Practice Resurrection

Why does Jesus do this thing that he does, bringing back the dead??   Why did he go to the house of Jairus and bring his daughter back from the dead?  Because that’s the work of the Father.  What does the Father do?  He gives life to the dead!   Because the great problem facing humanity is death, and the work of the Father is to give life to the dead…

A son, a young man, dead for a whole day, is about to be buried.  He is heading to the cemetery.  Jesus comes across the funeral procession.   He touches the coffin, they stop.  The body, the corpse in the coffin, comes alive, sits up, and begins to speak to them.   “And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.” Luke 7:13-15 ESV.  Jesus gives a widow back her only son.

The greatest, most spectacular  of all Jesus’ miracles is the raising of Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha.  Lazarus is four days dead.  He’s  buried in a tomb.  But if you believe you will see the glory of the father revealed in the son“Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”” John 11:39-40 ESV.   Roll away the stone.  Lazarus come forth!!   That is the glory of the father revealed in son.  “”Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.”  John 5:25 ESV

To believe in Christ and be baptized in Christ, to be born of spirit and water, is to receive the promise (since we all like promises so much) that as Christ was raised from the dead, so shall we be raised from the dead.

Think about it.  On Good Friday Jesus is nailed to the cross and he dies.  He breathes his last,  he commits his spirit to god.  He’d already told the thief today you’ll be with me in paradise.   So Jesus breathes his last, commends his spirit to the father, and is with the father in paradise.   But he’s also dead.

His body is taken down from the cross, lifeless, and laid away in a tomb.  We do not celebrate Good Friday independent of Easter Sunday.  We commemorate Good Friday and recognize what was done there.  But what we celebrate is the victory of Jesus Christ over the grave when on Sunday morning he was physically raised to life again.  (Amen and amen)

The promise is that the we who have been baptized into Christ and believed  on Christ shall join Christ in a similar resurrection.  So no matter what we experience in the interim state, where we die and are absent from the body and present with the lord, the great promise is the resurrection that Jesus Christ accomplishes when he comes again.    The Bible tells us very little about the interim state, where we die and we are absent from the body and present with the lord.  Paul refers  to those in that state as those who are asleep, but apparently not unconscious.   It’s blissful, it’s peaceful, it’s paradise, it’s with the lord, but it’s not the great promise.  The great promise is the resurrection that Jesus Christ accomplishes when he comes again.

But – we who believe in Christ are to live by faith according to the realities of the age to come.   For when Christ returns and the the dead are raised and Jesus reigns over the nations, things are going to change.  Some things will be abolished and done away with.  Other things will be inaugurated and will continue.  We who live by faith in Christ now are to as much as possible live out those resurrection realities now.

In the words of Eugene Peterson and Wendell Barry, we are to “practice resurrection”.   We are to practice resurrection by trying to imagine and understand, in the age to come, what will be abolished and what will be continued and inaugurated.  If it will be abolished, let’s abolish it now.  If it will continue, let’s continue it now.  If it will be inaugurated, let’s inaugurate it now.

Let’s be a preview of the age to come.  Let’s practice resurrection.

John Lewis


That Death Be Not Final

One of the absolute deepest longings of human beings is that death would not be the end.   That somehow love might overcome death, and loved ones we have lost, or even loved ones we’ve never met, we would somehow be able to meet again.   One of the deepest religious longings that human beings have is that death be not final.  That death can be overcome.

One of the most basic things that Christians believe is that life is good.   We believe that when God created the heavens and the earth and all that fills them, he looked upon it and said it’s good.  He said it’s good, it’s good, it’s good, and finally He said it’s very good.   And we have come to believe that.  We believe that even though life can be hard and difficult and challenging and sometimes filled with pain, nevertheless life is worth living, because in its essence life is good.

We are surrounded by beauty.  But we can become numb to it.  We sometimes need to be reminded to wake up to it and be aware of it.  But just think of waking up in the morning.  You open your eyes, the sun is shining.  That’s good.  You might hear something, the birds are singing.  That’s good too.  Maybe you’re like me and set the timer on the coffee pot, because that smell when I’m waking up in the morning is very good.   Maybe you have have a nice breakfast, and it tastes good.  Maybe you share a touch with your husband or your wife or even a pet.  So you get all the senses involved, and it’s barely daylight outside, and we are reminded once more that life is good.  It’s worth living.  It has capacity for mystery and wonder and exploration and discovery, that leads to more mystery and wonder and exploration, that leads to more discovery, and it really is a beautiful thing, and life is worth living.

But then we run into a problem.  Life is so good that death threatens to make life absurd, and in the end rob it of its inherent meaning.  Life is so good that in one sense we are tasting and seeing that God is good.  We are having some encounter with the divine, and 100 years is not enough.  I would say that if you lived 120 years and then died, you died too young.  Of course, the way it works out is that death begins to draw near, and the body begins to fade away and fall apart, and there is a sense in which, in that case, death can be a kind of a rest, a release, or escape.

But that’s not what was intended.   That’s not what God had in mind.  When God breathed upon man and man had the capacity to be God-aware and self-conscious and be able to contemplate the goodness of life, God did not intend for that to ever be lost.  But the effect of sin has been death…

So we run into the problem of having tasted enough of life to know it’s good, but we want it to go on forever.  We don’t want the ride to be over.  We don’t want it to end.  We don’t want it to stop.  But we know it does…

And thus, the problem.  The problem of mankind being subject to futility and death.   That though we find out that life can be good, and there are moments so precious and so wonderful and so good, yet we know that death constantly stalks us.  So the Gospel of Jesus Christ primarily addresses itself fundamentally to that problem.

The primary problem that the gospel addresses is not the problem of personal sin, though that is included.   But the problem problem the gospel addresses is death.   The wages paid by sin to the human race is death…forgiveness is included, but the primary emphasis of the gospel is that we are saved from the tyranny and dominion of death.

“So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.” John 5:19-21 ESV

Here are two fundamental, most basic truths of Christian theology.   Theology is simply how we think and what we say about God.  Theology is important because how we think and what we say about God matters.  1).  God is immutable.  God does not change, is not subject to change, never will change.  If God himself is subject to change then we’re all in trouble because then we’ve lost our constant, we’ve lost our rock, our foundation.  We’ve lost that which doesn’t change when everything else changes.   This is undeniable,  I haven’t heard of anyone who really disputes it.  One of the bedrock foundations of Christian theology is that God is immutable, He does not change.

2). God is fully and perfectly revealed in Christ.  It is as we look at Jesus Christ that we discover what this unchanging God is like and has always been like.   “No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.” John 1:18 NRSV. Jesus says in the earlier passage in John 5 that When I’m doing these things that I do, all I’m doing is I am looking at the father, and seeing what the father does, and I am doing them so you can see it, what the works of the Father are.  So if we want to know what God is all about, what God is interested in, what God does, what the work of God is like, we look in Matthew,  Mark, Luke and John, we see what Jesus is doing, because he always does the works of the Father.  He reveals to us the works of the Father.  Then He says “…and the Father will show Him greater works than these, so that you will marvel.” John 5:20 NASB.

Of course, the greatest sign that Jesus gives us in his ministry are the raising of the dead.  When Jesus raised the dead….

In Capernaum, the ruler of the synagogue there is a man named Jairus.  He has a little daughter, she’s been deathly ill, now she’s died.  Jesus comes to the home, the mourners are already there.   She’s died not long ago, but have no doubt, the girl is dead.  Jesus said she is not dead, she is only asleep.  “And all were weeping and mourning for her, but he said, “Do not weep, for she is not dead but sleeping.”” Luke 8:52 ESV.   The people began to mock him, Jesus put them out.   He took the father and the mother, went into the room, took the child by the hand and said “Child, arise.”  And the girl woke up, and he gave her back to her parents.    “And they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. But taking her by the hand he called, saying, “Child, arise.” And her spirit returned, and she got up at once. And he directed that something should be given her to eat. And her parents were amazed, but he charged them to tell no one what had happened.”  Luke 8:53-56 ESV

Why did Jesus do this??   Because that’s the work of the Father.  What does the Father do?  He gives life to the dead!   Because the great problem facing humanity is death, and the work of the Father is to give life to the dead…

More to come…

John Lewis

They Wanted a Hero

Five days after the crowds waved their palms and cried their hosannas as he entered Jerusalem, Jesus was on trial.  The Prince of Peace had come, but they didn’t want a prince of peace, they wanted a hero.

They wanted a hero.  Like Barrabas.  Mel Gibson misrepresented Barrabas.  He got Barrabas all wrong.  Barrabas was not just a bloodthirsty cutthroat criminal.  He was a national hero.  He was a freedom fighter.  He had led an insurrection against the Roman occupation.  Some Roman soldiers had been killed.  He had been arrested.  He was a political prisoner set to be executed.  And he was a hero among the Jews.

He had a first name.  Jesus.  Jesus Bar-Abbas.  Jesus, son of the father.  He was a false messiah.  Jesus Barabbas?   Or Jesus of Nazareth?  Pilate says which one do you want?   Do you want the violent freedom fighter hero??   Or do you want the peaceful, riding on a donkey too small for him messiah from Galilee, Jesus of Nazareth?   Give us Barabbas.  As for Jesus, crucify him.

The Palm Sunday crowd said all the right things, but they said them in the wrong way.  It’s not enough to praise Jesus as king, we have to know what kind of king he is.   If we think that Jesus is a king after the model of the conquering pharaohs and Caesar’s, we actually are rejecting Jesus.   And refusing the Price of Peace always has terrible consequences.  That’s why Jesus says a generation from now Jerusalem will become a fiery Gehenna where the worm  never dies as it eats those corpses, and the fires are never quenched.

That’s what Jerusalem did to itself in rejecting Jesus Christ as the Prince of Peace.  Jerusalem did not want the new Kingdom of God, they just wanted to win at the old game of payback, get even, and vengeance.  The old game is power enforced by violence.  They didn’t want God’s new kingdom, they just wanted God to help them win at the old game.  But God had already said through the prophet Zachariah that he was done playing the old game.  That when the messiah comes, god is done with the old game.   No more old game, behold I do a new thing.  “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:19 ESV.   And I send my son, the Prince of Peace to teach peace to the nations.  I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall speak peace to the nations; his rule shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.” Zechariah 9:10 ESV

But Jerusalem did not want the new kingdom, they wanted to win the old game.  Their desire to play the old game led to their destruction.  The Prince of Peace had just ridden into town offering a new way of being Israel and they had missed it.   Their desire to beat their enemies at the old game had blinded them.   They got Jesus wrong, and it set them on a wrong path that ended in their destruction.

If you had asked the chief priests if they believed Zachariah’s prophecy will ever be fulfilled, if they believed that someday the son of David, the true king of Israel, would ever really come humble and lowly, riding on a foal of a donkey, that he will come and teach peace among the nations, do you believe that will ever happen??   They would have said yes, but not now.  Now is not the time for peace.  Now is the time to fight.  Now is the time for war.

This is not a history lesson.  This is a warning for every follower of Jesus.  Do we want Jesus and his new way of peace, or do we want Jesus to help us win the old game?   Are we making the same mistake?  Do we say that someday the prince of peace will come, we believe he will come someday, but not now!!   If we do, we play the same game the chief priests played when they led Jerusalem to hell.

But the Prince of Peace has come!!   The prince of peace HAS COME!   Christmas, Good Friday, Palm Sunday, Easter Sunday HAVE HAPPENED.  The Prince of Peace has come.  But do we want the Prince of Peace?  Or do we want our heroes?    When we play the game of saying we believe the Bible, believing it’s all going to happen, but NOT NOW, that’s how we play the game of rejecting Christ but still believing the Bible…

The chief priests would have told you they believed in Christ.   They would have said they accept Christ, they believed in Messiah, they believed Messiah was coming, but NOT NOW.   NOT NOW.  Yes, we believe the Bible, but it’s not for NOW.  We believe all those verses, but they’re not for now.  Someday, but not now.  Now we fight.

And Jesus said there’ll be hell to pay, and he weeps over Jerusalem.  It’s not enough to praise Jesus.  We can do that and still get Jesus wrong.  We get Jesus right when we confess Jesus as Christ and King.  We get Jesus wrong when we see him as for us and against them.  We get Jesus right when wave the palms as if to welcome the worlds true king.  We get Jesus wrong when we wave the palms as national flags.  We get Jesus right when we acclaim him with the word Hosanna!!   Save now!   We get Jesus wrong when we say it’s hurray for our side

“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

John Lewis

Getting Jesus Wrong

In celebrating Jesus as a warrior king who would lead Israel into battle against their enemies, the Palm Sunday crowd got Jesus wrong.   That’s why he’s riding the foal of a donkey.   It’s a triumphal entry, he’s supposed to be riding a war horse, but he won’t do it.  Here’s the ancient prophecy – “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall speak peace to the nations; his rule shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.” Zechariah 9:9-10 ESV.   He’s a good king who makes all things right, a humble king riding a donkey, a ‘72 Pinto.   Because God says I’ve had it with war, no more chariotsno more tanks, in Ephraim, no more war horses in Jerusalem, no more swords and spears and bows and arrows.  He, this king, this messiah, this prince of peace, will offer peace to the nations, but will the nations accept it?   A peaceful rule worldwide, from the four winds to the seven seas.

The prince of peace has come.  But, does Jerusalem want a prince of peace?  They do not.  They want a warrior king.  Jerusalem turned the triumphal entry into triumphalism, that arrogant, boastful, attitude that says we’re number one!!   Triumphalism is a boastful arrogance, a crystallization of us vs them.  When you receive Jesus not simply saying He is Lord, but he is Lord for US and against them, that’s triumphalism.  When the triumphal entry turned into triumphalism, Jesus wept over Jerusalem.

In the triumphalism of Palm Sunday, Jesus knew Jerusalem had rejected peace, and rejected the Prince of Peace.   Jerusalem didn’t want Zachariah’s peaceful king, they wanted a Jewish warlord.  40 years later they got what they wanted, and there was hell to pay.  Beginning in the year 66, a generation after the crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, false messiahs came, just as Jesus had predicted.  He said within a generation this will happen, there will be signs, one of the signs will be that there will be many false messiahs.    “And he said, “See that you are not led astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them.” Luke 21:8 ESV.  Many rose up and said We are the true king, true anointed one, we’re the true messiah, we will deliver israel from their Roman oppressors.

The revolution really began.  Their bunker Hill was Caesarea in AD 66.  And the Romans had had it.  They sent the 10th Roman legion and marched on Jerusalem in AD 70.   Their standards were held high, their banners flying in the wind, their eagles perched atop their standards.   Jesus had prophecied Where the carcass is, there the eagles will gather…Jerusalem had become a bloated carcass of arrogance, pride, and triumphalism, and they had rejected Messiah.   And the Roman 10th legion came marching, Jesus had predicted these evens, all in Luke 21.  “”But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it, for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written. Alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress upon the earth and wrath against this people. They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” Luke 21:20-24 ESV.

Jesus warned them to flee, to get out of the city.   But they didn’t listen.  Instead, just the opposite happened.  People rushed into the city.  They thought we are the people of God, we will go to the holy city, God will fight for us!!   But God had already said in the ancient prophecy I’m done with war.   More than a million people packed into the city.  The Romans set siege and for seven months they waited them out.  Starvation broke out, disease, fighting among the Jews within the city.  Cannibalization, plague, disease came.   People began to try to escape, but the Romans said Too late!  Everyone that tried to escape was crucified until the city was encircled by thousands of rotting corpses upon crosses.  In August, the offensive came.  They broke down the city walls, some say 600,000, Josephus says over a million Jews were killed.   The rest, 100,000 or so, the survivors, were carried off as slaves to Rome to build the coliseum.

Jesus foresaw it all.  Still on Palm Sunday he wept over Jerusalem.  “And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.””   Luke 19:41-44 ESV.  And Jesus wept.  It’s the climax of the covenant.   It’s the fulfillment of all the Hebrew prophecies.  Everything is reaching the pinnacle and now God has acted.  The true king that will preach  peace and bring the government and the reign and rule of God has arrived in Jerusalem.

But Jerusalem is rejecting him.  Yes they are confessing that he is the king, but they have it in their mind that he will be a violent war waging king.  He’s not the kind of Jesus they want.  Five days later, Jesus will be on trial.   The prince of peace has come, but they don’t want a prince of peace, they want a hero.

“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

John Lewis

Kingdom Come

Kingdom Come

Going back to the Gospel of Luke one more time.  Looking at the triumphal entry on Palm Sunday.   It’s a day full of contradictions.  It’s confusing.  It’s hard for us to fully understand.  It’s rejoicing that leads the rejection.   It’s joy that turns into sorrow.  Celebration that turns to suffering.   It’s a triumphal entry that turns into carrying the cross to Calvary.   Palm Sunday is full of contradictions.

The crowd was right to celebrate the coming of Jesus because this was the true coming of the true King.   The crowd was right to celebrate the coming of Jesus, but they celebrated the coming of Jesus in a wrong way.  They misunderstood its meaning, and that’s how they got it wrong.  Sometimes we can get Jesus right, sometimes we can get Jesus wrong.

We’ve been allowing Luke, the physician, who addresses us as “Dear Theophilus”, dear lover of God, to reintroduce us to Jesus.  We’ve been allowing Luke to show us Jesus, and hopefully we are seeing Jesus in new ways.

Ever since Luke chapter 9, we’ve been following Jesus on his final journey to Jerusalem.  We now are in chapter 19, last time I was in Luke we were in Jericho, where Jesus healed Blind Bartimaeus and saved Zacchaeus.   There is only one more leg on the journey, and today we arrive in Jerusalem.

So Jesus leaves Jericho, and it’s up, up up to Jerusalem.  Jericho is the lowest city of the world, right on the shores of the Dead Sea, 1200 feet below sea level.  It’s only 15 miles from Jericho to Jerusalem, but it’s uphill all the way.   From Jericho to Jerusalem, it’s 15 miles, but 3800 feet of an uphill climb.  When you arrive at Jerusalem from Jericho, coming from the east, you crest the Mount of Olives, today just as then, and it is quite the view with the whole city of Jerusalem stretched out before you.  So Jesus crests the Mount of Olives, and there is special excitement with his followers from Galilee this trip to Jerusalem.  They are there for the Passover, but they all believe something momentous is going to occur this year, that finally Israel’s true King is coming.  The excitement at this point is palpable.

They are reaching their destination, and finally the city is before them.  Jesus is on top of the Mount of Olives, but then he pauses.  He’s going to stage a prophetic enactment.  He must fulfill the prophecy.  Jesus knows the scriptures.  He has something very specific in mind, he must enter the city a certain way.   Because what Jesus is doing all through his ministry is announcing and enacting the kingdom of God.   In his preaching, in his parables, in healing the sick, in casting out demons, in raising the dead, in who he receives at his table, Jesus is announcing and enacting the kingdom of God.   So now, one more time, he wants to announce and enact the kingdom of God in a very powerful, prophetic way.  So he pauses at the top of the Mount of Olives.   “When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village in front of you, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this: ‘The Lord has need of it.'”” Luke 19:29-31 ESV.

They bring this foal of a donkey to Jesus.   Jesus sits on it.  It’s too small for him, it looks funny.  His feet are dragging on the ground.   And yet, this is how Jesus is going to enter Jerusalem.

Why??   Because it’s a parody of the military triumphs of Babylon, Rome, and Egypt.  Instead of riding a war horse (because that’s how the King enters the city, on a war house), here’s a man being hailed as king riding not only a donkey, but the colt of a donkey.  It would be like reducing the presidential motorcade to a 1972 Pinto.   It’s a parody, but it’s also a prophecy.  Jesus is deliberately and intentionally fulfilling a prophecy he knows shows what the true king will look like when he comes into his kingdom.  The prophecy is this – ““Shout and cheer, Daughter Zion! Raise the roof, Daughter Jerusalem! Your king is coming! a good king who makes all things right, a humble king riding a donkey, a mere colt of a donkey. I’ve had it with war—no more chariots in Ephraim, no more war horses in Jerusalem, no more swords and spears, bows and arrows. He will offer peace to the nations, a peaceful rule worldwide, from the four winds to the seven seas.”  Zechariah 9:9-10 MSG.   In other words, everything that the prophets have foretold about God establishing his kingdom through his own Son, the seed of Abraham, The son of David, it’s all coming to pass right now.

The true King of Kings, the true Prince of Peace, the true seed of Abraham, the true son of David, the true Messiah, the true Christ has come!   He doesn’t come as a war waging conqueror like Caesar or Pharaoh, he comes in the way of God.  Because God says I’m done with war.   I’m going to, through my Son, preach peace to the nations….

So he comes humble and lowly, his feet dragging the ground on a colt too small for him.  He’s driving a ‘72 Pinto…

“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

Sent from my iPad

Wait For It

Wait For It

The band Arcade Fire touched on something in their song “We Used to Wait”, from the 2010 Grammy winning album of the year “The Suburbs”.   It’s a song about how fast our pace of life has become, how complicated things have become, about how even though we tell ourselves everything will be alright, we just can’t sleep at night.  If everything is so alright, just why can’t we sleep at night??   Here is a partial lyric sheet from that song…

I used to write
I used to write letters
I used to sign my name

I used to sleep at night
Before the flashing lights settled deep in my brain

Now our lives are changing fast.
Now our lives are changing fast.
Hope that something pure can last.
Hope that something pure can last.

Now it seems strange
How we used to wait for letters to arrive
But what’s stranger still
Is how something so small can keep you alive

We used to wait.
We used to waste hours just walking around
We used to wait.
All those wasted lives in the wilderness downtown

We used to wait.
We used to wait.
We used to wait.
Sometimes it never came
We used to wait
Sometimes it never came
We used to wait
I’m still moving through the pain

Now we’re screaming “sing it again”

I used to wait for it

I used to wait for it

Hear my voice screaming “sing it again”

Wait for it

Wait for it

Wait for it

Now I’m going back 4000 years.    Going back to a time when we used to wait for it…

“And the Lord appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day….”

Genesis 18:1-2 ESV

The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mare, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day….Do you have this image??   We can look at the Bedouin people in the Judea wilderness.  Arcade Fire sings that our lives are changing fast, but not for the Bedouins…Our lives may be changing fast, but theirs are not.  We can imagine what this scene is like, we can know what the tent looks like.  We can imagine old man Abraham sitting at the door of his tent.   We can imagine Sarah bringing to him a bowl of dates. Old man Abraham, it’s hot outside, just sitting in the door of his tent under his canopy.  Old man Abraham with his long beard, just sitting there.  Doing nothing more than occasionally eating dates, spitting out the pits, drinking from his jug of water.  He’s just being…alive in the heat of the day.  He can taste the sweetness of the date, see the blue sky, feel the heat of the day, hear the insects drone, he can smell the sheep….

Then in the shimmering distance on the horizon, he sees three men drawing near.  Three strangers, he doesn’t know them.  So Abraham does what Bedouins do to this day, offer their famous hospitality, he invites them to stay for a meal, and they do.  Abraham sits down in the heat of the day at the entrance to his tent with his three guests and they share a meal.  But over the course of the meal, and the conversation that ensues, Abraham slowly begins to understand that this more than three strangers, but this is in fact an encounter with God, the God that he worships, the God that he has followed out of Ur of the Chaldeans.

God begins to reveal more if his will and make more promises.  This time God makes promises to Sarah and Sarah laughs and thinks it’s funny.  Sarah says “I didn’t laugh”, God says “Yes you did.”   Because she did laught, because it’s funny.  God says that she, Sarah, at 90 years old will in a year give birth to a child by Abraham who is 99.  It’s funny stuff…

What is Abraham doing??  Ultimately he’s saving the world.  He’s establishing the line of Abraham that becomes the nation of Israel.  That becomes the people through whom Messiah comes and brings us salvation.  He’s living the most important life in history before Jesus Christ.  Not Moses, not David, not Solomon, not Elijah, but nobody is more important than father Abraham.

What does he do?  He doesn’t do much in life.  If you add up everthing he did in the Bible it wouldn’t take much more than a week.  Abraham spent most of his life waiting.  Just being, just waiting…

We used to wait for things.   That’s what Arcade Fire recognizes in their song as a change in our society.  We don’t wait much anymore.  Now our lives are changing fast, hope that something pure can last….

One of the biggest changes over the past century, the whole of the twentieth century but even more so now in the twenty first century is the speed of life.  It just keeps getting faster and faster and faster…the speed of life.  Much of our technology has been utilized to make things happen that much faster.  So fast that we don’t have to wait for it.  As a people, we have learned to dislike waiting.  We hate to wait

I am writing to myself far more than you.  This might be for you but I know it’s for me.  I’m writing out of my own need.  We have been cultured in speed and instant.  We have learned to hate the idea of waiting for anything.  I am the worst, and it’s a defect in my character I’m asking Jesus for help with.   So when a band like Arcade Fire tells us to wait for it, they are speaking to me.  I know  this is something I need to hear, probably we all need to hear…

The Bible really has almost nothing good to say about being in a hurry.  In fact, the Bible seems to view being in a hurry as a kind of temptation.  A kind of lust to have things in an inappropriate way.  When the Bible portrays people who won’t wait for it, It usually means they are heading in a wrong direction….

Adam and Eve.  Think about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Knowing good and evil, that in and if itself probably was not an evil thing.  What was evil was for Adam and Eve not to wait for it and let God in his way, in his time, teach them good from evil.  Instead, they listened to the serpent, couldn’t wait for it, and went and plucked from that tree and put the whole human race into trouble.

Abraham and Sarah, most of the time they did pretty good.  But then they had a hard time waiting for it.  So they wanted to speed things up, make it happen faster.  They got tired of waiting for it.  So Sarah gives Haggar to Abraham.  Let’s just say that created some tension in the home…brought some trouble about.

Maybe you remember the story about King Saul was waiting for the prophet Samuel to come preside over the offering of the sacrifice.   Samuel was delayed, Saul was waiting.   He had to wait for it. He didn’t want to wait any longer, so he offered up the sacrifice himself, something he was not authorized to do.   It got Saul in trouble, and it began his whole downward spiral until finally he would be rejected by the Lord from being King.  Because he wouldn’t wait for it.

Or the Prodigal Son.  He wouldn’t wait for it, he wanted his inheritance NOW!  It’s a defect in out soul when we won’t wait for it.

We need to realize that the pace of the Bible is slow.  The Bible is very pre-modern in that sense.  We, as modern people, have decided that there is nothing that can not be improved by making it faster.   But the Bible resists all of that.  The pace of the Bible is deliberately slow.  You will find that God makes a promise and then fulfills it…maybe 700 years later.   That happens with Isaiah.  Isaiah brings forth a promise from God that God is going to do a certain thing, and then seven centuries roll by before God gets around to doing it.

Who would like to be used of God to bring forth a great promise of God that will be fulfilled about 2718????

Wait for it

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

John Lewis