Divine Violence

the flood

The flood, that moment in time when God regretted ever having made mankind, the King James says he repented of having made mankind. And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. It repented the Lord, and grieved him in his heart, that he had ever made humankind.

heaven

Let’s go back, way back. We know that God said, and everything, including us, became. God said let there be light, let there be seas upon the earth, let there be heaven (“And God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so. And God called the expanse Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.” Genesis 1:7-8 ESV. Sorry, I just find that interesting every time I read it.), it all came to being, and God said it was good, good, and very good.

createed from dust

God created a man, Adam, humankind, from the humus. “Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.””Genesis 2:18 ESV. So God created a woman, Eve, life, from the side of the man. Of course, together they make mess out of things, even paradise is not enough for mankind to live in obedience to the one who created him (and her). So they break the one command God had given and eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (after that crafty snake tempted them, of course).

alone

So they have two sons, Cain and Abel, two brothers, and things get really interesting. Cain gets jealous of Abel, or something like that, because God accepted Abel’s offering but not Cain’s grain offering. So out in the fields, Cain murders his brother, buries the body, and lies to God (and himself) about it. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. Cain is grieved that what he has done is known, but God still covers him with grace despite his sin. Behold, you have driven me today away from the ground, and from your face I shall be hidden. I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” Then the Lord said to him, “Not so! If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord put a mark on Cain, lest any who found him should attack him.So the Lord protected Cain even after his violence against his brother, in fact put a mark in him that no one would take vengeance upon him. This mark was not a mark of condemnation, Cain had already condemned himself, but a mark of mercy from the Lord. Vengeance was not to be taken against Cain.

cain

About seven generations later, we see Lamech come upon the scene, and Lamech was one tough character. Lamech said to his wives: “Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; you wives of Lamech, listen to what I say: I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for striking me. If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold, then Lamech’s is seventy-sevenfold.” So we’ve seen Cain protected by God with the mark of mercy, but do we repent of our sin of violence against one another? No, we simply progress to multiplied violence. This Lamech is quite boastful in his violence, isn’t he? A young man punched him, so he killed him. And if anyone tries to mess with him, his vengeance will be seventy-seven (this number appears again much later in the Bible story) times whatever is sinned against him.

we-grieve-god-yet-he-loves-us-L-fdrrBt

Which brings us to the flood.The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. So, historically, we read this passage and imagine all kinds of sins that must have been going on. Movies have been made, books have been written, and we see all kinds of sins that we think would grieve God to the point of killing them all. But the only sin actually mentioned leading up to the flood is the sin of violence, and it is mentioned twice. And the Bible tells us as much a couple of verses later – Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth. The earth was filled with violence. Whatever sins we think caused God to bring the flood, the Bible tells us the only sin that caused him to destroy humanity and hit the reset button, leaving only 8 souls to walk upon and repopulate the earth, was the sin of violence.

noahs ark watermarked

God’s answer at this point to deal with all of our human violence? His divine violence, the violence of sending the flood to destroy the earth. “And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, livestock, beasts, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all mankind. Everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died. He blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens. They were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark.”He killed them all. God was so grieved, had so repented, at having created mankind, that he destroyed mankind to save it. He left only Noah, his wife, their three sons along with their wives. He used his divine violence to end our violence and start over, hopefully to the objective of humankind living peacefully on the the earth.

Roman peace

Did it work?? NO!! We went right back at it, violence multiplied upon violence multiplied upon violence. Cain’s foundation of calling his brother “other”, killing him, hiding the body, and lying to himself and God is still the pattern we follow in our world. We still believe in Lamech’s example of vengeance multiplied times seventy seven if anyone dares attack us or any of our interests. And – we believe to this day that if we just get violent enough, we can somehow use our violence to end violence. If we carpet bomb, nuke our enemies into oblivion, they will not bother us again. Which is nothing new, as a famous commentator once said of the Roman Empire – “Rome creates a desert and calls it peace.

Calvary-Cross-Pics-0508

Here’s the point – If God himself can’t fix violence in the world and bring peace on earth using divine violence, what in the world makes us think we can? We are constantly telling ourselves that if we kill this guy, obliterate this group, end that uprising, if we can just bring enough shock and awe, somehow the rest of the world will finally submit to our goodness and see the light that we really are the good guys, and they are the bad guys. Yet, for some reason, no matter how violent we get, it just never ends.

shock-and-awe

God relented of ever wanting to destroy the earth and mankind again. “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” God relented from his divine violence, and chose a man, Abram, Abraham, to begin anew the work of saving humankind. He made his covenant with Abraham, used the nation of Israel to begin his redemptive work with the exodus, gave us the law and the prophets, allowed Israel to choose and follow kings instead of himself, then brought about the redemption of the world through his son, Jesus Christ (yes, I know, very simplified).

ikon of God

Jesus, we know, is the “…is the visible image of the invisible God.”Colossians 1:15 NLT. As the apostle John put it, “No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us.”John 1:18 NLT. You can argue with the apostle John if you want to. Abraham saw God, Moses saw God, Isaiah saw God, Jacob saw God, we know God was seen many times in the Old Testament. Yet John says no one has ever seen God. Jesus comes as the full image, the ikon of the living God. So for Lamech, his vengeance was seventy times seven. For Jesus, the image of God, how many times do we forgive? “Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Matthew 18:21-22 ESV. Lamech takes revenge 77 times, God forgives seventy seven times.

seventy times seven

After being persecuted, tried, tested, crucified and buried, God the Father vindicates his son in resurrection (the ultimate vindication). Does Jesus come back, rally the troops, and take action against all those Pharisees, all those Romans, all those Samaritans?? NO!! He comes back speaking not if vengeance, but of peace. “Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.””John 20:26 ESV

peace be with you

Forgiveness seventy times seven, not vengeance. Vengeance does not work. God himself tried it, and if He couldn’t make it work, what in the world makes us think we can??

PEACE BE WITH YOU…

“The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.”

Genesis 6:5-8 ESV

http://bible.com/59/gen.6.5-8.esv

John Lewis

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Prince of Peace

prince of peace

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall speak peace to the nations; his rule shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.”  Zechariah 9:9-10 ESV

foal of a donkey

The prophecy Jesus very intentionally fulfilled upon his arrival in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.  “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” Matthew 21:2-3 ESV.  Jesus had come to Jerusalem to be crowned king.  The crowd shouting their hosannas as as he came into Jerusalem that day had that much right.  Jesus had come to be crowned King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  Yet he wept over Jerusalem as he came into the city to those Hosannas, because he knew that behind it was a toxic strain of nationalism and certitude.  He knew that the crowd, though right about their hosannas, was completely wrong about the manner in which he would be enthroned.  “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.” Luke 19:42 ESV.  They did not know the things that make for peace.  They did not understand their Messiah was to be the Prince of Peace.

Sunday, Jesus enters the city triumphant, and weeps over it.  Monday, Jesus prophetically protests the temple in a manner following Jeremiah, in a way predicting the downfall of the temple was near.  This results in the temple elite beginning to plot a way to murder Jesus, which never would have happened during the festival if Judas had not lead them to him at a quiet place, at night, away from the crowds.  But as the temple establishment was plotting the end of Jesus, Jesus is everywhere predicting the end of the temple.

flee to the mountains

On Tuesday, Jesus gives his disciples his Olivet discourse with all the signs of the End.  But the End Jesus is predicting all along us not the end of the works but the end of the temple.  Jesus predicts a time of great unrest leading up to the end of the temple.  He says there will be earthquakes, rebellions, famines, uprisings, wars and rumors of wars.  His great sign that the end was near was that Jerusalem would be surrounded by Roman armies – “”But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near.” Luke 21:20 ESV.  His warning to his disciples when they saw this was talking not be like everyone else.  Don’t think those city walls would protect you and keep you safe.  Don’t run into the city, run out of the city, go into the wilderness, just GET OUT!!  “Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it, for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written.”  Luke 21:21-22 ESV.   And when these prophecies were fulfilled, all those Jews in and around Jerusalem who believed Jesus was Messiah remembered his warnings, and when most were flooding into the city, they got out.  History tells us they left Jerusalem and went to the city of Pella in northern Jordan.

188020-mary-magdalene-washes-jesus-feet_lg

On Wednesday, Mary Magdalene anointed Jesus to become king (and for his burial).  On Thursday, he had his Last Supper with his disciples, beginning the transition of the center of the kingdom of God from the temple to the table.

jesus-king-of-the-jews

And on Friday – Jesus was crowned king.  His coronation was a crucifixion, but Pilate told the truth on that sign he had placed on the cross – “Here is the King of the Jews“.   Even though he meant it in mocking, that was a true statement.

peace be with you

BUT ON SUNDAY – God raised him from the dead.  The second psalm comes to pass.   “I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.” Psalms 2:7-8 ESV.  The words spoken by Jesus upon his resurrection, the first words of the new world  are not words of vengeance, not rallying the troops to go take down Pilate and destroy Herod, not giving those who had stood against him their just due, but words of peace – Peace be with you.   

pentecost

Then on the day of Pentecost, “…there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven.” Acts 2:5 ESV.  Peter preached his great sermon and the gospel was preached to men from every nation under heaven.  3000 souls were saved that day.  The Gospel spread rapidly over the next few decades throughout the Roman Empire, until in AD 64 Nero had both Peter and Paul executed.

jerusalem on fire

The end of the temple would mark the full inauguration of the Kingdom of God, and Jesus had repeatedly given a specific timetable.  This generation will not pass away…August 10, AD 70, the attack started.  Rome destroys Jerusalem, at least 600,000 killed, 97,000 taken as slaves.

not one stone

Jesus predictions that not one stone will be left upon another are fulfilled.  The city was leveled.  So, to put it clearly, the second coming of Christ does not have to be preceded by wars and rumors of wars.  Because that already happened.

Peace-sign

Do what do we look for??  Well, Jesus is king, right?  Jesus us the king that Zachariah prophecies about.  Jesus certainly thought so, that’s why he so intentionally fulfilled the prophecy by riding the peace donkey on Palm Sunday instead of a war horse.  So, what does our king command?  …He shall speak peace to the nations.   He commands peace, the Hebrew word Shalom, not war!!

shalom1.jpg

The second coming should be preceded by people attempting to live here and now under the reign of Christ.  We might want to call them Christians.  Our morbid fascination with biblically sanctioned end times hyper violence needs to end.  We want Christ to come, but for some reason believe we need multiple wars to bring that into fruition.  We say things like “There will never be peace in the Middle East until Jesus comes again“, thereby condemning that region to perpetual war just by the expectation.   But we need to understand that war is not necessary for Christ to return.

peace in the middle east

Warmongering is anti-Christ.  Christ is the King who commands peace to the nations.  He does not tell us to go have a bunch of wars so He can come back!!  If we get a secret thrill at every rumor or talk of war, that makes us a warmonger.   Jesus does not say “blessed are the warmongers, because they have a good eschatology”.   No, he says Blessed are the peacemakers.

KoreanWar.jpg

There is always another Armageddon on the horizon.  Always another war to come.  It is the foundation of our civilization.  But we confess that Christ will come again to judge the living and the dead.  If we confess Jesus as the Christ, we look for rumors of Shalom, rumors of peace.  Our task is to spread and live these rumors of shalom.  We are to live into the reality of Christ here and now.

casualties_of_war-warmongering

After all, he is the Prince of Peace, is he not?

John Lewis

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall speak peace to the nations; his rule shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.”

Zechariah 9:9-10 ESV

http://bible.com/59/zec.9.9-10.esv

Deliverance

Deliverance

deliverance

He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.

riot 2

Paul wrote the book of 1 Corinthians from the city of Ephesus.  Paul had founded the church in the city of Corinth, and  spent about 18 months there before moving on to Ephesus.   1 Corinthians was a letter written to his fledging church there to deal with issues the church was having (imagine that, a church that had issues) and to answer some questions they had.  But while in Ephesus, Paul himself ran into some real trouble.   For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.

riot

Sounds like quite a trial, doesn’t it?  Like I said, Paul went from the city of Corinth to the city of Ephesus.  Paul was always going to cities.  Christianity itself began as a mostly urban movement, it took a few centuries for it to filter out to the more rural areas.  In fact, the word “pagan” literally means rural, because those were the areas that held out for centuries against the Christian movement.

artemis

The city of Ephesus was most famous at this time, in fact was known around the world for the temple of Artemis, known to the Romans as Diana.  This temple was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, and people came from around the world to see it.   As such, it was very important to the local economy.  There existed in Ephesus a huge silversmith industry devoted to the making idols of the goddess.   So when these characters calling themselves Christians showed up, declaring Jesus as the one true God, lord and savior, king of kings, and that gods made with the hands of men are no god’s at all, some of the locals took offense.  Now, Paul was messing with their money, and we know how people can get when you mess with their money, don’t we?  Demetrius, we can call the head of the silversmiths guild, especially was offended, and was quite forceful in getting the rest of his union worked up as well.  In fact, an entire riot broke out in the city over these Christians, and if they could have they would have ripped Paul limb from limb (read the story in Acts 19).  Long story short, Paul had to leave.  It is this peril that Paul writes about in 2 Corinthians.

parting the red sea

Has God ever helped you?  Has God ever healed you?  Has God ever saved you?   Has he ever rescued you, delivered you?  Then don’t ever forget, he will do it again.   We don’t have a quota, we won’t use up our lifeline, we won’t burn up our phone-a-friend.  When we go through trials after our come-to-Jesus salvation moment, we sometimes think God has somehow forgotten how to save us again.  He hasn’t.   Faith says God has delivered me, he will deliver me again.

fieryfurnace

One way to describe the Bible is the salvation history of the people of God.  It is literally story after story of God delivering his people from one peril after another.  Even Adam and Eve God did not forsake, but clothed them.  The story of Joseph being delivered by God through his trials of rejection and accusation for the purpose of saving those who had rejected and betrayed him.  Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – how many times did he deliver them?   The Exodus, deliverance from bondage through the Red Sea.  40 years in the wilderness, with a cloud by day and fire in the night, and all that manna, manna, manna.  All the times David was delivered, starting with Goliath.  The exile of the people, Daniel delivered from the lions den, Shadrach, Meeshak, and Abednego delivered from the fiery furnace.  The return from exile and the plots still coming against them after that deliverance.  All culminating in Jesus Christ, savior of the world.

david vs goliath.png

Whether it’s a flood, a famine, or a pharaoh, God will deliver.  Whether your facing a Goliath or in a lions den, God will deliver.  When the wine runs out, the boat begins to sink, or Lazarus starts to stink, God will deliver.   Faith comes by hearing, hearing the word of Christ.  Christ delivers us, heals us, rescues us, provides for us.

isaiah sawn asunder

But this does not mean things will always turn out the way we want.  From Hebrews 11, our faith “hall of fame” – “Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.” Hebrews 11:35-38 ESV.

beheading-of-paul

Should we say God failed to deliver these heroic martyrs?  Of course we wouldn’t say that.  God delivers us through our testing, not always from our testing.  Isaiah sawn in 2 was no less delivered by God that Shadrach, Meeshak, and Abednego from the fiery furnace.

holy-spirit-02

But we have to know what to ask.  Jesus in Luke 11 promises we will always receive the Holy Spirit if we ask.  “What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”” Luke 11:11-13 ESV.

In technical terms, we know that the Holy Spirit is the third person of the trinity, right there with God the Father and his son Jesus Christ.  And Jesus promises that our Father will give us the Holy Spirit if we ask Him.  But what, exactly, does that mean for us?

A-peace-that-surpasses-all-understanding2

Spirit can also be a synonym for attitude.  The word attitude almost never appears in any translation of the Bible, the the word spirit does.  To say someone had a bad spirit is to say they have a bad attitude.   When we are going through trials in our life, sometimes what we need more than anything is the Holy “attitude” with us and in us to get through it.

Crown Of Thorns Represents Jesus Crucifixion on Good Friday

One thing that happens very often when something bad happens to us is we begin to ask ourselves “What did I do to deserve this?”    Then, we very often will come with an answer.  “I always do this“, or “I should have done that.”    We become our own worst accuser during our time of testing.  But we ask Jesus for the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is the spirit of advocacy, not self accusation.  Then we can remember “…in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Romans 8:37 ESV.  We do love that verse, but we forget that the context is that is even though we are lambs led to the slaughter, we are more than conquerors in Christ who loved us.

present with the lord

In Ephesus, Paul was delivered from Demetrius and death.  In Rome, Nero beheaded Paul.  Do we say that God delivered Paul from Ephesus, but Nero was just too strong for God to overcome? NO!!  Did God fail to deliver Paul in Rome?  NO!!

Written by Paul on death row in Rome.  “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.” 2 Timothy 4:6-8 ESV.  The time of my departure has come – like he’s an airline passenger just waiting for liftoff!

coptics

Were the 21 Coptic Christians beheaded by Isis not delivered by God?  Did God fail to deliver the 9 Christians shot to death in their own church in Charleston, South Carolina a few years ago?

all we see is jesus

Here’s the hope we have – for the Christian, for the believer in Christ, death is nothing.  As in, death is really no thing.  We believe Jesus has conquered death.  For we who belong to Messiah, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.

When death arrives, suddenly as one of our murdered martyrs, or slowly as when we suffer some terminal disease, we see death coming, coming, coming, but when it arrives, all we see is Jesus.  Even in death, Jesus delivers us from death.  Even in death, Jesus delivers us.

pilate-2

The only real power the principalities and powers have over us is the fear of death, the power to kill. This was Pilates truth, remember when Pilate famously asks Jesus what is truth?  Then a few verses later he answers his own question.  “So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?”” John 19:10 ESV.  Pilate’s truth, the power to kill.

Without the fear of death, principalities and powers are powerless.  “Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.” Hebrews 2:14-15 NLT.   When we die we are told we will be absent from the body present with the Lord in a place Jesus calls paradise, but Paul’s calls sleep.  Asleep, that is, until Jesus returns and raises us from the dead, the grand culmination of all things.

Though-I-Walk-Through-The-Valley

God will deliver, even in death. This is true in other forms of death we encounter in life, those moments of pain and loss.  Those times of loss, pain, sorrow, rejection, disappointment.  Sometimes we are Shadrach, Meeshak, and Abednego.  Sometimes we are Daniel in the lions den.  Sometimes the Red Sea is just parted for us and we can walk right through.  But other times we have to go through real pain and suffering.  “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…”

Romans 8-28

And we remember Romans 8:28.  “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”  Romans 8:28 ESV.   God does not cause all things to happen, but he does work them together for the good of those who love Him!!   Our life story is made up of many threads, many stories.  God weaves it into a tapestry of grace, arranging things around the events in our lives until ultimately all that is left is grace and beauty.

God will deliver.  Again.

“For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.”

2 Corinthians 1:8-10 ESV

http://bible.com/59/2co.1.8-10.esv

John Lewis

Reading Out Loud

Reading Out Loud

3_Read-out-loud

I’m doing something a little different today.  I’m going to try to make a point about reading words on a page versus having a spoken conversation.   I’ve begun reading a book by Eugene Peterson (he of “The Message” Bible translation) called “Reversed Thunder – The Revelation of John and the Praying Imagination“, and many of the points I am making here mirror points he makes in this book.

god speaks

A major point of the second chapter of this book revolves around the spoken word as opposed to words written on a page.  As Christians, we believe that God speaks, do we not?   God speaks, and all things are brought into being.  God speaks, and a creation comes into existence that is still expanding at the speed if light 13 billion years later.  God speaks, and a covenant is made.  God speaks, and eventually we have the holy scriptures to record the Word of God.

jesus speaks

So here is the point – the word of God was, is and will be spoken long before it was ever written down.  John’s Gospel tells us that Jesus Christ was the word made flesh.  If you read that gospel, it is unmistakable that the coming of Christ was not just ink on paper or some philosophical thought, but an historical occurrence, a moment in time.  In John’s letters, we see the physical, historical nature of what had happened.  “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—” 1 John 1:1 ESV.  Jesus was not reduced to words on paper.  They walked with him, talked with him, ate with him, prayed with him, touched him, probable slept with him (in the purely sleeping sense of that word!).  The word of God was always spoken before it was written.  Jesus was seen, touched, heard, before he was ever written about.

conversation with god

Spoken words are personal in a way written words can never be.  I try my hardest to write every day as though I am speaking to you. I attempt to write as though we are actually having a conversation.  Sometimes I might break the “rules” of written grammar, that is because very often I am writing, deliberately, as though I were speaking.  I want you to be able to hear my voice as you read.  Because there is a huge difference between hearing and reading.

writing in dust

Jesus Himself never wrote anything down, except that which he wrote in the dust to blow in the breeze a few minutes later.  We still wonder aloud what it might have been he was writing 2000 years later.  But Jesus did not communicate with his disciples by writing, he spoke his message to his disciples.

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Which, I believe, is the point of this verse from the opening stanza of the final book of the Bible, the book of Revelation.  Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.   The Revelation of John demands that it be read aloud, and heard.   Why?  What is the significance?

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I believe it is for the same reason I attempt to write as though I’m having a conversation.  The writer of revelation wants to be heard, not read.  Because to be read is impersonal, to be heard affirms and confirms a personal relationship between two parties, an interactive conversation between two people.

hearing

Peterson says that the scriptures, as God’s word, “are a great, but mixed, blessing.”  They are a blessing because it is preserved from generation to generation that God speaks, what he speaks, how he speaks, and what happens when he speaks.  “The scriptures are a mixed blessing because the moment the words are written they are in danger of losing the living resonance of the spoken word and reduced to something that is looked at, studied, interpreted, but not heard personally.”   Words, “word”, is personal.  But the moment they are written, they begin to be cold and impersonal.  They are separated from the voice which spoke them and depersonalized.  If all we do is read the word of God, the words on that paper no longer do what they were designed to do – “create and maintain personal relationships of intelligence and love.”

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When a word is spoken and heard, it brings the speaker and hearer into a relationship with one another.  Written and read – it has to rely on the imagination of the reader to do its work.  The senses of seeing and hearing are no longer involved.  Without these senses actuated, the written word becomes abstract.  Words on paper, separated from their speaker, can be beautiful, interesting, they can be studied.  But if we are not listening and responding, those words are not functioning according to the intent of the speaker.   In the case of Revelation, the intent of the speaker, St. John, is not to inform us about God, but to involve us in God.

the way

Peterson makes the point that very often, words after being written are analyzed, admired, parsed, discussed, but not not listened to, nor heard, not put into action.  Jesus’ sharpest disagreements were with the scribes and the Pharisees, people of his own day who knew their scriptures very well, knew the stories, could recite them backwards and forwards.   But they did not hear the voice of God.   They knew their Torah.  They loved the Torah.  They memorized it.  They used their Bible to regulate every part of their life.  Yet Jesus was at odds with them at almost every turn, every chapter of his gospels, because for them, the Torah was studied and known, but not heard.  The scriptures had become a book to use, not a way of hearing from God.   They separated the book and the knowledge from the divine act of God’s speaking.  They separated the book, and themselves, from the human act of hearing which would become believing, following and loving.

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So, if you ever do actually open the book if Revelation, do as it’s author commands and read it aloud.  In fact, read aloud all the books of the Bible, especially those red letters in the Gospels.  Hear what the book is telling you, don’t just read.   Hear Jesus telling you, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6 ESV.    Listen as He says “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”” Luke 22:19 ESV.   Can you hear Him?  Then do as He is saying.  “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” Matthew 5:44-45 ESV

Read out loud the words of your bible.  Pray out loud.  Speak the words, don’t just think them.  Hear Him speak, don’t just read ink on a paper.  Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.

“The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.”

Revelation 1:1-3 ESV

http://bible.com/59/rev.1.1-3.esv

John Lewis

Written in the Dust

Written in the Dust

writing_in_dust

600 years BC, before Christ, Jeremiah was a preacher and prophet in the tribes of Judah and Benjamin.  Jeremiah was specifically prophesying, through his prophetic poetry, to the backslidden people of Judah.  It is from this poetry that we get these two prophetic verses – ““For my people have done two evil things: They have abandoned me— the fountain of living water. And they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns that can hold no water at all!” Jeremiah 2:13 NLT

“LORD, you are the hope of Israel; all who forsake you will be put to shame. Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the LORD, the spring of living water.” Jeremiah 17:13 NIV

living-water

Jeremiah uses the picture of living water to depict Yahweh.  To be connected to God is to be connected to a stream of living water.   But instead of trusting in God, being connected to the fountain of living water that is Yahweh, the people of Judah were trusting in the things of man, in what they could do for themselves, especially their political alliance with Egypt.  They had abandoned God, rejected his living water, trusting instead in their own cracked cisterns which would not hold water at all.   Later, Jeremiah prophecies Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the LORD, the spring of living water.   His people of Judah have turned away from the Lord, of and they will wind up written in the dust…

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Six centuries later, Jesus, like Jeremiah, is preaching to wayward people in Jerusalem.  This is during the festival of Sukkot, also known as the feast of Tabernacles.   Jesus doesn’t live in Jerusalem, but is in there for the festival.  This would have been approximately 6 months before the Passover, so it would have been about 6 months before his crucifixion.

living water

“On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'”” John 7:37-38 ESV.

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Jesus is extending an audacious invitation – the invitation to festival goers to come Him for living water.  The invitation to believe in Him.  Jesus and Jeremiah are the only 2 figures of the Bible to talk about living water.  Those who heard him give this invitation would have known exactly what Jesus was talking about.  Jesus is connecting himself to Yahweh, the God of Israel.  Some might even think he was claiming to be the God of Israel…”come to me, believe in me.

Jesusarrested-tissot

The crowd there was divided about Jesus.  “So there was a division among the people over him. Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him.” John 7:43-44 ESV.  In fact, the chief priests and Pharisees had sent the temple police to arrest Jesus, but when they heard him speak, they seem to have forgotten what they came for.    “The officers then came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, “Why did you not bring him?” The officers answered, “No one ever spoke like this man!””John 7:45-46 ESV.   Many were beginning to believe in Jesus.  They might not have been able to connect all the dots, but after all, look at his miracles.  He was able to cast out demons, heal the sick, even raise the dead!!  Now he was openly associating himself with Yahweh, the God of Israel.  No wonder the Sanhedrin wanted him arrested.

jesus-and-followers-in-the-mount-of-olives

“[[They went each to his own house,” John 7:53 ESV. but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.    Do you notice here how chapter 7 doesn’t actually end, but rolls straight into chapter 8?   Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. 

Jesus_teaching_at_the_Temple

Jesus is getting quite a following at this festival.  The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?”   The Pharisees have found a woman here whom they can condemn using the Torah, as we know it the Bible.  They have found a woman caught in the act of adultery (somehow the man got away.  Maybe he was a Pharisee). This is what Pharisees use the Bible for (then and now).  They claim all the promises, all the salvation for themselves, and then use it to condemn everyone else they don’t like.   Notice I said “use the Bible”.   That is what these Pharisees do, use the Bible for their own purposes.  They use the Bible to condemn others.  They are not using the Bible to be transformed by God’s truth…

stone such women

They are attempting to use the Bible here for manipulation and intimidation.  They are using it as a device for their own control and power.  They know Jesus is not going to preside over the stoning of a sinner.  They have remarked many times that he is a friend of sinners (amen!), that he sits and eats and drinks with sinners.

bible

They are using the Bible to trap Jesus.  They are setting him up.  They want to be able to accuse Jesus of not believing the Bible.  The Bible says, in both Leviticus and Deuteronomy, that such women (and the men they are caught with) are to be stoned to death.  These Pharisees are right, the Bible is on their side!!  But they are not submitted themselves to the scriptures, they simply want to use it as a weapon against Jesus.   And Jesus can quote scripture to, and he had already twice quoted Hosea 6:6 “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice…” Hosea 6:6 NIV.   Jesus was not going to sacrifice this sinner to the Torah.

stoning-stone

Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him.   Jesus sees this for exactly what it is – another rejection of the God of Israel.  Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground.   Written in the dust…Yesterday –  “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'”   Today,  Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the LORD, the spring of living water.  Jesus is completing Jeremiah’s prophecy, and this would not be lost on those Pharisees.  These guys knew their Torah, could quote from it forwards and backwards.  They knew what Jesus was doing.

DustWriting

What was he writing?  Who knows??!!   Maybe “Jerusalem“.  Maybe he was writing some of the names of those men standing there.  If he was particularly feisty that day, maybe he wrote the high priest “Joseph Caiaphas“.   Whatever he wrote, his point was clear.  These Pharisees, the scribes, Jerusalem, Caiaphas, they had all turned away from God, rejected the living water, were more interested in using the Bible to trap, control and intimidate than being transformed themselves by the truth of God’s word found inside.  So even though they get what Jesus is doing, they keep pressing the issue – “Well. What are you going to do Jesus? Do you believe the Torah, are you going to follow the Bible or not??”   And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground.

salvation

These Pharisees thought they were trapping Jesus, but they’d been had.   They wound up trapped themselves.  BUT THAT WASN’T IN THEIR BIBLES!!!   Let him who is without sin wasn’t in the Torah.  Here’s the thing – Jesus Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, was the word made flesh.  Everything he ever did, everything Jesus ever said, was and is the Word of God.  Jesus is what God has to say…

But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”   Here’s a question – was anyone here without sin??  Jesus was!!  Jesus was without sin.  He was qualified to throw those stones.  All those Pharisees, those accusers, they knew they’d been had.   One by one, they put down those stones.  There was a nice little pile sitting there for Jesus.  If Jesus had wanted to “do the Bible“, then he could have picked up those stones and given that woman what she deserved.  She was guilty.  It would have just been too bad for her.

The-Friend-of-Sinners-Events

But Jesus doesn’t pick up those stones.  Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”    Go and sin no more!!    That’s what salvation looks like!!  This woman is guilty, the man she was sleeping with is guilty, I am guilty, you are guilty!!   Jesus has the right to throw those stones, the power to condemn.  But does he??   No!!!   Go, and from now on sin no more.  Guess what – that’s in your Bible!!   Amen and hallelujah, I like that one a lot more than stoning adulterers.

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Go and sin no more is what salvation looks like in a single moment.   Jesus could condemn that woman, but instead offers grace and mercy.  Because, after all, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1 ESV.  Jesus doesn’t condemn us, he’s the one who saves us!!  Jesus is greater than the law.  He is the word made flesh.

Fountain

These Pharisees had rejected the living waters of God and were written in the dust.  Within a generation, the whole city of Jerusalem would be written in the dust.  If we choose to use our bibles as weapons to condemn sinners, we will wind up written in the dust.

neither-do-i-condemn-thee-medium

Leviticus and Deuteronomy both condemned this woman to die.  Jesus, the word made flesh, says go and sin no more.  Christ does not condemn, Jesus Saves, amen!!   “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” John 3:17 ESV.

no-condemnation

Yet we who call ourselves Christians, “little Christs“, spend so much time and energy condemning people.  The more we do, the more we ourselves wind up written in the dust.

“but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” ]]”

John 8:1-11 ESV

http://bible.com/59/jhn.8.1-11.esv

John Lewis

Losing our Souls

Losing our Souls

losing our souls

The genealogy of Jesus.  You can’t even begin the New Testament without at least skimming it, putting our best speed reading glasses on and plowing straight through.  At least we might pretend to plow through.  If you’re like me, you might read through, get to the end of it, then wonder if you even read it at all.

genealogy

But plow through it we do.  Because you can’t read the Bible without occasionally going through various genealogies.  And you can’t even begin to read the New Testament without starting, immediately, with the genealogy of Jesus.

Gossip_girls

And what a genealogy it is!!  If we were doing our own genealogy on the many internet websites making millions by providing this service, how many of the characters in Jesus’ family tree would we pretend didn’t exist??   If Jesus were alive today, running even for mayor of one our major cities, how much gossip would he endure?

jacobwrestling

Right from the beginning, Jacob.  He would have needed an ankle bracelet for us to keep tabs on him today.   Judah and Tamar are there, Tamar the widowed daughter-in-law of Judah who tricked her father in law into thinking she was a prostitute so he would sleep with her.  Or maybe she didn’t try to trick him at all, maybe he just assumed that’s what she was because that’s what he wanted her to be.  I don’t know, go read Genesis 3, it’s really some story.

judah and tamar

How about David, the giant killer?  One minute, killing Goliath, chopping odd his head and carrying it to Jerusalem.  Writing psalms, giving praise to the lord.  Sparing Saul’s life when he could have killed him and claimed the crown by force.  But on the other hand, sleeping with his captains wife, then plotting to have him killed in battle to cover up his sin.

king david

All these named have a story, and the story is not always clean.  Really, this is the bloodline of the Messiah?  We often wonder and comment on the rag tag band Jesus called his disciples.  We marvel at how he uses simple fisherman to help bring about his kingdom.  We know that if Jesus can use a thug tax collector like Matthew, then there must be something we might be useful for.  If Jesus didn’t reject Judas, knowing he would betray him, then he certainly will welcome us.

follow me

But what about the other side of this.  What did the disciples see in Jesus?  Look at this family tree.  This is the ancestry of the Messiah?  We are going to follow who??  We’re not even sure who who his real father is, are we?

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Yet follow they do.   Jesus gives the call, and they never turn back.  “While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.” Matthew 4:18-22 ESV.   Seriously, what were these guys following?   Jesus, by his own account, was homeless.  “Now when Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. And a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”” Matthew 8:18-20 ESV.  He even came from Nazareth, and we know how that one horse town was viewed –  ““Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip.” John 1:46 NIV.

matthew

What were these guys thinking?  What did they see?  Peter and Andrew, James and John, these guys at least had their fishing business.  We know Peter, at least, was married.  Matthew, like Zacchaus later on, was one of the wealthiest guys in town.  None of these men, we assume, was homeless.

counting the cost

But they all walked away to follow Jesus.  And Jesus made no secret of the cost.  “Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.”” Matthew 8:21-22 ESV.  Right from the start, the cost was high.  The pay was low.  What a group they had, beginning with their leader.  We wonder how he chose them.  But – how in the world did they choose Him?

crucifixion

How are we still choosing him?  2000 years later, we are still waiting for his return.  A crucified Galilean carpenter, we barely comprehend his death and resurrection anymore.  We believe he was raised on the third day, but we can’t quantify it.  We can’t explain it.  And as much as anything, we want to be able to explain it all, tie it in a nice pretty package, put a bow on it, give it to our neighbors as a Christmas gift.

betrayed by the church

We’ve been disillusioned and sometimes betrayed by his church.  We have nice soft pillows to lay our heads on.  We have big homes, we have nice cars.   We have the world, almost literally, at our fingertips.  What do we need him for?

losing my soul

Yet we still seek Him.  Because we know, outside of him it’s all meaningless.  Because we know, instinctively, like it or not, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” Matthew 16:26 ESV.

having it all

We have it all.  Big houses, nice cars, beautiful wife.  But every day, we come to know this truth discovered long ago – ““Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”” Ecclesiastes 1:2 NIV.  Without Him it’s all meaningless.  We’ve gained the whole world, but we lie awake at night, heads on our soft pillows in our comfortable beds in our big houses, not even able to sleep.  We’ve become so addicted to our stuff, to getting more stuff, to keeping all the stuff we have, we can’t even sleep at night thinking about what we might lose, or might not be able to get if things don’t go just as we want them to.

addiction

We are addicted to stuff.  We are addicted to drugs.  We are addicted to alcohol.  We are addicted to gambling.  We are addicted to food.  We are addicted to sex.  We are addicted to watching other people have sex.

porn-addiction-statistics-2

We have the whole world, but we are losing our souls.

crucifixion1

So, we still seek the crucified carpenter with the questionable family tree.  Just as his original disciples heard the call, we hear the call.   His disciples left all they had to follow him, and they spent the rest of their lives convincing people He was (and is) the King.

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He spent his life dying for people like Peter.  Dying for people like John.  Dying for people like Matthew.  So that we might know, if he had a place for people like Matthew, like Peter, like a woman caught in adultery, he just might have a place for us.

waiting for his return

We might not know what He sees in us.  We barely remember what we saw in Him.  But we do remember he gave His life dying to save us.  Save us from our sin.  Save us from our addiction.  Save us from our fear.  Save us from our tears.  Save us from our pain.

save-our-souls

Save us He did.  If we will only accept his salvation.  If we will only choose Him.

Will we choose Him.  Or will we choose our big house, fast car, and soft pillow?   Will we choose our stuff and lose our souls??

“The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon. And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ. So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.”

Matthew 1:1-17 ESV

http://bible.com/59/mat.1.1-17.esv

John Lewis

The End of the World

The End of the World

new day

As always, a new day has begun!!  Let’s see if I can wrap up my points on the Olivet discourse today…

signs in the sun moon stars

And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.     Jesus has been teaching on the end of the temple and the temple age.   Remember how impressed his disciples were with the grandeur and beauty of the temple?   “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. Well, Jesus was not as impressed.  “And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”” Mark 13:2 ESV.  Then he begins to talk of wars and tumults, tells them they will be hated because of his name.  He tells how they will be arrested, tried, dragged before councils and governors, and some would lose their lives.  He tells them not to worry, though about what to to these councils and governors, for the Holy Spirit would lead them through.  In other words, he told them what would happen throughout the book of Acts.

surrounded by armies

“”But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near.” Luke 21:20 ESV.  This is the sign.  The sign that the end is coming.   The sign of the End Jesus is teaching about, the end of the temple and temple establishment, along with its hierarchy and control.  At this sign those listening should go, go, go!!   Get out of town!!   It is the sign of the days of Roman vengeance, Rome has had enough!!  The time of the Gentiles (Romans) is about to be fulfilled.

Coming-in-the-Clouds

And fulfilled it was.  And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.   What does Jesus mean here??  This is a clear reference back to Daniel chapter 7, Daniel’s vision of the four beasts, the beasts of empire.  First a lion, then a bear, then a leopard, then one that’s just monstrous.  But then a son of man comes, a son of man because he will not act beastly“”I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.” Daniel 7:13-14 ESV.  A son of man to bring the Kingdom of God, given honor and glory and dominion and a kingdom.  A kingdom which will not be destroyed.  Jesus is connecting the end of the temple with the full inauguration of the Kingdom of God on the earth.  It’s the end, but it’s also a beginning.  It’s not the end of the earth, not the end of the world, it’s the end of the temple and the systems of hierarchy and domination that came along with it.  The end of the exclusion of people from the temple.  No longer will people be threatened with their own death for going too far into the temple.  The friend of sinners invites all who would come straight to the new Holy of Holies, his communion table, where to this day we participate in his broken body and shed blood on the cross.

fig tree

And he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”   When you see these things happen, when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, when finally one stone is not left upon another, when you’ve seen the wars and tumults, been turned over by mother, father, brother, sister to the authorities, when you’ve gone through the trials, been brought before the Sanhedrins and councils and rulers and testified to who I am, when some of you have lost your lives (but not a hair on your head will perish!)  you know that the kingdom of God is near.

heaven and earth

Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.    I know you see that.  THIS GENERATION WILL NOT PASS AWAY UNTILL ALL HAS TAKEN PLACE!!  Some of you, maybe most, are trying right now to rationalize this to fit your picture of what the End is supposed to look like, trying to remember why Jesus wasn’t actually saying that the end will come before the generation of people he is talking to will pass away.  Why this generation did not mean this generation.  We have to figure this out, because clearly, the End has not come, because clearly we are still here, right.  But very clearly, Jesus is saying, very directly, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place.  This generation, listening to me right now, some will still be alive when what I am talking about will happen.   In other words, he’s not talking about something that is going to happen 2000 years later.  He’s not talking about 21st century politics, he’s not talking about terrorism, hurricanes, nuclear weapons, climate change or anything else we try to fit this into.   I know we have created billion dollar industries based on “end time signs“, someone you know is buying bunkers, guns, ammunition, water, and freeze dried food.  But whatever use they may get out of these things, the end times signs they are based on have come and gone.

jesus

Very simply, Jesus is not a false prophet.  Because every single thing he predicted here, happened.  Not today, not tomorrow, but nearly 2000 years ago.  The End Jesus predicts, happened.  In AD 70 the temple, with its temple establishment, with its systems of power, domination and control, came to an end.  Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.   The world came to an end for those who were hearing Jesus talk.  Heaven and earth passed away.  The world as they knew it, faded away.

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Don’t believe me?   Look at what Jesus said to Caiaphas the high priest just a few days after, the day before he is crucified.   “But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”” Matthew 26:63-64 ESV.   Are you the Messiah??   But look at Jesus response.  You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.   He’s talking to Caiaphas, the Caiaphas recorded by Josephus is history, a specific man in a specific time, and he tells him, you, Caiaphas, you will see the son of man predicted in Daniel (and don’t think Caiaphas did not immediately understand the reference), you will see the son of man coming on the clouds of heaven.   Because the temple was going to end, which Jesus has been giving all along as the beginning of the inauguration of the kingdom of God, which is just about the only thing Jesus ever talked about.   This end is not coming 80 or 100 or 200 generations later (isn’t it funny how no one selling you supplies for the end times thinks we have 80 more generations to go?).  This generation will not pass away, and you, Caiaphas, will see the coming if the Son of Man riding on the clouds of heaven.

DESTRUCTION-OF-JERUSALEM

It is clear from the text here that Jesus is talking about the end if the temple and the temple age, not the end of the world as we are looking for it.  Jesus is not talking about the destruction of the earth, as hard as we seem to be trying to achieve exactly that.

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Of course, in Matthews account of the Olivet discourse, he tells his disciples this – “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Matthew 24:14 ESV.  What about this, this never happened, did it?   Well, let’s go to the book of Acts and the day of Pentecost.  “When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.”” Acts 2:1-11 ESV.  That’s a long tract, I’m just going to focus on this – Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven.   The Holy Spirit comes like tongues of fire, and the gospel is preached to devout men from every nation under heaven.   Hyperbole or not, the gospel was preached to all the nations.  According to the bible, this is fulfilled.

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Look at how the book of Acts ends.  “Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.”  He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.” Acts 28:28, 30-31 ESV.  The Kingdom of God is among us.  The Kingdom of God has come.

dead are raised

We are Christians, remember?  That means that we, of all people, should have a hopeful vision of the end.  And we do!!   Christ shall come again!!   But, what is the sign of that??   THE DEAD ARE RAISED!!  As we live our lives under the reign of Christ, we seek to embody and enact this Kingdom of God more fully in this life.  As people who anticipate the age to come, we seek to live under the reign of Christ fully here and now.  As we grow old and die, we will be absent from the body, present with the Lord in a place He calls paradise, that’s not the end we are looking for.

Remember the apostles creed?  Maybe you don’t, but it ends this way – He will come again to judge the living and the dead.  I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of the saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.  Amen.  The sign of the coming of Christ is this – the resurrection of the body.  Again, the dead are raised!!  As evidenced by Jesus’ own physical, not spiritual, resurrection.  He is the firstborn among the brothers of the children of God, His is the resurrection that foreshadows the general resurrection of the dead, which will signal his return.

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We are heading for the dead being raised and Jesus Christ being fully acclaimed as Lord.  Not doom and gloom, wars and rumors of wars, famine and strife.  The End Jesus was talking about was the end of the temple, the temple establishment, and the temple age.  The Kingdom of God endures and we are part of it.

God-Kingdom

We may (will) ultimately murder each other by the millions with the use of nuclear weapons, but it doesn’t have to be this way.  This is not the End Jesus was predicting.  The End Jesus was predicting happened in AD 70, you can go to Jerusalem to see the ruins, they are still there.

We may cause heaven and earth to pass away (again), the world as we know it will eventually come to an end.  Our world systems, the world we know and the only one we can imagine, will eventually come crashing down.

But the words of Jesus Christ will not pass away.

“”And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” And he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”

Luke 21:25-33 ESV

http://bible.com/59/luk.21.25-33.esv

John Lewis