Mountain Climbing

mountain climbing

The first week of advent on the church calendar, so Happy New Year to all my brothers and sisters in Christ!   Not exactly an advent message today, but maybe a little talk of mountain climbing…

mt-everest

“The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.”

Isaiah 2:1-5 ESV

http://bible.com/59/isa.2.1-5.esv

mt zion

“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem…”

Hebrews 12:22 ESV

http://bible.com/59/heb.12.22.esv

Mount Everest becomes world's highest traffic jam.

What Isaiah anticipates, the writer of Hebrews announces as gospel, that in Christ we have come to the mountain of god.  The great mountain that is the mountain of god.  Jesus claims the first ascent, he has led the way, fixed the ropes, established the route, that we might enter into the experience of the living God.

Winter at Longs

But we still have to climb it.

long's

Mountains are very prominent in bible  It’s amazing how many important episodes occur on mountains.  There is Noah on Mt. Ararat, Abraham on Mt. Moriah.  We have Moses on Mt. Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments.   We see Deborah and Barak on Mt. Tabor, Elisha with his sword on Mt. Carmel.

2d2 Mt_ Tabor

Much of Jesus’ ministry also occurs on mountains.  In His story alone we have the mount of temptation, the mountain of transfiguration (also Tabor), the Mount of Beatitudes, the Mount of Olives, the Mount of Ascension.  The Bible is seemingly overflowing with mountains.

mountains surround jerusalem

Mountains in the Bible sometimes represent God Himself, as is very often in the psalms –  “As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people, from this time forth and forevermore.” Psalms 125:2 ESV.  

sinai

Oftentimes climbing mountain is a picture of entering into a deep experience of god.   Think of Moses on Sinai, or Elijah on Mt. Horeb  being restored as a prophet.

Mount_Olympus-JP2

Most ancient cultures have held certain mountains to be sacred.  The Greeks had Mt. Olympus, Japan had Mt. Fuji, Mt. Kanchenjunga in Nepal (3rd highest peak in the world), Mt Vesuvius, Long’s Peak (known as “Nesotaieux” to the Native American’s long before we ever got here).   Yes, these and many other peaks have been worshipped by people as sacred for thousands of years.  Ancient people could not help but stand in awe and wonder at the majesty of these mountains.  But if worshipping the creation instead of the creator is a sin (and it is), then so is the secular idea that nothing is sacred.  Because, for example, if it’s idolatry to worship a mountain as God, it’s also idolatrous to destroy a mountain through mountain top removal mining for the idol of greed.  Let that one sink in for a minute…

mount-kanchenjunga

Sometimes when we are in or near the mountains, we just want to stay on the lower slopes.  We don’t really want to climb them, we are just as happy to admire them from the comfort and safety of the valley below.

Mount Rainier Washington

But sometimes, we want to climb that mountain.  Sometimes, we feel driven to go higher, to get above the clouds.  I feel that way about God.  I am still relatively new in Christ (I believe), still in many ways very immature in my faith.  But I do not want to stay on the lower slopes of the mountain of God.  I am not satisfied with simply telling you that Christ died for my sins, I said a sinners prayer and got baptized and now I’m going to heaven when I die.  I don’t know how to express this, but that just feels kind of empty.   Of course I want to go to heaven and not hell when I die (whatever that really means), but is that really all there is?   Is the entire Gospel of Jesus Christ, his life, death, burial, resurrection and ascension, his suffering, his teaching, “love your enemies” and the golden rule, all this is just about being “in” or “out”?   Pardon me for being so bold to say, I think we are missing something.

DCF 1.0

So I want to climb that mountain.  I want to go above the tree line, get past “in” or “out” theology.  I want to go higher on the mountain than just knowing that Jesus died for my sins (as beautiful as that truly is).  I want to climb higher on the mountain, get closer to what the apostle John saw when he so daringly told us, not once but twice, that “God is Love!”   And I say to all who are reading this, “come with me”.   Let’s begin to climb this mountain, the mountain of God, together.

longs

You can do it.  It won’t  be easy, but you can do it.  But you can’t do it alone.  Novice mountain climbers who want to go it alone can get lost, go astray, and even perish, even in the mountain of a God.

LongsWinter 019

Mountains, if you approach them from different directions, or different perspectives, can give you many different pictures.  Long’s Peak in the Rocky Mountains can appear to be a completely different mountain depending on the direction you approach it from, or even the season you are seeing it in.  Again, God is like this.  Depending on our perspective (and I’m only talking about Christian perspectives here), we can come to God from different perspectives and different places, and see God, differently.

mountain-of-god

We can get into trouble if we approach the mountain of God, think that the perspective we have is all there is to see, then declare to the world that “I’ve found God, and God is ____”   If we do this, and become convinced that our perspective of God is all there is to see, we can become fundamentalist in our views.   Fundamentalism is the belief that one perspective of God (our perspective) is all there is to see of God.  But just as some of our great mountains are for too vast to take in from one perspective, so God is far too vast to see and comprehend from just one vantage point.

father-son-and-holy-spirit-610x351

Now, God is not everything we make him up to be.  He has definition.  When I’m talking about God, I’m talking about the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  I’m talking about the God of Israel.  The God and father of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ,  the true and loving God who is Father, Son, and  Holy Spirit.

orthodox

But we many different perspectives of our God, do we not?   We have the Orthodox perspective, Catholic perspective, Anglican, Protestant, Evangelical, Charismatic, And Pentecostal perspectives.   Each one of them can be fundamentalist.  If a Catholic says “Our perspective of God is the only one that’s valid and if you see God from a different angle the you’re a heretic!”, that’s Catholic fundamentalism, and we must rise above that.  It doesn’t matter if it’s Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, Baptist, Anglican, we can all go the fundamentalist route.  We must rise above that and learn to be contemplative.

catholic

Our great mountains are so big and so vast that we cannot see all of them from one perspective.  So if we see a mountain like Long’s Peak in Colorado or Mt Fuji in Japan or Mt Rainer in Washington, but come at the The from the north side over and over again, but then come to them from the south instead, we might feel we are seeing a totally different mountain.    If we don’t know it’s the same mountain before we see it, we can be completely fooled and not recognize it at all.  It doesn’t mean it’s a different mountain, just that we’ve come to it from a different direction this time.   We could be fundamentalist about the mountain – “If you don’t see the diamond face on Long’s Peak then it’s not Long’s Peak!”   Yes, Long’s Peak has a diamond face if you look at it from the east, but from the West you don’t see it at all.  It’s still Long’s Peak, just a different vantage point.

methodist

Though we can only see one vantage point at a time, we can go all around the mountain and learn all the different vantage points and get a fuller picture and understanding of the mountain.  In the same way, we can learn to be contemplative as we approach the mountain of God,  as we respectfully engage with other traditions who over the centuries have learned this angle, Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Southern Baptist.  We can learn other traditions views of the living God, and get a much clearer, better, more true vision of the nature of God.

advent-wreath-nativity-figures

So this advent season, as we anticipate the coming of God, let’s understand God is coming.   But while we may see his coming in many different ways, it doesn’t mean one is right (mine) and all the rest are wrong.  But maybe, just maybe, if we can respectfully engage and contemplate another’s point of view, we might get a fuller picture of the God we love.   We have our guides (which we need) on the mountain, maybe this advent season (and beyond) we can open up to another perspective and come to see a different trail, and climb  just a little bit higher on the mountain of God.

John Lewis

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Making Clean…

Making Clean…

white as snow

A follow up to my last 2 messages, and also to my previous message regarding theology in the revelation of the Jesus Christ (the only perfect theology as the Word made flesh). If, when we put together our puzzle of who God is and what God is like, we end up with a picture that does not look like Jesus, it’s time to start over, to be born-again (again), because we’ve gone wrong somewhere and we are not seeing the Kingdom of God.

First World War
A question asked in that message was “Does God take our side in our hostilities?” Again, and this one is not an answer many will like, but the answer is “No“. This is the point Jesus makes in showing us the real purpose behind two famous Old Testament stories revealing God’s healing power. These stories, the story of the prophet Elijah and the widow at Zarepath, and the story of Elisha the prophet healing Naaman the Syrian, are great stories of healing in the Old Testament revealing the power of God to intervene in our lives for our good, and the power of faith in being willing to trust in him for our healing. To which the people of God have been singing “Amen” and “Hallelujah” for millennia.

jesus-cross-and-sun
But Jesus, the full revelation of God, the Lamb who is worthy to unlock the scroll, shines His light of revelation on these stories in ways those listening do not always want to hear. “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

loved the darkness

‬‬
When Jesus tells us about the widow at Zarepath – 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. – as I said previously, this one does not cut too deep. After all this woman was a poor widow, even though she was not one of “us”, she was no danger to the people of God, and God always has commanded the care of widows. It may be a little bit of a problem that she was one of “them“, but we can still appreciate the love and care of God in this case.

leper
But the story of Namaan – 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. – this is the story that throws us off center, makes us uncomfortable. This makes us uncomfortable because it cuts right to that most uncomfortable of all the commands of Jesus – the command to love your enemies.

Chinese Soldiers
Naaman was not just a Syrian, not just one of the hated “them“, he was one of “them” who had gone to war and even killed some of “us“. We might be talking about him as a great terrorist, as part of a “rogue nation“, a threat to our “security“. And – if there is anything we know in 21st century America – we must “eliminate” any and all threats to our “security“.   What we really believe is “Do unto them BEFORE they do unto us

nuke
But Jesus, the sinless Son of God, shines his light on our systemic, deeply held conviction (sin) that we must maintain our security at all costs.  He shines his light into our deeply held conviction that it is always us or them, us vs. them, and them are wrong and us is right, and we can prove it because we have more and bigger nuclear weapons with which to blow them to bits.

enemies
Jesus, at the bare minimum, makes it plain that, whether we are right or not, God does not choose sides in our conflicts with other nations. He does not love US more than he loves any other nation. As Jesus tells us, 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 making the leper clean
We wonder why the world is trying to shut Jesus up. We think it is because of all the things we are against. But, I think, it is much more because of what Jesus is for. Because Jesus commands us to love our enemies.  Because we prefer eye for an eye.  Because Jesus is for our enemies, just like he is for us. Because, for Jesus, there is no “them“, there’s only “us“.

2013030420unknown_northwestern_france_jesus_driven_from_nazareth_koninklijke_bibliotheek_the_hague_c
This throws us off balance, upsets our understanding of the world, upsets our understanding of God. 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. This is why they wanted to throw him off the cliff. It wasn’t just a few, it was all in the synagogue. When you take away our God of vengeance, we tend to get very upset. I mean, somebody’s got to PAY!!! They did me wrong, they hurt US!! You’re telling me God does NOT hate everyone that I hate??

Jesus-Cliff
This is why we would look for a cliff to throw him off. Again. We don’t believe in public crucifixions (thanks to our Christ) anymore, so we wouldn’t specifically do that again, but we do have our enemies, and enemies need to be dealt with as enemies. We have a lot of people and things we are against. We have a lot of things and people we believe God is against. (These are mostly people and groups who, in whatever way, are not like US). Because we may not have crucifixes anymore, but we do like to keep our lepers around.
Just not too close, lest we be made unclean.

unclean
Funny how Jesus was never made unclean, no matter who He came into contact with. But whoever was touched by him, was instantly made clean. White as snow….

Nice_white_snow_over_mountains

“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 ‭4:25-30‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/luk.4.25-30.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?

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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

Written in the Dust

Written in the Dust

writing_in_dust

600 years BC, before Christ, Jeremiah was a preacher and prophet in the tribes of Judah and Benjamin.  Jeremiah was specifically prophesying, through his prophetic poetry, to the backslidden people of Judah.  It is from this poetry that we get these two prophetic verses – ““For my people have done two evil things: They have abandoned me— the fountain of living water. And they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns that can hold no water at all!” Jeremiah 2:13 NLT

“LORD, you are the hope of Israel; all who forsake you will be put to shame. Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the LORD, the spring of living water.” Jeremiah 17:13 NIV

living-water

Jeremiah uses the picture of living water to depict Yahweh.  To be connected to God is to be connected to a stream of living water.   But instead of trusting in God, being connected to the fountain of living water that is Yahweh, the people of Judah were trusting in the things of man, in what they could do for themselves, especially their political alliance with Egypt.  They had abandoned God, rejected his living water, trusting instead in their own cracked cisterns which would not hold water at all.   Later, Jeremiah prophecies Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the LORD, the spring of living water.   His people of Judah have turned away from the Lord, of and they will wind up written in the dust…

feasts-1014x487

Six centuries later, Jesus, like Jeremiah, is preaching to wayward people in Jerusalem.  This is during the festival of Sukkot, also known as the feast of Tabernacles.   Jesus doesn’t live in Jerusalem, but is in there for the festival.  This would have been approximately 6 months before the Passover, so it would have been about 6 months before his crucifixion.

living water

“On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'”” John 7:37-38 ESV.

Believe-in-Jesus.png

Jesus is extending an audacious invitation – the invitation to festival goers to come Him for living water.  The invitation to believe in Him.  Jesus and Jeremiah are the only 2 figures of the Bible to talk about living water.  Those who heard him give this invitation would have known exactly what Jesus was talking about.  Jesus is connecting himself to Yahweh, the God of Israel.  Some might even think he was claiming to be the God of Israel…”come to me, believe in me.

Jesusarrested-tissot

The crowd there was divided about Jesus.  “So there was a division among the people over him. Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him.” John 7:43-44 ESV.  In fact, the chief priests and Pharisees had sent the temple police to arrest Jesus, but when they heard him speak, they seem to have forgotten what they came for.    “The officers then came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, “Why did you not bring him?” The officers answered, “No one ever spoke like this man!””John 7:45-46 ESV.   Many were beginning to believe in Jesus.  They might not have been able to connect all the dots, but after all, look at his miracles.  He was able to cast out demons, heal the sick, even raise the dead!!  Now he was openly associating himself with Yahweh, the God of Israel.  No wonder the Sanhedrin wanted him arrested.

jesus-and-followers-in-the-mount-of-olives

“[[They went each to his own house,” John 7:53 ESV. but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.    Do you notice here how chapter 7 doesn’t actually end, but rolls straight into chapter 8?   Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. 

Jesus_teaching_at_the_Temple

Jesus is getting quite a following at this festival.  The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?”   The Pharisees have found a woman here whom they can condemn using the Torah, as we know it the Bible.  They have found a woman caught in the act of adultery (somehow the man got away.  Maybe he was a Pharisee). This is what Pharisees use the Bible for (then and now).  They claim all the promises, all the salvation for themselves, and then use it to condemn everyone else they don’t like.   Notice I said “use the Bible”.   That is what these Pharisees do, use the Bible for their own purposes.  They use the Bible to condemn others.  They are not using the Bible to be transformed by God’s truth…

stone such women

They are attempting to use the Bible here for manipulation and intimidation.  They are using it as a device for their own control and power.  They know Jesus is not going to preside over the stoning of a sinner.  They have remarked many times that he is a friend of sinners (amen!), that he sits and eats and drinks with sinners.

bible

They are using the Bible to trap Jesus.  They are setting him up.  They want to be able to accuse Jesus of not believing the Bible.  The Bible says, in both Leviticus and Deuteronomy, that such women (and the men they are caught with) are to be stoned to death.  These Pharisees are right, the Bible is on their side!!  But they are not submitted themselves to the scriptures, they simply want to use it as a weapon against Jesus.   And Jesus can quote scripture to, and he had already twice quoted Hosea 6:6 “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice…” Hosea 6:6 NIV.   Jesus was not going to sacrifice this sinner to the Torah.

stoning-stone

Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him.   Jesus sees this for exactly what it is – another rejection of the God of Israel.  Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground.   Written in the dust…Yesterday –  “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'”   Today,  Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the LORD, the spring of living water.  Jesus is completing Jeremiah’s prophecy, and this would not be lost on those Pharisees.  These guys knew their Torah, could quote from it forwards and backwards.  They knew what Jesus was doing.

DustWriting

What was he writing?  Who knows??!!   Maybe “Jerusalem“.  Maybe he was writing some of the names of those men standing there.  If he was particularly feisty that day, maybe he wrote the high priest “Joseph Caiaphas“.   Whatever he wrote, his point was clear.  These Pharisees, the scribes, Jerusalem, Caiaphas, they had all turned away from God, rejected the living water, were more interested in using the Bible to trap, control and intimidate than being transformed themselves by the truth of God’s word found inside.  So even though they get what Jesus is doing, they keep pressing the issue – “Well. What are you going to do Jesus? Do you believe the Torah, are you going to follow the Bible or not??”   And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground.

salvation

These Pharisees thought they were trapping Jesus, but they’d been had.   They wound up trapped themselves.  BUT THAT WASN’T IN THEIR BIBLES!!!   Let him who is without sin wasn’t in the Torah.  Here’s the thing – Jesus Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, was the word made flesh.  Everything he ever did, everything Jesus ever said, was and is the Word of God.  Jesus is what God has to say…

But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”   Here’s a question – was anyone here without sin??  Jesus was!!  Jesus was without sin.  He was qualified to throw those stones.  All those Pharisees, those accusers, they knew they’d been had.   One by one, they put down those stones.  There was a nice little pile sitting there for Jesus.  If Jesus had wanted to “do the Bible“, then he could have picked up those stones and given that woman what she deserved.  She was guilty.  It would have just been too bad for her.

The-Friend-of-Sinners-Events

But Jesus doesn’t pick up those stones.  Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”    Go and sin no more!!    That’s what salvation looks like!!  This woman is guilty, the man she was sleeping with is guilty, I am guilty, you are guilty!!   Jesus has the right to throw those stones, the power to condemn.  But does he??   No!!!   Go, and from now on sin no more.  Guess what – that’s in your Bible!!   Amen and hallelujah, I like that one a lot more than stoning adulterers.

christians-isis-531554

Go and sin no more is what salvation looks like in a single moment.   Jesus could condemn that woman, but instead offers grace and mercy.  Because, after all, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1 ESV.  Jesus doesn’t condemn us, he’s the one who saves us!!  Jesus is greater than the law.  He is the word made flesh.

Fountain

These Pharisees had rejected the living waters of God and were written in the dust.  Within a generation, the whole city of Jerusalem would be written in the dust.  If we choose to use our bibles as weapons to condemn sinners, we will wind up written in the dust.

neither-do-i-condemn-thee-medium

Leviticus and Deuteronomy both condemned this woman to die.  Jesus, the word made flesh, says go and sin no more.  Christ does not condemn, Jesus Saves, amen!!   “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” John 3:17 ESV.

no-condemnation

Yet we who call ourselves Christians, “little Christs“, spend so much time and energy condemning people.  The more we do, the more we ourselves wind up written in the dust.

“but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” ]]”

John 8:1-11 ESV

http://bible.com/59/jhn.8.1-11.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

There is a Temple

There is a Temple

the temple

Been offline for a week (again), was enjoying a nice family vacation in Myrtle Beach, SC.   I’ve been a little inconsistent the past couple of months, for various reasons.   I hope to get back to a little better consistency in writing, pray for me on that, if you will.

Receive-the-holy-spirit

When last I did write, I wrote on John 20:19-23, particularly verse 23, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”   We are all commissioned  by Jesus as priests in his kingdom, commissioned to offer his forgiveness to the world.  Commissioned to flood the world with the forgiveness of Jesus Christ.

destroy this temple

If you’ve spent any time in or around church, you probably remember the story which we call the “cleansing of the temple“, when Jesus drives out those doing business in the temple, turning the temple into their own house of business rather that a house of worship.  He did this right in the middle of Passover week, their busiest time of the year, really costing these money changers and businessmen at the time when they would do their greatest business.  Really interfering with the way things are done.  So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?”   Who are you do stop us from doing our business??   Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

temple of his body
Jesus challenged those in authority, challenged their economic systems and their hierarchical system of power and control.  When he answered their question about his authority to interrupt their commerce, “The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body.” John 2:20-21 ESV.  Seems like a logical response to me, they’d been building that temple for 46 years, how in the world we Jesus rebuild it in three days?   Some of us are still waiting for that temple to be rebuilt.  Undoubtedly, some of those Jews thought they were standing in the temple prophesied by Ezekiel hundreds of years earlier.  Ezekiel saw a new temple coming, a temple from which would flow rivers of forgiveness.   The temple Ezekiel saw coming in his ancient prophecy is the temple Jesus refers to when he gives them his response  Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.   The temple Ezekiel saw coming was not a physical temple, but the temple of the body of Christ.

Body-of-Christ

It is from this temple that rivers of forgiveness flow.  Then he brought me back to the door of the temple, and behold, water was issuing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar. Then he brought me out by way of the north gate and led me around on the outside to the outer gate that faces toward the east; and behold, the water was trickling out on the south side.   

Trickling water
At first, closest to us, it is just a trickle.  But the temple of the body of Christ is not just one place.  The temple of the body of Christ goes anywhere the followers of Christ go.   And as we go farther and wider into the world, the water begins to get deeper.  Going on eastward with a measuring line in his hand, the man measured a thousand cubits, and then led me through the water, and it was ankle-deep.   As we go into the world, out of our locked panic rooms, through our fear and eventually out of our fear, sent by Jesus, we become salt and light in the dark, ugly world.  As we carry the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ into the world, the world we fear and want to escape, the water begins to get deeper.   Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was knee-deep.   At first it’s just a trickle, then it’s ankle deep, now it’s knee deep.

knee deep

Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was waist-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and it was a river that I could not pass through, for the water had risen. It was deep enough to swim in, a river that could not be passed through.   Now we are swimming in our river of forgiveness.   It eventually swells and grows to overflowing, we can’t get away from it.

rushing-river-1500x1015
Then he led me back to the bank of the river. As I went back, I saw on the bank of the river very many trees on the one side and on the other. And he said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, and enters the sea; when the water flows into the sea, the water will become fresh. And wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish. For this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes.   The water keeps rising, keeps flowing.   It eventually flows into Arabah, or as we know it, the Dead Sea.  The sea which is at one of the lowest altitudes on the planet, the sea which, I believe, is a hundred feet below sea level.  The sea so salty nothing can live there (which of course is why we call it the Dead Sea).  The water which flows through the desert, healing the desert as it goes, growing trees where no trees grow, makes it into the Dead Sea, turning even that dead space into fresh water.

dead sea

But here’s the thing – the great problem if the world is not the saline content of the Dead Sea.  That is not the point of Ezekiel’s vision.  The great problem of the world is hate and retribution.  The world we live in is a scorched desert of hate.

scorched_desert_1

But there is a temple from which a river flows.  The temple of the body of Jesus Christ.  The temple which was raised after three days.  The body of which all who believe are members.

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Fishermen will stand beside the sea. From Engedi to Eneglaim it will be a place for the spreading of nets. Its fish will be of very many kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea. But its swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they are to be left for salt. And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.   If we want to stand in the swamps and marshes, we can do that.  We can even build walls to protect our swamps and marshes (or dams.  Or whatever we might build to protect a salty swamp or salty marsh).  Sometimes our salt tastes good to us.  We think everybody should be a little salty like us.

tree producing good fruit

But we are sent by Jesus to flood the world with rivers of mercy and forgiveness.  We are sent to grab rods and go fishing.  We are sent to heal that scorched desert of hate, heal it with mercy and forgiveness.  We are sent to bring water from the sanctuary, to nourish the trees that never fail, to provide good fruit for the world to eat.
raised on the third day
Jesus gave us his sign.  He raised that temple in three days, just like he said.  That temple has water flowing, water that can heal the desert and make the Dead Sea fresh.

living water

Didn’t Jesus say something about water?  “Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.””John 4:10 ESV.  The living water is flowing, flooding the world.  Why do we keep trying to dam it up?

So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”” 
John 2:18-19 ESV
http://bible.com/59/jhn.2.18-19.esv

“Then he brought me back to the door of the temple, and behold, water was issuing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar. Then he brought me out by way of the north gate and led me around on the outside to the outer gate that faces toward the east; and behold, the water was trickling out on the south side. Going on eastward with a measuring line in his hand, the man measured a thousand cubits, and then led me through the water, and it was ankle-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was knee-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was waist-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and it was a river that I could not pass through, for the water had risen. It was deep enough to swim in, a river that could not be passed through. And he said to me, “Son of man, have you seen this?” Then he led me back to the bank of the river. As I went back, I saw on the bank of the river very many trees on the one side and on the other. And he said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, and enters the sea; when the water flows into the sea, the water will become fresh. And wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish. For this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes. Fishermen will stand beside the sea. From Engedi to Eneglaim it will be a place for the spreading of nets. Its fish will be of very many kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea. But its swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they are to be left for salt. And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.””
Ezekiel 47:1-12 ESV
http://bible.com/59/ezk.47.1-12.esv

John Lewis