Romans 3:21-26 "Why Jesus?"

All of Jesus life culminates in the cross.  But when we look at the cross and all the Jesus bore for us, we can’t help but ask the question: “Why Jesus?”



Matthew 26 – Put Your Sword Away

Read Matthew 26

There is so much that could be covered in today’s chapter.  Matthew puts much of the “passion narrative” together into chapters 26 and 27 which makes drawing out specific themes somewhat difficult.  However, the thing that strikes me the most here is the way that Jesus approaches what is about to take place.

It is clear that there is some apprehension; Jesus struggles with the “cup” He is to bear.  However, He is never unwilling and He never resists.  Indeed, this whole chapter is marked by Jesus’ willingness for the task set before Him.  Hebrew 12 says, “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  The Joy?!?  For me, that seems unfathomable.

This is another example of how the Kingdom of Heaven looks; not the suffering, but the willful setting aside of one’s self for the sake of others.  Jesus has said many times that the one who will be great in God’s Kingdom is the one who humbles him/herself and takes on the role of a servant.  In the Gospel of John Jesus says, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

God’s Kingdom will not come about through the forceful conquest of military or weapons.  It will not come through advanced technology nor will it come from protesting loudly against culture.  The Kingdom of Heaven is revealed in the humble acts of those who love and serve their neighbor, their family, and their friends.

I wonder what the Church would look like if we focused in on living out God’s love in this way.  I wonder if the marginalization that the church experiences right now would fade if we lived and loved as Christ did.



Day 331: 1 Corinthians 1-4; Intro to 1 Corinthians

Unlike our journey through the Old Testament, the transition between the books of the Bible is going be a lot quicker as we jump from letter to letter for the remainder of the year.  1 Corinthians is the first of two recorded letters that Paul wrote to the church in Corinth.  However, it is one of possibly four total letters, of which we can assume also that there were correspondences back from the church there as well.  Paul’s writing in this letter, which is quite possibly the second letter that he actually wrote to the church in Corinth, was written to address a variety of issues that were apparently going on in the church at that time.

The city of Corinth was one of the major cities of the Roman Empire in that region, located on an isthmus, the narrow stretch of land that joins the Peloponnesus to the mainland of Greece, and that also separated the Aegean Sea from the Gulf of Corinth.  Those wanting to do trade with anything west of Greece would have had to sail around the rest of Greece, bringing them into the greater Mediterranean Sea.  To this end, they would be risking storms, piracy, and any number of other dangers not to mention adding a great deal of time to their journey.  For many, it was simply easier to dock in Corinth, offload their goods and transport them on land to the other side of the isthmus and have them loaded on to another ship to continue their journey.  Naturally, this made the City of Corinth both important and very busy.  With all the hustle and bustle, with many people coming and going, this was also a hotbed for an large amount of idol worship, mostly centered around the pantheon of Greek and Roman gods.  This would have included many temples, most notably he temple of Aphrodite the Greek goddess of love.  The worship that took place in that temple would have likely involved cult prostitutes and sacrifices to idols, as well as other things that the church in Corinth would have to deal with.

Paul begins his letter to the church by immediately getting down to business.  There are divisions that are forming within the church that his very first appeal is that all agree together and be united.  One of the very first issues that the church is dealing with is a crisis of leadership.  Disagreements have arisen about who is the leader of the church and likely whose teachings are better than others.  Immediately though, Paul takes this argument and turns it on its head.  “Is Christ divided?” No one in the Church is baptized into any name except that of Christ Jesus.  Interestingly I think that this is an argument that we can take to heart in the Church today as well.  In the age of denominationalism, where it seems as though the Church itself is divided on so many things, fighting within itself about who is more correct in their doctrines, perhaps we need to be asking ourselves whether Christ is divided or not.  We are all baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and members of one body.  Perhaps it is time that we embrace each other as brothers, accept the diversity of the Church, and understand that we are in agreement about the main things, letting peripheral issues remain just that and serving as ways for us to learn from each other rather than fight against each other.  Paul will circle back to this in chapter three as well.

Another important argument is also made here in today’s reading.  Paul’s exposition on the wisdom of Christ and the preaching of the Gospel also has a great deal to say to us.  He talks about not bringing any sort of human wisdom when he preached among them in Corinth.  Instead of laying out such a lofty logical argument, as some might have done, he instead sticks to the message of Christ Crucified.  This, he says, is wisdom to those who believe and foolishness to those who are perishing.  Sometimes I think that the Church uses this as an excuse… we don’t need scholars or educated folks, we just need to preach Christ Crucified and we’ll be fine.  I think Paul would disagree.

Let’s contrast this with Paul’s address to the men of Athens, in the Aeropagus, recorded in Acts 17.  Here Paul takes on the Greek philosophers by using the message of Christ and Greek philosophy.  Paul is wise in doing so as those who were there would not have otherwise listened to him.  In fact, it is entirely possible, at least in the beginning, that the church in Corinth was composed of very poor, uneducated people, and therefore Paul’s message had to be both understandable and applicable to them.  This may be one of Paul’s way of saying that as Christians, we need to know our audience and be able to engage with whomever they are.

There is more here too though, Paul also talks about how his message was a demonstration of the Spirit “so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”  Paul makes the point of discerning that, had he given the same wisdom filled speech that he did at the Areopagus, the people may have not seen the power of the Spirit, but simply Paul’s wisdom.  This would likely have been a stumbling block for a bunch of peasants who didn’t know any better.

It has probably always been something present in the church, but it seems that in the last two decades there has been a sharp increase in the “mega-churches” and those that follow only certain pastors because of their abilities to speak.  These leaders have done incredible good in the world and brought many to Christ, there is no doubt of this, but the burden they and all pastors must remember and carry is the need to keep the main thing the main thing.  Paul’s message here is not to simply preach Christ Crucified while ignoring the issues of the world in which the church lives and operates.  However, it is important that we keep Christ at the center of it all.  The Cross of Christ, the grace, salvation, and reconciliation which He offers us through His blood is to be at the center of the message of the Church.  All else, though important, pales in comparison.  Pastors, leaders, and all brothers and sisters in Christ, do not forget our center.  Do not forget from where our help, our love, and our salvation comes from.  Even as we engage the myriad of issues surrounding the Church today, let us approach them from our center in Jesus Christ.



Day 312: John 12-13; The Book of Glory

We enter today into the second half of the Gospel of John, walking from the book of signs into the book of glory.  As we talked about before, John writes the first half of his book with a focus on seven miracles that are weaved into the narrative of Jesus’ life.  Each of these, in a different setting, are placed as a way of showing the reader Jesus’ power over everything and many of the different characteristics of the kingdom of God which He heralds.  We step away from this, without leaving it behind of course, and move into the book of glory which focuses in on Jesus’ journey towards Jerusalem and what John ultimately sets up as the “glorification of Jesus Christ,” the Cross.

There are some debates about when exactly this particular section of the John’s Gospel starts.  Some would say that it is here at the beginning of chapter 12,  others would say that it begins with Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem.  As I was reading through today’s Scripture, I couldn’t disconnect in my mind the anointing of Jesus at Bethany by Mary.  While neither Jesus nor John mention it, my mind was drawn to the anointing of Saul, David, and many of the other kings and rulers of Israel and other lands as well.  There was a certain symbolism to the anointing process, a sort of divine significance and proclamation of the authority given to the anointed one.  While in some ways this happened at Jesus’ baptism when the Holy Spirit descended upon Him, this fits perfectly as the transitional point from Jesus’ ministry to Jesus’ passion.

In our reading today we see some of Jesus’ talk about light as well.  He says, “I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.”  Remember back to Jesus’ statement, “I AM the light of the world“?  There are some definite connections here to that, and to all of Jesus’ ministry.  John is showing us that there is congruence between Jesus’ ministry and the coming death that will take place.  We are also introduced to some new language, mostly centered around the word “glory” or “glorification.”  Jesus talks about this when He also mentioned the need for the Son of man to be “lifted up.”  As we said earlier, John is equating the “raising up” of Jesus on the cross as Jesus’ ultimate glorification.

Finally today, we read of the Last supper narrative from the perspective of John.  This particular passage is unique to John and isn’t included in any of the other Gospels.  Part of me wonders why this is; if their perspectives and writings avoided this because of the humbling that took place in the act of foot washing?  The true reason, I guess, is not known, but John makes it a point to record this act in its fullness.  In it, we see something very true about the nature of Jesus as well.  In many ways, this reflects what Matthew and Mark write about Jesus, “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Peter’s reaction to Jesus’ actions is priceless.  His reaction to what Jesus says to Him is even more priceless.  How little the seem to understand at this point… yet so eager to do all that Jesus says.

I think we shall end with Jesus’ words after He has returned to the Table with them.  They are quite meaningful and really sum up both the action that He has taken in washing the disciples feet and the action that He will take to wash them of their sins as well:

Do you understand what I have done to you?  You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am.  If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.  Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.  If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.  I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’  I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he.  Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.



Day 98: 1 Kings 6-7; The Temple of the Lord

The Temple of the Lord (often referred to as Solomon’s Temple).  I don’t know that words necessarily do it justice.  I doubt that any sort of artist’s rendering would either, but if a picture is worth a thousand words, we’ll take a look at a few to gain some perspective.

Photo Credit: http://knightsoftemplar.wordpress.com/category/002-temple-of-solomon/

Solomon’s Temple
Photo Credit: http://knightsoftemplar.wordpress.com/category/002-temple-of-solomon/

If we think back to the building of the tabernacle, much of the descriptions here are similar.  While the dimensions are much greater for the Temple, there is still a great deal of precision that is described here and a great deal of care that is taken to not only preserve these descriptions, but also to craft each piece.  I think its amazing that everything that went into this temple building was made off-site “so that neither hammer nor axe nor any tool of iron was heard in the house while it was being built.”  Every single one of these stones, much like the building of the great pyramids of Egypt, were hauled in from elsewhere.  Simply amazing, and what a marvelous feat for these people to accomplish.

Floor Plan of Solomon's TemplePhoto Credit: http://www.phoenixmasonry.org/king_solomons_temple/page_13.htm

Floor Plan of Solomon’s Temple
Photo Credit: http://www.phoenixmasonry.org/king_solomons_temple/page_13.htm

As we talked about so long ago with the building of the Tabernacle, we see here, and in yesterday’s reading, that God once again works through people with certain gifts which He has given them.  1 Kings refers specifically to Hiram of Tyre, yet we read that there are literally thousands of people at work doing various things to help in the construction of the Temple.  God has gifted each and every one of these people for this work at this time.

Looking at this floor plan, I think it is interesting to see the full layout of the Temple building and the surrounding court.  Anything strike you as interesting?  A Cross… with the Holy of Holies at the exact center.  Interestingly, this is also the shape of a many, if not most, of Christian Cathedrals as well.  The Temple building itself is a rectangle, yes, but this whole area including the Temple courts was designated for worship!  Even back then, this symbol of faith is prominently displayed for all to see!

Solomon's TemplePhoto Credit: http://www.johnpratt.com/items/docs/lds/meridian/2008/temple.html

Solomon’s Temple
Photo Credit: http://www.johnpratt.com/items/docs/lds/meridian/2008/temple.html