Jesus: Our Brother, Our Savior, Our Lord

Yesterday, the Son of Man traded places with the son of the father (bar Abbas) so that we may wear the Father’s robe and live in His kingdom. Tomorrow Jesus does what all the big brothers of Scripture failed to do….  He completes the work God sent Him to do — to seek and to save we who are/were lost — the younger rules over the elder.  And yet Christ is both Adam’s younger brother, both being in the flesh sons of God, and His older brother, being begotten of God before all eternity.  And if you look at the track record of brothers in the Bible, you see the theme of older/younger played out.  Cain killed Abel.  Isaac was born to Abraham and Sarah, and chosen by God over Ishmael.  Jacob ruled over Esau, taking his birthright.  Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery in Egypt.  Yet it was Joseph who saved his brothers from starvation.  And David, Israel’s second and greatest king, was the youngest brother chosen by God over all of his brothers and anointed by Samuel.  Are you starting to see the pattern?

Jesus, the firstborn of the resurrection, came in the flesh to live among us.  God often told His children, “If you obey me and do all the things I have commanded, I will be your  God and you will be my people.  I will come to you and make my dwelling place among you.”  Well, we chased him away through our sin, our idol worship, and self-indulgence.  So He sent His Son, His one and only Begotten Son, to make us His people once again.  He sent our Big Brother after us to drag us out of the bars, brothels, wars, movie theaters, sports arenas, fast boats, fast cars, fast planes, internet, hotels, motels, highways, homes, gutters, jails, pits, darkness, blindness.  He sent Jesus to get us and bring us home.  And Jesus gave up His birthright as the first born from before creation, not counting equality with God something to be grasped, in order to bring us home.  He traded His life for ours, so that we may wear the white robe of righteousness, the robe of children of God, and stand with Him in His kingdom.  And because of the work of Christ, Jesus calls us friends.  He can call us that because He has entrusted to us as part of our inheritance, the work that God gave Him to do.  And so now, because Jesus has overcome death, because He has given us life, we are able to carry out the work of Christ on earth as His hands and feet.

The Gospels do not spend much time at the empty tomb.  In fact, the angels tell the disciples and the women who seek Christ at the tomb, you will not find Him here.  But Jesus always told His disciples to find Him at the Cross, for that is where we truly and finally meet Him.  The empty tomb remains our hope for eternal life, and our symbol of new life.  But it is a life that requires us to be as Jesus, and go after our little brothers and sisters and bring them home.  And we do that by taking up the Cross and bringing Christ to them.

Have a blessed, joyous, happy Easter.  He is Risen!

What is Truth?

The Question of Truth

In the Gospel of John, a fascinating dialogue takes place between Jesus and Pilate.  It is a dialogue that cuts to the heart of our sinful nature, revealing just how blind and puffed up we are.  In this dialogue, Jesus takes Pilate to the core issue and fundamental question of mankind:  “What is truth?”  This is not a question that we ask very often today.  It is assumed that we know.  Whatever truth has been discovered is already out there, but it does not become true for me until I experience it.  More importantly, what is true for me differs from what is true for you and so knowing THE truth is really not knowable.  Instead, we pay attention to context.  If your truth is not my truth, then all truth is really relative.  There is no one truth that binds all things together.  We must, therefore, conform to the context in which we are placed as Paul did — be all things to all people — adapt to the culture.  Speak truth to people, in their context, that is, speak to the people their particular contextualized truth in their particular context.  What may work for you in your church community, may not work in mine — this just may not be the place for you.  Find the place where truth feels right to you in your context.    And yet if we do so — assume we all know the truth or contextualize — we miss the fundamental question for fallen humanity and fail to see the answer right in front of us, just as Pilate did.

Pilate Questions Jesus

In John 18, Jesus is brought before Pilate.  Pilate takes Him aside for questioning in an effort, he thinks, to save His life.  Yet Pilate does not know what and who is before him.  Pilate wants to know if Jesus is indeed a king, not understanding that the Jews brought Jesus to him because He claimed to be THE King.  Jesus’ reply pushes back at Pilate in the probing fashion that we are accustomed to see from Jesus throughout His ministry:  “Do you say this of your own accord, or did some others say it to you about me?”  This is no rhetorical question, but a question of faith and revelation.  Put another way, Jesus asks Pilate, “Do you know who I am?  Did flesh and blood reveal this to you or did my Father reveal it to you?  Who do you say that I am?”  It is the question posed to Jesus’ disciples, a question only Peter answered correctly, in faith.  And yet, as we are so wont to do when confronted with the Christ, Pilate avoids the question.  He deflects, turning instead to his own power and ability, responding in a fashion that echoes Adam’s reply to God when confronted with the reality of his own sin in the garden of Eden:  “Am I a Jew?  Your own nation and people have handed you over to me?  What have you done?”  “Look, sir,” says Pilate, “Your people want you dead.  I did not bring you here, although they come according to our law.  I can help you out.  What did you do that was so bad?  Confess it to me, and I can make it go away.”  Adam’s response to God was, “It is your fault God.  You gave me the woman, she gave me the fruit, and I ate it.”  Sounds eerily similar does it not?  And yet Jesus is not done.  He reminds Pilate that His Kingdom is not an earthly Kingdom, handing him the rope to which he needs grasp and cling.  Yet Pilate can see only the things of this world.  He hears that Jesus has a Kingdom, and if a Kingdom He has, Jesus must be a King. If a King then a threat to Rome and Pilate’s rule in Judea.  Pilate does not hear Jesus telling Him, “They have brought me to you because of my Word, because My Kingdom does away with all kingdoms of this world.  It is My Word, My Message that undermines their authority, and will tear down their laws, their way of life, and their beliefs in order to give them life.  This they cannot tolerate, and they, therefore, hate me and reject me.”  Jesus, even though He is being led to His death, continues patiently preaching to Pilate the very Gospel of life.  “You say that I am a King.  For this purpose I was born, for this purpose I have come into this world — to bear witness to the truth.  Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate responds to Jesus’ statement with the question of the ages for mankind:

“What is truth?”  In the Greek it is ““τί ἐστιν ἀλήθεια?”” the Latin, “Quid est Veritas?” Continue reading “What is Truth?”

Onesimus and Philemon

Onesimus the slave or servant.  Philemon the master.  Paul the friend, the mediator pleads for the safe return and proper treatment of Onesimus upon his return to Philemon.  The story is recounted in Paul’s letter to Philemon, a letter that was sent to the church that met in the house of Philemon, with instructions that it be read aloud to the entire congregation.

Onesimus had left the household of Philemon without permission or without fulfilling his obligations to his master.  There was some sort of dispute, according to Paul’s letter, and Onesimus found his way to Paul during his imprisonment where he served the apostle.  Paul, however, does not permit Onesimus to shirk his civil duties to his master, nor does he allow his master, who is obviously in a position of advantage both in terms of finances and authority, to treat his servant unjustly upon return.  Rather he urges love and forgiveness, reconciliation in this relationship.  Paul asks Philemon to treat Onesimus as a brother in Christ upon his return, not as a slave that he owned or servant in his employ. For while our vocations may place us in different statuses in our relationships, as one in Christ, we are obliged by the love of Christ, which is the fulfillment of the law, always to treat one another as brothers and sisters, sons and daughters of the King in Christ.  And we do this despite our worldly status.

Listen to more on this week’s Sunday School Lesson with Deaconess Pam Nielson of Concordia Publishing House on Issues, etc.

Need Your Help to Answer a Question: What is the “Love of Christ?”

This post was originally written June 7, 2011.  In light of the LCMS debate taken public (intentionally or not) over unionism and syncretism, that well worn phrase “All You Need is Love” has cropped up again:  “Share the Love of Christ,”  “You’re not being very loving Confessionals!”  “They will know we are Christian by our Love.”  I think it is time again to pose the question — this time it is directed squarely at those throwing this phrase around so cavalierly and loosely on the issue of syncretistic worship — What is this “Love of Christ” of which you speak?  Here is the rest of the post occasioned on the hearing of a sermon preached at the wedding of that famous royal couple across the pond:

Driving home from Louisville, Kentucky this past weekend, I was listening to a Sermon Review over at Issues, Etc.  It was the sermon given by Bishop Chartres on the occasion of the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton last month.  As I was driving on I-65 south in Bowling Green Kentucky, a couple of things that struck me in the sermon.  In particular they can be found in the following excerpts:

The spiritual life grows as love finds its centre beyond ourselves. Faithful and committed relationships offer a door into the mystery of spiritual life in which we discover this: the more we give of self, the richer we become in soul; the more we go beyond ourselves in love, the more we become our true selves and our spiritual beauty is more fully revealed. In marriage we are seeking to bring one another into fuller life.

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As the reality of God has faded from so many lives in the West, there has been a corresponding inflation of expectations that personal relations alone will supply meaning and happiness in life. This is to load our partner with too great a burden. We are all incomplete: we all need the love which is secure, rather than oppressive. We need mutual forgiveness in order to thrive.

As we move towards our partner in love, following the example of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit is quickened within us and can increasingly fill our lives with light. This leads on to a family life which offers the best conditions in which the next generation can receive and exchange those gifts which can overcome fear and division and incubate the coming world of the Spirit, whose fruits are love and joy and peace.

Reading between the lines, one can make out the shadow of the Trinity in this sermon — God so loving this world that He sent His only Son into it…  to be our example….  the Holy Spirit being made alive by the power of the love in our relationships with one another, with marriage being the most powerful of these relationships — like two magnets being drawn together creating a magnetic field.  Christ is mentioned in this sermon, but we do not need Him.  Instead, we move into our relationships toward others in love — using as our template the love Christ modeled for us.   Continue reading “Need Your Help to Answer a Question: What is the “Love of Christ?””

Is Jesus calling you?

For those of you who read the Jesus calling devotionals, I have a question for you: Did you realize that Sarah Young the author receives messages from God through a “practice of waiting on God to receive and record his messages?” In essence Ms. Young waits and listens for the voice of God, writes down what she hears Him say, and passes the message along to all of her reading audience as messages that she received personally from Jesus or God. That is the description given to Jesus calling, the blockbuster series by Sarah Young, in the latest catalog for Christianbook.com.

Now Jesus calling is being marketed to children and teenagers. Maybe we ought to look at this phenomenon with a little more discernment.

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2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.  This is a nice feature, and I share it here with you today.  Thank you for reading.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 19,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 4 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.