A Prophet in His Hometown

prophet in his hometown.jpg

Back into Luke today.  After his baptism and testing in the wilderness, Jesus returns to Galilee.   He begins to preach throughout Galilee, especially around Capernaum.  After a few weeks, he finally returns to his hometown of Nazareth.  On the sabbath day he stands in the synagogue to read.

JesSynagog

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 

scripture fulfilled

This is very dramatic.  Luke presents it in a very dramatic way.  News about Jesus had been spreading.  News about Jesus had come to Nazareth well before his homecoming.  Rumor was that he might be the One, the Messiah, the liberating king.  This news was well received in Nazareth.   For the backwoods town of Nazareth to have its own hometown boy actually be the chosen king, how big would that be?

So the hometown boy they’ve heard so much about has finally returned.  As is his custom, he is in the synagogue.  He stands to read, is handed the scroll of Isaiah, and reads the passage about Messiah and the year of the lords favor.  It is a very familiar passage in that synagogue.

Jesus-in-Synagogue

And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth – yes, it’s what you’re thinking.  Yes, I am Messiah.  I am the one.  Jesus gives a thinly veiled acknowledgement that, yes, he is the Messiah.  This was very well received, they were all speaking well of him, there was much excitement in the air.

throw jesus from a cliff

But within an hour, before the day was over, the people of Jesus’ own hometown would try to throw him off a cliff.  These same people in the synagogue, who know Jesus and Jesus knows them, who are speaking so well of him and marveling at the gracious words he is saying, will turn on Jesus and try to throw him off a cliff.  Why the quick change??

spirit of the lord is upon me

There is a hint of why they change tone so quickly in how Jesus reads the passage from Isaiah 61.    The full passage reads “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord ‘s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God…” Isaiah 61:1-2 ESV.  Jesus stopped mid sentence.  He didn’t finish the sentence.  Jesus omits the part of about the vengeance of our god.   They didn’t get that, they missed it, but it was a hint at what going to go wrong.

vengeanceof god

What was Jesus saying in not saying something?  He’s saying – I’m going to proclaim the favor of god, but not the vengeance of god.  Notice how Isaiah 61 says it-  the day of vengeance of our God…  The implication is clear.  God is on our side.  He’s going to take vengeance, but not on us. He’s going to take vengeance on those who don’t have our god.  The dominant vision of Messiah was that of a payback messiah. Messiah was to be an agent of God’s payback, God’s smack down, God’s vengeance.

We have in American culture, mainly through cinema, the ingrained concept of hero justice.  Clint Eastwood, John Wayne, Bruce Willis, Matt Damon, and the rest.  They come riding onto the scene with payback, they turn the tables, they get vengeance, set things straight, and smack down those who need smacking down.  We get excited over this, we will pay good money to see this storyline time and again.  We believe in payback…

judah macabbee

Two hundred years before earlier, about 167 BC, the Jewish people were oppressed by the Greek Syrians.  They were forcing the Jewish people to become Hellenistic, to adopt Greek culture.  They were being forced to do things like sacrifice pigs, eat pork, etc.  There was at the time a righteous priest named Mattathias from Modi’in who resisted and was executed.   As he was being executed, he cries out You shall rally around you all who observe the law, and avenge the wrong done to your people.  1 Maccabees 2:67

His son Judah was there, heard the cry of his father for vengeance, and led a revolution.   Judah brought the hammer down on those Greek Syrians, and earned the nickname “Judah the Hammer”, or as he’s known to history, Judah Maccabaeus.   “The  Hammer” brought the hammer, and in so doing became the prototype of Messiah.  This is what messiah would,  could, and should do, be another greater Judah Maccabaeus , and exact the vengeance of our god.
Judah-Maccabee

Judah Maccabaeus was a national hero.  They celebrated holidays in his name.  They felt about him much as we Americans feel about George Washington.

Fast forward again two hundred years.  The gentile Greek Syrians still lived about forty miles north of Nazareth.  The Jews still hated them.  And so these in Jesus’ hometown, how they longed for the day of the vengeance of our god against those Gentiles.

Jesus had grown up with these people, he knew the people in Nazareth. He really knew them.  He knew how they felt.  He knew they were good people, but he also knew how they hated.   He knew the nationalistic vision of their god.  He knew how they hated their enemies, and how they wanted messiah to once again bring the hammer down.

But Jesus was not just Messiah,  but also a  prophet.  He’s a prophet speaking to his own hometown, and that’s hard.

2nd temptation

And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘”Physician, heal yourself.” What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.'” And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. 

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Jesus knew they wanted to see miracles, to do tricks, to show them who he was.  But he’s already overcome that  second temptation, the temptation to spectacle.

Jesus didn’t want to do tricks or perform miracles on demand in his hometown.  He does want to speak as a prophet.  But he knows it’s almost impossible to be a prophet to his hometown.  Why?   Because the prophet always challenges us versus them thinking.  So when the hometown hears one of their own challenging the idea that god is on our side, they will turn.  Watch how Jesus speaks to them…

Elijah

But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”

Jesus rehashes and repeats two stories from the Old Testament, one from Elijah and one from Elisha.  These are two miracles by God from two of the most beloved prophets from the Hebrew Scriptures.  Two miracles, not for Jews but for Gentiles.  Even a miracle for the general of Syrian army, the leader of those who had brought great harm upon the Jewish people.

Naaman the Syrian

Specifically, these two Gentiles were from the same people the great national hero Judah Maccabaeus had brought the hammer down upon, the Greek Syrians.   They are waiting for Jesus to do the same.  But in reading his job description this day in the synagogue, Jesus leaves out the vengeance

In their lust for revenge Jesus refuses to cooperate.  Jesus is revealing that God is not vengeful.  We think God is vengeful against people we want to be vengeful against.  But God doesn’t want to take the hammer to or take vengeance upon our enemies, he wants to bless them, he wants to heal them, he wants to show them favor…

gods-wrath

This is like telling crusaders, God is on the side of Muslims too.  Or telling 1950’s Americans that God on side of those Russians too.  Or telling Israeli’s that God on side of Palestinians, too.  Or telling 2018 Americans that God is in the side of all those immigrants, refugees, maybe even on the side of ISIS…

This is very radical, even dangerous.  How dangerous?  All are filled with wrath

When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, he went away.

After this episode, Jesus speaks in parables for the rest of his ministry.  Until, of course, he speaks openly again in the last week of his ministry and gets himself killed.

The easiest way to produce unity and sense of belonging among people is to share a common enemy, a common hatred.  To revile a common enemy and believe god hates them because we hate them.  The easiest way to unite a people is to share a common vengeance.

Why was Jesus attacked by his hometown?  Because he broke with solidarity of “us versus them”.  Their solidarity was that we are the people who hate those people up north.  We celebrate  holidays of the man who brought the hammer down.   We can’t wait for God to bring the hammer down again.  They believed in a just God, a God who would make all things right.   They believed that part of making things right had to include bringing the hammer down on those Gentiles up north.  They believed in a payback Messiah.  They believed in the vengeance of their God.

And any Messiah not interested in their bringing their vengeance was no Messiah at all.  When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, he went away.

“And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘”Physician, heal yourself.” What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.'” And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, he went away.”

Luke 4:16-30 ESV

http://bible.com/59/luk.4.16-30.esv

John Lewis

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Means and Ends

Means and Ends

Temptations-of-Jesus-2.jpgOoops, thought I had published this days ago…

After Jesus was baptized, he then was led by the spirit into the wilderness of prayer and fasting.  Jesus about to begin his ministry of announcing and enacting the kingdom of god.  During this forty days, Jesus is contemplating the nature of both his ministry and the nature of the Kingdom of God he’d be establishing.    While contemplating his ministry which would soon begin, Jesus faces three temptations.  In these temptations, Jesus was tempted to go about his ministry in the wrong way, to establish the kingdom of god on the wrong foundation.  Remember what he taught about foundations – “”Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”” Matthew 7:24-27 ESV

matthew7-25

The first temptation Jesus faced was the temptation to base the kingdom on bread.  The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”   You might say this is the liberal temptation, to merely address the material needs of mankind.  It’s a temptation to reduce the faith to a socioeconomic agenda.  These things need to be addressed, but Jesus saw it as a temptation to simply address the material needs of man.  Bread is good, bread is necessary.  But people will sell their very souls for a piece of bread.  But this still leaves that God shaped hole in the middle of our soul.  With the word of god he resisted that temptation.  And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.'”

man_shall_not_live_by_bread

The second temptation was the temptation to spectacle.   And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'”   Just do a sign, prove who you are!!   This is the empiricist temptation, to persuade by empirical proof, to do away with faith by simply proving everything.  Jesus resisted that because he realized that was to put God to the test, And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”   He resisted that and left room for faith.

Jesus would later tell of the sign he would give – “When the crowds were increasing, he began to say, “This generation is an evil generation. It seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.”  Luke 11:29 ESV.  But in the end, even the resurrection would not be enough if a man does not want to see.  “He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.'”” Luke 16:31 ESV

temptation-of-christ

The third temptation was to base the kingdom upon force, to compromise with the devil that he might become the world’s new emperor the way all the old emperors become emperors.  And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.”  This is the conservative temptation, to rule the world by violence.  To continue to do it the same way Caesar was doing it.  But Jesus resists this temptation as well.  “‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.'”   Jesus could have been the conquering Messiah the people were waiting for.  They couldn’t wait to join his army and really strike back at those Romans.  Jesus would have used his power for good, he would have been a more righteous king.  He could have bypassed being the suffering servant and grabbed the throne through the will to power, the power to kill.  But he still would have just another king in the line of kings of the world.

End-Never-Justifies-the-Means

Notice all these temptations were based on a desire for a good end.  Jesus was not tempted with evil but he was tempted for good.  Jesus was tempted to have this as his end – to eliminate poverty, engender faith, and unite the world.  But it was  the means that were wrong.

quote-the-end-cannot-justify-the-means-for-the-simple-and-obvious-reason-that-the-means-employed-aldous-huxley-306973

Does the end justify the means?  Never.  In fact, the means are the end in the process of becoming.  Becoming more forgiving, or becoming more vengeful.   Me coming more merciful, becoming more merciless.   Becoming more Christlike, or becoming un-like Christ.  Becoming more an instrument of Christ’s love and mercy, or becoming an instrument of the Satan’s anger and vengeance.   Compromised means always results in a compromised end.  Jesus overcame the temptation to base the kingdom on bread, spectacle and force and instead set forth to proclaim the kingdom on faith hope, and love.  Instead of the conquering Messiah, he chose the route of the suffering servant.  Instead of bread, circus, and force, he chose the route of the cross for his coronation.

JesusChristcopy-1

Jesus is king.  Jesus was king.  Jesus came to be king.  But when the people tried to make him king by force after his feeding the five thousand, he declined.  “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 6:15 ESV.   When they came the next day looking for more bread, he cryptically offers instead his own flesh and blood.  “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 6:53-56 ESV.   Most who hear him call him crazy, and all but the most devoted followers turn away.  “After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”” John 6:66-69 ESV.

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Ultimately, Jesus would be crowned king.  His means were love and forgiveness, not bullets and bombs.   His ends were love and forgiveness, not bullets and bombs.  These are hard things to understand.   Will we turn back, or continue on our walk?  Do we want to go away as well?  Or, like Peter, is our answer Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God??

withdraw1

“And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.'” And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.'” And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'” And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'” And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.”

Luke 4:1-13 ESV

http://bible.com/59/luk.4.1-13.esv

John Lewis

What Shall We Do??

What Shall We Do??

by James Tissot

The year is AD 28. Jerusalem is a powder keg.  It’s about to blow.   Jewish resentment and anger over their political situation is overflowing.  It’s time to stop bitching and start a revolution.  They’re fed up.  Fed up with Rome, fed up with their priests.  Rome had invaded one hundred  years earlier, but they had only recently begun to directly rule Judea.  Instead of allowing Jewish governors, they began to send their own people, men like Pontus Pilate, and the Jews are fed up.  They’re fed up with King Herod and his corruption, he’s only half Jewish anyway.  They’re fed up with the corrupt Hasmonean dynasty of the high priestly order of Annas and Caiaphas, priests who buy their position, with bribes, from Caesar.  They’re fed up with priests more interested in their positions of power than the Kingdom of God.

tiberius caesar

Luke sets the scene very dramatically, tells us who’s in charge politically, In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene.   He tells us who’s in the religious positions of power, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas.  But – the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness.   The word of god comes not to the king or Rome or to the high priestly order, but to John, this prophetic, ascetic man in the wilderness eating locusts and wild honey.  When the word of the Lord comes upon him, he stays in wilderness but relocates himself about 15 miles outside Jerusalem by Jericho at the Jordan River.

baptism2

Here John begins to preach.  And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.   The Lord is about to come, He’s about to send Messiah, the Messiah we’ve been waiting for, you need to get ready, come get baptized for the forgiveness of sins.  By the way – Jews weren’t waiting for messiah to come so they could be forgiven. They already knew how to be forgiven.  They knew about the temple, they knew about temple sacrifices, they knew the prayers, even John is baptizing with a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. They’re not waiting for  messiah to forgive them, they are waiting for messiah to come rescue Israel, rebuild the temple,  restore righteousness, rule the nations, and reveal god to the Gentiles.

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But John says you guys aren’t ready!!   He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.  So John engages in prophetic theater with his baptism.  Jews had their ritual mikvahs in the temple for their ritual cleansings and purification.  It was very formal, very official, carried on at the temple.  But John says they need a full baptism just like Gentiles who are being converted.  Basically John is telling the Jews that they are not really Jews, they’re not being faithful to the covenant.  They need to be reconverted to become Jews again.  That’s the point John is making baptizing in the Jordan River.  He is not converting Gentiles to follow Yahweh, he’s reinitiating practicing, life long Jews into their own faith.

promnised land

He’s baptizing in the Jordan out by Jericho at the same spot the Jews had come into promised land under Joshua thirteen centuries earlier.  They needed to be reconverted, they needed have a new Exodus, a new entry into promised land.  They were going out into the wilderness to really become the people of God, to get serious, to reenact their entry into the promised land.  What John is doing is very creative, very dangerous, it’s going to upset the powers that be.  This is why he wound up in prison and finally executed, because he’s challenging the powers that be.

justice and righteousnesss

He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?   And if you fill out this little card i can email you, make you feel welcome, show you how nice I am…John knows Jerusalem is a powder keg and it’s about to blow up.  That’s what he calls the wrath to come.  He knows the only hope they have is for Israel to receive their messiah.  Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.  I don’t want to hear about your national identity or your religious identity, I don’t care about your pedigree.  Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  Like the rest of the prophets, John is not interested in identity, but fruit.  The fruit of justice and righteousness, covenant faithfulness and treating your neighbor as yourself.  That’s what John is interested in, that’s how they will prepare to receive their Messiah.  They will repent, rethink their lives, and begin to bear the fruits of righteousness and justice.  If not they will end up in the explosive powder keg of revolution, war and destruction to come.

extortion 2

So all those coming out to John ask him what do we do?   We are serious, we want to repent to be the real people of God, but what do we do?  And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.” Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.   John is calling Israel to repent and rethink everything.  So, what do we do?   It’s very interesting here, every response John gives those who ask him is economic in nature.  If you have two tunics, give to one who has none.  If you have leftovers from dinner, share with one who had no dinner.  If you’re a tax collector, collect no more than you are authorized to do.  Tax collectors are Jews who are collaborating with Romans who are viewed as traitors, moral outcasts.  They are hated by the rest of Jewish society because they are collecting taxes for the Romans and almost always did it dishonestly, overcharging and padding their own pockets.   But it’s also very interesting here – John does NOT tell them not to be tax collectors.  Just collect no more than you are authorized to do.  And soldiers  – do not use the power of your weaponry or rank to extort money.  Don’t justify it by saying Herod doesn’t pay us enough.  Be content with your wages.  

extortion

In every example John gives, he stresses economic repentance.  Everything  has to do with money.  Why does John stress economic repentance?  There are plenty of other sins but John doesn’t mention any of them.   I’m sure if you’re an adulterer, a drunkard, a sabbath breaker, a thief, a cheat,  John wants you to repent, but he doesn’t mention any other sin.  The only thing he mentions is personal economics.  Why?

camel eye needle2

John wants to prepare a people who will receive a new Kingdom, a new government, a new king.  The greatest obstacle to entering the kingdom of god is the tyranny of economic self interest.  John taught this, Jesus would pick it up and say exactly the same thing in his own way over and over.  The greatest obstacle to entering the kingdom of god, the government of god, the reign of Christ in our life, the alternative society of the kingdom of heaven, is the tyranny of our own economic self interest.  “For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” Luke 18:25 ESV

woe to the rich

I’m writing to myself right now.  That’s how it was then, the way it is now, it’s how it is for me, probably how it is for you.  Unless, of course, you’re very poor.  Then it’s not as hard, cause you have nothing.  When you have  nothing there is nothing to lose.  “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” Luke 6:20 ESV.   To be clear, if you are reading this, then you are not poor. “”But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.” Luke 6:24 ESV

sell all that you have

And yes, it was the tyranny of economic self interest led to the fiery wrath of war foretold by John and Jesus in AD 70.   So many just could not give up all that they had.   “When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich.” Luke 18:22-23 ESV

“He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.” Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.””

Luke 3:7-14 ESV

http://bible.com/59/luk.3.7-14.esv

John Lewis

Looking For Jesus

looking

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

pilgrimages

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

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

mary and joseph

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

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

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

amazed at his answers

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

finding jesus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

good news1

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

God-Looks-Like-Jesus

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

wipe away every tear

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

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

Luke 2:41-52 ESV

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

John Lewis

The 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.

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“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

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“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

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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

In God We Trust

in-god-we-trust1

Looking at Mark 4 today, specifically the story of Jesus calming the storm.

a great windstorm

If you don’t know this story, then here it is.  It is the story of Jesus and his disciples getting into a boat to cross the Sea of Galilee when a great storm comes upon them.  On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling.   They took him just as he was…Jesus had been teaching the people all day from the boat, so they left without returning to shore, heading for the other side where He would heal a demon possessed man who had been living in the graveyards.   They wind up in a great storm, which is not unusual for the Sea of Galilee due to the presence of the mountains and the up and down currents of the winds there.   This storm must have been particularly powerful to have frightened these experienced fisherman.

Jesus storm

But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”    The disciples may have been afraid, but apparently Jesus was not concerned.   He was in the back, sleeping like a baby.   Sleeping like he was unaware they were all about to die!!

do you not care...

And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?””    So Jesus wakes up, and calmly commands the storm to stop.  To which, the storm listens, the wind ceased, and all was calm.  And Jesus then does something that, maybe, seems a little strange, maybe even unfair.   It seems as though he rebuked his disciples here –  “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”   

little-faith

Is it just me, or does it seem like Jesus is a little irritated or impatient here?   Why does he rebuke them?   Their boat was about to sink, was it not?   I would think that would be the perfect time to cry out to Jesus to save them!   What else were they supposed to do?   Didn’t the fact that they cried out in their panic, in their time of desperate need, show that they DID have faith?

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So here is my take here.  Mark says they went to Jesus and cried out  Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?   Matthew’s account of this event says “And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.””   Matthew 8:25 ESV. The disciples were terrified.   They were panicked.  This is why Jesus asks them “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”   Maybe the correct response for the disciples would have been to, calmly, wake Jesus and just say “Hey, we need you to calm this storm Jesus.”   And just expect that it will be done.   Because, what else were the disciples to do but to go to the Son of God in their time of need and ask for salvation?

north-korea-military-march

They were rebuked because of their fear.  Because if we are trusting in the Lord, we should not have fear.  These disciples are a little like us today.  We are freaking out in the world right now, are we not?  We have issues.  We have North Korea, The Donald, and nuclear weapons all around.  Not a good combination.  We have Russian investigation, hurricanes that keep coming, scientists are telling us the earth is boiling.  We have to do something, don’t we??!!

have-trust-in-God

The question is, do we trust God or not?  If we say we have faith in God, then at some point we have to trust God.  We do all that we can responsibly do, but that still won’t calm the fear in you heart, the anxieties that keep you up at night.

in guns we trust

Think about this – every time a human being kills another human being, whatever good reasons there may be, it comes down to not trusting God.  If you have a gun pointing at me, and I can kill you before you kill me, I can only obey Jesus’ command to love my enemies if I’m trusting in God.  There’s no other way.  Because if I die, I die.  It’s not the end of the world.  It’s not the end of me.  Do I believe that or do I not?  Our money has the inscription “In God we Trust.”  But, really, should it not say “In guns we trust”?  Because do we not trust FAR more in our guns than in our God?   When we take matters into our own hands because we are not trusting, and we act out of fear, we almost always turn to violence.

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What exactly are we trusting God for?  We are not trusting Him to get us out of our situation.  That’s not the point.  We are trusting that if this happens, and I die, I’m ok with that.  I’m trusting that God is going to work this out for good, make the best of this situation, and work it out ultimately for good.  Because I believe in life after death, I believe in the resurrection of the dead.  So, if you kill me…then what?  You got nothing else…

hope

The hope of the New Testament is always directed to that ultimate future.  We are not trusting God for a new car, or to pay the bills, or to buy a bigger house.  That is not our hope.  For believing Christians, the worst case scenario is not a bad scenario.  Christian leaders tell us to trust in God, but they don’t tell us what we are trusting for.  So, we think that God is supposed to get us out this our out of that.  But if he does, or if he doesn’t, either way that day is going to come.  It may seem dark, but we will all die eventually.  And if not, scientists tell us the universe is decaying, how are you getting out of that one?  What are you trusting God for?  He may not, he will not, get us out of every bad situation, but we trust that there is a good situation he’s getting us into, no matter what happens.

war zone

The New Testament says the here and now is a war zone.  Bad things can happen.  We might get fed to the lions or be burned at the stake.  But we trust in the character of God, who will ultimately win in the end.

guns

So they can kill us now, but so what???

“On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?””

Mark 4:35-41 ESV

http://bible.com/59/mrk.4.35-41.esv

John Lewis

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