Tuesday, September 27, 2016

I am the Resurrection and the Life

There is a story in the Bible about some friends of Jesus: a man, and his two sisters.

Word came to Jesus that this man was very sick, close to death. And Jesus, the compassionate one, the healer, the true friend, stayed where he was for two days. And then it took two more days to get to the house of his friend. So, by the time Jesus got there, the man had been dead for four days. He was dead, buried, and rotting in the grave. (Orin his case, in a cave with a big rock in front of it.)

The sisters approached Jesus separately, but their response to Jesus was essentially the same. “Our brother is dead. You have healed the sick. You have given sight to the blind, and the crippled can walk. If you were here on time our brother would still be alive.”

And Jesus’ response was essentially the same to each. “I am the resurrection and the life.”

The sisters believed God would raise the dead at the end of the age. At that time, he would judge everyone, those still alive and those who had died. The wicked would go to eternal punishment. The righteous would go into God’s presence, and eternal reward. Both were judged by how well, how completely, they obeyed the Law. The righteous obtained reward by obeying the law. The wicked obtained punishment by its disobedience of the Law.

And Jesus know that it was impossible, because no one could keep the Law. And God sent him to be a bridge. Jesus had power over life and death. Jesus had authority to bring the dead into God’s presence. It all goes through him.

And to show that that was true, he went to the grave of his friend, dead four days, already decaying, and called him out of the grace. Life was restored. His physical body was restored. And he walked out of the grave.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

I am the Good Shepherd

But then he continued on using the same scenario: a flock of sheep, a shepherd, and a sheep pen. And he tells us: “I am the good shepherd.”

Sheep are put into a pen at night for their protection. Thieves will try to steal them. Predators will try to kill and eat them. Only the shepherd stands between them and those dangers.

Sometimes, someone is hired to watch the flock, so the shepherd can sleep. And in those cases, if a lion or a bear attacks the flock, this hired person has no motivation to defend the flock. On the other hand, the shepherd is motivated to take on a lion or a bear.

The shepherd knows his sheep. He speaks to them. They follow. He protects them. He provides for them. He places them in situations that bring the best to them.

This parable can be applied to our relationship to Jesus in many ways.
  • Those who follow Jesus are like sheep. Sheep’s herding instinct is strong enough that they will follow one another right over the edge of the cliff. We all know people who get with the wrong people, and them into all sorts of trouble.
  • Jesus loves all people. His heart is to gather all people to himself, and lead them – toward the completion of their design, toward greater joy and fulfillment. And, for those who give him their allegiance, he is actively pursuing this goal.
  • Jesus demonstrates he is supremely trustworthy of our faith, when he died to re-establish a relationship with people. He honors his promises, he relationship with people, and his Father’s purposes – to gather a people to be his new family.
  • Sheep learn to follow the shepherd. We can learn to follow Jesus. We can hear his voice; we can discern it from all the other voices; we can successfully follow the path that he is leading us on.
  • Jesus’ purpose is to create a family, build it strong in love, to love, and to increase it. Scripture says that all peoples, all languages, and all the ends of the earth will be represented in his family. Our purpose is to embrace Jesus’ purpose.

Monday, September 19, 2016

I am the Gate

Many people in Jesus’ day owned sheep. It seems that a common practice was to put the flock in a pen at night, and let them out to graze during the day. So, it was really important to the sheep, when the shepherd arrived, and led the sheep out of the pen to the pasture. The pasture meant food, water, and life. The gate was the bridge to the pasture. That’s why Jesus said, “I am the gate.”

We all need “fuels” to live. We need physical fuels: food, water, and air. (Or you could use more resolution and say: Protein, iron, zinc. Vitamin C, vitamin D, etc.) We need spiritual fuels: love, purpose, beauty, etc.

Our primary spiritual fuel is a relationship with our Father. Everyone needs this sort of relationship to thrive. No just to exist, but to have what Jesus called “abundant life.”

And Jesus is the bridge to that life. Or, as the gate to the sheep pen, the way out to food and water for the sheep. Jesus is the gate that opens up, allowing people to escape the prison of sin, and experience life. Jesus is our means, our vehicle, for connecting with the Father.

Monday, September 12, 2016

I am the Light of the World

One thing people agree on: life is less than optimal. What people don’t agree on: the causes, the solutions, and even, what the final result should look like. And this was just as true in Jesus’ day as is today.

Jesus was different. He lived without sin. Even the Quran say Jesus was the only sinless person. Moreover, Jesus practiced authentic love towards all people. He had a lifestyle that showed he was the only person to have it together. He had unique qualifications to answer questions about the world’s problems, solutions, and direction.

Jesus said the world walked in darkness. That meant more than merely its practices were evil. That also meant it was lost, wandering in circles, and unable to see the path at its feet. It pursued the wrong goals. It valued the wrong things. It was going in the wrong direction entirely.

Jesus said “I am the light of the world.” He was not lost. He did not wander in circles. He pursued the right goals. He had the right values. And because he was light, if we walked with him, we could finally see. We wouldn’t be lost. We could fully, truly evaluate what is right, true, and valuable. We could do this, because we could see what Jesus did.

Jesus gave several “assessments” about people and the world. The first was that people did not have a correct relationship with God. People were designed to have a love relationship with the Father of All Creation. Some pursue this relationship moralistically. Meaning: striving to do good and not do bad. But the Bible says that God’s standard is perfection. Any bad will break the relationship. One bad thing is one too many.

Some pursue the relationship religiously. Meaning: the strive to faithfully observe certain forms, norms, and practices. God commanded the Jews to sacrifice animals, a religious form that was intended to handle the sin they committed. But animal sacrifice could never be the final solution to sin. And God never intended it to be. It was a temporary solution, pointing people to God’s final solution, Jesus’ death.

Second, people do not treat people as they should. People should treat all people with love. (All people! Think of the current American political scene.) We have considered love, what it means, and how to practice it, numerous times, so we will not expand on it extensively at this time. But imagine what kindness, patience, and complete communication (as much as possible) would mean on the interstate highway system. Imagine what putting others first would mean in that context. There are numerous everyday situations that love would revolutionize.

We could discuss a number of facets of the world system, but love of God and love of people completely cover all aspects of the present age. Jesus said those two loves completely obey all of God’s commands; the completely pursue all of God’s purposes. Walking in those two loves means we are fully situated in his light. These loves speak louder than worlds. These loves speak louder than signs and wonders. These loves fully complete God’s purpose in the world. These loves shine the same light Jesus did.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

I am the Bread of Life

Jesus made a number of terse, succinct statements about his identity, and his mission. One such statement was “I am the bread of life.”

These statements, like when Jesus told parables, are not literal. Jesus is using figurative language to express spiritual truth. Bread, of course, is a basic food staple. In some cultures, it was eaten in some form at every meal. It was a primary part of their diet.

Jesus was, of course, referring to our relationship with the Father, and Jesus being the necessary, primary ingredient in that relationship. People cannot enter into a relationship with the Father without Jesus. A person is born a slave to sin. He is held captive to it, and its consequences. To live the life God designed, to live in relationship with the Father, we need to break our relationship with sin and the world. So, Jesus died … and he created a bridge back to God. We choose allegiance with God. We walked across the bridge into relationship with God, and into the life we were designed to live. (Of course, transformation is necessary to actually live, practice, and experience that relationship.)

Bread is the means to sustaining life. Without it, life cannot exist; it dies. And since, Jesus calls us to a new kind of life – a life we were designed to live from the beginning, but which only Jesus ever really lived – we need a new and different kind of “bread.” A “bread” that Jesus supplid. And when we make “bread” our own, we we consume it, we make it a part of us. And the life in it is injected into us. The physical benefits of bread are not delivered until we consume it. Neither will the benefits of this new “bread.”

Part of what Jesus was trying to do was show that people’s conceptions of what was important, of what constituted a true relationship with God, of what constituted true living, were flawed. These figures Jesus used were not theological position statements, with well-defined, precise and exhaustive language. They were attempts to bump people out of their mental ruts, which were engraved in stone, and as deep as the Grand Canyon. Every time Jesus gave one of these statements, it was a clarion call from revelation. It was a call for changes of allegiance, and changes into a revelutionary lifestyle.