The Last Word

The Last Word

The Book of Revelation.  The last book of the canon of scripture.  Chapter 1, verse 1 begins “The revelation of Jesus Christ…“.  “Of” here carries a double meaning.  It is the revelation about Jesus Christ, and it is the revelation from Jesus Christ.   He is the content, the subject, of the revelation, and the agent of the revelation.  As Eugene Peterson puts it, “Jesus Christ is the way in which God reveals himself to us; Jesus Christ is also God himself being revealed to us.”

As such, we need to understand that revelation is not given to be information about the broken world we live in.  It is not a report about the persecution of the church in the first century, and it’s certainly, ABSOLUTELY, not chiming in about all the geopolitical events of the 21st century.  Anything regarding past and future evens in revelation are only given because they are useful in revealing Christ to us.  Because the Revelation is nothing if not focused on Jesus Christ.

Martin Luther disagreed with this statement.  In fact, brother Luther wanted to remove Revelation from the Bible altogether.  Martin considered revelation to be “neither apostolic or prophetic…I can in no way detect that the Holy Spirit produced it…they are supposed to be blessed who keep what is written in this book; and yet no one seems to know what that is, to say nothing of keeping it…Christ is neither taught nor known in it.”

All of which did not prevent him from using the revelation to prove the pope was the antichrist.  The same pope who, in turn, used revelation to prove that Martin Luther was the antichrist.  The same antichrist who, by the way, is not mentioned in the book of revelation.  Anywhere.

But I digress.  Like I said, Revelation is nothing if not focused on Jesus Christ (despite the objections of Martin Luther).  It may be hard to maintain this focus through all the symbolism and topics flashing at us (especially for our ADHD, instant gratification minds), but it is the only way to read the Revelation with any degree of sanity.  In fact, the only way to read any scripture rightly is in subjugation to Jesus Christ.  If Christ is not the center of it all, then our Holy Bible is little more than an encyclopedia of religion, with no more plot than a phone book.

Without Christ as the center, all the individual stories and words of the Bible are just out there.   So we have a talking snake, floating axe heads, a snake on a pole, strange rules strangely repeated like the law not to boil a kid in its mothers milk.  We have seemingly pointless genealogies at random points, which we need for what??   We have the thundering “Thus saith the Lord!” moments.  We have some of the favorite sayings of Christ himself –  “you are salt of the earth…and the light of the world“, “Enter by the narrow gate“, or “Do unto others..“.  We have Paul’s paradoxes  – “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”   We have Paul’s stirring conclusions – “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” or “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”   AMEN!!

So, what does it all mean??  What do we make of the information, all the stories, this mass of material we call our bible??  By this time, we can be completely confused and bewildered.  This is where the revelation steps in.

Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters.    We turn the page and find the magnificent Christ described in such a way that everything is imaginatively subordinated to him.  He was suggested, anticipated, prayed for and promised in the ancient Hebrew scriptures.  He’s been presented in the Gospels, taught and preached in the epistles.  If we are careful and maintain our focus, we could have held true to our awareness throughout of Jesus the Christ.  But we don’t read carefully and maintain our focus.  Instead, we argue about predestination, we theorize about atonement.  We count miracles and worry about grammar and style.  Then we come to Revelation and we are startled out of all our tangential arguments and diversions.  Everything that was said before is brought back into proportion.  Christ himself is the last word.  He was and is the word made flesh, John brings us back on track, brings Him back into focus.  We’ve been climbing the mountain but we’ve lost our way.  We are climbing, seeking after Christ, but we’ve lost sight of the guideposts along the way.  John brings the path back into focus, and clears the brush for us.  A mountain peak determines all the preparations and the path climbers take to reach it, even when it’s still out of sight.  The peak is always the goal toward which everything was aimed.  The Revelation gives us the last word on Christ, and this word is that Christ is the center and at the center.  He is the mountaintop we are seeking throughout the mountain of scripture.

Keeping Christ at the center can be difficult.  We get lost along the way, and other things find their way to the front.  The golden rule, our doctrines of atonement, the Ten Commandments,  justification, diagrams and explanations of the trinity, denouncing the wicked.  We know all along that Christ is one to be reckoned with, but we forget that he at the center of all, filling all things with himself.

So what is Christ, who is he, and how will he be presented to hold onto this centrality?  John is commanded by the trumpet voice and describes him as one like a son of man.  This phrase originates in the vision of Daniel – I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.   Jesus, the Son of Man, is a commanding, all powerful, redeeming, glorious figure! We want to manage him, keep him in his box, but he will not be managed.  We go along with, we believe in, we teach Jesus as a piece of the puzzle for our own private lives, a private decision to be kept out of the public space.  We believe in a secularized, managed-for-our-own-purposes Jesus.  But he will not be managed.  He does not fit nice and tidy into our little shoebox.

In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this. As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.  The word from the word, coming forth like a sharp two edged sword, searching hearts, judging rebels, and slaying sinners.  BUT, the word tells us Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.   He is the first and the last, the alpha and the omega.  He is the word, slaying sinners with a spoken word like a two edged sword so they can then be resurrected into newness of life with Him.  He died, yet he is alive forevermore, and he holds the keys to death and Hades.   He is “...the firstborn of the dead…” Revelation 1:5 ESV.   Because he went ahead of us we can Fear noteven death, because He has conquered it forever.

He does not live in our acrostics.  He’s not a part of our self help plans, he’s not contained by our 12 step programs.  He migh meet you on a Roman road, but he does not live there.  We can’t keep sinners from his table, because no matter how hard we try he just keeps calling out and inviting them.  He is the one who sits, eats, and drinks with sinners.  He doesn’t care about atonement theories, He just forgives sins and sinners.  He doesn’t argue about justification, He justifies.

He is the Son of Man, to him is given dominion and glory and a kingdom.  He is the beginning and the end, the firstborn of all creation, the firstborn of the dead.  He is the first word of creation, and the last word of Revelation.  He made all things, all things were made through Him.  In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, and no, the darkness has not overcome it.  “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14 ESV.

“Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this. As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.”

Revelation 1:12-20 ESV

http://bible.com/59/rev.1.12-20.esv

“”I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.”

Daniel 7:13-14 ESV

http://bible.com/59/dan.7.13-14.esv

John Lewis

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The Price of Admission

The Price of Admission

man of sorrows

He was despised and rejected— a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care.

world of hurt

We inhabit a world of hurt.  Pain is an ever present possibility.  Grief stalks us.  We are haunted by the specter and possibility of sorrow.  We know it can strike at any moment.  This reality is not restricted to third world nations, it is not present only for those living under violent dictatorships and backward regimes.

This IS the human condition.  Pain is no respecter of persons.  It comes to all of us.  Most people know this instinctively.  And most, at least to some degree, accept it.

very powerful

But there are three kinds of people who struggle with the real occurrence of pain in this life.  These are the very rich, the very powerful, and the very religious.  There are people in this world, perhaps you are aware, that believe that if you have enough power, enough money, and/or the right religion, you can mostly avoid pain in this life.

very powerful 2

Throughout history, the rulers and citizens of the richest and most powerful nations have been especially susceptible to this particular line of propaganda.  With enough money, enough might, and the right kind of religion, we might be able to get out of this thing alive.  Rich and powerful nations feel as though it is their birthright to live above the pain and sorrow that falls upon the rest.   We just need a big economy, a big army, and a big God on our side.  Get enough gold, guns and God, and you can avoid all pain.

I sit as a queen

This is nothing new.   This is exactly what the rulers and citizens of the Roman Empire thought.  This is what John the revelator mocks in Revelation 18 – ‘I sit as a queen, I am no widow, and mourning I shall never see.’ Revelation 18:7 ESV.  But of course she sees mourning, it’s all just empty propaganda.  The Romans sat on top of the world, the playground bully, they believed pain and suffering were for the rest of the world, to be doled out by themselves upon others as necessary, but never for them to suffer through.   The problem is, they were still left with their own real world hurts and real world pain, but their own propaganda added the additional burden of keeping up appearances…

big economy

Modern Americans are tempted to believe the same propaganda, and propaganda it is.  We have a big economy, big guns, and a big God on our side, Amen!   Things should be different HERE.  We are, after all, the wealthiest, the most powerful, and one of the most religious nations on earth.  But, unfortunately, that is no guarantee (and we do like our guarantees).  But there is no guarantee that tomorrow we won’t face a terminal diagnosis, financial ruin, crushing bereavement, bitter betrayal, personal rejection, or some other event that can cause us to take up residence in the house of pain.

big god

Understand this – the idea that if you can become rich enough, powerful enough, and religious enough then you can make it through this life without pain is a pernicious lie.  We try to live without pain, do all we can to avoid pain.  But to try to be without pain is to attempt to be superhuman, and when we attempt to be superhuman, we wind up being less than human.  We wind up as less than human because those that use power, wealth and religion to avoid pain only end up inflicting that pain on other people.

Syria

Look at what happened in Syria a couple of years ago.  A powerful man who wanted to avoid all pain, inflicting it en masse on others.  How about the financial crisis of 2008?  Very, very rich people acting very irresponsibly in an attempt to avoid pain.  And we don’t even need to start talking about how much pain religion can and has inflicted upon the world.

Las-Vegas-shooting

Or how about the Vegas gunman?  An extreme example, but the last article I read about him talked about how, for the past two years, he had been on a bad losing streak in the high stakes gambling rooms and had lost much of his wealth.  He was at a point where he was about to feel the pain of the loss of his status with family and in those high stakes gambling rooms.   A pain he was not prepared to bear, and so 59 people had to die and hundreds more severely injured and otherwise scarred.  I know, it makes no sense, but the portrait we have is of a man who couldn’t bear even that pain of losing his image.  That burden of keeping up appearances

The-Passion-of-the-Christ-1

Look at the passion of Jesus Christ.  Here you had the whole gathering of the very rich, the very powerful, and the very religious.  Pontius Pilate had the military might of the worlds most powerful army.  King Herod was the wealthiest man on earth.  Then there was Joseph Caiaphas, the high priest, at the top of the great religion of the world.  It was these three who were directly involved in the crucifixion of the Christ, it was these three who controlled the money, the guns, and the temple.  And their whole lives , not just in relation to Jesus, were spent dealing out pain to others to insure they never had to experience pain themselves.

superhuman

Attempts to live without pain do not make us superhuman, they make us subhuman.  When we try to be inhuman, we wind up inhumane.   Because pain is the price of admission…

desspised and rejected

In a meditation on the nation of Israel and the expected Messiah, Isaiah wrote He was despised and rejected— a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.   We know this now to be a vision of Jesus.   The word made flesh, God incarnate.  He came and joined us in our humanity, pain and all.   He did not come and take up a partial share in what it means to be human, he took a full share.  He was fully immersed in all that it means to be human, pain and all.   Because pain is the price of admission.

AdmitOne

The price of admission to what??  It is the price of admission to life, to existence, to being.  It’s the price of admission to being real, authentic beings.

Baby being born via Caesarean Section

Have you ever seen a newborn baby?   Not a week old newborn, not even an day old, but two minutes old?   It’s our welcome into this world, but sometimes the poor baby looks like they’ve been in a fight.  Because they have.  We cry tears, but they are tears of joy, because it’s a joyous thing, the birth of a baby.  We want to cry out “Welcome to the world!!”  But the baby just wants to cry out.  Because pain is the price of admission.

pain

It is a traumatic experience, being born.  Maybe that’s why it’s the picture Jesus paints for fellow rabbi Nicodemus in John chapter 3, that you have to be born again to see the kingdom of God, because sometimes rethinking a lifetime of knowing can be a traumatic experience.   But as we say to the newborn baby, welcome to our world!!  The introduction is pain.   Because if there is no possibility of pain, there are no possibilities at all.

Think about this – if you take away all possibilities of pain, then you take away all possibilities.  For God to create beings in his own image involves real risk.  It’s the risk inherent with freedom.  The freedom to be real, authentic beings, the freedom of real choices in life.

let there be

In the beginning, God said “Let there be…”.  And he created the stars and the sky and the light.  He created the seas and the land.  He created the plants and the animals, but something was missing.  There was creation, but it was a creation which, maybe, was missing something.  So then God says “Let us make…man in our own image,”  now He has risked something.   Because God made man, creatures, in His own image and yet distinct from Him.

image of god

He made man, created beings with true freedom, real choices, and now there is the real possibility of sin and death, pain and suffering.  God always knew this was the chance he was taking, but He made us anyway.  Not only did He create man in His own image, making possible for pain and suffering to enter the world, but He comes and meets us in that world right at the intersection of pain and suffering…

every tear

But there is a hope, after all.  As Christians, we do have a great hope for the world, do we not??  “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.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new…””  Revelation 21:4-5 ESV.  Christ will come again.  This is our hope.  It is what we confess by faith.  There will be no more pain, no more mourning, no more sorrow, and all things will be made new.

all thing made new

So, how will this happen?  How will all things be made new, and now mankind, with all of our freedom and authenticity, be able to live in that freedom and authenticity without pain??   I don’t know.  I don’t know how the plans and purposes of God are being and will be played out.  But this is what I hope and believe will ultimately happen.

risk

But why risk in the first place?   Why do we take risks?  Why did God risk making us in His own image?    What risk is acceptable?  Do we really even want to live in a world without pain and without risk?   Do we want to live in a world where we could all just live as couch potatoes, fingers on the remote, doing nothing but eating potato chips and drinking beer, then step on a plane, fly to Nepal and scale Mt Everest without any problems?   Seriously, is that even worth it?  Again, without the possibility of pain, are there any possibilities at all?

traumatic

We live in a world where the former things have not yet passed away, of that I am sure.  Maybe we are only in the first stage.   Maybe this first stage was always necessary, something mankind had to go through to get to where God wants us to be in our journey.

christ

The great Christian mystic Julian of Norwich once said “First the fall, and then the recovery from the fall, and both are the mercy of God…” Sometimes (maybe every time), we have to fall down before we can look up.  But those of us who have fallen, if we can stay the course and not jump off the ship when we feel it sinking, can look back and say “It was good to fall in the first place.

We have hope for our world beyond hurt.  But we are not there yet.  It is pain that remains the price of admission into God’s good creation.   We do cry tears of joy at the birth of an infant even though we know that baby has just been through a traumatic experience – with many more to come.

“He was despised and rejected— a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care.”

Isaiah 53:3 NLT

http://bible.com/116/isa.53.3.nlt

“As she glorified herself and lived in luxury, so give her a like measure of torment and mourning, since in her heart she says, ‘I sit as a queen, I am no widow, and mourning I shall never see.’”

Revelation 18:7 ESV

http://bible.com/59/rev.18.7.esv

John Lewis

Out of the Storm


I’m going to be continuing and expanding on my message yesterday for the next few days, expanding upon some of the questions and answers I used for examples in showing how Jesus might “mess with” and disrupt some of our theological “systems”, how we look and think about God.


The first question I asked is, does God send the storm?? No, he calms the storm!! The Bible can be read in such a way that we become convinced natural disasters are the works of God. Millions do just this. In fact, even our insurance industry has clauses in policies for “acts of God”. To be sure, every time there is a natural disaster, we will hear somebody explain it that way. A hurricane hits New Orleans. An earthquake hits Haiti. A tsunami hits Thailand.  



They were such sinners in New Orleans, God had to send those hurricane. Those people in Haiti made a pact with the devil 200 years ago, God finally just had to send that earthquake. All those Buddhists living Thailand, God just got tired of them being Buddhists so had had to do that to kill 200,000 of them.
Haven’t heard the theories about Mexico, Puerto Rico, Houston, or Florida yet, guess I haven’t been paying enough attention. We can read the Bible this way, but at best, it’s imperfect theology.

One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.” So they set out, and as they sailed he fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water and were in danger. And they went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!”
What does Jesus (the exact imprint of God’s nature) say when he’s caught in a storm? Does he say “I guess my Dad’s mad at you guys for being such sinners and all!! Fortunately, I can walk on water, so I’m going to be ok, but it sure looks like you boys are in trouble!!”?? Does he say “Father I thank you for sending this here storm to show Peter what a terrible rotten sinner he really is!!”?? NO!! He says nothing like that. The Bible tells us – And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm. He said to them, “Where is your faith?” He says “Stop it!!” to the wind and the waves, and all is quiet. He doesn’t bring the storm, he quiets the storm.

And – He said to them, “Where is your faith?” So, if you look at places like Houston, New Orleans, Mexico, Haiti, and see these great natural disasters and think about what rotten sinners all those people must have been, “Where is your faith?” What God do you believe in?? Do you believe in Jesus, who calms the storm, or do you believe in the monster God just waiting to rage on sinners so he can get his glory in our human misery. And just how do you reconcile that with God is love?




And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?”
Who is this?? He is God in the flesh, the exact imprint of God’s nature, that’s who.


“One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.” So they set out, and as they sailed he fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water and were in danger. And they went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm. He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?””

‭‭Luke‬ ‭8:22-25‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/luk.8.22-25.esv

John Lewis 

Hail Caesar!

Cäsar

Looking at Romans 13, which is really a continuation of Romans chapter 12 with a very unfortunate chapter break thrown in. Very unfortunate because it leaves Romans 13 on an island by itself, with no context, when clearly the context for chapter 13 is chapter 12, which we looked at the other day, Paul distilling for us Jesus’ teaching from the sermon on the mount.

MLK-Love-enemies
Paul goes directly from giving us Jesus teachings in his great sermon, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”, into what we know as chapter 13, but is really a continuation of Paul’s take on the sermon on the mount.

love of enemy

“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.”

caesars sword
Paul here in Romans 13 is writing about Caesar, and this passage is one of the most misunderstood and misapplied passages in all of scripture, very often with tragic consequences. Beginning a little after the Emperor Constantine, all the way through the rise and fall of Nazi Germany, and even, unfortunately, to this very day, Christians have been using (misusing) this passage, which in the writing of Paul is an extension of the Sermon in the Mount.  Many have used this not as an extension of the sermon but instead as a rebuttal to the Sermon on the Mount. Whenever we want to disagree and rebut someone using the teachings Sermon on the Mount to argue for peace and love of enemies, we turn to this writing of Paul for our rebuttal, claiming our New Testament sanction for the war and violence we so firmly believe in. But the question is, who are we rebutting when we do this? Are we rebutting the one using Jesus’ teaching, or are we rebutting Jesus?

st paul.jpg
Why do we interpret Jesus in light of what Paul has written? If we are Christians, who believe in Christ, should we not then be interpreting the writings of Paul through the lens of Jesus? After all, isn’t Jesus the one who was resurrected and vindicated by God on the third day? I am reminded here of what God himself had to say at the transfiguration of Christ. “And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.”” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭17:4‬ ‭ESV‬‬. To which God the Father had something to say. “He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭17:5‬ ‭ESV‬‬. And when the disciples could open their eyes, the only one before them was Jesus. Moses and Elijah were gone. Jesus, not Paul, is the beloved son with whom the Father is well pleased. Listen to Him. Paul does not get a tent.

PP-JesusTransfiguration_JS_0037
So when we think we see Paul overruling something we know Jesus taught us, we need to try to figure out where it is we are getting it wrong with Paul. In other words, we need to default to Jesus until we understand how and why are we misinterpreting Paul.
First of all, notice the pronoun change from chapter 12 into 13. Chapter 12 is all about “you”, chapter 13 Paul is writing about “he”. Put simply, chapter 12 is written for “you”, it’s an admonition for you. Chapter 13 is an observation upon “he”, Caesar. It is not an admonition to you as a follower of Christ. Followers of Jesus are called renounce vengeance and love their enemies ALWAYS, as taught by Jesus in his great sermon and explained by Paul in Romans 12.
Paul is, I believe, doing two things here in Romans 13. Number 1, he is endorsing the police function of the pagan empire of Rome to maintain a civil society. Make no mistake, Rome was a pagan empire, but even a pagan empire in rebellion to Christ can arrest bank robbers and keep the streets safe.

violent revolution
Number 2, more importantly, Paul is calling these Christians in Rome away from violent revolution. Violence is off the table. Violent revolution against the empire had long been a temptation of the Jewish people, don’t forget that this the time between the ascension of Christ and the destruction of the temple in AD 70. Paul here is giving the new Christians in Rome basically the same warning Jesus gave to his disciples in his Olivet discourse. The very warning against violent insurrection most of the Jews in Jerusalem did not take heed of, which resulted in the destruction of the temple and deaths of 600,000+.

nazi-germany
As Paul said, But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Caesar does not carry that sword in vain. If we embrace violence because we feel our cause is right and “just”, Caesar just may use that sword and you will suffer. Then you will be talking about the wrath of God which comes upon us, inevitably, for not following the Jesus way and instead seeking vengeance on those who have harmed us. The wrath of God which is the divine consent to our own choice to follow or not follow the path laid out for us, and the consequences thereof. Sin always carries its own punishment.

moses-and-rameses-were-raised-as-brothers-but-took-different-paths-to-become-great-leaders
Why do we hold up Romans 13 as the only place in the Bible that talks about the government? The Bible talks about the principalities and powers all the time, and it’s almost always in a dark light. Pharaoh during the Exodus. Nebuchadnezzar in Jeremiah. The parade of beastly empires in Daniel. Most clearly, Babylon, aka the Roman Empire, in the book of Revelation. These governments and empires are most often depicted as agents of the satan, not agents of God.

beheading-of-paul
And we need a little context here for what Paul is writing to these Roman Christians. Never, ever forget that Paul, the man who wrote Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God to the Romans, was himself executed by the government, in Rome, for not submitting to Roman authorities out of fidelity to Jesus Christ.

Kingdom-Not-World-AD
Jesus himself was subject to the governing authority of Pontius Pilate, but that does not mean Pilate acted justly. On Good Friday the Roman government was not acting as a servant of God but a servant of Satan. Jesus even explains to Pilate – “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”” John‬ ‭18:36‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Jesus was subject to the governing authorities in that he did not violently resist them, which is exactly what Peter and the other disciples wanted him to do. BUT – in being subject to the governing authorities Jesus shamed these principalities and powers in his crucifixion and was vindicated by God in his resurrection. This is the posture towards evil that followers of Christ are called to imitate.

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To pit Paul against Jesus, and Romans 13 against the sermon on the mount, is bad interpretation and worse Christianity. We are followers of the slaughtered and victorious lamb called (by Jesus AND Paul) to overcome evil with good.

 

John Lewis

 

The Truth Will Set You Free

The Truth Will Set You Free

the-truth-shall-set-you-free

I’ve had this ready for over a day now.  Due to the vagaries of life and my “day” job, I have not been able to take the time to post this, which is too bad because I thing it’s an important subject.  I’m going to start doing things a little different for now, and schedule my posts for 6:30 PM on a regular basis.   Maybe this will be better than just my random post times.  Also, I still have to figure out days of the week and get more regular in my postings.  Not too oversimplify, but myself and my blogging are both a work in progress.  After reading this post, many of you may not want to read my writing anymore regardless of the time or the day.  So, here goes nothing…

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Collective murder and the lies we tell ourselves about it. Lies we still need to be set free from…

truth will set you free
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Jesus is speaking here to Jews, probably Judeans, who had believed in Him. They had recently come to believe Jesus was Messiah, that he was indeed Israel’s true king. A “belief” of which Jesus seems more than a little skeptical. He says ok, If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. It’s great that you believe in me, and that you want to follow me. But if you stick with my teaching, you’re eyes will be opened up to some things you need to be made free from. These disciples were looking for a Messiah for sure. They were looking for a Messiah to lead them in their war of independence from Rome. Was Jesus the one to pick up the sword and lead them in their war, or not?? These would-be new disciples don’t handle what Jesus says to them about truth and freedom very well. They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”

out of the temple
I’m proud to be an Israelite, at least I know I’m free! Something like that, right? Jesus tells them they need to be set free, they declare that they are free!! (So just why were they looking for a Messiah, anyway?). By the time this scene is finished, this crowd would be looking to stone Jesus. So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple. So much for being new believers in Christ!
The truth Jesus was telling these believers they needed to be set free from was no bumper sticker slogan. The truth Jesus brings in John chapter 8 incites this crowd of would be disciples first to insult their Messiah, then to try to kill him.

pilate
For these Judeans coming to Jesus, the freedom they sought was political. Their truth was the same as Pilate’s truth, the power to kill. “So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?”” John‬ ‭19:10‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Their idea of freedom was that freedom came from power, especially power over their enemies. Freedom for them was a euphemism for lethal power – Pilate’s power to kill. When you have the power and the will to kill your enemies, you will be “free”. But for Jesus, freedom in the form of lethal power is not true freedom. Freedom is the liberation from sin, especially the sin of collective killing.

children of Abraham
Sound like a stretch? Here’s Jesus’ response to their declaration the they are children of Abraham. I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. This conversation has gone way off the tracks!! Remember, these are not the scribes or Pharisees that Jesus was continually at odds with. These are Jews who had begun to believe in Jesus. Also remember that they had probably either just witnessed or maybe participated in a public stoning of a woman in adultery which Jesus had stopped by putting the onus back on the individual, cutting through the demonic mob mentality that controls such scenes (Let he who is without sin…). If they were actually listening and hearing what Jesus was teaching them, they would have known killing was incompatible with the way Jesus was leading them. Jesus knows the foundation of the crowds “freedom” was violence and murder. Freedom was another word for the power to kill their enemies. The crowd says “we’re talking about freedom”. Jesus says, “no, you’re talking about killing.” Jesus was revealing a truth about themselves which this crowd is unprepared or unwilling to understand. The truth which will set them free is a truth they don’t want to know. By the end of the chapter, the crowd seeks to stone Jesus. Six months later they would cry out for his execution.
For Jesus, the truth he is showing this nationalistic crowd of Judean disciples is that freedom maintained by killing is another name for slavery. What they think makes them free actually enslaves them. They are slaves to the practice of us vs them collective killing for the sake of power and think this is freedom. For this crowd, freedom is another word for killing. For Jesus, freedom is another word for love. If these would be disciples are truly ever going to follow Jesus, to see the kingdom of God, they are truly going to have be born-again, to rethink everything they think they know. Is freedom the power to kill, or is freedom the choice to love?

i speak what i have heard
Let’s continue with what the Bible tells us here. They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. You are doing the works your father did. Jesus keeps bringing this conversation back around to killing. Does this make us uncomfortable?  This is an unpleasant subject, maybe an unpleasant passage. Do we trust that Jesus knew what he was doing or talking about here? He was trying to set us free! Think about what Jesus is saying here. This crowd repeats their assertion here that they are Abrahams children, Jesus says if they were really Abrahams children they would not be trying to kill him. Jesus says directly This is not what Abraham did. Well, what did Abraham do?

778px-Sacrifice_of_Isaac-Caravaggio_Uffizi
We know the story of Abraham, the call of God, the covenant and the promise. We know the promise fulfilled in his old age through his gathering of a family past the age of 100. But Jesus is talking about killing here, what does Abraham have to do with killing? What did Abraham do specifically that Jesus says these disciples needed to do. Abraham put down the knife. Abraham did not sacrifice his son Isaac on Mt Moriah. He abandoned the sacred violence of human sacrifice (which was normal and expected during Abrahams time).

abraham
We read and understand the story of Abraham and Isaac in a very 21st century way. We can’t get our heads around the fact that the Bible tells us God asked Abraham to sacrifice his first born son. To us, this is grotesque, abhorrent. But Abraham’s contemporaries, especially his Canaanite neighbors (he was living as a foreigner in Canaanite land) would not have seen it this way. The sacrifice of children, especially first born sons, was what the Gods required. It was part of our quid pro quo arrangement with the Gods (we still have these arrangements, don’t we?). The firstborn was offered to God to ensure future fertility. A blood sacrifice to secure future blessing. His Canaanite contemporaries may have seen it as a tragic irony that Abraham was asked in such old age to sacrifice his long awaited son, but they wouldn’t have been scandalized. The gods can be cruel. They were not to be messed with.

Sacrifice-to-Moloch
What Abraham did on Mt Moriah was revolutionary. What he did at what we erroneously call the “sacrifice” of Isaac (erroneous because Isaac was not sacrificed) was to gain the revelation that God, Yahweh, does not want human sacrifice. He put down the knife. If Abraham is the father of monotheism, he also ended human sacrifice, at least for what would become the Hebrew people. When Abraham put down the knife and offered a ram instead of his own son, humankind took a giant leap in the right direction. One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind. 

knife
Abraham abandoned killing in the name of God. This is what Jesus is talking about. This is what Abraham did. This is why Jesus is telling these would-be Judean disciples that if they were truly his disciples they would do what Abraham did and not seek to kill in the name of God.

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Jesus and these disciples are at a real impasse. The problem is that Jesus and these Judeans have such differing views of God. They are really talking about two different, competing beings. One is the Abba father of Jesus, the other is the satan. I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father. The Abba Father of Jesus is a giver and preserver of life, the father of the crowd is a killer. Jesus is pulling out all the stops to shows them that God is not as they had imagined him. God is not a killer demanding blood sacrifices. God does not sanction the slaughter of enemies. The freedom that comes from God is not power to kill, but the choice to love. Freedom is another word for what Abraham did when he put that knife down and chose not to kill his son.
Now Jesus is really about to lay down the hard truth that sets us free. You are doing the works your father did.” They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God.” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Jesus understood that he was sent by his Father to liberate humanity from false ideas about God, including the lie that God wants, requires or sanctions killing of any kind. But even would-be disciples of Christ are mostly not willing to engage in a complete reevaluation of God (be born-again) if it undermines the basic foundation of their world. This frustrates our Messiah, desperately trying to get his message across – Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word.
We, still, really do not want to hear that God wants us to rethink what it means to be free. Jesus in this debate with the Judeans repeatedly juxtaposes love and killing, showing that only one leads to true freedom. We still can not and will not hear that true freedom will never be achieved by killing our enemies. Peace on earth will never be achieved by the next war to end all wars. Because war can never end war. War can only lead to the next war. What Jesus teaches here goes against everything we’ve been taught to cherish. What Jesus is teaching is that killing in the name of freedom is just another word for being a slave to systemic sin, the systemic sin introduced by Cain right from the founding of civilization (our world).

murderer from the beginning
To which this crowd responds by insulting the messenger – We were not born of sexual immorality. In other words – we know the circumstances of your birth, at least we are not illegitimate children, like some around here! These people were just talking about following Jesus, now they are calling him ugly names. Doesn’t take long. But now Jesus speaks the whole truth to them and lets the chips fall where they may. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Jesus is pulling back the curtain on the foundations of the world. Jesus is telling these Judeans (and all who would listen throughout history) that in holding to their false violence-based freedom instead of true love-based freedom, they are of their father the devil. They were neither children of Abraham or God, but children of the devil. Jesus describes the devil as a murderer from the beginning and the father of lies. Jesus is referring here to the story of Cain and Abel.

door-blood
Satan was present in the Cain and Abel story. “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.”” ‭‭Genesis‬ ‭4:7‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Sin, the devil, was crouching at Cain’s door. This is where he got the idea, the thought, that he couldn’t be free until he imposed his will upon his brother. Cain, the tiller of the ground, could not share the land with his brother Abel, the tender of flocks. Something had to give. Cain wanted to be set free. Free from having to love his brother, having to care for his brother, having to share land and territory with his brother. His father, the devil, was crouching at his door, and Cain opened it wide and invited him in. Doing the will if his father the devil, Cain saw his brother as other, as enemy, killed him, buried the body, lied you himself and God about it, and with his hands covered with his brothers blood crying from the ground and his head full of lies, Cain founded human civilization.

the-name-of-Jesus-BRINGS-FREEDOM
To this day, this is the pattern of civilization. When problems or competition with our neighbors comes about, we call them enemies, kill them, and lie to ourselves about it. We justify our killing in the name of freedom and hide the bodies behind monuments and myths, anthems and altars. “They are not us, they are them. In the name of our rights, our land, our nation, our security, our honor, our freedom, it had to be done. They had to be killed.” We do it all in the name of freedom.
But Jesus says that kind of freedom is from the father of lies. It is precisely this satanic freedom Jesus wants to set us free from. And – it wasn’t for a bumper sticker slogan these disciples end up ready to hurl stones at the son of God. The crowd wanted to kill Jesus for uncovering the lies they tell themselves, for uncovering their very own deal with the devil.

i came from god
Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.

light-of-the-world
Jesus began this teaching by saying “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” ‭‭John‬ ‭8:12‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Jesus is free from the darkness of Cain’s system of collective murder and the lies we tell ourselves about it. Jesus is the light of the world, shining his light on the dark system of violence that lies at the foundation of the world. (“And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.” ‭‭John‬ ‭3:19‬ ‭ESV‬‬).  Unlike us, Jesus is not implicated in the human system of violence. He is untainted by the legacy of the city Cain built. It is only in the light of Christ that we can begin to recognize our complicity in violence and seek a better way.

i am the light
Jesus is completely innocent of all complicity with systemic sin. This is why he can ask the question Which one of you convicts me of sin? Jesus cannot be charged in our systems of foundational murder and the lies that cover it up. Which in and of itself guaranteed that Jesus would himself become a victim of our system. Violence can not stand in the presence of one who owes it nothing, which is why at a stoning, every one must throw a stone. Don’t participate…you might become the next victim. By not throwing a stone, you become a prophet shining a light on the collective sin. The community as a whole must either repent or stone the prophet. (O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! Matthew‬ ‭23:37‬ ‭ESV‬‬).
In the end, Jesus himself was also killed. But his death shames our whole system of what has been called “redemptive violence”. We can finally see that if we use violence as a means for achieving “justice”, we are capable of killing anyone, even murdering God himself. The killing of Jesus brings the entire evil system into the light and exposes it for what it is. (“Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out.” John‬ ‭12:31‬ ‭ESV‬‬). “Seen in the light of the resurrection, the crucifixion of Jesus demands that we once and for all renounce violence as a means for achieving just ends.” – Pastor Brian Zahnd.

jewsamaritan
The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” So much for becoming disciples and following Jesus! Now these Judeans are reduced to hurling racial slurs at Jesus, and have no hint of the irony as they accuse Jesus of having a demon. They’ve turned down the wrong path and have arrived on that dead end street of hatred and hostility. They are sprinting back into the darkness they know so well, the darkness Jesus is trying to save them from. Instead of embracing the truth that would set them free, these shoulda been disciples choose the chains of racism and witch hunts. They loved their darkness more than the light.

judgement
Jesus finishes up this friendly conversation by speaking of Abraham, in whom these Jews took much national pride. Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.” Jesus was early in his 30s at the time. I guess being the Messiah will put years on you.

I am

“So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.” They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. You are doing the works your father did.” They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God.” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.” The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge. Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?” Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.”

‭‭John‬ ‭8:31-59‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/jhn.8.31-59.esv

John Lewis

Divine Violence

the flood

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

heaven

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

createed from dust

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

alone

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

cain

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

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

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

noahs ark watermarked

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

Roman peace

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

Calvary-Cross-Pics-0508

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

shock-and-awe

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

ikon of God

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

seventy times seven

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

peace be with you

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

PEACE BE WITH YOU…

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

Genesis 6:5-8 ESV

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

John Lewis

The End of the World

The End of the World

new day

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

signs in the sun moon stars

And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.     Jesus has been teaching on the end of the temple and the temple age.   Remember how impressed his disciples were with the grandeur and beauty of the temple?   “And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!”” Mark 13:1 ESV. Well, Jesus was not as impressed.  “And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”” Mark 13:2 ESV.  Then he begins to talk of wars and tumults, tells them they will be hated because of his name.  He tells how they will be arrested, tried, dragged before councils and governors, and some would lose their lives.  He tells them not to worry, though about what to to these councils and governors, for the Holy Spirit would lead them through.  In other words, he told them what would happen throughout the book of Acts.

surrounded by armies

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

Coming-in-the-Clouds

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

fig tree

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

heaven and earth

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

jesus

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

Son-Of-God-Movie-HD-Wallpaper-06

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

DESTRUCTION-OF-JERUSALEM

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

end_of_the_world_by_alexiuss-dajaesc

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

Dream-interpretation-end-of-world-nuclear-war

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

dead are raised

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

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

End_of_the_World_-1024x640

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

God-Kingdom

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

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

But the words of Jesus Christ will not pass away.

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

Luke 21:25-33 ESV

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

John Lewis