"For now we see as if through a flawed pane of glass..." (I Corinthians 13:12)

Thursday, July 28, 2016

"Jesus, how could you say that?"


July 28, 2016

My 2016 Ongoing Journey: Exploring Matthew to discover what following Jesus and becoming more like him would look like.

Matthew 17:22-23 ~ (My apologies for the errant textual reference in my previous blog. It should have been verses 14-21, rather than 1-13 of Matthew 17. Hopefully, you found the right passage in spite of my error.)

These two short verses report the second of Jesus’ predictions of his passion. In the first (Matthew 16:21, see my blog from May 20), Peter took him aside and scolded him: “Messiahs don’t talk like that, Jesus! Messiahs don’t die!”

Sometimes following Jesus can become very inconvenient. He challenges our most cherished beliefs (e.g., “God helps those who help themselves.” That’s not in the Bible, which is inconvenient if you’re trying to use your faith as the basis of withholding aid from the poor.)

There was no more strongly held and cherished idea in Israel than the expectations regarding Messiah. He would be “Son of David:” heroic warrior, conquering all Israel’s enemies; majestic king, ruling with power and international esteem. Every nation tipped its hat to Israel when David was king.

Jesus never called himself “Son of David.” “Son of Man” was his chosen self-reference. 81 times in the Gospels he uses the epithet to refer to himself. The distinction, “Son of David/Son of Man”, is a valid and interesting topic for study in a venue more comprehensive than this blog. I point it out simply to identify one of the many ways Jesus challenges our most cherished and strongly held convictions.

No humanly held ideology or tenet of faith can be considered infallible or absolute. Israel anticipated one kind of Messiah; Jesus fulfilled an antithetical reality.

We Christians anticipate a “second coming” that matches the Jewish expectation almost point-for-point. I fully expect that, in whatever way God chooses to fulfill the biblical bases of our anticipation, we will be caught by surprise. Many will be disappointed, and many more will not see it at all; rather, they will continue to watch and wait. Who knows? It may already have happened. It may be a recurring reality.

Meanwhile, what we have is faith. Faith is the decision to act on the basis of what we say we believe. In that faith, my anticipation of what God will do in the future becomes secondary to the concrete pattern of behavior Jesus calls me to follow here and now.

What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

That's the way it looks through the flawed glass that is my world view.

Together in the Walk,

Jim

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

After the Mountaintop


July 20, 2016

My 2016 Ongoing Journey: Exploring Matthew to discover what following Jesus and becoming more like him would look like.

Matthew 17:1-13 ~ A month and three days ago I promised a follow-up to the story of the Transfiguration in Matthew 17:1-13. Well, like I tell my wife, when I say I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it. You don’t have to remind me every few weeks!

The disciples who accompanied Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration wanted to stay there. It was like an old-fashioned revival meeting: God’s presence was tangible and their spirits were moved to ecstatic emotionalism! “Let’s build three shelters, one for Moses, one for Elijah and one for you. And let’s just stay here.”

But mountaintop experiences are, by nature, short-lived. Unless you have a delivery service that comes up the mountain to you, sooner or later the necessities of life make it necessary to come down.

Maybe it’s not so much that we want to preserve and relish the mountaintop experience as that we don’t want to go back down the mountain and face what we know is there.

When Jesus and the three disciples returned from the mountaintop, there was confusion and frustration (the other disciples had proven ineffectual), and there was human need. Jesus took care of the need; but the disciples were distracted by their own ineptitude. “Why couldn’t we heal him?”

Jesus response to the whole incident seems harsh: “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you? How much longer must I put up with you?” And then, in response to the disciples’ incompetence, “Because of your little faith. For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a[c] mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.”

He might as well have said, “You have no faith at all!” I wonder if he was saying that their faith was misdirected—that their faith was in their own abilities. I can relate to that.

We humans are an amazing creation. Our accomplishments to this point in history are too many to count or assess. But maybe your experience is similar to mine: the more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know. The more I accomplish, the more I realize remains undone.

At the risk of espousing a “God-of-the-gaps” theology, there comes a time in human experience—both individual and corporate—when we must reach beyond our human limitations to enter into partnership with the divine. I’ll not argue whether such a partnership puts us in touch with a source outside ourselves or releases what already is in us (although I lean in the latter direction).

Faith is the decision to act on the basis of what we say we believe. If I truly am to follow Jesus, I will do just that.

That's the way it looks through the flawed glass that is my world view.

Together in the Walk,

Jim