The Horses of History

The Horses of History
And now to finish out what I have to say (finally) about Jesus feeding the multitudes…
 
First…the paragraph I finished with last time.

Jesus says we don’t have to stay down here in the finite sphere worried and fighting.  We can trust in God and connect with the beauty of the infinite.  This is the life where trust replaces fear and faith replaces force.  This is the life that the sign of the feeding of the five thousand points us to.  It’s the life that we want to live.  It’s the life of peace.  But it’s challenging to enter into.  You can do it, but the fear of scarcity, the paradigm of insufficiency, the drive for economic self preservation is the greatest hindrance to entering into the Kingdom of God.

The people that have the hardest time connecting with that connecting point between the infinite heaven and our finite creation are not the poor down here, but the rich.   The rich that have few more of those grains in the hourglass.   I mean, the rich have twelve grains of sand, and after all, the poor only have one.  But, it is just twelve grains… Jesus says it’s hard for the rich to understand that there is the infinite provision of God…”How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!”  ‭‭Luke‬ ‭18:24‬ ‭ESV‬‬, because they are so locked into their paradigm of scarcity and insufficiency.

We are dominated by our paradigm of scarcity, and we fear there will never be enough.  So we are committed to maintaining economic self preservation by force, and this is the way of Cain.  The force maintaining our economic self preservation is where we place our faith, and it’s idolatrous.  I’ll say it again.  The force maintaining our economic self preservation is where we place our faith, and it’s idolatrous…

What happens is, when we operate within our paradigm of scarcity and we put our faith in force to forcibly preserve ours, this creates competition.  Competition leads to conflict.   Conflict leads to conquest.  Conquest leads to resentment because people tend not to like to be conquered (go figure).  Resentment leads to retaliation and rebellion, and that leads to war.  And the whole thing becomes one big self-fulfilling prophecy that there is not enough because we squander it fighting one another…

Because we are dominated by our paradigm of scarcity, it leads to competition.  Competition leads to conflict, conflict leads to conquest, and people don’t like to be conquered and this leads to resentment, and then rebellion, and then retaliation and war, which leads to the self-fulfilling prophecy of scarcity and lack, also known as the haves and the have-nots.   Now what do we have?  Maybe you can recognize the four horseman of the apocalypse

The white horse of conquest.  Followed by the red horse of war.  Followed by the black horse of scarcity (or famine).  Followed by the pale horse of death.  People ask “Do you think those horses are about to ride?”  They’ve been galloping across human history several times a century since history began!!!!   And Jesus wants to SAVE us from the stupid cycle of the stupid four horseman!   He wants to save us from this cycle where we have conquest, we conquer, but people don’t like to be conquered.  So as soon as they get a little power and some kind of leader they retaliate, and that leads to WAR, which is the worst squandering of human resources, and it turns into that self-fulfilling prophecy of Look there’s not enough!  

Yeah, because you spent it all killing each other.  Of course there’s not enough now.  And in the end it’s always that pale horse that rides across history.  Jesus says, “Let’s do something else, because this isn’t working!   I’ve come to save you.”  Jesus came to save us from the stupid cycle of conquest, war, famine, and death.  Conquest, war, famine, and death. Conquest, war, famine, and death.   That’s human history.

The miracle of the the loaves and fishes is a sign pointing us to Jesus in a new way, but do we have eyes to see it, do we have faith to believe it?   Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.   We call him Lord Jesus Christ.   Christ means Messiah, Messiah means King.  Christ is King.  Jesus is the King.  Yet they come to make him king, and he runs off to hide.  What’s happening here?  The key word here is force.  Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force…the crowd wants to take Jesus by force to make him their forceful king to lead their forces.  This is exactly what Jesus will not do.  Jesus will not ride the white horse of forceful conquest, because that leads to the red horse of war, that leads to the black horse of famine, and that leads to the pale horse of death, and that’s what Jesus came to SAVE us from, not ride.
 
The Kingdom of Christ is without force.  It’s persuaded by love, spirit, witness, reason, rhetoric, and if need be laying down our lives, martyrdom.  Because we love not our lives, even to the point of death.  But never by force.  The kingdom of God does not come by winning the game of force in our finite sphere.  The kingdom of God comes by, in faith, connecting to Jesus Christ, and thus to the beauty of the infinite.

The Word became flesh and blood.  The Word didn’t become an idea, the Word didn’t become a theory, the Word didn’t become a sermon.  The Word became flesh and blood.  The flesh and blood of Jesus is the connecting point of the finite and the infinite.   I’ve used the word infinite, but the Bible uses another word for this, it’s called eternal life.  Instead of infinite, I could have used the words eternal life.  But I want to bring it in a fresh new way.  In the beginning was the infinite, the infinite was with God, the infinite was God, and the infinite became finite flesh and blood, lived among us, and we beheld the beauty of the infinite.

The beauty of the infinite.  It’s a sign.  It’s not just Jesus giving lunch one time.  It’s a sign that we can connect by faith with the word made flesh, and that opens us up to the infinite.

 

“After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. And a large crowd was following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick. Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number. Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted. And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.”
‭‭John‬ ‭6:1-15‬ ‭ESV‬‬
 

 

John Lewis
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The Living Word

The Living Word
So what do we mean when we say that Jesus is the word of life, the wisdom of life, the logos of life, God’s divine logic of life?  We mean that Jesus is the translation of God’s love logic, his divine logic, into human form so that we can understand him.  This is what the second sign in John’s gospel points to.      That this divine logic, this love logic, this eternal word made flesh, has become a person in Jesus Christ.   And that to believe in Jesus is to believe that Jesus is the revelation of what God is like.   
 
So the sign is not just that Jesus can do miracles.  The sign is going “Right there!  Right there!  Right there!  Right there he is!  Jesus!  That is the word of life!”  That is the word that God has spoken into a sin-sick world to make everyone that believes in him well.   God has sent his word to heal us, and that word is Jesus, because Jesus is what God has to say.  Learn that, that Jesus is what God has to say.

This helps us to understand what the Bible really is.  The Bible is the spirit inspired, ultimate true sign that points us true to the true word of God who is Jesus.  The Bible is not an end in itself.    There is a sense in which you don’t put your faith in the Bible, you put your faith in what the Bible points yout to.  You put your faith in Jesus.  

Is there a difference?  Yes.  A huge difference.   Isn’t it six in one, half dozen in the other?  No.  It’s twelve in one, zero in the other.   Because the Bible can’t save you.   The eternal word of God that saves us is not a theory.  It’s not an idea.  It’s not even a book.  It’s a flesh and blood person named Jesus Christ. What the Bible does, it’s the ultimate spirit inspired sign pointing to Jesus.  If you’ve missed that, you’ve missed  a whole lot.  Kind of like everything…

Let’s look at what Jesus himself says about this, talking to people who know their bibles quite well.  They have bible studies, study aids, everything.   “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.   I’m about to get some people upset here.  But get this – the Bible can actually be the cleverest way for us to avoid the Word of God.   You’ve got the book, you read the book, your nose is in the book, studying the book, memorizing the book, the book, the book, the book, and you haven’t figured out  the book is a sign pointing to me.   Imagine Jesus, he can stand right in front of me, and I can keep my nose buried in my Bible, and I can avoid Jesus.   

The Bible is a true witness pointing to Jesus.   But here’s the problem with the Bible – it’s still a book.  And you can make the Bible say whatever you want to say.  You can make the Bible stand on its hind legs and dance a jig.   Go back 150 years, when of the Bible believing Christians of America,  most of them believed that God endorsed slavery.  Because if you’re just going to use your Bible, it’s “There is it is right there!  In the Old Testament and the New Testament too!  Slaves obey your masters!  Uh-huh!!   The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it!”

So, how many of you believe that the living God, the living Christ, has something to say about slavery other than Slaves obey your masters?   Hello!!??   If we want, we can just use the Bible, make it stand on its hind legs and dance a jig.   We can do that with the Bible, but we can’t do that with the living Christ.   You stand before the living Christ and tell him to roll over and dance a jig for you, he just looks at you with His eyes of fire and says no!

This is what writer of Hebrews is talking about when he says “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. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”   ‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭4:12-13‬ ‭ESV‬‬.   In talking about  the word of God that is living and active and able to judge and reach down and penetrate into the deepest parts of us, and the word to whom we must give an account, the writer of Hebrews is not talking about the Bible.  It’s in the Bible, these words are in the Bible.  But it’s not talking about the Bible, it’s talking about Jesus.

This may be new stuff to you.  It’s new stuff you need.  Again go back 150 years.  The majority of the devout, religious, bible believing, amen, hallelujah, my sins are forgiven, church going, love Jesus, dying and going to heaven, people of the time supported, aggressively, slavery and defended it with the Bible.  They were willing to go to war defending slavery, believing God was on their side, because they had been able to use the Bible.  If they had been engaging with the living Christ they would have known better.  What they did was use the Bible to hide from Jesus.

That’s history, but here’s a modern example.   An extensive Gallup survey from a few years ago was done.  Should the United States government use torture in the interrogation of suspected terrorists.  Of course, torture is against the law of our land.  So now we call it “enhanced interrogation?”   Exactly how are we enhancing it???

So the question is, should the United States break its own laws and torture suspected terrorists.  A majority of Americans said.  A majority of Catholics said no.  A majority of Lutherans said no.  A majority of mainline Protestants said no.  Majorly of Jews said no.  Majority of non religious said no.  Majority of atheists said no.

A majority of evangelicals said “yes”.    There’s a problem here.  The people who most self identify as being all about the Bible, bible, bible, “What does the Bible say about the use of torture?”   Nothing.   So it must be ok, praise God!   “So it’s ok with me!”   The Bible says nothing about the use of torture.  But the living Christ has much to say, if you have ears to hear.   Even the agnostic, or the “non”, may not spend time studying the Bible, but they   have heard enough of Jesus that they have an idea of what Jesus is like.  The word of God has been spoken into the world, and they can not imagine Jesus standing in a room torturing somebody say “Talk, you filthy scum, talk!  Or I’ll waterboard you again!”    Maybe that’s not what we ought to do either.  But if we hide behind the Bible, we can imagine this is right…

Don’t be a modern version of a confederate Christian from 150 years ago, using the Bible to prevent yourself from hearing what God has to say.  What would Jesus do?   You can’t always know what Jesus would do, but sometimes it’s clear what Jesus wouldn’t do, isn’t it?   The Bible can’t say everything, or it would be bigger than this house I’m sitting in right now.  But the living Christ can speak constantly into our lives and world, if we will engage with him.  He is the living word, sharper than a two edged sword.  He is the one with eyes like fire.  He is the one to whom we have to give an account.   

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, the living word breathes out.   Sometimes we just have to work that out…

“So he came again to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. And at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill. When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way. As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering. So he asked them the hour when he began to get better, and they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” And he himself believed, and all his household. This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee.”
‭‭John‬ ‭4:46-54‬ ‭ESV‬‬

 

John Lewis

Seeking Signs

Seeking Signs

Jesus is the word of God translated into human flesh so we can understand it, so that it doesn’t remain abstract, ethereal, theoretical, distant.  Jesus is the word, the logos, the wisdom of God translated into a human being so we can understand him.

In the beginning the word spoke creation into existence because the word is with God, the word is God.  The word is the second person of the trinity.   But in the incarnation the word that spoke creation into existence is now spoken into that creation Himself.  So in the beginning, the word speaks creation into existence, but in the incarnation, Christmas, Bethlehem, virgin birth, Jesus in a manger, the word of God is spoken into creation.   How do you do?   God does not stay distant from his creation, but writes himself into the story so that we can know what He’s like!   Jesus is what God has to say. As we look at Jesus, we see the divine logic of God translated into a human being so we can know what He’s like.

More from John, this time from his first letter.  “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—” 1 John 1:1 ESV.   John says “Look, I’ve seen him.  I’ve touched him.  I’ve heard him.  The word, the logos of God that became a human being.   And I’m going testify of Him.  I’m going to tell you what Jesus was like so that you’ll know what God is like.”   God writes himself into the story so that we can know what he’s like.  Jesus is the full, complete, final, eternal self-disclosure of God.  If you want to know what God is like, you look at Jesus.  Into our world of death, God has spoken the word of Life, and that word is Jesus.  And John is going to give us a sign to see how this works.

Jesus is returning from a tour of Samaria and Judea.  He’d gone all the way to Jerusalem.  He’d worked a miracle in Cana of Galilee, turning water into wine at the wedding.  Then he went in a tour through Jerusalem, up through Samaria, meeting the woman at the well.  Now he’s come back into Galilee, but instead of returning to his newly adopted hometown of Capernaum, he goes high up in the hills of Galilee, which is where we find Cana, only 5 miles from Nazareth.

25 miles away from Cana, in Capernaum down by the seashore, there is a royal official employed by the king, King Herod.  This is not the same Herod from the birth of Jesus, but one of his grandsons.  Point is, this official is employed by the king, he’s part of the Herodian elite.  He’s wealthy, influential, and powerful.  Maybe he’s in Capernaum because it’s an important taxation town, where all the taxes from the fishing that goes on on the Sea of Galilee is gathered, but we don’t know.   He’s wealthy, powerful and influential, and he has a little boy, let’s say 2 years old.

This little boy has a fever.  Fevers can be dangerous even now, but through all human history before the advent of antibiotics after WWII, fevers were often deadly to small children.  His little boy has a fever and it’s not coming down.  He’s burning up, he’s become listless, his breathing is shallow, his pulse is weak.  He’s afraid his little boy is going to die.  He’s waiting for Jesus to come because he believes somehow that Jesus can do a miracle and heal his son.  So he’s waiting for Jesus to come back to his newly adopted hometown of Capernaum.

But then word comes that no, Jesus has not come to Capernaum,  but instead gone to Cana.  So this royal official goes as fast as he can, up, up ,up into those Galilean hills, 25 miles up, to reach Cana as quickly as he could.  He finds Jesus, and begins to beg.  This royal official is not accustomed to begging.  He’s rich, he’s powerful, he’s used to having his way.  He’s used to giving orders and not begging.  But now he begs.   “Please sir, please sir, please come down, come with me back down to Capernaum and heal my little boy, he’s at the point death.  I’m begging you Jesus, come heal my little boy.”

Jesus response is surprising, befuddling, confusing, ambiguous.   Why does he say that?    So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.”    What Jesus wants people to do is to believe in Him.  He wants people people to believe that He is revealing to them the Father.  He wants people to believe in Him, but he knows that unless people see signs they won’t believe.  But the signs become a problem, because they have to have the signs in order to believe that he can reveal the Father, but as soon as he starts doing signs people get confused and they become distracted by the sign instead of seeing what the sign is pointing to.

The sign is not the thing itself.  If we see a sign for Washington DC, with an arrow pointing north, that’s not Washington DC, that’s a sign pointing to  Washington DC.  Jesus says “I have to do signs or they wasn’t believe,” but there’s a hint of exasperation in his voice.  Because he knows people then get distracted because they just focus on what Jesus can do instead of what the sign points to, who he is, the one who reveals the Father to us.

This is a recurring theme of John’s Gospel.  We see after the feeding of the 5000 that they saw the sign.   “Jesus answered, “I assure you: You are looking for Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate the loaves and were filled.” John 6:26 HCSB.  You saw the sign, you loved the sign.  You ate the fish and the bread.  But you missed what it’s pointing to.  It’s pointing to me as the bread of life.   But all the people could see was a free lunch.

This problem reaches its culmination in the story of Thomas at the end of the Gospel.  “So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.””  John 20:25 ESV.   So a week later Jesus gives Thomas his sign.   “Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.””  John 20:27-29 ESV.  Ok Thomas, here’s your sign.  Look, give me your hand, here are the holes.   So Thomas believes.   But blessed are those who have NOT seen yet have believed.

So there’s a frustration for Jesus.  He has to do signs, but the signs can be distracting.   People can be obsessed with the sign, instead of what the sign is pointing to.  Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.   But the father in this story is not really interested in a theological discussion at this point.   God bless him, he just says  “Sir, come down before my child dies.”    So Jesus tells him “Go; your son will live.”   Go, your son will live.   Ok, this father is gone on his way home.  The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way.   He leaves without a sign from Jesus, just the command to go.  He travels down, it’s a long journey longer than he can go in a day.  It’s 25 miles, rugged terrain, difficult travel.   He travels as far as he can, he’s up at first light the next morning.   As he’s going, he comes across some of his own slaves (he is a rich, powerful man).  As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering.   Your son is alright, he’s well.  He’s going to be fine, he’s recovering.   So he asked them the hour when he began to get better, and they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.”    The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” And he himself believed, and all his household.    

The official and his whole household believed in Jesus.   Believed what?   That Jesus could heal the sick?   They already believed that.  That’s why this man made the 25 mike trek up to Cana, because he believed Jesus could heal his sick son.  No, they did not just believe Jesus could do stuff, they believed in Jesus.

Which is what Jesus is after all along.  They saw the sign and were not distracted by it.  They allowed the sign to point them to faith in Jesus.  What do they believe about Jesus?  They believe he is the Messiah.   Which means king.   King of what?   King of the Jews, the king of Israel.

Who is this man in this story?   He is a royal official.   Who does he work for?   He works for King Herod.   And King Herod is the king of what?  He is the King of the Jews, the King of Israel.   But suddenly this man has changed, and now he says “I believe the real king, the true king, the king I’m going to put my faith in is not Herod, but Jesus.  I’m not putting my faith in that anymore.  I’m putting my faith in Jesus.”   He and his whole household.

The bible almost always thinks of salvation as an individual thing as we do, but a household thing.  A whole household believes in Christ.   That’s why we raise our kids in our faith.  We raise them as Christians.  We don’t ask them what they’d like to be (or maybe we do).   Let’s just sample it all…Here’s a little Islam, a little Buddhism, a little Confucianism, a little atheism, a little other-ism.  A little make-it-up-as-you-go-ism.   No we, we raise our children as Christians.   We dedicate them as babies, we baptize them,  bring them to church, put them in Sunday school, vacation bible school.  Because we raise them as Christians.  Because it’s not just an individual thing, it’s whole household  believing in Jesus.

Some days it all seems so much harder to have faith, to believe.  Some days we just take a sucker punch to the gut.  It is on these days when we find out what we really believe.   Do we really believe in Jesus?   Or are we distracted by the signs?   Will we hike that 25 miles uphill,  sometimes through the wind and the rain, and ask Jesus, plead with Jesus please come??!!   Or will we just seek out all the other -isms of the world, especially my favorite, that my-way-ism, do it our own way, then wonder how we wound up making the whole thing worse??

“So he came again to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. And at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill. When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way. As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering. So he asked them the hour when he began to get better, and they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” And he himself believed, and all his household. This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee.”

John 4:46-54 ESV

http://bible.com/59/jhn.4.46-54.esv

The Comfort of His People

comfort

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.

Messiah MASTER TITLE

The prophet of Isaiah foresaw the coming of messiah , more clearly than the rest.  He painted poetic visions of the coming of Messiah who would redeem Israel and restore its fortunes and begin to reign over the nations.   In his poetic visions, Isaiah speaks of a messianic child on three different occasions.

christmas-2014-immanuel

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14 ESV

PrinceOfPeace_lg

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end…” Isaiah 9:6-7 ESV

Wolf and lamb

“The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them.” Isaiah 11:6 ESV

Jesus-and-Child-jesus-7192656-435-576

I am writing today about that child, the child Jesus.   Forty days after his birth, Mary and Joseph take the child to Jerusalem to be presented before the Lord.  This was before their flight to Egypt.  The law, the Torah dictated that the firstborn, both man and beast, was to to presented to the Lord at the temple.  The child is not be sacrificed but redeemed by the sacrifice of a lamb.  If the parents can not afford a lamb, there was a provision made that the offering could be two young pigeons instead, and being of humble estate, this is what Mary and Joseph offered in the temple.   “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.””  

turtledoves

There were two prophets Two present at the temple when Jesus was presented, Anna and Simeon.  These two prophets were both aging, getting long in years.  They had spent their lives waiting and  longing for Isaiah 40 to come to pass,  “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.” Isaiah 40:1 ESV.  They had been waiting for the comfort, the consolation of Israel to appear.   All their lives they’ve been longing for messiah to bring them comfort. Israel has been long suffering, longing for redemption, waiting for liberation.

prophetess-anna

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.   This is all we know of Anna, but it really is quite a lot.   She was married young, was widowed after seven years of marriage, and ever since had lived in the praying and fasting night and day.  She now is eighty-four years old, so she has been in the temple a long, long time, waiting for Messiah.  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.   When Jesus shows up, Anna tells all who will listen that if you are looking for the comfort of God, it will come through this baby.

simeon with christ

Simeon comes to the temple in the Holy Spirit and declares “that’s the One!”   The prophecy he had received from the Holy Spirit that he would not pass away until he had seen the Messiah of Israel is, at last, being fulfilled.

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You can say that Simeon and Anna represent old, faithful Israel ready to move peaceably offstage.   They represent those who had gone through and lived the Old Testament   But now, there’s going to be a seismic shift.  Israel is going to reimagined, re-understood, redefined.   No longer is israel based upon ethnicity, circumcision, and Torah observance.  Israel will be enlarged, defined upon faith, baptism, and obedience to Jesus as messiah.

torah

They represent the old Israel that had been faithful in their observance of the Torah and waited.  They are blessed to see what is coming.  And they will now peaceably move offstage and allow Jesus, the Messiah,  to take center stage.

fallen america

Simeon and Anna are prophets among people for whom suffering had become a way of life.  For six centuries Israel had been subjugated, the city of Jerusalem had been a vassal city for various foreign empires.  They had endured the shame, humiliation, sorrow and suffering that came with that.  Imagine how it would feel if America, land of the free and home of the brave, were all of a sudden overcome and brought under subjugation to some foreign empire, and Washington, DC was just some puppet capital under the command of some foreign superpower.  How would we feel as Americans if we were subjugated by China. Russia, Mexico, Bolivia (who knows what the next world superpower will be?).

savior

How they long for messiah to come and at last comfort their people. Jesus is the one, Simeon and Anna tell everyone who would listen.  God has finally acted to redeem his people from their suffering and shame.   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.

presenting jesus

“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

So This is Christmas…

So This is Christmas…

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I know, I know, it’s a couple of days after Christmas.  But taking my look today at Luke Chapter 2 anyway.

great light

We’ve looked at Isaiah Chapter 9 already.  We have seen that the people who walk in darkness have seen a great light.  So this is Christmas.

No_Room_At_The_Inn

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. 

caesar-augustus

Caesar Augustus, empower of the world, wanted a census.  As with every census, he wanted to be sure he knew where his taxes were coming from, the taxes which his and every empire depend upon to maintain their power over the people.

no room

Luke starts this part of the story with a wide angle lens.  It’s a very wide shot, the world ruled by Caesar.  Then region he comes in a little tighter to the nation-state of Syria governed by Quirinius, then down to the region of Judea, narrowing further to the village Bethlehem.  Then we see the inn, then we are in the stable in the inn, then a manger with a baby.   Finally the scene ends with a tight shot, a shot of the face face of a newborn baby wrapped in swaddling  clothes.

Pieta,_attributed_To_Antonio_Ciseri

Luke is foreshadowing something here in Luke 2:7.   The baby wrapped in cloths laid in manger foreshadows Luke 23:23, Jesus post crucifixion being wrapped in cloths and laid in tomb.   It’s all part of the same story, we must never forget that.  Jesus coming into the world, born in a cave where they keep the animals is Emmanuel, God with us, with us in birth, with us in life, with us in death.  He is God with us that he might give us new way of being human and lead us out of our ways of death into life and resurrection…

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 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.

Manger

The angel said to shepherds what the angels always say – Fear not.  Shepherds in this time and place are the humblest of humble, lowest of the low, they are the ones who’ve always suffered the most.  But the angel says to them  I bring you good news of great joy….you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.  Be clear here.  This manger is not a prop for a nativity scene, it’s a feeding trough for the animals, the animals who lived in this particular cave.   Jesus was born in a cave, but his was certainly not the first birth to happen in this cave.  These animal had birthed their own calves and kids into the world right in this same cave, and now this little baby is born, wrapped in swaddling clothes per the custom of the day, then laid down in their feeding trough for a crib.  Is this not at least a little bit strange?

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Stranger still – this little baby laid down in a feeding trough would grow up to say things like  “Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst….I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”….So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.” John 6:35, 51, 53-56 ESV.  Picture now the bread of life laid in a manger, a feeding trough.   Christ does not save us by killing our enemies but by offering us his own body and his own shed blood and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!

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God does not hate mankind. He’s kindly inclined toward mankind in his own pleasure, but he wants to save us from our ways of death.

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The Gospel of Christ came into a world that already had a gospel.  The world already had the Gospel of Caesar, specifically Caesar Augustus.  The Roman Senate had already declared him savior of the world because of the great peace he had brought into the world.  There was talk as to whether to split time into B.C. (Before Caesar) and A.D. based upon his birth and life.  Yes he had brought peace, the Pax Romana, the peace of Rome.  But as the historian Tacitus had noted, there were  complaints that Rome “created a desert and calls it peace.”  The Roman army would show up to a new territory, and announce that they were here to bring peace.  Some might reply “we already have peace!”   To which Romes response was, “yes, but it’s not our peace!”   They would seize territory, impose taxes, and carry the best from that territory back to Rome.   If some so happened to resist, they would be killed, creating peace!   Amen!!??

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Christ does not save us by killing our enemies but by being born in a manger, offering his flesh as food, teaching us to love our enemies and be radically forgiving.  He then lives out his own teaching all the way through allowing himself to tortured and crucified upon the cross.  It is upon the cross that Christ judges the world, it is as he cries out Father forgive them that the ugliness of human sin lies bare for all to see.   Christ naked and dying upon the cross paradoxically shines the brightest light upon the systems of sin which have been in place since the foundation of the world.

Dark-Rainy-Night-Wallpaper

It’s time to speak plainly.  We are a violent species.  Violence is our most diabolical source of systemic evil.  It just seems keep going on forever and forever.  From Cain killing Abel, to Pharaoh Ramses Tutmosis, to Alexander the Great, to Caesar Augustus, to Auschwitz, to Hiroshima, to 9/11, to Sandy Hook, to Lax Vegas, to MS13, to your own street corner on a dark rainy night.

war is over

In the past 5000 years, there have been approximately 14500 wars killing 3.5 billion people.  Born on Christmas Day, laid in a manger, the Prince of Peace offers a better way, if we will dare.  As the John Lennon Christmas anthem puts it, War is over, if you want it.

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The 20th century will be known as the century we finally perfected the technology of killing.  Meanwhile, Jesus waits for us.   Since the end of WWII over 23 million more have been killed in war.  Wars around the world have created tens of millions of refugees.  90% of those casualties have been civilians, 3 out of 4 of these have been women and children.  And the angels continue to sing “Peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled….the herald angels sing “glory to the newborn king!””

savior

We currently have over 19000 nuclear weapons in the world.  That’s enough to destroy the human race 20 times over.  It’s time to get on the Jesus train.  It’s time to seriously consider following the Prince of Peace into a new way of being human.   “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 

“In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.”

Luke 2:1-16 ESV

http://bible.com/59/luk.2.1-16.esv

John Lewis

For Unto Us A Child is Born

Going to be in Luke Chapter 2, but before going to Bethlehem, we are going to step even farther back to a time 7 centuries earlier, to a time as far removed from the coming of Christ as we are from the Middle Ages.  We are going to hear the words of a poet, a poet known a prophet, the prophet Isaiah, son of Amoz.  What does this poet prophet have to say?

“And they will look to the earth, but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish. And they will be thrust into thick darkness.” Isaiah 8:22 ESV  “But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil.” Isaiah 9:1-3 ESV.   This is essential to setting the scene for Luke Chapter 2, the coming of our Lord.  But poets, especially poets from 27 centuries ago, can be obscure and hard to understand.

What Isaiah is doing is describing a time and place held in darkness and gloom. He’s describing a place held in contempt.  But out of this place something good is going to come.  In this place of darkness will be seen a great light.  He’s describing the  land of the Hebrew tribes Zebulon and Naphtali.  He’s describing what we know in the New Testament as Galilee of the Gentiles.  Also called the Via Maris – the way of the sea.  This is a famous ancient road, also known as the way of war.  It was the road the armies of the world would march up and down to do battle.

Israel a unique place.  It is a place where 3 continents, Asia, Africa, and Europe come together.   Armies might stream from Africa to make war their enemies,  or Asia, or Europe.  They would always come through the land of Zebulon and Naphtali, Galilee if the Gentiles, the way of war.

April 16, 1457 BC…the first recorded battle in human history.  There had been many before, but this is first one to written down with the  particulars recorded for human history.  Pharaoh Tuthmosis III marched 12,000 soldiers up the Via Maris, and marched upon Canaanite city of Megiddo.  He wanted to control the spice trade, it would be good for his economy (of course).   He marches upon the city-state of Megiddo.  The battle was waged in the valley below, Har-Megiddo.  We know it as Armageddon.  We think it’s where the last battle will be waged, but it’s also where the first battle occurred, and many more since.   It is a land held in contempt.  War after war after war has been waged on this site.  Archaeological digs find layer after layer of ruins as the city gets destroyed in war, gets rebuilt, destroyed, rebuilt.  I’ve heard it’s been destroyed and rebuilt as many as 26 specific times in history?   Even the last battle of WWI occurred right here at Har-Megiddo, or as it’s known in Greek, Armageddon.

One particular time, Pharaoh Neco was marching his armies through, and good King Josiah just got tired of it.  He had had enough of the armies marching through his land, eating all their sheep, drinking their wine, making off with their women.  So he goes out, declares to Pharaoh that he’s not coming through here.  Pharaoh says “Yes I am!”   Josiah says “no you’re not!”   And good King Josiah died right there, along with the armies of Judah, at the hand of Pharaoh, who marched on to war with the Assyrians.  Dies right there, read about in 2 kings 23, even better in 2 chronicles 35, right there at Megiddo, in the land of contempt.   War after war comes through, Armageddon is right in center of the land.

What is Armageddon?  Armageddon is nothing but a battlefield.  Armageddon is never inevitable, it’s never unavoidable unless we do as in Revelation 16.  “And I saw, coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs. For they are demonic spirits, performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty. (“Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!”) And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.”

Revelation 16:13-16 ESV. If we listen to the wrong voices, demonic voices like those three frogs, if we listen to that dragon, the beast of empire, and the false prophets.  If we listen to the Satan, the empire, if we listen to the propaganda of the false prophet we are always on our way to the next Armageddon.   Or as we might say, on our way to Waterloo.  On our way to Gettysburg, Flanders Field, on our way to Omaha beach…

Armageddon never unavoidable, there is another way.  That’s what the prophet wants to tell us about.  We sing the Christmas carols, we know the words, we know the story.

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.  The prophet is imagining a time in the future.  He’s in a land of darkness, in the land of war, in the land of galilee.  He’s in the land of Armageddon. But out of that darkness a light will shine.

You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil. For the yoke of his burden, and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire.   Imagine living in this land.  This land of war.  All the centuries, all the soldiers boots marching across it, through it, on their way to the next conquest.  All these boots, all those bloodied garments are about to be thrown in the fire, they are about to be unnecessary, unneeded, because out of the darkness is coming a great light.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. 

So that’s where that comes from!   This verse just always just appears to come from nowhere, out of context.  But it’s out of the boots of the tramping warriors , out of all those uniforms bloodstained by war which will be fuel for fire, out of centuries of endless war, for unto us a child is born. 

For unto us a child is born, a child who will stop the tramping of soldiers boots, end the endless string of bloodied uniforms.

For unto us a child is born, he will be called…Prince of peace. So said the prophet seven centuries before Luke Chapter 2.

“But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil. For the yoke of his burden, and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.”

Isaiah 9:1-7 ESV

http://bible.com/59/isa.9.1-7.esv

King of Kings

Elizabeth and Mary live in a world run by the ruthless and strong.  Augustus Caesar sits on the imperial throne in Rome, Herod the Great sits on the throne in Jerusalem.  They are brutal tyrants running the world as they want, as they see fit, to their own advantage.  But Mary and Elizabeth believe that God is about to act to establish a new way of running the world that will put the bullies out of business and finally give the meek a chance.

The time was during the Pax Romana. The Peace of Rome. This was just a euphemism, imperial propaganda.  It was a time of peace and a booming economy FOR ROME.  Maybe you have heard the phrase, all roads lead to Rome.  Yes, all roads lead to Rome so they could plunder the world and take all the loot back to Rome   It was a time of peace and prosperity gained through conquest and looting.  It is not the way of God and Mary knows it.  This little 14 year old revolutionary knows that this is not the way of God so she dares to prophesy that God is about to act and do something about it.

Mary’s song is in keeping with the long tradition of the Hebrew prophets.  You know the Hebrew prophets.  They were mostly poets and songwriters of sorts who would write subversive poetry.  They would look at the world, see something wrong, and write what we would call protest songs about what was wrong in the world. Then they would offer imagination of what it will be like when God intervenes, when God turns injustice into justice, when God flips the tables, flips the script, and puts the brutal bullies and tyrants out of business and gives those on the ash heap of society a chance.  That’s Amos, Obadiah, and Habakkuk.  That’s Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel.  That’s who the Hebrew prophets were and what they did.

One thing we struggle to understand is that prophecy is not primarily a prediction of future events.  Despite the billion dollar industries created around end time prophecy, despite the millions being made by those peddling end times prophecy as a predictor of 21st century political events, this is not the primary purpose of prophecy.   Prophecy is  primarily a critique of present structures with an alternative vision for the future.  Prophesy says this is what’s wrong with the world with a vision for how God can set it right.  This is why prophecy tends to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.  Some are comforted, some are not, depends on where we are on current global scale.  If you are in Bangladesh, or Mogadishu, or Haiti, you might here a prophecy about the world being turned upside down and the last being first and the first being last and scream out “I like this prophet!  Let me hear more of how this script is going to change and I’ll be given a chance!”   But if you’re in a Manhattan skyscraper, or a Capitol Hill condo, or even a Southern Maryland subdivision sitting on your recliner and your PJs drinking coffee with your feet up, you might not be so excited.  You might think “Hey, maybe we can tweak some things, we’re not perfect, but we don’t need to totally rethink everything.  First last, last first?  Let’s not go too crazy here!

This is why a year later Mary and David run for their lives.  If your saying the mighty king  will be cast down and the weak and powerless lifted up, those mighty ones might fight back.   “That prophecy says what?

So the angel comes again to Joseph – “Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.”” Matthew 2:13 ESV.  Rise, don’t wait ‘til morning.

“Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.””

Matthew 2:16-18 ESV. There is heard a wailing in Ramah.  Rachel weeping, mourning the loss of her children.  Babies being slaughtered also part of the Christmas story.

Jesus was born into a world where innocents are too often slaughtered, from Bethlehem to New Town to Columbine to Sandy Hook.  He was sent to this world where our innocents are so often slaughtered to save us from our ways of death.

Look at Mary’s prophecy again.  First shes prophesying her own blessing, which her cousin Elizabeth had also declared.  My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.  Then it’s like a movie where the camera pans back to the wider world.  He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.

Mary is standing in whole company of Israel.   She represents here the whole of people of Israel, the lowly servant of lord through whom salvation is born.

How does this happen?  Mary prophesies that big changes are coming.  She prophesies revolution.  The poor and humble will be lifted up.  The mighty and powerful will be toppled.  The poor and hungry will be satisfied, the rich sent away.  This is radical.  It will get the death squads sent out into the districts.

How is it to be accomplished?  Will it be done by chopping the heads of the bad guys?  That’s what everyone thought.  When u say everyone, i mean everyone. Mary, John the Baptist, Zechariah, Elizabeth, the Pharisees, Caiaphas, Pilate.  They all thought Jesus would do the revolutionary thing and start chopping heads.  We need to chop the heads and kill the bad guys so that the world can be set right and we can be on top.

But when Jesus starts his ministry and does something truly revolutionary, preaching “love your enemies” and “pray for those who persecute you”, nobody could understand what was going on.  The could not believe it.

John the Baptist, for one, stops leaping.  Remember how he leaped in his mother’s womb?  Remember how John was the one to declare “There is the lamb if God who takes away the sin of the world.  There’s the Messiah”.  Well, John doesn’t get it, he stops leaps, stops shouting.  He sends messengers to ask   “”…Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”” Matthew 11:3 ESV.  Even his mother would basically ask him “are you crazy?

Mary’s prophecy is about the reign of god that her son is about to bring into the world.  When this happens, the proud, the powerful, the rich will not be given their accustomed positions of privilege.  They are used to being in charge, setting the rules of the game.  Ever been playing a game and been suspicious someone is setting the rules of the game their advantage?

Sometimes it seems the whole world is like this.  The proud, powerful and rich have a sense of entitlement that we are the ones.  We play the game but we always win.  But in Mary’s prophecy the proud, powerful, and rich are not given their accustomed position of privilege.

Who actually opposed Jesus?  The proud, powerful, the rich.  The proud Pharisees – “we know the Bible and we know who’s in and who’s out.   We definitely know that we are in and you are out.

The powerful – the Sadducees, the ones ran temple, the priestly class.   They have a great center of power in the temple.   But Jesus protests their temple.

The rich – the Herodians and Hasmoneans, those for whom the present  arrangement was very advantageous, they were very happy with the status quo, thank you very much.  These all fought Jesus.

Who flocked to Jesus?  Lepers, the moral outcasts, tax collectors, the sick, the poor, prostitutes,  sinners.  The ones who had always been left out, left on the bottom and shunned, these are drawing near to Jesus. The great reversal is occurring.  The rich and powerful are fighting Jesus, but they are toppling and falling.  The poor and the sick…suddenly they are being lifted up and it’s happening before our very eyes, the new kingdom is coming.

These humble and hungry are blessed in Jesus sermon on the mount – the poor, mourning, the meek, the persecuted, the merciful, the pure,  the hungry the peacemakers.  Mary’s song and Jesus’ beatitudes pretty much say the same thing.  There has been a seismic shift in world.

To do justice for poor sick and oppressed is now a requirement for rulers of this world.  Jesus judges whole world right now.  Consciously or unconsciously we compare every ruler, every president, every prime minister to Jesus.  He really is king.  He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, president of presidents, prime minister of prime ministers.   If they don’t act justly and care for the weak, the sick, the poor as Jesus would we tell them it’s time to go, they get voted out of office, revolutions break out.  It’s the seismic shift the coming  of Christ into the world brings.

“In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.” And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home.”

Luke 1:39-56 ESV

http://bible.com/59/luk.1.39-56.esv

John Lewis