Change is Coming

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Been looking at the first couple chapters of Luke during advent and epiphany, today really just setting the stage for what comes next.

messiah

Beginning with the psalms, especially psalm 2 but others as well, then carried on by the prophets, there began to develop a picture of what Messiah would be.  Messiah in this case means “Mashiach”, the anointed one.  Anointed as in “to christen”, it’s actually where we get the word “Christ” from.   “Anointed one” means “Messiah” or “Mashiach” in the Hebrew, “Christ” in Greek.  Same word, two different languages.

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In ancient times of Israel, kings were not crowned, they were anointed.  It was not a crown that signified royalty, but oil.  The prophet Samuel took a horn of oil and anointed Saul the first king of Israel.  Later, he would anoint David king.  Very specifically, Messiah means “anointed one”, as in anointed to be king.

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In the psalms and prophets, there developed a five-fold expectation of what the Jewish king, the Messiah, would accomplish.  Yes, there were kings, but Israel was waiting for a special king who was going to come.  He would be like the Son of God.  He would be the coming king that would accomplish great things that would change the world.

raised on a cross

There were five overarching expectations of messiah.  However, none of these expectations went anything like this – “We are waiting for Messiah to come so he can die on a cross, be raised on the third day, so we can be saved and go to heaven when we die.”  No one thought anything close to this.  This is no where any  part of the expectation for Messiah.  The Jews, rather, derived their anticipation of messiah from the psalms and prophets in the Hebrew Scriptures, i.e. the Old Testament.

Here is the fold job description of Messiah.

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1).  Messiah would rescue Israel from the tyranny of wicked, evil empires and dictators.  Through Israel’s long history they’d often been threatened and dominated by a succession of empires and dictators.  The Assyrians, Babylonians, Egyptians, Medes, Persians, Greeks, Syrians, the Romans had all joined in on the succession of empires and dictators dominating God’s chosen people.  The expectation was that Messiah would rescue Israel from that.

rebuild the temple

2). Messiah would rebuild the temple.   The idea is that the king is closely connected with the structuring or rebuilding of the temple.  This is why Herod was so interested in greatly enlarging the temple.  Though he was king, Herod was only half Jewish.  In other words, Herod was in no way qualified to be king of Israel, but the occupying force appointed him anyway.  However, Herod was a great builder.  He was a master architect.  Maybe as an attempt to establish himself as a true king of Israel to ingratiate himself with the Jews, Herod spent 46 years rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem.  Not because he was a godly or pious man interested in religious things, but because he wanted to ingratiate himself with the Jews, and establish that maybe, just maybe, he was, after all, the true Messiah.

Righteousness-Of-God

3). Messiah would  restore righteousness.  Righteousness in the Bible can be understood as faithfulness to the covenant.  Israel had a long history of being unfaithful to covenant they had with Yahweh, this is why prophets would often refer to Israel as an unfaithful wife, an adulterous woman.  Israel was unrighteous in the sense of being unfaithful to the covenant.  One of visions of messiah is that he is an Israelite who would act righteously and lead the rest of Israel back into covenant faithfulness with Yahweh.

every knee will bow

4).   Messiah would rule over the nations. The vision is not just that Messiah would be the king of Israel, but Messiah would have a kingdom to dominate  all the other kingdoms.  Every knee would bow and every tongue confess Israel’s true king as Messiah.  His would be the one world government to overcome all the other governments.

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5).  Messiah would reveal God to the Gentiles.  Not just any God, the the God of Israel, Yahweh, the one true God.  The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Only Israel worships Yahweh.  The rest of the nations had a myriad of gods.  Messiah would make the God of Israel famous.  Gentiles would turn away from Zeus, Baal, Mars, Apollion.  Knowledge of Yahweh would cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.

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So we see that Messiah had a big job description.  He was to rescue Israel, restore righteousness, rebuild the temple, rule over the nations, and reveal God to the Gentiles.

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Luke opens his gospel with the births of John the Baptist and Jesus. We also see many signs, Zechariah’s prophecy, Mary’s Magnificat, the angelic announcement to the shepherds, the temple prophecies of Simeon and Anna, all these things indicating the long awaiting king is about to appear.

They’ve been waiting for a thousand years for this very special king to come.   Now we have a great rush of activity.   The birth of the two babies, all the signs, the flight to Egypt recorded in Matthew.   Then all goes quiet again for about thirty years.  John and Jesus have to grow up.

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When we next see John, he is living out in wilderness.  This is in itself is significant.  John is the son of Zechariah.  His father is a Levite, a priest.  The way things work, John is supposed to be a priest, he’s supposed to follow his father in his priestly calling.  Yet John lives his lone, ascetic lifestyle.  There is a form of protest in this.  There is much we don’t get to see in the story as it is given to us.  Is his father Zechariah disappointed in John for not living into the family tradition?   Is John protesting the temple and priesthood?  Is he declaring in his minimalist lifestyle out in the wilderness that the temple is corrupt and he just won’t be a part of it??   I think this is exactly what he is doing…

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Jesus is living in Nazareth as the son of a carpenter. Everything is waiting.  Israel’s waited a thousand years, so much happened, then it grew quiet again, all is now waiting, waiting.  Then Luke Chapter three comes, and as we might say in the twenty first century, it’s on!!  Beginning Luke chapter three, things are happening.  What happens next is most important stuff to ever happen in the history of the world.   After a thousand years of waiting, thirty years after these two babies are born, the world is about to be changed forever.

“In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough places shall become level ways, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'””

Luke 3:1-6 ESV

http://bible.com/59/luk.3.1-6.esv

John Lewis

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The Winds Will Blow…

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A short meditation on some prophecies of Jesus and the fall of Jerusalem and its temple in AD 70.

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“”Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”” Matthew 7:24-27 ESV.   This, again, is the end of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.   This is timeless truth for all believers.  We will either listen to the words of Jesus Christ and respond appropriately to the Son of God as Savior of the World (and our own personal Messiah), or we will not.  We will either learn to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength in such a way that it will be manifested in loving our neighbors as ourselves, or we will not.   We will either believe in Jesus’ ethics of mercy and justice or we will not.  We will choose to live here and now in and for the Kingdom of God which Jesus announced and enacted, or we will not.  We will build our houses upon the rock of Jesus Christ the cornerstone, or we will build it upon shifting sand, and when the floods come we will be swept away.

Destruction of Jerusalem Temple

Jesus, during his life and ministry on earth, had pronounced judgment upon the corrupt temple in Jerusalem.  Though it clung to a form of ritualistic godliness, the Jews there had forgotten the ethics of the God of mercy and justice.  The ethics of the Kingdom of God as pronounced by Jesus Christ, the same ethics which were always to define their covenantal identity.  The result?   In AD 70, 40 years after the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, the Jerusalem temple fell in the Roman Jewish War, a fall of catastrophic proportions.   …And great was the fall of it.

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The significance of the fall of the temple in Jerusalem in AD 70 can not be overstated.   Jesus had repeatedly warned that if Israel continued to define the Kingdom of God in nationalistic terms and seeing it as coming through their own violent revolutions, the result would be disastrous.   Forty years after his own crucifixion, all that Jesus foretold concerning the temple happened.

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“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 19:41-44 ESV

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“”But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. 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. Alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress upon the earth and wrath against this people. They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” Luke 21:20-24 ESV

“And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus. And there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him. But turning to them Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”” Luke 23:26-31 ESV.

Along with his own resurrection, the second primary way Jesus’ life and teachings are vindicated was the fulfillment of his numerous warnings that because they had rejected the peaceful ways of their Messiah, Jerusalem and its temple would be destroyed.

on this rock

Jesus vision on earth was the establishment of a new kind of kingdom and the construction of a new kind of temple.  This vision was to be carried out through what Jesus was building – “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Matthew 16:18 ESV.  In AD 70, Herod’s temple came to an end.   But the new temple Jesus was building lives on.   This is the temple “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone,” Ephesians 2:20 ESV.  If we as the church take seriously the teachings of our Christ, we will always be that shelter from the storm around us.  If we do not, the rains will fall, the winds will blow, and great will be the fall of our house.

John Lewis

A Little Shelter

Writing today about our God, who is so vast and so overwhelming that we can only describe and attempt to understand him through the use of metaphor.  There really is no other way.  We talk about God in metaphor, but even that does not satisfy, so we have multiple metaphors we use, which at least can get us close to understand the power, majesty and grace of the God of the universe.

One of our favorite metaphors, it seems, is the military metaphor.  We American Christians do seem to love to refer to ourselves as “soldiers of the Lord”, we love to describe our bibles as “swords” we are carrying into our great battle.  We love the picture of Christ in Revelation with the sword coming from his mouth – “In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.”  Revelation 1:16 ESV.   We love to envision this Christ who returns, chopping down all those sinners with that sword (all those other sinners, that is).   As the writer of Hebrews told us “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12 ESV.  As a sinner who’s been chopped down by the word of God, slain in heart by the one the one who judges the living and the dead, so that I could come to faith and be baptized into the resurrection kind of life, this metaphor does have its place.

BUT, maybe this is not the best metaphor for us to use as we go into the world.   Maybe as “soldiers for Christ” we are carrying an us vs them attitude into the world.  In our current culture war climate, maybe this is just not the best way for us (or them) to see ourselves.  Many outside the church don’t understand this metaphor and even feel threatened by it.  As “soldiers for Christ”, we seem as though it’s us against the world.  And they are the world.  It’s just too easy for this metaphor to be misunderstood and misused by those outside both by those outside and those inside the church.   Why not focus on being the body of Christ, the bride of Christ, the city on a hill, the temple of the Lord, the vineyard and branches of God.

Or how about the metaphor Jesus uses in closing his Sermon on the Mount?   “”Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”” Matthew 7:24-27 ESV.   This metaphor which Jesus gives at the end of his masterpiece sermon is especially helpful and hopeful for us if we are interested in reimagining the church in a new and more attractive way.  It’s the metaphor of a shelter from the storm.

Jesus did not invent this metaphor.   Instead, he is taking this metaphor straight from Isaiah, where Jesus took so much of his self awareness and self understanding from.  Three different times Isaiah uses this “shelter from the storm metaphor as he looks forward to Messiah.

“In that day the branch of the Lord shall be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land shall be the pride and honor of the survivors of Israel. And he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy, everyone who has been recorded for life in Jerusalem, when the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and cleansed the bloodstains of Jerusalem from its midst by a spirit of judgment and by a spirit of burning. Then the Lord will create over the whole site of Mount Zion and over her assemblies a cloud by day, and smoke and the shining of a flaming fire by night; for over all the glory there will be a canopy. There will be a booth for shade by day from the heat, and for a refuge and a shelter from the storm and rain.” Isaiah 4:2-6 ESV.   Isaiah sees Zion in the age of Messiah, at the coming of Christ, as a refuge and a shelter from the storm and rain.   A safe place for those weathering the storm to come looking for shelter…

O Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you; I will praise your name, for you have done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure. For you have made the city a heap, the fortified city a ruin; the foreigners’ palace is a city no more; it will never be rebuilt. Therefore strong peoples will glorify you; cities of ruthless nations will fear you. For you have been a stronghold to the poor, a stronghold to the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat; for the breath of the ruthless is like a storm against a wall, like heat in a dry place. You subdue the noise of the foreigners; as heat by the shade of a cloud, so the song of the ruthless is put down.”  Isaiah 25:1-5 ESV.  God’s care for the poor and needy will be a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat.   Yahweh has always been especially interested in the care of those for whom the world does not care, in giving shelter to those who can provide none of their own.

“Behold, a king will reign in righteousness, and princes will rule in justice. Each will be like a hiding place from the wind, a shelter from the storm, like streams of water in a dry place, like the shade of a great rock in a weary land.” Isaiah 32:1-2 ESV.  The king will reign in righteousness and rule in justice.  And one day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess and bless our Lord and savior Jesus Christ.

Eight centuries before Jesus, Isaiah used the language of a shelter from the storm.   Jesus would understand the kingdom of a God as Isaiah understood the coming of Messiah – a shelter from the storm.   The storm is all around us.  It seems we can run, but we can’t hide.  We live in the world of the 24 hour news cycle, a world where everyone has chosen sides and every bad thing that happens is their fault.  It doesn’t matter who they are, all that matters is that it’s not our fault.

In this polarized world in which we live, entrenched in our “us vs them” standoffs, the church as a shelter from the storm is far more appealing than storm-troopers for Jesus, or soldiers for Christ.  The world is entrenched in battle formations.  When we invite people to church, is it just another invitation to battle?  Is the invitation “We are in a huge battle, come fight on our side!”   How attractive is that?   Do people really want more conflict in their lives?   Or – have they already have enough of that?

Isaiah’s – and Jesus’- invitation is much better.  I’m reminded of the old 80s hair band song “We all need a little shelter”.  Our world is beaten down, pounded by the winds and the rains and the rising storms of life.  My pastor says that we are all either coming out of a storm, in a storm right now, or about to head into a storm.  So, are we offering them more storminess?  Or are we inviting them out of the raging storm and into a nice warm shelter?

What, exactly, should we be offering as the church?  Shelter from the storm?  Or more of the same old us vs them conflict that the rest of the world lives under.  Are we living by the spirit of the world, or the spirit of Christ?  “Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.” 1 Corinthians 2:12 ESV

We all need a little shelter.   Yes, we do.

John Lewis

Taking Away the Sin of the World…

Taking Away the Sin of the World…

lambof god

A couple of days later than I wanted to be with this.  But, it’s a good message and one worth sharing.  Even if it gets under some skin…

John the Baptist was sent by God to prepare for the revolution.  The revolution God himself was bringing.  John was preaching and baptizing in the wilderness, preparing a people ready to participate in the revolution of the arrival of kingdom of God that would come with what Jesus was doing and saying.  John had gathered a large following, and had many disciples of his own.  At least two of these would become disciples of Jesus, Andrew and we believe John, though it doesn’t say so explicitly.

Lamb of God

Jesus comes out to where John is, to see this thing that John is doing out by the Jordan River.  John sees him coming and declares to his disciples Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!  The next day Jesus comes again, and  John says it again.  The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.”  Andrew and John became followers Jesus, or as we might say, followers of the lamb.  Two of the very first Christians.   To be a Christian, to participate in the revolutionary kingdom of Christ, is to be a follower of the lamb who takes away the sin of the world.  But – what does this even mean?

We all know there is something deeply wrong in world.  We are over 7 billion strong as the human race, but we are still a long way from getting it right.  Something is wrong.  Why is there still so much hatred, so much racism, so many wars, so much poverty.  Why do 2 billion people, with all our advancement, technology, and ability to create wealth, still live abject poverty?  Why is there still so much preventable disease?   We have the means, we have the ability, we just have not organized ourselves to be able to prevent these things.  Never mind the diseases we haven’t cracked yet, but there are diseases we are completely capable of beating, yet we have not.  Why?

Sin

The only answer has to be because of our sin.   It’s what John calls the “sin of the world”.  In the book of Genesis, the sin of world begins with unhealthy desire.  In the garden, Adam was warned about this.  But Adam and Eve ignore their warning and begin to feed their unhealthy desire, leading to their expulsion (or maybe it would be more helpful to call this exile).  Then sin rears its ugly head, and Cain kills Abel.  This is the story that most clearly shows the sin of world that replicates its self over and over.   It seems to be the source of our problems and deep systemic problems we have until this day.

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The sin of world is our rivalry with our brothers and sisters whom we call enemies and others, leading us to hate and accuse, to refuse and vilify, ultimately to  oppress and kill our sisters and brothers, especially if they belong to some other tribe, race, nation, or religious group.  We refuse to recognize those other than we think we are as our brothers.   Then we participate in all those Cain-like activities of hating, accusing, vilifying, oppressing and even killing.  This is the opposite of what the bible calls love.  The Bible also says God is love.  It’s by going against the grain of love that the world becomes a miserable place.

If we refuse to love God in such a way that it is manifested in loving our neighbor, we are on the highway to hell.  If we are going against universe as God created and intended (and we almost always are), we suffer the consequences of unintended pain and suffering.

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Someone must intervene.  This is what must be done when someone we love has gone down the path of self destruction.  God intervenes.  This is what we call Christmas.  God stages his own intervention.   Because “For God so loved the world…”.  God beholds this  race he has made in his own image engaged in increasingly self destructive behavior, and inserts himself into our situation in the form of his only begotten son.

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Someone must stage an intervention.   Someone has to take away the sin. It’s the sin that’s the problem.  Wars, poverty, racism, hatred are just manifestations, symptoms.  But the deeper problem is the sin.  So when Jesus appears on the banks of the Jordan, John announces the Lamb of God who takes away sin of world.

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How?  How does Jesus take away the sin of the world?  We are at the beginning of the story, but  we find at the end of the story exactly how Jesus takes away the sin of the world.   The sin of the world, hating and killing our brothers, will be violently sinned into Jesus.  He becomes the supreme victim of problem,  he becomes the supreme victim of the sin of the world.  The sin of the world that wrecks the capacity of human flourishing coalesces into a great single moment in history and is sinned into Jesus.  And so he bears the sin of the world.

Hell

Where does he take it?   Down into death, Hades, Hell, Sheol.  Exactly where it belongs.  He takes that sin with himself down into the depths of death, and after three days he shakes it off.  He’s raised from the dead!!  He comes back, having born our sins, without a word of blame.  He takes it all, he bears it.  He’s the innocent Lamb of God.  All that sin, hatred, blame, revenge, retribution will all stay in Hades, but the Son of God returns on the third day.  He speaks of love, peace, and forgiveness, not vengeance and payback.  This is how the Lamb of God takes away the sin of the world.   He  leads us into the new world by absorbing sin, forgiving it, and taking away sin of the world.   It dies with him, but is not resurrected with him.

BUT – we are called to be followers of the lamb.  In our own lives in our own way we are to imitate day by day, in ways big and ways small, what Jesus did.  We are not fans of the lamb, but followers of the lamb.  It’s one thing to be spectator in the stands, cheering your support.  Go Jesus!!  It’s another another to suit up.  It’s another thing altogether to get in the game, take up your cross, and follow Jesus.

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John the Baptist was the greatest of all prophets before Christ.  Jesus himself says so.  I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John.”  Luke 7:28 ESV   But two of his disciples leave for Jesus.  Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he. Whoever is least in the kingdom is greater than John.  You can be the greatest ever to live under the vision from Moses, but when Christ comes it’s a completely different world.   “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” John 1:17 ESV

The Stoning of St Stephen

This is what it means to be a Christian, to follow the lamb.  To live the ways of the lamb.  What does it look like?  Often times it looks like what Stephen did.  The day after Christmas on the church calendar is the feast of Stephen, St Stephens Day.  It’s appropriate that the day after celebrating birth of Christ the church honors the first Christian martyr.   We know the story of Stephen.  He was a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit. Acts 6:5 ESV.   Stephen was powerful, full of the Spirit, and was gathering around him many followers of Jesus.  This put him in rivalry with some in the Sanhedrin.   “But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking.”   So, of course, they killed him.   But as he’s dying, he cries out – “And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.”  Acts 7:60 ESV.  He cries out for Jesus not to blame his own killers.   He’s become a little Christ, a Christian.   He carries their sin upon himself.  Just as the sin of the world comes upon Jesus but he does not recycle it or return it.  He did not follow the way of Cain, the way of revenge, way of the world.  He cries out for forgiveness, not vengeance.  He bore the sin of the world, helping the lamb of God take away the sin of world.

We either retaliate against sin and help the devil recycle and reenergize the sin of the world, or we absorb and forgive sin and help Jesus take away the sin of the world.   This is what it means to be a follower of the lamb.

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Are there any modern examples followers of the lamb.  Well, how about Martin Luther King, Jr?  He was America’s greatest prophet.  True to what Jesus would say, America killed him and then built a monument to him.  What sorrow awaits you! For you build monuments for the prophets your own ancestors killed long ago. But in fact, you stand as witnesses who agree with what your ancestors did. They killed the prophets, and you join in their crime by building the monuments! This is what God in his wisdom said about you: ‘I will send prophets and apostles to them, but they will kill some and persecute the others.’

MLK_LorraineMotel_

So, yes, we killed him and built monuments to him.  We killed him, and created a holiday honoring him.  We killed him, we honor him, and we still live in the world picking up stones to throw at one another.

America has twin foundations sins.   The enslavement of Africans for the sake of economy, and the expulsion and sometimes genicidal treatment of native inhabitants in the name of expansion.  It was all about economy and expansion.

MLK Jr DC Memorial

It is fitting, then, that the grandson of slaves in the 1950s would show by his life to white American Christians what it looks like to follow the lamb.  The Gospel had taken root in African American churches at the time, and Martin Luther King was an embodiment of that.

The Dexter Avenue Baptist church in Montgomery Alabama.   It’s weeks before Christmas, November 17, 1957.  In Alabama. A black man in Alabama in 1957 knows what it is to have enemies.  Martin Luther King that day preached a sermon called “Loving your enemies.

“The evil seed of the enemy neighbor, the thing that hurts, never quite expresses all that he is.  An element of goodness may be found even in our worst enemy….we must not seek to defeat or humiliate the enemy, but to win his friendship and understanding…

Seeing the image of God in your enemy who is trying to harm you is a very difficult thing to preach.  It would have been easy to just preach an us vs them, God is on our side Sermon, but that’s not what he did.

…Returning hate for hate multiples hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.  Violence multiples violence.  Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.  Have we not come to such an impasse in the modern world that we must love our enemies or else?  The chain reaction of evil hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars must be broken or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.  To our most bitter opponents (bitter opponents as in KKK members dragging black men off to be beaten and worse) we say we shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by  our capacity to endure suffering.  We shall neet your physical force with soul force.  Do to us what you will, we shall continue to love you.  Throw us in jail and we shall still love you.  Bomb our homes (his home was bombed) and threaten our children and we shall still love you.   Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our community at the midnight hour to beat us and leave us half dead and we shall still love you.  But be ye assured that we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer.  One day we shall win freedom, but not only for ourselves.   We shall so appeal to your heart and conscience that we shall win you in the process and our victory will be a double victory.”  

Now that’s a follower of the Lamb.  Only Jesus makes that sermon possible.  Only Jesus makes that life possible.  He didn’t only want to liberate African Americans from unjust oppression, he wanted to liberate white Americans from the idea that they had to perpetuate their evil system.

On April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee Martin Luther King, Jr bore the sins of America when he was cut down by an assassins bullet.  By following the lamb, preaching Jesus, loving enemies and practicing nonviolence, Martin Luther King, Jr helped take away the sins of America.  His death helped awaken America to its sin of racism.

The death of Jesus was obviously unique in that he was the sinless sin of god vindicated by resurrection on the third day by the Father.  But the suffering and death of St Stephen, Martin Luther King, and every other Christian martyr is the ultimate example of what it looks like to follow the lamb.  They were helping the lamb take away the sin of the world, and God will raise them, too, to life everlasting.

Amen

“The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

 

The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.”

John 1:29, 35-37 ESV

http://bible.com/59/jhn.1.29,35-37.esv

 

“What sorrow awaits you! For you build monuments for the prophets your own ancestors killed long ago. But in fact, you stand as witnesses who agree with what your ancestors did. They killed the prophets, and you join in their crime by building the monuments! This is what God in his wisdom said about you: ‘I will send prophets and apostles to them, but they will kill some and persecute the others.’”

Luke 11:47-49 NLT

http://bible.com/116/luk.11.47-49.nlt

John Lewis

Looking For Jesus

looking

The second of 2 stories in Luke Chapter 2 pertaining to the boy Jesus in the temple. The first is his dedication, with the sory of Anna and Simeon. This second story is the only story about Jesus between his infancy and the beginning of his ministry.  We might wish we had more to go on, we might like to know exactly what Jesus was doing at the age of 15, 20, 24, but we don’t.  All we have between infancy and starting the ministry about 30 is this glimpse of a precocious 12 year old in the temple.

pilgrimages

God, Yahweh, had commanded three pilgrimage feasts – Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles. Three times a year all the Jews were to travel from their homes and villages to Jerusalem for a festival. It paints a picture of a people always on a journey, always on a pilgrimage. In the same way we are to be a people on the journey, moving toward god. We are never called to be static, settled, or satisfied. We are always to be in the journey moving toward god, seeking God.

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Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom.Mary and Joseph made the Passover journey with their village, with their entire clan. Jesus is twelve years old, on the brink of manhood. They travel in a large caravan, their whole clan, village, aunts, uncles, cousins and neighbors. There really is something to that old saying “it takes a village”.

mary and joseph

And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the group they went a day’s journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him.At first they are not concerned they don’t see Jesus. They believe and live by the ancient, Holy idea that we live in community and take care of each other. They assume he’s back in the caravan with their neighbors and relatives. But finally they realize he’s not there.

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They had gone a day’s journey. So they probably had to wait until the next morning – it would not have been safe to travel back at night without the caravan. So they travelled back to Jerusalem the second day.

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After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. At end of the third day – this is some of Luke’s prophetic foreshadowing. Mary finds the boy Jesus after he’d been missing for three days. Wouldn’t Mary would much later lose Jesus and then find him again, alive, after three days??

amazed at his answers

The text says they found him in the temple. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.What did they talk about? Maybe Jesus is asking about the Messiah, the one to come. He’s learning. He’s asking questions, impressing all those in the temple with his knowledge and understanding. Maybe they talk about Psalm 22, maybe Isaiah 53, about how Messiah will die. Maybe they are talking about Isaiah’s suffering servant. Maybe this is where Jesus begins his journey of self discovery, maybe this is where he begins to understand who he might be and how that fits into the Hebrew Scriptures.

finding jesus

And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Mary and Joseph find him, and they are irritated. If you are a parent, you understand this. They’ve been worried sick, he’s been lost for three days. Then we have Jesus’ very first recorded words in the Bible – first thing he says is a question. Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house? If we know anything about Jesus, when Jesus asks questions, he’s not looking for information from you, he wants you to think about yourself.

jesus-looking-for-you1

Why are you looking for me?, Jesus asks us. Why am I writing this? Why do I bother? Why are you reading? Why do you bother? Aren’t we both looking for Jesus? Why??

jesus

Maybe what we’ve discovered is that it’s not Jesus who’s lost, but we who are lost? Maybe we think that by finding Jesus, he might know the way. He might show us the way. He might be the way.

Jesus wasn’t lost, we are. We’re looking for Jesus not because he’s lost, but because we are lost. He might find the way, he might know the way, he might show the way. he might be the way. Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house? Jesus says I must be in my fathers house, about the fathers business, might be another way of reading this.

Cima_da_Conegliano_God_the_Father

Later on, this 12 year old boy would say things like “Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like:”Luke 6:47 ESV

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“So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.”John 5:19 ESV

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“If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.””John 14:7 ESV

“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.”John 5:39-40 ESV

good news1

This is Good news I’m bringing today. There is no better news than this. God is like Jesus. That is Great news!! And – What if it’s true? What if God really is as good, as kind, as compassionate, as merciful as Jesus? What a relief, that would be really good news!!

God-Looks-Like-Jesus

It is true. God is like Jesus. That’s the whole point. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…”John 1:14 ESV.“For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” John 1:17 ESV. “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.”John 1:18 ESV

wipe away every tear

So one last time, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!! That’s news worth celebrating for 12 days. It’s worth celebrating forever. The Revelation that God is like Jesus. Jesus says he is about His fathers business. What is His fathers business? To invite us to the table of reconciliation. It’s at his table that we come to be reconciled with God and reconciled with one another. If we could get these two things right, right relationship with God and right relationship with each other, we could wipe out just about every problem known to man. If we could combine all of our scientific knowledge and power in reconciliation with one another instead of finding more creative and effective ways to kill one one another, we could cure cancer, and every other disease known to man. We might even see the day when “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.””Revelation 21:4

“Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the group they went a day’s journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.”

Luke 2:41-52 ESV

http://bible.com/59/luk.2.41-52.esv

John Lewis

The Weeping

Looking at a story of grief, weeping, and ultimately hope this morning.

The story of Lazarus, brother of Mary and Martha, one of Jesus’ dearest friends.  Lazarus fell ill, so his sisters sent to Jesus saying “So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.”” John 11:3 ESV.  Jesus got the message that Lazarus was ill, and the story tells us “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.” John 11:5-6 ESV.  Which seems kind of odd, shouldn’t he have left immediately?   But Jesus had his own plans for this sickness of his friends, which only he understood.   “But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”” John 11:4 ESV

So Jesus took his own sweet time.  Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days.  He had waited where he was for two extra days, waited so long that by the time he shows up, his friend Lazarus had been dead four days.  But I do have to say, it may not have mattered how quickly Jesus had left to come to Lazarus, he may have been too late anyway.  But either way, by the time Jesus show up, Lazarus has been dead four days, and his sisters are none too happy or impressed with Jesus because of it.  So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died….”    Mary also says, …“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  Which brings us to the shortest verse in the Bible.  Jesus doesn’t justify himself, he doesn’t give all the reasons why he hadn’t come, he doesn’t tell Mary and Martha why Lazarus had to die, he doesn’t try to cheer them up and tell them everything is going to be ok, he doesn’t tell them how this is all part of God’s good plan.  No, here it tells us When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled.    Next it tells what Jesus reaction was – Jesus wept.   He doesn’t explain, justify, or minimize their loss.  He doesn’t try to “cheer them up”, doesn’t try to get them to pretend they have not lost their brother.  Their brother was dead, laid in the tomb four days.   They had suffered loss, they were grieving, so Jesus wept, he joins them in their grief.   If you are hurting right now, if you are grieving, if you are weeping, Jesus weeps with you.

Maybe the apostle Paul was familiar with this story when he told the believers in Rome “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” Romans 12:15 ESV.  Just weep with those who weep, as Jesus wept with Mary and Martha.  Share their burden, don’t deny their pain.

Of course, this is not the end of Lazarus’ story.  It won’t be the end of your story either.  Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”   It’s in this darkest hour that we see our greatest hope.   It’s our great Christian hope, the true hope of Christ.  Resurrection.

Just as Jesus called out to Mary and Marthas brother “Lazarus, come out.”, he will call to each one of us.  That is my hope, that is what my true faith is.  Each one of us will hear “John, come out!”, “Marc, come out!”, “Rob, come out!”, “Susie, come out!

Jesus told Martha “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”  Do we believe this?  We have a great hope in Christ, that just as he was raised from the dead, we too will be raised from the dead.  “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” Romans 6:4-5 ESV.   And as Paul also so well puts it, “Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?” 1 Corinthians 15:12 ESV

So we believe, we trust, we have faith in that which we can not see.  But for now, we weep.  And Jesus weeps with us.

“Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?” Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.””

John 11:17-44 ESV

http://bible.com/59/jhn.11.17-44.esv

John Lewis

Only the Suffering God…

suffering christ

Continuing something now that I had started before Thanksgiving and the coming of the advent season.   Looking again at the question of pain and suffering in our world.  Pain is the price of admission, we might say, the price of admission into this thing we call being human.  We’ve been raised by Denial University to deny our pain, but denial or not, we all feel the pain of living in this broken world.

ecce-homo-behold-the-man-2

So today I’m going to jump forward, out of advent, straight into the passion story of Jesus Christ.   Heche Homo.  Behold the man.  Pilate, during his “trial” in Rome leading to the crucifixion, brings forth Jesus to the jeering crowd.  See this man who is suffering.  See him bleed, watch us mock him, spit on him, beat him.  Is it enough?  It was not enough.  He would have to suffer more, much more.  Further torture.  Crucifixion.  An agonizing death.  Heche homo, behold the man.  This man whom we behold, this man is God.  But he is seen here not as the omnipotent God, but as the suffering God.

mighty-god

From the beginning of human religious consciousness  we have shared similar images of god throughout cultures and throughout the religions of the world.  We’ve had our ideas of god which go way back.  The  creator god, mighty god, merciful god, omnipotent god, the all powerful god.   We had known the glorious god, the holy god, the avenging god, but this is something other, something altogether unanticipated, unimagined, unexpected.  This is the suffering god.  A god who suffers.  The idea that god could and would suffer.

suffering christ2

This idea is so foreign to us (and by us i mean humanity), even scandalous, that it took nearly 2000 years for even the church to admit it, to see it, to confess it.  It took 2000 years after the suffering Christ to see the suffering god.  It took two world wars and the holocaust for the church to see the suffering god.

dietrich-bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was one of the great theologians of the twentieth century.  A few days before his execution by Nazi Germany at the Flossenburg Concentration camp he scribbled the words “only the suffering god can help” on a scrap piece of paper which was somehow smuggled out of that prison and  preserved for history.  Written on a scrap piece of paper by one of the most brilliant theologians of the 20th century days before he himself was hung from the gallows for being a prophetic voice against his own brutal empire.

From the beginning of the Church and throughout its history, from the Greek philosophy, Platonist influenced Church fathers until middle of 20th century, we talked not of the suffering god, but instead of the “impassibility” of God.  Impassibility means incapable of suffering.  The argument went like this – To suffer is to change, God doesn’t change, and therefore God does not suffer.   This way of thinking about God dominated Christian thought from about the 2nd to 3rd century until the mid 20th century.   That’s when we discovered the suffering god.

What forced Christianity to re-think the suffering of god was the horrors of the twentieth century and the two world wars, which can really be seen as a single event stretching over 20 to 30 years.

WWI U.S.

World War I highlighted the coming of both mechanized and chemical warfare, along with trench warfare and our general advancement of technology.   It was the war to end all wars.  It was a war that saw 20,000,000 deaths.  The world had never seen anything thing like this.  Until the one that came after that.  We didn’t see this consequence of technology coming.  So much for our enlightenment bringing about a more peaceable world.

wwii

Then WWII came, and for the first time, it was not just not just about the armies.  Before WWII war was fought by soldiers out in the battlefield, civilians and cities were left alone.  But with WWII, the battlefield was everywhere,  the battlefield included the cities and population centers.  We were truly “enlightened” by this point, I suppose.   Really, why should only those in military service suffer and die?   While World War 1 saw 20,000,000 deaths, WWII. saw 25,000,000 military deaths, and 40,000,000 civilian deaths.  65,000,000 people gone with civilian deaths nearly doubling actual military combatant deaths.  We came a long way baby…war was now totalized.

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When we add in deaths produced by totalitarian regimes of mao and Stalin, first half of twentieth century saw death of 150,000,000 people through systematic killing.  The battlefield was truly everywhere.

At the dark heart of the twentieth century was the Shoah, or as we know it, the holocaust.  How is it that the most advanced, educated nation in the world (which is what Germany was at the time) could systematically murder 6 million just for being Jewish?

holocaust

After the smoke cleared from the ovens of Auschwitz and mushroom clouds of Hiroshima, the church could no longer speak of god as being impassible.  There was a seismic theological shift in Christianity and Judaism.  In the post holocaust world to speak of god as non-suffering seems almost blasphemous.  Bonhoeffer had it right, only the suffering God can help.  After the holocaust, if God doesn’t know what it is to suffer, then never mind.

But to see the suffering God is not just a concession to post-holocaust sensibilities.  It was in scriptures all along, we just did not see it, probably because we did not want to see it.  We barely want to acknowledge our own suffering, let alone a God who suffers.  But if Jesus really is Emmanuel, God with us, then God must suffer because to truly be one if us is to feel pain.

crucifixion-of-Jesus

Jürgen Moltmann is another important theologian of twentieth century.  In his book The Crucified God he says “A god who is only omnipotent is an incomplete being, for he cannot experience helplessness and powerlessness…Omnipotence is never loved only feared.  A god incapable of suffering can not be involved.

where is god

Elie Weisel is a Romanian born Jew who became an American citizen, Nobel Laureate, and was a holocaust survivor.  In his book Night about his experiences in Nazi concentration camps in Auschwitz and Buchenwald.  At one point, he relates a story from one of these camps of an infraction among the Jewish slave laborers.  To punish them, the guards executed 3 people, 2 men and one young boy.  But the boy was too small and his neck was not broken by impact.  He died a long, slow and tortured death.  The inmates were made to stand at attention and watch.  Someone near Weisel said “Where is God, where is God, where is God”.   To which someone else answers “in the gallows.”

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This is the scandal of the cross.  Strangely enough, this is exactly what we confess as Christians.  That God has been hung in the gallows.  Pilate says behold the man!  Confessing Christians say behold our god!  It is almost an incredible claim.  It is scandalous.  The Apostle Paul calls it the offense of the gospel.  The Crucified Jesus hung on the gallows of the cross is the image of the invisible god.   Paul tells us this human being is the logos of god made flesh and his defining moment is being hung upon the cross.   Christ crucified is the image, the ikon, the pure revelation of the invisible God.  Under the disfigurement of an ugly crucifixion and death, Jesus Christ is paradoxically the clearest revelation of who god is.  God is like that.  He does not suffer for us to satisfy god, he suffers with us as god.   What does the symbol of the Christian cross say if it doesn’t say we believe in the suffering god?

jesus-on-cross

God did not only become fully human, which is scandalous enough, but he became the kind of human we don’t want to be.  He became a despised and rejected outcast.  He became a failure.  His death came as a failure.  He did not die the noble death of a heroic martyr.  In light of resurrection we see the cross completely differently, but as he died, condemned by Caiaphas, sentenced to death by Pilate, he died the death of a failure.   It was the ultimate I told you so.  There was no halo.  It was just another shameful death on a Roman crucifix.

Jesus did not fight the good fight, live a full life and die at a ripe old age.   This was a young man in his prime, cut down.  He spoke of a new Kingdom, He spoke of a new way of being.  Everybody said he couldn’t do it, then they nailed him naked to a tree and proved they were right and he was wrong.  Even his disciples had forsaken him.  Jesus died the worst death that he may go down into the ugliest depths of death.  Jesus Christ,  Emmanuel, is god with us.  In life, in struggles, in sorrows, in pain, and yes, even in death.  Whatever it means for a human being to die, god in Christ has experienced, but not just an act of solidarity, but an act of salvation.

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The writer of Hebrews says   “But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.” Hebrews 2:9 ESV

God in Christ suffered death that he might enter into death, and defeat death inside its own domain.  He was swallowed up by death that he might destroy death from inside out.   God in Christ went all the way down into ugliest depths of death that he might lead the way out.  So that,  in Christ there is a way out.  In fact, when you die, you in Christ will not see death but see Christ.  He will be there to meet you having defeated death.  His suffering with us not just solidarity but an act of salvation

by-his-wounds-full

This is the mystery of salvation – by his wounds we are healed.  He was wounded so we might be healed.  Even in his resurrected body Jesus s still displays his wounds.  Because when we bring our wounds to the wounds of Christ, we come to one who has really been wounded.  Only the suffering god can help.   His claim is not  “I haven’t really been wounded but I can help anyway”.  Instead he says “I know”. I know what it means to be spit upon, reviled, hated, rejected and betrayed.  I know what it is to be beaten and abused. See my hands, see my side, know that it is I.  He invites us, like Thomas, to touch his wounds, to lay our wounds upon his wounds.  That’s where the miracle begins.  We can’t  explain it, but bringing our wounds to the wounds of Christ does not multiply woundedness but begins the healing.

Only the suffering god can help.

And he is here to help.

“Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands. Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!””

John 19:1-5 ESV

http://bible.com/59/jhn.19.1-5.esv

John Lewis