Something Good is Coming

There’s something good coming.  We all go through hard times.  We all have struggles.  But we don’t give up hope.  Even in the midst of our trouble and hard times, we hang onto our hope.  We hope that something good is coming, for you and for me. There has to be something good coming.

Because we believe life to be good.   I know I believe life is good.  I mean, life, in its essence, is good.    Despite the fact that trouble comes and is present and is real, no matter how frequent and no matter how at times it may be horrible, we still believe this because trouble, no matter how frequent or horrible, is an anomaly.  Because life is created to be good.

Think about looking upon the face of a newborn child.  We might say “welcome to God’s good world”.   There will be trouble, there will be hard times, but it’s good…

Why do we believe this?   Why do we believe life is good?   We believe this because it’s what is told us in scripture about this God whom we worship and build our life around.   That in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.   He’s working the first day, he said it’s good.  The second day it’s good.  The third day he said it’s good twice.   Then the fourth day, fifth day, sixth day, he says it’s good.  Then at the very end he says ahhh….it’s very good.

So the even though we have trouble and hard times, we believe that somehow that is an anomaly, and that is not how life is ultimately meant to be.  And what we really believe is that God is going to be true to his declaration and God is going to intervene and break into our lives, and where it’s wrong he’s going to make it right, so we can say the something good is coming.

When God does this, when God breaks through and intervenes in the world to set what is wrong right, we call that the kingdom of God.  It’s the reign and rule of God, the government and policy of God, it’s the intervention of God.   It’s God coming among us to make things good again because that’s what he intends.

God accomplishes this chiefly and primarily through Christ.   The firstborn of all creation, the center of the cosmos creation and salvation.  “…. Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”” Mark 1:14-15 NIV.  When the human heart is aching for something better, when we have that hope, Jesus responds and says yes, that’s right!

So I want to say to everyone reading this today…something good is coming.   I want to say to myself, something good is coming.   It’s an announcement.  If you think it’s for you, it is.  If you don’t think that’s for you, it’s not.  But if you don’t think it’s for you, I want to say something to you – something good is coming!   Repent, rethink your life, and believe this good news that something good is coming.

For you.

John Lewis

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Coming to the Table

If you pay attention, you may have noticed the frequency of these messages becoming less…frequent.   Sometimes we all go through certain struggles and challenges in doing things we think are important,  and i am going through some of those struggles in my spiritual life right now.  You might say I’m in a “dry spell”, a rut.   Not much is getting my attention these days.  It doesn’t mean it’s not still a priority to me, I am still spending my same time devoted to prayer and study every day.  It just means I need to get through it somehow, get to the other side, have an epiphany of sorts, maybe a Eureka! moment.   Whatever it is, I’m convinced the way through does not involve foregoing my prayer and meditation time.

That being said, I did have a moment in my church a week ago.  Our pastor shared in his message something regarding Mephibosheth, son of Jonathan, son of King Saul and friend of King David, so now I’m going to share this with you.

Just a quick backstory, David and Jonathan were kind of like best fiends, as much of best friends as you can be when Jonathan’s father wanted nothing more than to see David dead.   In fact, the Bible tells us that you could say Jonathan loved David as he loved himself – “Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul.” 1 Samuel 18:3 ESV.  Ultimately, King Saul and Jonathan both perish in the same battle (read about that in 1 Samual 31), and David is then anointed King of Judah (2 Samuel 2), then all of Israel (2 Samuel 5).

Fast forward again, David has won many battles and is having great success as King.   But he never forgets his friend Jonathan.   And David said, “Is there still anyone left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?    Ultimately this question is answered by Ziba, a former servant of King Saul.   Ziba said to the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is crippled in his feet.”   So David sends for Mephibosheth, son of Jonathan.   And you might imagine what’s going through the mind of Mephibosheth as the kings servants come calling.  In these days, it was normal for an incoming king to eliminate all potential threats to his crown.  As an heir in the line of King Saul, Mephibosheth may have been seen as such a threat.  So he probably thought it was curtains for him when King David sent for him.   Why else would the king be calling?

And Mephibosheth the son of Jonathan, son of Saul, came to David and fell on his face and paid homage. And David said, “Mephibosheth!” And he answered, “Behold, I am your servant.” And David said to him, “Do not fear, for I will show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan, and I will restore to you all the land of Saul your father, and you shall eat at my table always.” 

Do not fear David tells Mephibosheth.   Sounds like the angel of the Lord, or Jesus himself, all those time we are told Don’t be afraid.   So Do not fear.  Not only am I not going to kill you,  but I’m going to restore all the land that belonged to your grandfather.  I’m going to give all that you once had and thought you would have.  All that was lost when you lost your father and grandfather that day.   All that you could not acquire for yourself because of the accident that left you crippled.   Just because i loved your father Jonathan, I will show kindness to you, and you shall eat at my table always.

And he paid homage and said, “What is your servant, that you should show regard for a dead dog such as I?   I am hearing echoes of the psalms of David where it says to us “what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” Psalms 8:4 ESV.  Who is Mephibosheth, but a crippled man hiding from the king out of fear.   What is man but a crippled spirit, hiding from the King out of fear of not being good enough, trying to convince ourselves that we are equal with Him?   Who is Mephibosheth that the King would seek him out for such extravagant treatment, that he might have all he would have had.  Who are we that God would seek us out while we are lost, while we are rebellious, and so extravagantly give of Himself that we might be restored to Himself?   That we might have all and be all that we were meant to?

And here’s the point my pastor made with this story – that we are all Mephibosheth.  We all are called by the king, yet when we come before him we come in fear and trembling, because we know what we deserve, yet we are told Don’t be afraid.   We limp before the king, crippled, battered and bruised by life.  We come before him and know that we are poor in spirit.   We limp before the king, expecting an angry God who wants to strike us down in the lightning cloud, and instead he invites to his table.

So Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, for he ate always at the king’s table. Now he was lame in both his feet.   And we sit at the table.   We sit at the King’s table, and we share a meal with him.  We bring our pain, our shame, our limp, our hurts, our habits, our hang ups.

We are called to the Kings table, but we can barely walk to get to it, can barely bring ourselves to approach.   We’ve heard the judgement, we’ve been told we don’t belong, we thought there was a gate around the table, and no way were we getting a key.   But the King calls, and we just focus on that.

We don’t know what to expect when we get there.   But not only does the King invite us go the table, always, to share a meal, but we get there and find that our King has become the meal.   “And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”  Luke 22:19-20 ESV.

So the invitation stands, the meal is always available.  We thought he would strike us down for all that was in our hearts, but instead of taking our lives, as we so expected and continue to expect, he gave up his own.  He gave up his own flesh and his own blood, gave us a new covenant.   And just as King David remembered his covenant with Jonathan and looked for anyone from the house of Saul to show kindness to,  so we remember God’s covenant with Abraham, and Jesus’ blood of the covenant, and we can know that he will always remember to show us kindness to his children.   We are always welcome at our King’s table.

And so I will remember.  Even though it’s been a struggle, I, like Mephibosheth, will always eat at the Kings table.   Doesn’t matter how I feel at the moment, doesn’t matter what someone says about me, doesn’t matter what you think about me.   It only matter what King Jesus says, and he says come to his table, and do this in remembrance of me.   I may be crippled, I might barely be able to get myself to the table, but my seat is saved.   I have my seat, and I will eat at the king’s table forever.  And i will keep coming to the table, spending time with the King in his word.   And maybe if I listen closely I will hear him say don’t be afraidyou shall eat at my table always.

And David said, “Is there still anyone left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” Now there was a servant of the house of Saul whose name was Ziba, and they called him to David. And the king said to him, “Are you Ziba?” And he said, “I am your servant.” And the king said, “Is there not still someone of the house of Saul, that I may show the kindness of God to him?” Ziba said to the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is crippled in his feet.” The king said to him, “Where is he?” And Ziba said to the king, “He is in the house of Machir the son of Ammiel, at Lo-debar.” Then King David sent and brought him from the house of Machir the son of Ammiel, at Lo-debar. And Mephibosheth the son of Jonathan, son of Saul, came to David and fell on his face and paid homage. And David said, “Mephibosheth!” And he answered, “Behold, I am your servant.” And David said to him, “Do not fear, for I will show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan, and I will restore to you all the land of Saul your father, and you shall eat at my table always.” And he paid homage and said, “What is your servant, that you should show regard for a dead dog such as I?” Then the king called Ziba, Saul’s servant, and said to him, “All that belonged to Saul and to all his house I have given to your master’s grandson. And you and your sons and your servants shall till the land for him and shall bring in the produce, that your master’s grandson may have bread to eat. But Mephibosheth your master’s grandson shall always eat at my table.” Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants. Then Ziba said to the king, “According to all that my lord the king commands his servant, so will your servant do.” So Mephibosheth ate at David’s table, like one of the king’s sons. And Mephibosheth had a young son, whose name was Mica. And all who lived in Ziba’s house became Mephibosheth’s servants. So Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, for he ate always at the king’s table. Now he was lame in both his feet.”

2 Samuel 9:1-13 ESV

http://bible.com/59/2sa.9.1-13.esv

“Jonathan, the son of Saul, had a son who was crippled in his feet. He was five years old when the news about Saul and Jonathan came from Jezreel, and his nurse took him up and fled, and as she fled in her haste, he fell and became lame. And his name was Mephibosheth.”

2 Samuel 4:4 ESV

http://bible.com/59/2sa.4.4.esv

“Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul.”

1 Samuel 18:3 ESV

http://bible.com/59/1sa.18.3.esv

John Lewis

Jesus is Sleeping

The lectionary gospel reading from a couple of weeks ago was Mark 4:35-41, or as the ESV so simply captions it, “Jesus Calms A Storm”.    It’s the culmination of a day on which Jesus has given many parables and much teaching, and occurs as Jesus and his disciples are on the way to the region of Gerasenes, where Jesus will heal a demon possessed man.

As I read and prayed through this last week, it occurred to me that I was in the boat on the lake.   Not literally of course, but I might as well be.   I know that, right now, just like Moses wandering the wilderness for forty years, Joshua looking into his promised land, A young shepherd named David fighting to keep the lions and the bears away from his flock,  just as in all these stories, where I am is not where I’m going.  Just as Jesus and his disciples, in the boat crossing from one side to the other, where they are is not where they are going.

But just as Jesus disciples feared as water filled their boat, sometimes I just get the feeling that my boat is about to sink.

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.  They are on their journey across the lake, Jesus is with them, but somehow that boat is filling up quicker that they can get the water out of there.  And their boat will sink, without some divine intervention.   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 I think that is where I am in this journey right now.   I’m in the boat, Jesus is there with me, but the boat is sinking.  And Jesus is sleeping.   From the outside, all is well.  Got the “cool job”, great family, wife, and kids.

But the boat is sinking.   And Jesus is sleeping.  Ever feel like you’re surrounded by people all the time, but still all alone.  The water is crashing over the sides, I’m scooping as fast as I can.  But the pump ain’t working, and I just can’t keep up.  And Jesus is sleeping.

Does he not care that I’m perishing?   Is he just going to let this boat sink?   He might be able to walk on water, but I’m not able yet.  Guess I don’t have enough faith…

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?   Why am I so afraid?   Where I am is not where I’m going, but it sure is rough out on this lake.  I’m on a journey somewhere, but I don’t know where.   I’m out on the lake, I have a boat, even have Jesus in the boat.  But Jesus is sleeping.

But, Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?   I know who he is.   I know he has the power to calm this little storm that I’m in.   But it sure would be nice if he would wake up already.   Maybe, like a certain father of a demon possessed boy, he could help me believe even through my unbelief.   “So they brought the boy. But when the evil spirit saw Jesus, it threw the child into a violent convulsion, and he fell to the ground, writhing and foaming at the mouth. “How long has this been happening?” Jesus asked the boy’s father. He replied, “Since he was a little boy. The spirit often throws him into the fire or into water, trying to kill him. Have mercy on us and help us, if you can.” “What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.” The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!””  Mark 9:20-24 NLT.

Does it ever feel like the boat is sinking?   Or am I the only one?   Lord Jesus, I’m in a storm.   The boat is filling up, and I just can’t keep up.   I’m asking you to wake up.  I know you can calm the wind and the seas.  In you I do believe.

But, Lord Jesus, I need you to wake up, and help me to overcome my unbelief.

“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

Hope. Or no Hope?

1 Thessalonians.  The first Christian scripture.  Paul’s letters were written before the Gospels, and the first of Paul’s letters wasn’t  Romans, it was 1 Thessalonians.  Paul had been preaching the good news in the Greek city of Thessalonica.    These Gentiles, non-Jews, were coming to believe in the Jewish Messiah.  That was the announcement, that God was reframing or reforming his own people.  There was going to be a New Jerusalem, a new Israel, a new kingdom, a new redeemed people.  It was no longer going to be defined by Jewish ethnicity, or Jewish circumcision, or Jewish Torah.   But rather, it was being expanded, and was now being defined by faith, baptism, and obedience to Messiah.   Anyone, Jew or Gentile, who believed that Jesus is the Messiah, whom God has raised from the dead and made to be Lord, they would be incorporated.  It doesn’t matter whether they are Jew or Gentiles, male or female, slave or bond, Scythian or free.  They are going to be incorporated into this new body of Messiah, the new israel, the new society of the redeemed.   “Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.”  Colossians 3:11 ESV

Paul has been preaching this in Thessalonica and some of these Greeks have believed have been baptized.  They’ve become members of this new community, and are waiting for Jesus to come.  They are waiting for the king to come.  As Paul says to the Philippians, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”   Philippians 3:20-21 ESV.  Our citizenship is in heaven…our citizenship is in heaven, but we are colonizing earth.  From heaven, We are waiting for the king to come, and when he comes he will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.   We are waiting for the king to come.   When he comes, he will transform our bodies to be like his glorious, risen body.   Paul is preaching this to the Thessalonians, to which they say “Sounds great. Can’t wait!”   And they are anticipating the imminent return of Christ.  Whether that week, that month, but certainly that year.

But now a couple of years have gone by, and Jesus has not appeared.  Worse yet, during this time, some in their community have died.  Some of the church people have died.  So some of the Thessalonians are having a crisis.  They want to know what’s going on, what’s going to happen to those who have passed?  What’s going to happen to them?  They thought Jesus was coming and was going to transform them.  But now their friends and loved ones have died, what’s going to happen to them?

So Paul writes to the Thessalonians to comfort them, to instruct them, and teach them more accurately the way of the Christian faith.  “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 ESV.  But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep...notice Paul’s word for those who have died in the Lord is “asleep”.   This is how Paul describes those Christians who have died and are dead.  But he does not want us to be uninformed about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.   

And this is very interesting.   The pagan world had plenty of theories about what happens when someone dies.   They did not believe the dead ceased to exist.   They fully believed they went to a better place, they went somewhere else, on and on.  But they had no hope of resurrection, no hope of coming alive in this body again.  Paul, quite simply, calls that no hope, and says that’s why we grieve so severely.

For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.”  Amen.

Paul says that when the Lord comes, those that have already fallen asleep, that have died and been buried, will not be left out, in fact they will be raised first.  Then all of us will go forth to welcome the coming of the Lord, will meet him in the air, and henceforth will always be with the Lord.

But keep in mind, don’t get our thinking wrong, Jesus is not coming to take us away to a better place.  This place is just fine.  He’s coming to reign and to rule and to raise the dead.   He’s coming to finally fully establish his kingdom.

We will go forth to meet him, because that’s the proper thing to do when the king comes.  You don’t just sit in our house watching television when the king comes, you go forth and meet him.  We’ll go forth and meet our king as he comes from the heavens, but he’s not taking us off anywhere.  He’s going to be with us, because he’s coming here.  He’s not coming to whisk us off somewhere else, he’s coming to to reign and to rule and to raise the dead, and that is the hope that we have.   Paul says Therefore encourage one another with these words.

This is our hope.  Paul later will call it the blessed hope.  The Christian hope, the Easter hope, the hope of resurrection.  The hope is that unknown brothers, unknown sisters, mothers, fathers, relatives we have met, relatives we have never met.  Friends and relatives we’ve known well and have buried, that we will meet them again someday.  Hallelujah

Then there’s this mystery.  The mystery that in one sense the whole body of Christ, the whole company of the redeemed, is to each of us unknown brothers and sisters.  We need to get to know one another.  Might take a while, but we have time.

What has happened is death.   The problem is not time, the problem is death.  Death has separated us from one another.  Maybe you’d like to meet the apostle Paul, maybe you’d like to meet Peter, how about meeting Mary, the mother of Jesus?   I mention them because they are famous.   But there are others out there who lived who knows when and who knows where.  But they are my unknown brother, my unknown sister.  But it’s death that has separated us. But Christ has conquered death…

As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15 “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:57-58 ESV.   But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  It’s the victory over the grave.  Therefore, because death is defeated and we’re going to have an ongoing life in the resurrection,  Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.   Because it will find continuation in the age to come.  Have that hope.

John Lewis

The King is Coming

The King is Coming

Coming back to the triumphal entry I started on last week.  The true King of Kings, the true Prince of Peace has arrived in Jerusalem.  He has arrived not like a war waging conqueror like Pharaoh or Caesar, he has arrived in the way of God.   He has come humble and lowly, his feet dragging the ground on a colt of a donkey, too small for him.  He’s arrived driving a ‘72 Pinto…

He’s humble and lowly. He’s a good king, he’s come to set the world right.  The whole caravan comes to the top of the Mount of Olives, and some begin to pull down branches, some take off their coats and throw them on the ground before this parody of a triumphal entry.  They make way for this king, a different kind of king, a humble and lowly king, a peaceful king riding on the foal of a donkey too small for him.  They are shouting Hosanna, save now, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, the true king of Israel, the messiah, the king is coming!  All hail the king!!

But there were protesters.  The Pharisees.  They’ve been resisting Jesus almost from the beginning.  This religious, political conservative party that wants to take back Israel for God, but they want to do it their way.   They’re resisting Jesus, and this is now the final mention of the Pharisees.  From this point on the antagonism and conspiracy against Jesus  will be taken over by the chief priests, who are not Pharisees but mainly Sadduccees.

The final mention of the Pharisees – And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.”  Hey Rabbi, you better tell your disciples to stop it!  You hear what they’re saying?  They’re calling you the Messiah, they’re calling you the king of Israel.  If Pilate hears about this, if the governor hears about this, if Rome hears about this, there’s going to be trouble.  You better tell them to be quiet!!

To which Jesus says Not today!  He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.””   Not this time.  He’s told them to be quiet.  He’s told them to be quiet all through his ministry.   When Peter confessed him as messiah he told them to keep quiet.   “Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.” Matthew 16:20 ESV.  But not today.  It’s all coming to pass now!  Today is the day the lord has made!!   Today is the day for the king to come into his kingdom!! I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.   Because it must be proclaimed today that Israel’s true king has come to the capital in Jerusalem.

So Jesus arrives in Jerusalem.  They are saying Hosanna, save now!   They are saying “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”, from Psalm 118.   They are saying Blessed is the son of David, meaning the true king.  They are saying Blessed is the king of Israel, not Herod, he’s not the true king!   It’s this one, this prophet from Galilee, he’s the real king!

They are saying things like “…Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!””  Luke 19:38 ESV.   This is an echo of the Christmas song the angels sang.  At his birth the angels sang “”Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”” Luke 2:14 ESV. Now, 33 years later as Jesus makes his triumphal entry they are saying peace in heaven and glory in the highest.  In other words, Jesus is completing his mission.  His mission has always been to announce, enact, and bring the kingdom of God.  Now here comes the king to the capital, bringing the reign and rule and government of God.

In celebrating Jesus as the coming king, the son of David, the long awaited messiah, the Palm Sunday crowd got Jesus right.  He’s all of those things, the son Of David, the king of Israel, he’s the long awaited messiah, he’s the one come to redeem israel, and they must hail him as king.  They must shout.  Jesus says if they don’t shout, the very stones would cry out.   It must be proclaimed on this day.   In this way, the Palm Sunday crowd Jesus right.  Tomorrow, we will look at how this same crowd had Jesus wrong….

“As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.””

Luke 19:37-40 ESV

http://bible.com/59/luk.19.37-40.esv

John Lewis

Saving Zacchaeus

Saving Zacchaeus

Jesus touches the untouchable. The leper and the unclean, Jesus touches them. Jesus loves the unlovable, the tax collector and the prostitute. Jesus includes the excluded, the Samaritan and the prostitute. Jesus welcomes the banished, the prodigal and the scapegoat.

Zacchaeus has a role to play in Jericho. He has a role to play in their religious framework. They do it unconsciously, the crowd. They don’t know what they are doing, this is what Jesus prays from the cross. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34 ESV. They don’t know what they are doing, but they need Zacchaeus, because they’re whole religious system needs a scapegoat.

The word religion, in its origin, means “to bind together.” It’s what gives us cohesion and binds us together in culture and religious similarity. But from the dawn of religion, it works like this – we’re all afraid. We’re all afraid that we won’t belong, we’re all afraid that we’ll be the outcast. We’re all afraid that we don’t measure up. We’re all haunted by this lurking fear that we’re not good enough. So what we do collectively, and largely unconsciously, is we take that fear and insecurity and we project it on someone that we have determined is really bad

So we see one like Zacchaeus, chief tax collector, chief of sinners. What we are saying is I don’t know if I’m good enough, but I’m not as bad as that one!! We all agree that we can be included, because we’re not as bad as that one!!! This is really the origin of religion. Throughout the world, that’s primarily how religion works. It’s very sophisticated, it can be done in much more elaborate ways, in fact that’s where sacrifice comes from.

The only problem is Jesus comes along and will not play the game!!! You can get the feeling they all want to take Jesus aside and say “Don’t you know how this works? The only reason we feel good and secure is because we are able to take our fear and insecurity and project it on someone ekse. But you go and keep having lunch with those guys! It’s messing up our who system.” To which Jesus says ‘Yeah, Pretty much…”

This is the radical hospitable of Jesus that Luke desperately wants us to see. It’s why Luke shows Jesus going from table to table, from meal to meal, eating and drinking with all the wrong people, as if Jesus is constantly saying to those who have been excluded “You belong here. I know you’ve been told that you don’t belong. That you are forbidden, that you cannot come here. But I am saying that you belong here, you tax collector, you sinner, you prostitute, you leper, you unclean, I say you belong here.” Some of us may applaud Jesus for that, but not everyone did. Jesus practiced a boundary pushing, kosher-challenging, line crossing, Pharisee infuriating radical hospitality. The question is, do we?

If we’re not careful, what we like to do is draw the lines, put up the velvet rope, and make sure it’s very clear who’s in and who’s out. We do this lest we be found guilty of going soft on sin. Can’t be seen as soft on sin, can we? Gotta draw the lines, put up the ropes, put up the barriers, because we don’t want to go soft on sin…

But does it work? Does this exclusionary practice actually produce holy people. Or is this more of the real story? – In general, aren’t we just as filled with lust, just as greedy, just as angry, just as self centered, just as broken, just as addicted, but we have with it the added pressure of keeping it hidden. At least in the bar you can say “I’m really messed up. I’m probably an alcoholic. I’m cheating on my wife. I’m really a bad sinner.” And they will put their arm around you and say “Well, you know, maybe things will get better..

But you can’t do that in church, because you will be then excluded. So maybe our exclusionary practice has served only to make us very competent in the practice of hypocrisy. It doesn’t produce holiness, it just teaches us how to hide our problems. All the while, Jexus says this – “Just come to my table. Be honest. And don’t prevent anyone else from coming to the table.”

You can really sum it up like this. Jesus says “Come to my table. Be honest. Don’t pretend, I already know everything. I know you’re a sinner. I know who you are Zacchaeus. I know who you are Bob, Fred, Susie, Nancy, Sally, Ted. I know who you are. I know what your issues are, and I accept you. Just come to my table. But be honest about who you are. And don’t stop anyone else from coming. That’s all I ask.” I think that’s pretty close to what Jesus is asking of people.

For Jesus, salvation is radical hospitality and the redemptive consequences that come from it. For Jesus, salvation is having a seat at the table of grace and the transformation that happens there. Remember, Jesus virtually never uses the word salvation. In fact, he uses it exactly twice in all the gospels. None in Mark, none in Matthew, once in John, once in Luke.

But what Jesus does talk about is the Kingdom of God, and that’s what he talked about all the time. Over and over, Kingdom, kingdom, kingdom. Every sermon, every parable, Jesus constantly talks about the Kingdom of God. Meanwhile, the apostle Paul almost never talks about the Kingdom of God, but he talks about salvation all the time. But we must get this, Jesus and Paul are talking about the same thing. What Jesus calls the Kingdom of God, what Paul calls salvation, they are not talking about two different things.

But here’s one of those times where Jesus uses the noun salvation. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.We put up the velvet rope, we draw the lines, we engage in exclusionary practices and tactics because we’re afraid sin will run rampant. All we’re really doing is showing our own lack of faith in Jesus. We need to have a little more faith in Jesus. We need to believe that if people will encounter Jesus, something good will happen.

We like to say love the sinner, hate the sin. That way we can feel extra special pious as we lovingly point out everybody else’s sin. But where do you find Jesus telling us to hate other people’s sin? Nowhere. Jesus says hate your own sin. Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?Matthew 7:4 ESV. Jesus says that while we’re busy worrying about someone else’s sin, we have logs in our own eyes. Jesus says to us love the sinner…always. But he says love the sinner, hate your own sin.

So Jesus says he must eat with the worst sinner in town. People said that was Zacchaeus was the worst sinner in town, Jesus says Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today. But to be with Jesus is to be changed. So Zacchaeus says Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will restore it fourfold. Zacchaeus didn’t know his Torah. The Torah only required twenty percent restitution. But Zacchaeus declares he will restore it fourfold. And Jesus jumps and says salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham.This is what Jesus came to do, seek and save the lost. He came to find those on the outside, excluded, told they don’t belong, and bring them in…

Jesus finds this new commitment of Zacchaeus to economic justice and calls it salvation. It’s not that Zacchaeus earns forgiveness by what he now does with his money. Zacchaeus is saved by the radical hospitality of Jesus, by the fact that he comes to his house and shared a meal with him. But this is what salvation looks like in the life of someone like Zacchaeus. And we should see that to be with Jesus is to be transformed.

Grace is being offered a seat at the table no matter who you are or what you’ve done. Salvation is the forgiveness and transformation that happens as a result. It’s not Zacchaeus eternal destiny that needs to be saved. Jesus never says “I need to save your eternal destiny.” What needs saving is Zacchaeus. If Zacchaeus is saved, his eternal destiny will be fine.

Jesus is not wanting to save your eternal destiny, he wants to save you. Zacchaeus was a messed up man. He was malformed, misshapen, twisted up. He twisted out of shape by societies pliers, he valued money more that people. But one meal with Jesus and his transformation has begun. He says wait a minute…people are way more important than money.I’m going to give half my money to the poor and if I’ve cheated anyone I’ll give them four times as much. And Jesus says Today salvation has come to this house….Jesus says that looks like salvation to him. It looks like Zacchaeus is getting it, Zacchaeus is being transformed, he is becoming a new creation.

As surely as Jesus called Zacchaeus down from that tree by name, he calls you by name. He says “come to my table.” Eat the bread, drink from the cup. Just come. If you’re willing to come, Jesus will receive you. Be honest, don’t come to the table and pretend. Don’t come and pretend to be more righteous than you are. Jesus knows you. Come honestly about who you are. And don’t prevent anyone else from coming. Take down your barricades, take down your velvet ropes. If anyone will come, let them come to the table of the lord…

“He entered Jericho and was passing through. And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.””

Luke 19:1-10 ESV

http://bible.com/59/luk.19.1-10.esv

John Lewis

Little Rich Man

I’ve been working my way through the gospel of Luke, now we are into chapter 19. Ever since chapter 9, Luke has been retracing the final journey of Jesus to Jerusalem. From right after the transfiguration in chapter 9 to the triumphal entry at the end of chapter 19, Jesus is on a journey from Galilee to Jerusalem. The story becomes more and more ominous as we go. There is a dark ominous cloud lingering over Jesus as he’s on his way ultimately to be crucified. He talks more and more about what is to happen once they get to Jerusalem…saying things like “”You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.””Matthew 26:2 ESV. And…“The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.””

Luke 9:22 ESV

But today we have the final event before Jesus arrives in Jerusalem. What Luke is doing today is once more showing us that salvation and the kingdom of god are expressed as radical hospitality.

Throughout his gospel, Luke shows Jesus as moving from table to table, meal to meal, announcing and enacting the kingdom of god. He wants to show us one more time, with the story of Zacchaeus, what that kingdom looks like. They are nearing Jerusalem, arriving at Jericho. They are one days journey from Jerusalem. The very next day Jesus will arrive in Jerusalem. This is the final event recorded before we move into the actual passion week, the Holy Week of Jesus.

“He entered Jericho and was passing through. And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.””

By now we are encountering what should be a familiar theme. Once again we have a tax collector, not just a regular tax collector but a chief tax collector. He is rich and he is despised. The Pharisees thought that land based wealth based on production of the land was a sign of being blessed by God. We saw before that Jesus didn’t agree with that. He didn’t agree with the assesment that you can determine God’s favor and blessing based upon wealth and riches. Nevertheless, the Pharisees thought that great wealth accrued through the production of the land was a sign of Gods favor, but wealth accrued by collecting taxes for the hated occupying gentile force of the Romans was seen as a great evil. Tax collectors and prostitutes were seen as the consummate moral outcasts, excluded from the synagogue and temple life. A chief tax collector would be seen as completely excluded from the covenant of Abraham. You might as well think of Zachaeaus as the chief of sinners.

Zacchaeus is banished from the synagogue, he can not participate from synagogue life. Being banished from the synagogue, he’s also banished from the Kingdom of God. There was a great sense of anticipation at this time. There was a great Jewish anticipation something big was about to happen. The Kingdom of God really was going to come. They believed that God was about to act decisively and definitively very soon, and would establish his reign, rule, and government among men. They were equally convinced that people like Zacchaeus would be excluded from it. They would not be a part of what God was doing. They would be left out.

But – by this time I hope you have learned that we must not be so quick to dismiss those who appear to be outside of the kingdom of God just because they don’t presently participate in accepted forms of religious life.

This is Zacchaeus’ situation. He is an outsider, an outcast. He is banned from the synagogue. Everybody views him as a despised sinner, and he will not be a part of what God is doing.

But Zacchaeus has something going for him. He is fascinated by Jesus. He has heard that Jesus is coming. Word of Jesus had spread, this prophet from Galilee who works miracles, heals the sick, helps the lame walk, the blind see. I’m sure that had gotten Zacchaeus attention.

No doubt he’d also heard about his table practice. He’d heard how this miracle worker from Galilee would also share his table with tax collectors and sinners and prostitutes and the outcasts, those who’d been banned from the synagogue. This is very fascinating to Zacchaeus.

We are told that Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus, but not just as a celebrity. He wanted to see who Jesus is. He was fascinated by Jesus. I want to see who this guy is. What is he about? What’s he really like?

That kind of sinner is far more common than you think. Our world is filled with people who have zero interest in going to a church, but they are fascinated by Jesus. And if they see some means by which they really might actually know what Jesus is actually about and like, the are interested in that. That’s Zacchaeus…

Jesus is seeking and saving the lost. All those people that we think are on the wrong side of God, that don’t do things just as we do, Jesus wants to sit down and share a meal with them. And they are far more willing to sit down with Jesus than we, or even they, might think. Trouble is, the body of Christ in the world is far too often putting up barriers, putting conditions in coming to the table. Instead of putting up barriers, maybe we just need to wash the dishes, set the table, prepare the meal, and have a seat.

Yes, these people are messed up. But do we trust Jesus enough to simply allow him to sit down those whom we think are lost? Of course there is more to say on this, I will be back…

“He entered Jericho and was passing through. And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.””

Luke 19:1-10 ESV

John Lewis