's version of the Great Commission.  "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you."    There's that phrase again, "peace be with you."   And Jesus commissions is disciples to go out into the world.   They were not commissioned to stay in that locked room, live in fear, and shut themselves off from the world around them.   No…Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit upon them, the same Holy Spirit he received at his baptism, the same power by which he went into the world, without fear, and brought the good news of the kingdom of God.   He bestows his own Holy Spirit onto the disciples, and tells them - If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.

forgiveness

As I said, this is the great commission according to the Gospel, the good news, of John.   Again, let's simplify.  Jesus tells his disciples that as the father sent him, he is sending them, and bestows the spirit of God upon them.  But not only that, he gives them the power to forgive sins - If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them.   Do not miss this.   Jesus commissions his disciples, gives them the Holy Spirit, and sends them into the world specifically to forgive sins.

forgiven-jesus20forgives
As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.   Gospel 101.  Jesus came for the forgiveness of sins, did he not?   So he sends out his disciples for the forgiveness of sins.   Never forget who or what the Holy Spirit is.  Jesus gives his Holy Spirit, the spirit of advocacy, the spirit of walking with someone.   The spirit of aiding and helping.  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them.   The mission, or co-mission, of the followers of Jesus is to walk the world fearlessly flooding the world with peace and forgiveness.   This is the what and why Jesus sends his disciples out of that locked room for.

give

Yet we are afraid.  Maybe this makes you afraid.  Maybe we are afraid that someone who does not deserve it might receive the forgiveness of Jesus Christ.   (Did you hear that?).   Maybe we are afraid of giving away what we have received so freely.   Don't worry about giving away free stuff you received freely!!!   What did Jesus tell us?   “…Freely you have received; freely give.” Matthew 10:8 NIV.

2013 Faith Church Final Words father forgive

Jesus speaking peace and sending disciples into world with a commission to forgive should speak powerfully to us. We are sent by Jesus not to rage, not to moralize, not to reprimand, but to forgive sinners in Jesus' name.   Jesus own words dying on the cross were "Father Forgive them."   What, exactly, do you think the Father does when Jesus prays this to him??   He forgives!!

send-me

But what about that next part, if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.   Well, what else is the to say about withheld forgiveness?   It is withheld!!   But why would you withhold forgiveness?   Don't withhold forgiveness!!  Be as generous with forgiveness as Jesus is with you.  Be as generous with forgiveness as you would like Jesus to be with you.

Saint Francis of Assisi
G.K. Chesterton said this about St. Francis if Assisi – "He walked the world as the pardon of God."   This is how we are to walk.  As followers of Christ, if we allow Jesus close enough to us to breathe his Holy Spirit on us, the we have the spirit of advocacy, the spirit of God to go into the world as Jesus did for the forgiveness of sins.

blame game.jpg

There is a game we play.  This game has no end.  It has no winners.  It has only victims.  But we keep playing anyway.  The game is called the blame game.   It is the devil's game.  Who is the devil?  It comes from the Greek word "diablos", just as Satan comes from the Hebrew "ha-satan".  They both mean the same thing – "the accuser".  The adversary.  The blamer.

satan-accuser

Most of the wars, most of the hate, most of the pain in the world can be traced to the blame game.  It's how the devil rules the world to this day.  All the way back, Adam blamed Eve, Eve blamed the serpent, and the disease infected their their family to the point that Cain blamed Abel so much he had to kill him.  And it's the game running the fallen world ever since.

 

But at the cross, Jesus took all the blame.   He took all the blame and cried out "Father forgive them.

Now it's our job to flood the world with His forgiveness.

“On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you." And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld."”
John 20:19-23 ESV
http://bible.com/59/jhn.20.19-23.esv

John Lewis