Tag Archives: the jesus I never knew

Jesus wants to destroy your echo chamber [God’s heart for people to find truth, part 5]

30 Nov
Image result for jesus cleansing the temple

In this series of posts on Deuteronomy 18, we’ve been talking about how we need to get out of the echo chambers of life and find the truth in Jesus.

There is an interesting story in John18:33 and following.  Jesus has been arrested, and he was taken to the Roman governor Pilate.  The Jewish leaders accused Jesus of treason against the Roman Empire, saying Jesus called himself a king and thus a challenger to the throne. That would definitely pique Pilate’s interest, and he questions Jesus.  Read John 18:33-38 to see how their discussion goes.

I want to focus on the line where Jesus’ said that he came to testify to the truth, and everyone on the side of truth listens to him. Pilate responds with the question that so many of us are asking: “What is truth?”  It is a question philosophers through the ages have asked, and the answer is not always easy to come by, especially in a world of so much false news. 

But Jesus said that everyone on the side of truth listens to him.  Are you listening to Jesus?  That reminds me of another event in Jesus’ life.

Do you remember the story of Jesus’ Transfiguration?  Jesus took his closest disciples, Peter, James and John, up to a mountain to pray.  There Jesus’ was miraculously changed in appearance, shining bright white.  And guess who shows up?  Elijah and Moses, perhaps the two greatest prophets of Israel. Peter is blown away, of course, and he does what he so often does. He lets his emotion carry him, and he tells Jesus, “Let’s build shelters for you all…” and just then, we read that God the Father, interrupts Peter and says, “This is my beloved son, with him I am well pleased. Listen to him.”

In other words, God is saying, “Peter, be quiet.  Though you have before you Moses and Elijah, listen to Jesus.” We must listen to Jesus. 

We find truth in Jesus.  Christians must make a practice of seeking truth in Jesus.  So let us not engage in detestable practices, trying to gain knowledge and power from them.  Steer clear of them. Instead, listen to Jesus. 

To listen to him we need to spend time with him! Read the four stories of Jesus’ life, The Gospels. Learn from people who are experts on Jesus.

Read books like Philip Yancey’s The Jesus I Never Knew. Jesus is surprising.  Yancey, in that book, talks about how when he started a careful, close study of Jesus, he was shocked at what he learned.  He thought he knew Jesus.  Of course, he knew a lot, but through his study, he learned so much more. He found out that he had viewpoints on Jesus that needed correction. 

Sometimes we need to be put in our place, like God did with Peter, and not assume that we have listened to Jesus.  I can almost guarantee that when you listen to Jesus he will destroy your echo chamber.  Jesus is not conservative, or progressive or liberal.  Jesus, as he said, has a kingdom is not of this world. 

When I was in the Clergy Leadership Program a few years ago, my cohort had pastors from a variety of Christian perspectives.  Lutherans, Catholic,Orthodox, and many others.  We’d get into theological or biblical discussions regularly, and when some of them started talking, I sometimes didn’t have a clue what they were talking about.  I realized that I could live in my own echo chamber.  They knew Jesus in ways I had never heard about, and I was tempted to think that they were wrong!  It was kinda scary.  Being in an echo chamber is so comfortable because you are affirmed all the time, and you don’t have to learn or grow or hear that you might be wrong.  Those other pastors showed me a Jesus I never knew. 

The same thing happens in our local Conestoga Valley Ministerium, when we have Bible study, and I hear what Mennonite or Pentecostal or Brethren pastors have to say.  What I have come to find is that those other perspectives are so good for me.  I don’t always agree, but many times I do, and in fact have learned that my view of Jesus and his Kingdom was shallow, an echo chamber view, and my view needed to be expanded. 

So get out of your echo chamber.  Seek to learn new and different views.  Especially about Jesus.  And find the truth in him alone.  Jesus isn’t going to tell you which political party to follow.  But you can learn about his Kingdom, and you can learn to apply his kingdom principles to all of life. 

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.