Tag Archives: messiah

Is there hope during these dark days of Christmas 2016?

22 Dec

Image result for people walking in darkness

Just in the news on Monday 12/19/16:

  1. The Chinese Navy intercepts a US Navy underwater drone.
  2. A Turkish man assassinates a Russian Ambassador.
  3. A man drives a truck into a Berlin, Germany, Church Christmas market killing 12, injuring dozens more.
  4. The American Electoral College elects Donald Trump president, a candidate whose major proposals included building a wall to keep immigrants out of the USA, and deporting Muslim people from the USA.
  5. Lots of discussion about whether Russia interfered in our election process through hacking of emails.
  6. People fleeing the bombed-out Syrian city of Aleppo.

That was all on one day.  Geesh.  Kinda gives me the shakes just looking at it.

The other day I was driving my car down the road to the church as I always do, and it struck me how normal the drive was.  People in other cars passing me.  Houses.  Trees.  All very normal.  And then I thought, I wonder how life will change in these next four years with our new president.  Will driving down the road be just as normal as it is today?

That might sound like a ridiculous question.  But I wasn’t really thinking about the act of driving, or the technology of a car.  We know that car technology is changing, and in four years from now there will be different cars, with different technology.  Maybe there will be cars that drive themselves, or cars that talk to one another.  Maybe it will be a safer way to travel.  But that’s not what I was thinking about that day.

In my mind I was thinking about the world.  I was thinking about the news and how troubling it all is.  Any one of those news items I mentioned are serious and in bygone eras have been acts of war that led to devastating conflicts.

I think about the song “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”  You know that song?  Here’s how it goes:

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

You’d think the song was written for our time.  But it wasn’t.  The lyrics of the song are based on an old poem.  One of America’s greatest poets, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, wrote the poem “Christmas Bells” on Christmas Day 1863.

Think with me about what was happening in our country in 1863.  The Civil War.  In March of that year Longfellow’s oldest son, joined the Union Army without his father’s blessing.  Longfellow found out in a letter.

Longfellow wrote the poem on Christmas Day just a month after getting the news that his son was severely wounded in the Battle of New Hope Church in Virginia.  Two years before that, Longfellow had lost his beloved wife of 18 years when she was terribly burnt in a fire.  It was a dark Christmas day for him.

We might not be in Civil War, but the world feels very dark this Christmas Day, doesn’t it?  As we have been learning this past month studying Isaiah, the world was a dark place for the Judean Israelites during Isaiah’s day too.   Armies from all around were constantly threatening to invade them.  The world was dim.  In the next prophecy God talks to the people walking in darkness.

Into that dark world, both theirs and ours, God gives Isaiah a prophecy.  Join us this Sunday, Christmas Day at Faith Church, as we look at Isaiah 9:1-7.  Will we find light and hope to encourage us in the darkness?  I trust we will.  I know this.  We will learn the end of the song.  There are more verses…

Life’s not fair, and Jesus is not at all OK with that

6 Dec

Image result for life's not fair

Do you ever feel like the world is not fair?

Think about it.  There are the powerful and the powerless.  The predator and the prey.  The lion and the mouse.  This clip illustrates not just the lack of fairness in the animal kingdom, but the disadvantage in our society as well.  Those born into privilege and those not born into privilege.  Take a look:

In our world there are haves and have-nots?  What are some ways that you feel like the world is not fair, or that it is set up to give some people the advantage?

Where you are born.  For example, think about the difference in opportunity a person has simply by being born in the USA vs in Africa?

Or what about the color of your skin.

There are many ways the our society demonstrates inequities:  Gender.  Ethnicity.  Whole family vs. Broken family.  Live in city vs. live in suburbs.  Born into a rich family vs. born into a poor family.

These are just some of the many factors that can lead to some people being at an advantage and some people being disadvantaged.  Do you feel disadvantaged?

In our society this idea of advantage vs. disadvantage has been discussed a lot lately.  And pretty much everyone agrees that our world is out of balance.  The playing field is not level.

Today as we continue looking at the Lectionary’s Advent readings in Isaiah, we are looking at messianic prophecies of the future Kingdom of God.  Today we look at Isaiah 11:1-10.

Did you notice that this is a prophecy that levels the playing field?

In verses 4-5 we are told that the Messiah’s work will be based on justice and righteousness.  The Spirit has blessed him with abundant wisdom (verse 2) so he doesn’t need to see or hear to judge.  The result? The poor and needy will be defended.  The wicked oppressors will be slain.

As a result, the patterns of animosity will be transformed.  Dangerous animals will be safe.  Think about the animal world.

Image result for madagascar lion alex in central park zooOne of our family favorites over the years is the movie Madagascar where the lion, Alex, has been a tame lion, living all his life in the NY Zoo.  Through some mishaps, Alex and some animal friends from the zoo travel to Madagascar where they have lots of adventures trying to live in the wild.  Alex has been tame all his life, and hates living in the wild.  He starts to get hungry.  And this happens:

Image result for madagascar lion alex biting zebra

Alex gradually turns wild.  Have you ever seen that with your pets?  Sometimes, these cute, cuddly animals show their primal side .  My in-laws’ dog is the biggest fraidy-cat I’ve seen.  He’s a 90 pound Rottweiler-Bernice Mountain Dog mix.  We used to take him to the dog park, and he would never play with the other dogs.  In fact, I would sit down at the picnic table, and when another dog got near him, even a small dog, my in-laws’ dog would jump up on the table next to me.  So I was surprised to hear last year that the dog attacked and killed a ground hog!  That primal instinct was inside him!  As Shakespeare once said, “nature is red in tooth and claw.”  Survival of the Fittest.  We are completely used to that in the animal kingdom.  But in Jesus’ Kingdom those normal categories of predator and prey will be redefined.

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Some scholars see this image as literal.  Some wonder if it is symbolism.  Think about it, what has the vision just described before this?  Look again at verses 4 and 5, and we see another upheaval.  In that description we see Jesus judging with justice and righteousness, redefining the categories of dominance and power in the world.  He will be for those who are poor and needy.  Normally they are oppressed.  And Jesus will slay the wicked.  Normally, the wicked are the oppressors.  In Jesus’ kingdom, things get flipped.

Furthermore, he taught us to pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy Kingdom Come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heavy.” That is a prayer request for the Lord’s Kingdom to come now.

It won’t come now in its fullness like it will when he comes again.  But we can usher in the Kingdom now at least in part.  So how do we do that?  We look at how Jesus sought to usher in the Kingdom when he walked on the earth.  That was his Mission.

In this vision we see that the Messiah, in verses 3-5, judges with righteousness and justice.

Image result for mlk quote justice like a river

Martin Luther King Jr has a famous quote about justice and righteousness.  Those themes regularly turn up in the biblical prophets.  Probably the most famous reference, and the one that MLK was quoting, was Amos 5:24.  In the messianic Kingdom justice and righteousness will prevail.  But just like MLK did not wait for that day in the future, and he worked tirelessly for the Kingdom to come in his day, and he gave his life for that important work.  We, too, must work towards seeing the Kingdom come right here, right now.

Look at those verses in Isaiah 11 again.  We can help usher in the flipped Kingdom by practicing justice and righteousness on behalf of the poor and needy.

In our world today it is the rich and powerful that have the advantage.  While those who are poor and needy are at a disadvantage.  In our world if you are rich and powerful it is more likely that a judge will judge for you.  In Jesus Kingdom this gets flipped.

In his kingdom he will judge for the poor and needy.  They are at an advantage.

Jesus brings justice.  In his Kingdom the playing field is leveled.

When I played college soccer, our field over at LBC had quite a crown to it.  It must have been designed that way to direct water off the field when it rained.  That’s good and normal, and all fields should be slightly rounded off, but whoever did the work at LBC made the curvature of the field too severe. When you were standing on one sideline, and the ball was on the other, you couldn’t see the ball.  You could only see guys running around, and you had to guess where the ball was.  It wasn’t a level playing field.

And then I found this soccer field!

Image result for soccer field on hill

Imagine playing on that!  At least both sides are on the hill.  What would be worse is this:

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Could you imagine playing on this?  Especially imagine being the team on the downhill side!  It is not fair.  It is a totally uneven playing field.  If you are the team on the downhill, your coach would be saying, “This isn’t fair! We’re not playing on this! Let’s do something about this.  Move to another field.  Fix this.”

And we are called to do the same thing now.  I know we won’t be able to do this perfectly in the here and now.  But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

We should try.  And I love to see how Faith Church is partnering with other churches and organizations in our community to usher in the Kingdom, to level the playing field!

We support CVCCS, a local ministry that is seeking clothe and feed the needy in our community.  We are donating food and clothing to CVCCS, an act of leveling the playing field.  We are volunteering there.  I know that there are people who are at a disadvantage because they have made poor choices and they have disadvantaged themselves.  We need to be careful about how we talk about the disadvantaged.  If we focus on their poor choices, we might not be able to see how disadvantaged they truly are.  Additionally, our own hearts might become jaded, and distrusting, and we might not be able to see anyone as disadvantaged.

We pack shoeboxes for children in need around the world so that they might receive not only a Christmas gift, but also hear the Good News of the Kingdom to learn about the God who loves them.

We fill stocking for children in Philly and take them down there and work with Joe Toy to share the Good News of Jesus’ flipped Kingdom with them.

Our quilters make quilts for tons of people in need.

We run a Good News Club at Smoketown Elementary so children can hear the Good News and get to know God personally.

We are one of four locations of CVCCS Summer Lunch Club so that the hungry around us can come get lunch every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday for nine weeks in the summer.

All of this is leveling the playing field.  All of this is ushering in the Kingdom.

What else can we do to usher in the Kingdom?  Life’s not fair.  But we can do something about it!

Turning guns into plows – Just a future vision? Or possible now too?

29 Nov

Image result for turning swords into ploughs

A vision of the mountain of God!  We’re studying prophecy during Advent 2016, and week 1 takes us to Isaiah 2:1-5, a glorious image of events in the last days.

The temple mount is in Jerusalem, and it is not all that high.  When you think of tall mountains around the world, you don’t think of Jerusalem.  But if you are thinking of the nation of Israel, you do.  It certainly isn’t the highest point in the nation, but symbolically for the people of Israel it is the high point.  Notice that in the vision we see that it will be raised above the hills?  Raised?  Physically? Is Isaiah’s vision saying that the temple mount in Jerusalem will go through a geological upheaval and be raised higher than Mt. Everest?

The temple mount is 2430 feet above sea level.  Everest is 29029 feet, ten times higher!  God could easily raise up the temple mount higher than Everest if he wanted.  But you’d think that would make it really hard for people to get there, which is a big point of this passage.

But maybe I’m being hyper literal, and I shouldn’t be.  This is where prophecy can get tricky.  Maybe all this vision in Isaiah 2 means is that God will raise the temple mount above the rest of the city and the hills nearby.  Could be, but I doubt that is how God intends for us to understand the vision.

I suspect this elevating of the temple is entirely symbolism!  No actual physical movement needs to take place.  The image of the mountain of God being raised above all other mountains, I think, is just a symbolic way that God is saying the glory and importance of the mountain will be raised in the hearts and minds of all people because of who is there.  God himself is there!  So God’s presence makes his mountain the greatest of all.

What is striking about this passage is what happens next at the end of verse 2: people from all over the globe make their way to Jerusalem. But why?  The answer is in verse 3.

The peoples of the world want to go to the mountain to be taught God’s ways, so that they may walk in his paths.  They show that they want to learn.  They are teachable and humble.  And what do they want to learn?  God’s ways.  Why?  They value God’s ways enough that they not only want to learn them, but they also want to be changed by what they learn, as they want to walk in his paths.

How about you and I?  Do we have a humble teachable desire to learn God’s ways and be changed by them?  In this passage we see a picture of the future, a day when people from all nations are seeking God, when many people desire to learn from God.  But what about right now?  Right now it is the church that should lead the way in streaming to God, desiring to learn from him.  We the church should be the example now, though only in small part, of what life in the Kingdom of God will look like world-wide in the future.  We the church should be showing the world what the future will look like.

The next thing we read in verse 3 is about the law and the word of God going out.  What does this mean?  What significance does it have?  Perhaps there is a connection between the going out of the law and the word in verse 3 and what happens in verse 4?  Take a look first of all at verse 4:  God judges and settles disputes.  He is bringing peace.  In his Kingdom there is peace.  Then notice the illustrations of this peace that are the remainder of verse 4:  The tools of war become tools of industry, farming.  What once was used for destruction of humanity has been retooled for the flourishing of humanity.  God’s word and law transform society.  Wars cease, and so nations do not need to train up armies for war any longer.

What an amazing vision of the future!

But we live in the here and now. When you read such a wonderful vision of the future, does it discourage you, because we see so much war around us now?  Think about it.  What we read in this beautiful picture in Isaiah 2 is so different from what we see in the world around us.  War and hatred prevail.  Darkness.  When you watch the news, it can seem like the world is a very dark place.

In Cambodia the darkness of the Khmer Rouge devastated the country in the 1970s.  Millions died in the Killing Fields.  Thankfully that era is gone, and Cambodia is a nation slowly allowing its eyes adjust to the light.  One beautiful picture of this is how survivors of trafficking are taking old landmines and turning them into attractive jewelry.  Learn more here.

So I love how Isaiah’s vision finishes in verse 5 “come, let us walk in the light.”

See the connection between verse 5 and 3?  Both verses 5 and 3 talk about walking in the way of the Lord.  In verse 3 it was through the teaching of the Lord that the people learn to walk in his ways.  This teaching ministry was a huge focus for Jesus.  He taught the people what life in the Kingdom of God looked like.  We can learn to live that way now, to walk in the light now as verse 5 indicates.

kingdom-of-god-is-likeThis is why on this first Sunday of Advent we remember that the first part of the mission of the Messiah, who was Jesus Christ, was that Jesus was teacher of the way of the Kingdom.  When you read through the four stories of his life, the biblical books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, you see him spending a lot of time teaching.  He taught the crowds.  He taught his disciples.  He taught his enemies.  He taught individual people here and there.  He told stories.  Parables we call them.  Often the phrase that he used to start his parables was “The Kingdom of God is like…”

Jesus came to teach us about the true Kingdom of God.  It is a Kingdom that is not just far far away or life after death.  The Kingdom of God, Jesus taught his disciples in Luke 17:21, is among us.  We don’t have to wait for the Kingdom until we die; we can and should work towards the continual advancement of the Kingdom in the here and now.  This is the life of discipleship that Jesus taught.

So let’s imagine what the Kingdom of God could be like in the here and now as it grows among us.  As one person gives their life to follow the way of Jesus, they themselves are gradually being changed.  They are learning from Jesus how to live in the here and now.  For example, when they used to be selfish, they learn from Jesus to practice self-denial.  When they used to indulge in impurity, Jesus teaches them to be holy.  Where the ugly things of the world used to pour out of their lives, now the good things of the Fruit of the Spirit flow from them: love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, kindness, and self-control.

The Kingdom can impact us!  We learn from Jesus how to live and we start to look more and more like him.  His Kingdom is evident in our lives.

But it doesn’t stop there.  As we are following the way of Jesus, we also want others to follow that way as well.  As we are disciples of Jesus, learning from him how to live, we are discipling others to follow Jesus as well.  Every disciple of Jesus is also a disciple-maker for Jesus.  “Go and make disciples,” he told his followers.  So as the Kingdom reigns over us in increasing measure, so it expands and grows and reigns over other people as well.  Other people in our own families.  Our friends.   And most often that expansion, that growth of the Kingdom, happens because we the disciples of Jesus are actively allowing the Kingdom to grow in our own lives, and we are seeking its growth in the lives of others.

But it doesn’t stop there either.  As more and more people allow the Kingdom to rule and reign over their lives, soon society begins to change.  People no longer need to cheat and steal.  People no longer need to purchase the latest greatest gadgets in order to find fulfillment.  People no longer need to spend money lavishly on themselves.  People heal broken relationships.  People have renewed strength to fight and win over addictions.  Generosity is the norm.  There is plenty of money left over to feed the hungry, house the homeless, and clothe the naked.  People at war can’t remember why they are fighting because they are so overcome with forgiveness and love for one another.  Criminals stop their lives of crime.  Prisons start to empty and shut down.

This is the vision of the Kingdom in the future for sure.  The day when God’s rule and reign will be complete.  But it can also start here and now.  That was a large part of Jesus’ Mission as Messiah, to teach about how his followers can live out that amazing Kingdom here and now.   And you know what? That’s what we Christians are to do.  Take a look at Acts 2:42-47 and you see them living this amazing vision out.

Right after Jesus returns to heaven, what do those first disciples of Jesus do?  They seek to live out the Kingdom right there together.  And that is what we are called to do as well.

So let us walk that road of discipleship to Jesus together.  Let us earnestly seek to learn from Jesus how to live so that not only might we be transformed, but others and our society will be as well.  And it starts with us.

This Advent, what will it look like for you to say “Jesus, teach me how to live!”

Are you infected with MTD? – Luke 9:18-27

9 Sep

Many are infected and don’t know it.  The virus is MTD.  What is MTD?  Read on to find out, and how Jesus responds to MTD. 

After allowing Peter to answer the question “Who do you say that I am?” with the words “You are the Christ/Messiah of God”, Jesus goes on to say two very shocking things.  First, he says that that he himself would die soon.  The disciples likely couldn’t fathom that the Messiah would die.  If that wasn’t astounding enough, second, he now says that if those disciples want to follow him they are going to have to enter the life of extraordinary commitment that he was living.  Take a look at what he said:

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.  What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”

Being a disciple costs something, Jesus says. Remember that disciples are followers. They do what the master does. Are you disciples of Jesus?  You can evaluate yourself: do you do what he does. In this passage he tells them that his way will involve total self-sacrifice. Because that was his way. That is what he would do. And that is what he did.

Those disciples hearing him talk about this high commitment might have been wondering what he meant. All they had known up to this point, with a few rare exceptions, was a growing ministry and adoring crowds and miracles and popularity. If I were them, I’d be thinking, up to this point that it was awesome following him. Who wouldn’t want to, when things were so amazingly good?

So what is this business about him dying, and him wanting them to deny themselves, carry their cross daily and losing your life and Jesus being ashamed of them? He got pretty depressing fast, didn’t he?

If you are one of the disciples standing there hearing that, you could very easily be scratching your head thinking “Woah, Jesus, hold on. What are you talking about? Why so much doom and gloom? You have the crowds by the thousands following you.  You’ve got them literally eating out of your hand, buddy! Why don’t we focus on that? There’s good stuff happening, and you have lots of good ministry years yet in you. You’re the Messiah, so let’s just go with that!”

It’s pretty clear that the disciples, in this general timeframe didn’t fully understand. If you jump ahead to in the story, after another amazing miracle in front of another large crowd, he tells his disciples that he is going to be betrayed. Luke tells us that the disciples did not understand.

So back to his teaching above, I think it important that we see that this was not a teaching that went deep into the disciples’ hearts and minds. It wasn’t like they heard the teaching and instantly decided to give their all for him. In fact, we know exactly what would happen. Fast forward a year or two to the end. In the final days, he is arrested because one disciple betrays him. In a few hours after that another disciple, one of the inner circle of three, Peter, the same guy who here has just said boldly that Jesus is the Christ of God, will end up denying Jesus three times, saying I never knew him. And all the disciples will flee. Only John and some of the women will have the guts to show up to say goodbye to him as he dies on the cross. The lesson of unbelievable commitment didn’t seem to sink in very far.

So why would Jesus even teach it? Was it a waste?  Is it too hard? Too radical to expect that of your followers?   Too difficult to deny yourself?

Maybe Jesus shouldn’t set the bar so high. Maybe he was wrong on this one.

Let’s look at how this played out in the disciples’ lives. When those men and women realized that he rose again, things changed. Not to mention the fact that they hadn’t completely given up. This teaching did get inside them.  When he died on the cross, they could have all returned to their regular lives as fishermen and such. Many in the large crowds had turned away over the years. But those 11 remaining disciples, and the 109 others stayed true.  They stayed in Jerusalem, waiting, scared, but they did not give up.

When they saw the risen Jesus, when they touched the nail holes, they were changed. The seed of the message that he planted here in 9:23-27 that year or two earlier now grew roots and started to blossom.

They were not ashamed. They weren’t perfect. Jesus had to pay special attention to Peter, to restore him. But after meeting with the risen Jesus, Peter was a changed man, and never again was there any doubt that Peter was denying himself, taking up his cross daily, losing his life for the cause of Christ. No doubt.

In fact, after the resurrection, after being restored, after the Ascension, after the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, Peter could answer the question “Who is this?” with a much deeper, truer understanding.

And when he preached the very first sermon on that day when the Holy Spirit filled them, in Acts 2:36, he makes this bold statement: Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”

What Peter now knew was the truth about Jesus. He was totally correct years earlier in Luke 9:20 when he said Jesus was the Christ of God. But in Acts 2, that truth had sunk down deep in and there was no turning away. What Peter shows us is that when we know the truth about Jesus’ identity, we freely want to follow him with full commitment.

There is a link, then, between the information of Luke 9:20 and the commands of Luke 9:23-27. When we realize the depth of what it means that Jesus is the Messiah, the Savior, the Chosen One, we will naturally want to give our lives to follow him.

And so we need to ask ourselves, Self, do you really, fully get who he is?

About ten years ago, a Christian researcher wrote a book discusses the main spiritual beliefs of American Christians. Just remember the letters MTD. Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. Most Christians he said believe that.

Moralistic – God just wants me to have good morals. God wants me to be good.

Therapeutic – God just wants to be my therapy buddy. God wants me to be happy.

Deism – God is out there, but generally not involved.

That’s MTD, Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. God wants me to be good, to be happy, and other than that, he’s not really involved. That’s how many people understand what it means to follow Jesus.

But scroll back up there and read Jesus’ words one more time.

We don’t serve an MTD God, and we don’t preach an MTD faith. Instead we say what Jesus said.  

Being a disciple of Jesus means full-blown commitment.

The tricky part is how to deny yourself, how to take up your cross daily, how to follow Jesus through the many facets of our lives.  What does a self-denier, cross carrier, Jesus-follower look like at the office, at school, at home, on the sports field, on the job, with your neighbors?

I urge you to practice this self-denying, cross-carrying, Jesus following with love, with humility, with abundant grace. Preach the Gospel, the good news of love, by doing deeds of love before you utter the words of the message of love. Do your neighbors know you love them? Do your co-workers know you love them? Showing that kind of love might require loads of self-sacrifice. Showing that kind of love might require the pain of carrying your cross.

Let us be a people that show we know Jesus is the Messiah, by doing what he did.

What if Jesus turns out to be someone we don’t like? – Luke 4:14-30

11 Feb

What if Jesus turns out to be someone we don’t like?

In Luke 4:14-30 we read about how Jesus, having just started his preaching ministry, returns to his hometown.  Kinda like the singing competition TV shows.  When they get near the final round, they send the remaining contestants home with a film crew to adoring crowds in their high schools, and the mayor gives them the key to the city. Jesus was the boy next door for 30 years.  But in recent months he went away and has started a reputation for preaching and healing people in nearby towns.

Jesus_Silhouette_by_BkinnIn Nazareth, the townspeople have quite a reaction to their now famous son.  Read the story here.

They had created a mold. Jesus was the carpenter’s son. That’s how they knew him.

On that day, Jesus broke the mold. No longer a carpenter, now he is the Messiah on a mission, and it was a mission that was a whole lot bigger than the town of Nazareth. He couldn’t be contained in the box they had created for him in their minds.

He wasn’t a magician who could just pull out his tricks for them, to entertain them.

He was something wholly other.

I wonder if we have created a box for Jesus.

Is it possible that we have a way of understanding Jesus, of following Jesus, that works very well for us, and is comfortable for us?

I wonder if we really knew him, would we see him break out of that box?

I wonder if that would anger us. Threaten us. Scare us.

Too often our box for Jesus is that Jesus is calm, and meek, and just wants to hug us all the time. 12 years ago Vintage Church created a series of four videos where they took an older Jesus movie and dubbed new vocal tracks. They were doing a four week series on Jesus and they made the videos as satire to reveal how our view of Jesus can be very different from what he actually was and from what he actually wants us to be.  Check them out on YouTube.  Have you put Jesus in a box?

One way to tell if you have put Jesus in a box of your own making, is to think about how you would react if Jesus visited your church.  I think that if Jesus came and read Scripture to us, told us some Bible stories, we wouldn’t get up in anger to throw him off a cliff. I don’t think we do that at all.

I actually think we would be receptive to his teaching.

At least to his face. We would smile. We might nod our heads.

But inwardly we would be thinking “Ok, let’s finish this us, Jesus. I’m hungry and want to get to lunch.”

“That was a nice sermon Jesus, thanks. OK, cool, see you later. I need to get home for football…oh bummer…there’s no more football…what the heck am I going to do this afternoon?”

Do we really hear what Jesus said about his mission, about being his disciples?

Deitrich Bonhoeffer once said that when Jesus calls us to be his disciples, he bids us come and die.

While I don’t think we would try to throw Jesus off a cliff, I wonder if we would take him seriously.  Follow him to death?  Nope, not sure if I’m interested in that.

Philip Yancey has a fascinating book called The Jesus I Never Knew, and his basic premise is that when he opened up the Bible and started studying Jesus, he was shocked. He thought he knew Jesus.   He had grown up in church all his life. Heard the stories of Jesus many times. But when he really started going deep, he met a Jesus that he had never known.

Just the like the people in Nazareth that day, I wonder if Jesus has become the boy next door for us.

But know this:Jesus’ mission is radical, it calls us to give our lives, and I’m convinced that it will probably ruffle our feathers, call us to more, be uncomfortable, and different from what we thought.

It means we’ll have to change.

It means we’ll experience a whole new life, his life, he called it abundant life. And that life will be far better than the American Dream.