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.

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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??

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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.

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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

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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!!

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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

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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?

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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

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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

A New Beginning

Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.   The prophets Simeon and Anna both greet Jesus at the temple for his dedication, and together they announce to the world that this child is the Messiah, the anointed one to redeem Israel from their centuries of shame and suffering at the hands of foreign occupiers.

But how does Jesus redeem Israel from their shame, suffering and humiliation?   This is something Simeon and Anna can’t imagine.  No one could.  They thought what everyone thought, that this little baby would be the liberating messiah, the warrior king who will wage a war of liberation against occupying Rome and rescue Israel.  And it’s true Jesus would relieve Israel if their shame and suffering.  But instead of relieving the suffering of his people by inflicting it upon others, as the world dictates and as everyone expected, Jesus does something completely unprecedented in human history.  When you go through suffering and shame and suffering, you get out of it by inflicting it upon someone else.  That’s the way the world works.  Whether it be schoolyard bullies who get out of being the one picked upon by finding someone else to pile it upon, to long-suffering nations who finally find the wherewithal to escape their own suffering by inflicting upon some other peoples, it is just a virus that spreads throughout history.  Shame and suffering spreads through nations, one to the next.

But – Jesus doesn’t do this.  He rescues Israel from shame and suffering not by finding someone else to inflict it upon, or transmit the virus into, but instead by sharing their shame and suffering into himself.  He absorbs their shame, suffering and humiliation into himself, he does not inflict it upon others.  We sinned all of our anger, all of our pain, all of our sins into Jesus, and he he returns all that sin, shame, and suffering not by projecting it upon some other victim, but by offering unconditional, complete forgiveness.  And this is how Jesus Christ becomes the Lamb of God who takes away sin of world

Jesus heals us by absorbing the shame, the humiliation, the suffering, not recycling it and heaping it upon someone else.  He allows it to die in himself.   And so by his wounds we are healed

Part of Simeon’s prophecy to Mary is and a sword will pierce through your own soul also.   This is the kind of prophecy that can only be understood in retrospect.  We can not understand it when it is given, but after certain events occur, we can look back and see “that’s what he was talking about.

Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.  Jesus will be responsible for the fall and rising of Israel itself.  Israel is to be re born through Jesus.  Jesus is israel, He embodies Israel and that all God intends to do through Israel.  He is the seed of Abraham, he is the Son of David.  He is the true Israelite.  He himself will fall into death only to be raised in resurrection to give Israel a new definition, a new meaning.

Simeon says the child is a sign to be opposed to reveal the hearts of many.  If we oppose teachings of Jesus, like, say, the Sermon on the Mount, it reveals our own dark inner thoughts, fears, and motivations.   We really don’t like to admit we oppose Jesus.  But when it comes to the Sermon on Mount, loving our enemies, forgiving seventy times seven, we just chalk these up to things we need forgiveness for ourselves.  After all, Jesus died to forgive my sins, right?   Opposition to Jesus and the Jesus Way, to his teachings like (especially) the Sermon on the Mount reveals the dark thoughts and intentions of our hearts, so we fall.  But when we fall, we let that darkness fall away from ourselves.  Then we are able to be raised again into a new way of thinking, a new way of being.  We are raised into a new light of understanding.  Jesus is a light to enlighten nations.

Mary would live to see Jesus crucified.  She would see Jerusalem reject Jesus and crucify him.   She would live to feel that sword pierce her very own soul.  But she would also see him raised from the dead.   She would live to see the Son (her son) rise in resurrection.   She would live to see Jesus crucified, but also vindicated.  He wasn’t crazy.  He was the true son of God who gives us a new way of being “only human”.    His crucifixion was supposed to be the end of just another failed Messiah.  But his resurrection gave us all a new beginning, a second chance, a real hope.  Hope that we don’t have to spread the virus of shame, humiliation and suffering forever.  Hope that we can all have a new beginning living the Jesus Way.   A new beginning not dependent on force and might, but instead love and forgiveness.

Today, we all have a new beginning.

“And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.”

Luke 2:22-38 ESV

http://bible.com/59/luk.2.22-38.esv

John Lewis