Thursday, May 31, 2012

Musings on John Chapter Two: XIV

“Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs that He was doing. But Jesus on His part did not entrust Himself to them, because He knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for He Himself know what was in man,” John 2:23 – 25.

We like things neat and explicable, clearly defined and understandable; life is seldom clearly defined and understandable, it is seldom neat and explicable. So we invent myths, myths in the sense that they are stories to explain things to our satisfaction so that we can have the illusion of the neat and explicable, the clearly defined and understandable.

When we try to explain and identify the motives of others we are engaging in conjecture and conjecture can quickly become myth. Often when we try to explain why God does the things He does, or why things are the way they are, we engage in conjecture and once again we are in danger of perpetuating myth.

The belief of the many people in the name of Jesus at the Passover is something we’d like to understand; in John 1:12 – 13 we’re told that “to all…who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.” Yet, there is something in John 2:23 – 25 that cautions us against thinking that the “belief” of John 2:23 is the same belief of John 1:12. We cannot look to New Testament Greek for a difference in the words for they are the same word for belief, and yet we sense that the belief is different – the words are the same, the actions are not the same. Jesus is cautious and He will not entrust Himself to the people, His caution is our caution.

In John Chapter Four a woman of questionable reputation believes on Jesus; we sense the fidelity of her belief, we feel no caution. We may not understand all that transpires between this woman and Jesus, but we sense that the transaction is real – the woman makes no pretense, she is hardly a woman to put on airs. She goes and tells others and others come to believe in Jesus.

The man Jesus heals in John Chapter Five is problematic, we see healing but do we see belief in Jesus? This man’s response to Jesus is hardly the response of the blind man who Jesus heals in John Chapter Nine – the blind man has the fidelity of the Woman at the Well in John Four; and like the Woman at the Well the man born blind has no pretension – he tells it like it is and he believes in Jesus.

In John 6:15 we see a mirror of John 2:24, “Perceiving then that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by Himself.” Then in 6:26 Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not labor for food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on Him God the Father has set His seal.”

Then in John 6:66 we read John’s words, “After this many of His disciples turned back and no longer walked with Him.”

All who believe in Jesus do not believe in Jesus; all who call themselves disciples of Jesus are not disciples of Jesus; all who walk with Jesus do not walk with Jesus.

This is not neat or explicable or understandable or definable – yet we try to make it so by confessions and rituals and traditions and litmus tests. This is not to say that we shouldn’t have confessions and rituals and traditions and expectations in doctrine and practice – the Bible contains much about doctrine and practice, what we believe and how we live matters – the Epistles are all about doctrine and practice. And yet, when we have done all we can do, we are wise to say that we just don’t understand all there is about belief, and walking with Jesus, and being His disciple.

Peter hardly looked like a disciple on the night Jesus was betrayed by Judas – yet because we know the outcome we know that Peter was indeed a faithful disciple. The two or three days of denial and unbelief that Peter experienced could be two or three years in another person’s life, or it could even be two or three decades – we hope not, we really hope not, but it could be. And because it could be we do well not to write the person off, not to cease praying, not to consign the person to the realm of Judas. We are never as smart as we think we are, never as wise, never as all-knowing; we never know the hearts of others the way our Father does; consider the words of Paul: Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God. It is a relief not to be God.

We planted 18 tomato plants this year. One died within 2 – 3 weeks, it was from the same source as the other plants but it died. I don’t know why it died. The plants around it are still living, this one died. Some of the 17 remaining plants are twice as tall as the others, I don’t know why; they all came from the same source, they are all in the same environment, some of them might be different types and that could be the explanation. Some of the plants are bearing fruit already (May 31st!), some are not, some have more blossoms than others – I can conjecture but I really don’t know the reasons behind these things.

In Matthew, Mark, and Luke we are given the Parable of the Sower; seed and soil, soil and seed. We learn from this parable, hopefully we are challenged by this parable. I struggle with the thorns and cares of this world, I relate to that soil – Lord help me, remove the thorns and briars and weeds from my life so that I will be fruitful in You. Even after reading this parable for countless times for over 40 years it is still a mystery; I know more than I did but what I know is nothing compared to all there is in that parable. Seed and soil, soil and seed; God’s Word and people, people and God’s Word – a wonder, a mystery.

Toward the conclusion of John’s Gospel he writes: Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples which are not written in this book, but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.

This is, after all, the Gospel that gives us: For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but will have eternal life.

We have a certain and sure faith and yet we hold it in mystery; for it is a faith that transcends ages and creation and time and space; and yes, it transcends our highest understanding and knowledge. It is good to be certain about Jesus and uncertain about ourselves

Are we with the crowds at the first and last Passovers? Are we the man healed by the pool in Chapter Five? Are we the Woman at the Well or the man who was born blind and who can now see and who will not back down in his witness for Jesus? Are we with those disciples who turn away after hearing Jesus’ hard teaching in John Chapter Six? Have we denied Jesus along with Peter and are now looking for restoration in our relationship with Him? Are we soil and seed among weeds crying out to the Master Gardener to come and weed us and cultivate our soil?

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Musings on John Chapter Two: XIII

“Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” [John 2:19].

When Jesus was taken before Caiaphas we are told by Matthew (26:57 – 68) that the chief priests and the whole Council were seeking false testimony against Jesus that they might put Him to deathat last two came forward and said, “This man said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in three days.”

Mark points out (14:53 – 65) that while the testimony of the false witnesses did not agree, the priests and the Council were able to overlook the discrepancies in order to achieve their aim of murder. The issue of the temple arises again in Mark’s account of Jesus before the Council: We heard Him say, “I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another not made with hands.”

Since it had been about three years since Jesus said, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up,” His words must have made an impression on the hearers, for while the false witnesses before Caiaphas and the Council did not accurately quote Jesus, they did refer back to Jesus throwing the merchandisers out of the temple and the statement He made about destroying a temple. As Satan often does, he takes something God said and twists it, often making people believe that God said something that God did not say.

One wonders whether the false witnesses knew they were lying at this point, or whether by now they had convinced themselves that their lies were the truth. The fact that their testimony did not agree may point to the fact that they were relying on their individual faulty memories, rather than joining in a conspiracy of lies – for conspirators might be expected to get the story right – often a giveaway that a conspiracy exists. This is conjecture of course.

Were the false witnesses original witnesses to Jesus’ actions and statements in the temple in John Chapter Two? Or were they recipients of the account of that scene? Perhaps they were told the story by someone who was told the story by someone else who was told the story, by someone else who was told the story, by someone who was actually there? But of course, even those who were actually there heard what they were predisposed to hear…a warning to us all.

All of the false witnesses appear to have recalled that three days was part of Jesus’ statement; it is no surprise that that outlandish assertion was embedded in the collective memory.

Two assertions seem to have clinched the Council’s verdict; one was that Jesus claimed to be God, the other than He threatened the temple. Both were true, for even while what the false accusers claimed Jesus said about the temple was not true, Jesus did threaten the temple in the sense that He came to bring the physical temple to an end – now that the heavenly true temple has come it is time for the earthly representation of the heavenly to pass away. In spite of Galatians and Hebrews and Colossians and other New Testament and Old Testament teachings many Christians insist on looking for the rebuilding of a physical temple – shall God roll back the clock of destiny? Shall Pentecost be reversed? Shall life be as if Jesus never came? Shall Jesus’ statement to the Woman at the Well in John Chapter Four be blotted out?

Recall that both Stephen and Paul were persecuted for teaching that God does not live in temples made with hands – Stephen learned it from Jesus, Paul heard it from Stephen – have we heard it, have we learned it, do we believe it?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Rainfall Deficit or Drought? Sin; or Error in Judgment or Missing the Mark?

I don’t know if it’s true or not, but a few years ago I heard that a hospital thought that since the word “death” had negative connotations that in the future such events were to be referred to as “negative patient outcome”. This past week I read a piece that some meteorological folk in the UK want to stop using the word “drought” and instead use the term “rainfall deficit”.

Of course in a world of spin and euphemism it’s amazing we still call red “red” and purple “purple” and day “day” and night “night”. We hardly ever call anything what it actually is anymore – not even in the professing church, which is maybe the heart of the problem. After all, if the church can’t speak the language of truth how can we expect the world to understand and speak truth?

People don’t need to repent of self and sin and receive the life of Christ, they need self-esteem. And sin is no longer sin, it is “not measuring up” or “not reaching our potential” or “missing the mark” or “not living up to the glory of God”. While it is true that one of the Biblical words for sin does have the idea of “missing the mark” and while it is also true that sin has caused everyone to “fall short of the glory of God” – sin is much more than missing the mark, it is much more than “blowing it” or “not getting it” or just about any other term we can think of – because the nature of sin is such that nothing we could or can do can deliver us from sin, and the nature of sin is such that Jesus Christ died to receive the judgment for our sin, the wrath of God being poured out on Him; we can scarcely approach comprehension of this –so great is the heinousness of sin, so great is the holiness and justice and love and mercy of God, and so little are we.

Sin is a terrible thing and it should no more be the object of euphemism than should the word “cancer”. The “C” word carries with it gravity at best, fear and dread at worst – what responsible doctor would make light of cancer – mitigating the force behind the word? How can a responsible Christian make light of sin by giving it another name? Someone may say, “Well, people don’t know what the word “sin” means anymore.” Whose fault is that? If the church doesn’t use the word how can we expect anyone to know what it means? The general populace uses many medical terms without blinking an eye, and when the average man or woman encounters an unknown medical term he or she will ask the meaning of it readily enough – medicine does not dumb down, why does the professing church?

Just as the wise doctor offers hope to the cancer patient, the wise Christian offers hope to those who confront sin, after all the Gospel means “Good News”. Unlike cancer that does not have a certain cure, there is a certain remedy for sin, a certain solution, a sure salvation – it is Jesus Christ.

When we euphemize sin in our general thinking and speech we lessen our awareness of it in our own lives, we euphemize specific sins and attribute them to environment or family history or stress or ill health or economic pressure or….or…the list goes on. All of a sudden sin is no longer sin and we are all in therapy of one form or another.

Rainfall deficit? Really?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Musings on John Chapter Two: XII

“Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

Why this cryptic response from Jesus to the Jewish leaders? They want validation from Jesus in the form of a sign; He responds with a statement sure to confuse them. Jesus doesn’t sit them down and explain who He is, He doesn’t start with Genesis and work through the Law, Prophets, and Writings with them, teaching them about the Messiah, teaching them about the true Lamb and that Lamb’s relation to Passover.

It was, after all, Passover; why not teach about Moses and the Exodus and the first Passover – that is a natural; why respond with, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up”? The response of the Jewish leaders was reasonable enough, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” From John’s account it doesn’t appear that Jesus answered this question.

From verse 23 we see that during this Passover Jesus did do signs to the point where “many believed in His name”, but this belief was not the belief of John 1:12 or 3:16; we’ll explore this in a forthcoming post.

We’re not told that Jesus faced resistance when He threw the religious business people out of the temple; one would think that these people wouldn’t have left without some protest and resistance – after all, Jesus was threatening their livelihood. There must have been a look from Jesus, a Presence; there must have been something about this Man with His whip of cords that sent a message to those business people that they were in the wrong place for making money.

Well, okay, what’s done is done; let’s go ask Him what authority He has for shutting down the temple business enterprise. “Show us a sign that you have authority to do this.”

The fact that Jesus did what He did is sign enough. He claimed the temple as His Father’s House – there is sign enough for those who have ears to hear.

But wait, Jesus will not only threaten their livelihood by tossing out the merchandisers of God, He will raise the specter of the temple building being destroyed. The temple is the economic center of the religious leaders, it is a symbol for political leaders, it is at the heart of national and ethnic consciousness and identity – and Jesus raises the image of its destruction. The temple, restored by Herod the Great, traces its history back to the Tabernacle of Moses, through the Temple of Solomon, then to the restored Temple under Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah.

Yes, as John points out, Jesus is talking about the temple of His body, about His crucifixion and resurrection, and in doing so is not only prefiguring Good Friday and Easter Sunday but is proclaiming that He is God Almighty, the Giver and Taker and Giver again of life. Jesus Christ will lay His life down and Jesus Christ will take His life up again, for He is God of very God. What sign will He give? He will give the sign that only God can give - the sign of the Giver and Taker and Giver again of life.

The ultimate destruction of the temple by the Romans will have it roots in the death of resurrection of Jesus Christ and of Pentecost, for now that the true temple has come the type and shadow must pass away. According to the Jewish commander and historian Josephus, during the siege of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Jewish factions in the city fought each other in the temple – thus the temple was desecrated before the Romans breached the city walls and destroyed the temple.

When Jesus raises His temple in three days He raises a Temple greater than the one that went into the tomb, for He raises His many-membered Body, He raises the New Jerusalem. The New Jerusalem comes up from the grave, it is empowered at Pentecost, and mystery of mysteries it descends from heaven.

“Truly, truly I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit,” John 12:24.

“Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother,” Galatians 4:25 – 26.

“…in Whom [Jesus Christ] the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In Him, you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit,” Ephesians 2:21 – 22.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Musings on John Chapter Two: XI

“Zeal for Your house will consume Me.”

Paul writes in Romans 12 that we are to be living sacrifices; is he serious? Surely there must be a more reasonable way of life. And yet in the same breath that Paul admonishes us to be living sacrifices he anticipates our objection and writes, “…which is your reasonable service.” That is, considering whom Christ is and what Christ has done and that Christ Jesus has called us to be His, then it is reasonable, it is logical, it therefore follows…that we should present our bodies, our whole selves, to be living sacrifices – this is a reasonable response to God.

The passage in Romans 12 goes on to speak of the renewing of our minds, such renewal leading to knowing the will of God. We offer ourselves and in offering ourselves we are transformed by the renewing of our minds and in the renewing of our minds we discern the will of God. We can’t think correctly without offering ourselves to God as living sacrifices – surely there must be a more reasonable way.

The call of Christ is one of taking up our cross and following Him; it is a call to abandon self-preservation as we know it, and in abandoning self-preservation we find ourselves preserved by the only One who can save us. Jesus says, “He who seeks to save his life will lose it, he who loses his life for my sake and the Gospel’s will save it.”

“The Gospel”, the “Good News”, implicit in this term is proclaiming the Word of Jesus to the world – we lose ourselves for the sake of proclaiming the Gospel; we don’t just lose our lives for Jesus, we lose our lives for others, for the sake of sharing the Gospel with others. Naturally when we lose our lives so that others may hear of Jesus we lose our lives for Jesus – we cannot separate the two – we cannot separate Christ and others. As John writes in his first letter, we have a problem if we say we love God and hate others; by the same token there is a problem if we think we belong to Christ and yet do not lose ourselves for the sake of sharing the Gospel with others.

We tend to negotiate this proposition with Christ, we like to bargain. Often we bargain with the argument, “Lord, if I share about You I’ll offend others, surely You don’t want me to offend others.” Is it really others we’re concerned about?

Jesus was consumed with zeal for His Father’s house, for His Father’s work. That is a bit much to ask of us, isn’t it? To be consumed with zeal is to put oneself on the altar as a living sacrifice, that does seem a bit unreasonable.

Part of our negotiation can be, “Well, Jesus came to die so that I can have life. He came to take my place on the Cross. He came to be my substitute. I think I’ll extend that reasoning to the proposition that He came to be consumed with zeal for God so that I can live a reasonable life. He came to be consumed by zeal so that I won’t have to pay that kind of price in this life.”

I’m pretty sure that I’ve used every argument imaginable with Jesus to avoid obedience.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Musings on John Chapter Two: X

“His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” “[John 2:17].

“When therefore He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered…” [John 2:22a].

In the Upper Room Jesus says to His disciples, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you,” John 14:26.

I don’t know if John means in 2:17 that the disciples immediately associated Jesus’ actions in the temple with Psalm 69:9, “For zeal for your house has consumed me, and the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me.” (The second part of Psalm 69:9 is quoted by Paul in Romans 15:3, “For Christ did not please Himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” “).

Perhaps the disciples had an immediate association with Psalm 69, perhaps they didn’t, perhaps they recalled Psalm 69 after the resurrection, or perhaps after Pentecost. We do know that it was after the resurrection that they recalled Jesus’ words, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

A promise associated with the Holy Spirit is that He will bring to remembrance the things that Jesus says to us; of course we do well to have ears to hear what Jesus says in order that the Holy Spirit can bring them to remembrance in due season; we cannot remember what we never heard or read.

There are times when we are like the disciples, we experience things and then afterward the Holy Spirit brings to mind the words of Jesus concerning the things we experience. Sometimes during the experiences of life we hear the words of Jesus, sometimes after experiences we hear the words of Jesus. There are also times when before we have an experience we may hear the Holy Spirit reminding us of Scripture. Such is the ebb and flow of life in the Spirit of Christ; sometimes we hear prospectively, sometimes retrospectively, sometimes in the moment.

I have had times in which I’ve made decisions having forgotten the promises of God and words of Jesus. I’ve gotten caught-up in the moment, in anxiety, in care and concern, and I have not rested in Christ and in not resting in Christ I have forgotten His words. Only afterward, once the damage has been done, have I remembered His words, remembered God’s promises. Those are painful times for me, especially when my forgetfulness of the words of Christ causes harm and pain to others. Yet, it is His mercy that He reminds me of my forgetfulness, forgetfulness born of anxiety, born of not casting all my care upon Him, born of not presenting my requests to God and trusting God’s peace to envelop me and to rule my heart and mind.

The early disciples may not have “gotten it” all the time, even after living with Jesus for a few years, even after being filled with the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, even after suffering for His name time and again – maybe I can take small comfort in that, but it is small. Thank God that sooner or later He breaks through our forgetfulness and distractions and unbelief and causes us to remember and to put the pieces together. Thank God this is a pilgrimage, and a preparation for glorious future.

Note the difference in tense between Psalm 69:9 and John 2:17: “…has consumed me” compared to “…will consume me”. While Jesus’ cleansing the temple manifests His burning passion for the Father’s House, that passion will find its consummation on the altar of the Cross as Jesus becomes the sacrifice and as the sacrifice is consumed by the wrath of God. There is an immediate manifestation of zeal in making a whip of cords and driving out the merchandisers; that zeal will continue unabated and will find its fulfillment on the Cross. As Jesus tells His disciples in John 4:34, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work.”

Friday, May 11, 2012

Musings on John Chapter Two: IX

“And He told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make My Father’s house a house of trade.”

In my previous post I asked: Do you think they [the money changers and sellers of sacrificial animals] thought they were doing anything wrong? Do you think they understood why Jesus was driving them out of the temple?

I don’t know how long these practices had been going on, but I suspect they weren’t new, I suspect they represented life in the temple as usual for that period of history. The practices represented a service to worshippers; surely there could be nothing wrong with providing a needed service, even if it resulted in a profit?

How many ways of thinking about money have infiltrated the Kingdom that are opposed to the Spirit of Christ? How often do we engage in ministry and worship as a business? I’m not sure that these questions can be easily answered anymore than a fish in an ocean, which has never lived anywhere else, has a perspective on any other living environment. If something is all we know then that is all we know. Maybe the sellers of animals and the money exchangers had a twinge of conscience now and then, maybe some had more of a twinge than others, maybe some never questioned the propriety of doing business in a House of Prayer – we don’t know. Whether they did or didn’t wrestle with their practices Jesus was unambiguous, “Don’t make My Father’s house a house of business.”

It is easy for some of us to look at ostentatious “ministries” whose leaders lead opulent lifestyles and see heretical thinking and living; we wonder how anymore can keep sending “those people” money. But do we examine ourselves, our educational institutions, our churches, and our para-church ministries with respect to money? Even if we want to examine ourselves do we have the capacity to do so or is our way of monetary life so ingrained that we can’t see the ocean we live in? Do we experience tension with respect to money and ministry? Do we have a healthy fear that money can be a monster that once unleashed will devour all in its path?

Having served in churches, in para-church ministries, and in a seminary, I have wrestled with the issue of money and ministry. Perhaps my biggest question is why I haven’t see self-examination regarding money as a way of collective ministerial life. Why haven’t I seen the potential conflict of interest between ministerial decision making and money put out on the table to be discussed and prayed about? I write this as one who does not have the answers to the tension but rather as one who would have appreciated it if the tension (at least for me) and conflict of interest had been acknowledged, discussed, and prayed about.

I have been in more than one leadership meeting in which a new educational or outreach program has been considered and which the questions have been: Will this pay for itself? How much will it make? It is as if we were a business considering launching a new product and were considering the financial viability and profitability of the venture. There was no acknowledgement of a potential conflict of interest between doing what God wanted us to do and trusting Him to support our obedience to His direction, and us doing ministry that we could sustain through marketing and which would also, by the way, provide a living.

These issues are not easily resolved, and at one level I don’t know that resolution is possible. I think they are a tension that one hopefully lives with throughout life – resolution is not important to me on this issue, acknowledgment and prayerful wrestling are important.

Jesus, by His actions in cleaning out the temple at the beginning and end of His ministry, made a statement regarding the relationship of money and worship – it is a statement that we should not ignore.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Musings on John Chapter Two: VIII

“The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple He found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And He poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And He told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make My Fathers house a house of trade.”

Jesus brackets His ministry with cleaning out the temple, both times at Passover (see Luke 19:45; Mark 11:15; Matthew 21:12). As a twelve-year old boy, in the temple at Passover He tells his parents, “Don’t you know that I must be about My Father’s business?” There is an association with the temple, Passover, and Jesus being about His Father’s business, to the point where as an adult it is twice recorded that He went into action in response to business occurring in the temple that was decidedly not His Father’s business.

In Matthew, Mark, and Luke Jesus says to temple merchandisers that they’ve made the temple a den of robbers; in John, during His first cleaning out of the temple, Jesus warns, “…do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.”

Why did each evangelist record a cleansing of the temple? The synoptic writers include this in the account of Holy Week; John chooses to record a cleansing that occurred at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. There are not many pericopes that Matthew, Mark, and Luke each record, but this is one of them. Apart from the chronology, John records a similar event – so all four Gospel writers record a cleansing of the temple – other than the Betrayal, Crucifixion and Resurrection, and the feeding of a multitude, I can’t think right now of any other events that all four evangelists each record – they must have thought the issue of making the temple a house of trade important as they wrote through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Consider Jesus’ teaching about no man being able to serve two masters (Matthew 6:19 – 24), that no one can serve God and money. This teaching is introduced at the beginning of His ministry in the Sermon on the Mount.[1] So at the beginning of Christ’s ministry He warns against trying to serve God and money and then He makes a statement through action that the Father’s business is not the business of money.

Perhaps we are too quick to judge those He threw out of the temple. Do you think they thought they were doing anything wrong? Do you think they understood why Jesus was driving them out of the temple? Were they that different from us?

[1] Also consider the place that the Letter of James gives to the issue of money; he speaks both to the church and to the world. Is it a coincidence that James mirrors Matthew in many respects? It is a coincidence that James was the Lord’s brother?

Monday, May 7, 2012

What Is In The Cup?

I'd like to encourage you to read a post by my friend Michael Daily. Ever wonder what was in the Cup that Jesus prayed would pass from Him?

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Musings on John Chapter Two: VII

“After this He went down to Capernaum, with His mother and His brothers and His disciples, and they stayed there for a few days.”

Nestled between a marriage in Cana and a Passover in Jerusalem is a mundane statement, “After this He went down to Capernaum…and they stayed there for a few days.”

What was Mary thinking and pondering about this son of hers? He is her son and He isn’t her Son; mystery of mysteries. He is fully God and fully man, but it isn’t likely she knows this, she is on pilgrimage – the mother is instructed by the son, she is learning from the son,

“And when His parents saw Him [the boy Jesus in the Temple], they were astonished. And His mother said to Him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” And He said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?”” Luke 2:48 – 49.

There is no acknowledgment of His parents’ distress, though perhaps He did acknowledge their distress but Luke did not record the acknowledgement. After all, Jesus knows distress over the missing, the lost, the wayward. Jesus comes to seek and save those who are missing, those who are lost. “Did you not know…?” Perhaps these words of Jesus clarified things for Joseph and Mary? Perhaps they put the pieces together for them? More likely the clarification was progressive, more likely the pieces came together slowly, but perhaps this statement from the twelve-year old Jesus was a watershed of sorts which is why Luke recorded it.

When Jesus is around thirty years old He says to Mary in John Chapter Two, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” What’s a mother to do? When Jesus is twelve she is supposed to understand that He needs to be about His Father’s business; when Jesus is thirty she is supposed to understand that His hour hasn’t yet come. Mary’s words to the angel Gabriel (Luke 1:38) are an attitude that she carries with her throughout her life, a life tethered to the Mystery of mysteries, tethered to the Incarnation; “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

It is presumptuous for those on pilgrimage to think we have it figured out. If we are tethered to the Mystery of mysteries, to the King of kings and Lord of lords; to the Lion Who is a Lamb; how is it we think that we can figure it out? Better for us to say with Mary, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

Our calling is to be with Jesus, to follow Him wherever He goes. When He sends us out we go; when He calls us in we come. If He attends a marriage we are there, if He visits a hospital we go with Him. A funeral? Well let’s see what life we can bring. Sometimes a word from Jesus may clarify things after the fact; sometimes His word may help us put the pieces of His teaching and our experience together to see a measure of His plan and purpose. At times His word and leading may give us a prospective sense of the path ahead, but let’s be careful to keep our focus on Him, not on what we think we have figured out – there is always that side of the moon that we don’t see.

And what about these disciples who are with Him in Capernaum? Who are they and what are they thinking and how many of them will be with Him in three years? We read in John 6:66, “After this [a particularly mysterious and perplexing teaching of Jesus] many of His disciples turned back and no longer walked with Him.” Those who remain echo the words of Peter in John 6:68, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

We don’t understand everything He says, we don’t understand everything He does, we don’t understand everything He asks us to do, and we surely don’t understand everything He leads us to and puts us through – we most certainly don’t have it all figured out; but here is what we do know, and we know it well – Jesus Christ has the words of eternal life, He is the Holy One of God.

We worry too much about knowing it all, we put too much stock on answers to the “what ifs?” and “whys?” and “what is going to happens?” of life; and not enough emphasis on knowing Him who has the words of eternal life. Knowing and following Him, the very nature of the experience, is a pilgrimage of twists and turns and surprises and unanswered questions and realigned expectations.

The journey of those who remained with Jesus was a journey of surprises – how far removed from our insistence on codifying the Christian life into predictable pathways and social mores.

James, John, Philip, Nathanael, Peter, Andrew, Matthew, Simon the Zealot…they all had their preconceived notions; we have a better guess at Simon’s than anyone else’s – he was politically oriented, he had a political agenda – but they all had agendas, just like we do – they all had a way they wanted life to be, and likely a way they wanted Jesus to be. It’s easy to confuse the way we want Jesus to be and the way He really is – there were many surprises and shocks in store for the disciples. Many left Jesus, but because some remained with Him we’re reading these words today; some were willing to be shocked and surprised and to live with unanswered questions…as long as they could be with Him.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Musings on John Chapter Two: VI

“This, the first of His signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested His glory. And His disciples believed in Him.”

John’s account of the water turned to wine doesn’t portray Jesus speaking to the water, or touching the water, or having any direct interaction with the water. He doesn’t say, “Water, I command you to become wine.” He doesn’t go over to each water pot and touch it, close His eyes, open them, and behold – the water is now wine! There is no drama such as when Jesus stands outside Lazarus’s tomb and commands, “Lazarus come forth.”

Jesus performs this sign, this miracle, in the midst of daily life; to be sure it is at one of those special moments in life, it is at a wedding; but weddings do happen everyday. Births and weddings and deaths and tax collecting and fishing and illness and festivals – all of these things are the stuff of life, we read about them in our newspapers; on the front page, in the obituaries, in the sports section, on the society page, the religious section; it’s all the stuff of life. Jesus touched people in the midst of the stuff of life, in the midst of daily life Jesus interacted with people. But not only did He touch people in the midst of daily life, He also called people out of mundane life, out of the cycle of living and dying and making a living – He called them out of mundane life to hear Him and to follow Him so that life would never be the same; so that making a living would never be the same, so that attending a wedding would never be the same, so that all the facets of living from Monday to Sunday would never be the same, and so that – for certain! – dying would never be the same.

Before John Chapter Two is finished Jesus will make an appearance in the Temple and in making an appearance He will make a scene, and in making a scene He will offend many people. Jesus will talk about destroying a Temple and it will be a mysterious talk with many facets – facets that we have been uncomfortable with for over 2,000 years. We like to keep Jesus in the buildings we have erected for Him, He is safe there, we can control Him there. We cannot control Jesus if we bring Him to work, nor can we control Him if we invite Him to a wedding or a picnic or a funeral or a hospital; but we can do a pretty good job of controlling Jesus if we can keep Him in church buildings. Lucky for us that the world wants to help us, it wants to help us keep Jesus in church buildings and out of public life; we can always blame it on the world when we stand before Jesus and He wants to know why we didn’t obey Him in daily life or why we didn’t tell others about Him in daily life, we can always reply, “Well Jesus, surely you know it wasn’t permitted.”

Turning water into wine was not a marquee event, most people didn’t know it happened; but the disciples knew, they saw His glory. How does one describe glory? There is a visual glory, such as Isaiah and Ezekiel saw; and there is a glory of “sense”, which accompanies the visual but which may also be experienced without the visual. One of the Biblical words for “glory” is a Hebrew word that carries with it the meaning of “weight” and “heaviness”. Yes, glory can be euphoric, but it can also be heavy – perhaps this is why the ancients often worshipped prostrate, it was not only a posture of acknowledgment of Deity, it was also a physical response to the weighty Presence of God.

Did the disciples at the wedding in Cana sense the weight of the glory of God as Jesus turned the water into wine? John writes in John 1:14, “…and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father…” Whatever they sensed, whatever they saw, it was a manifestation of His glory and they believed in Him.

It is not Sunday mountain-top experiences that constitute the fabric of our pilgrimage, nor is it occasional retreats or conferences or other special times or places; these may all have their place if we have the freedom and leisure and the means to enjoy them. But the fabric of pilgrimage is daily life, be it in the home or neighborhood or in the marketplace or in education, whatever constitutes daily life is the primary fabric of our pilgrimage. Do we see His glory in daily life?

When we see His glory in daily life it is not that we might make merchandise of it and trade on it, nor is it to draw attention to ourselves – it is that we might know Him and believe in Him and that we might introduce Him to others.

It isn’t likely that the bridegroom knew the Son of God was at his wedding, it isn’t likely the master of the feast knew that the Son of God had turned the water into wine, it isn’t likely that the servants knew Who this was that was commanding them to put water into pots and then take it to the master of ceremonies; people didn’t know that the Son of God was at the wedding. The same is true today, some will know He is at work, some will not; some will know He is in the neighborhood, some will not; some will know that He is at the funeral or wedding, some will not. One thing is certain, He will not be there at all if He is not there in us and through us, if we are not there as His bread and His wine.