Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Jesus Plays Possum

Maybe it's because I was a history major, I don't know, but when I read scriptures and here stories about people and places (which is all of the Bible), I have the tendency of imagining myself in their shoes - walking. I was reading a passage in Luke and I was blown away by the creativity of Jesus. Time and time again, Jesus could simply call on His armies, or even done it himself -- but He refuses, that would have been just like all of the other Kingdoms and Kings. Jesus came to show us a different Way. Simply put, and as many of you fully realize, Jesus is amazing! This simple truth stood out to me as I read this passage.

On the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35) are two of Jesus' disciples. They are dejected. They are frustrated. They are probably a little annoyed and possibly feeling slightly betrayed. The "prophet" they had followed, who claimed to be the Son of God had just been executed by the Romans. Jesus had rejected each power structure: to the Sadducees He refused the status quo, to the Pharisees He pushed them out of their legalism, to the established oppressive nation-state (the Romans) He challenged their authority and to the Zealots He rejected the use of violence. These two disciples walking along the road back to their hometown of Emmaus, the one they left to follow Jesus, probably didn't know what to think. Who was this man? Was he even a prophet? He promised so much, and he didn't deliver. Now they have to go back to family, friends, and co-workers and admit that they walked away from their homes and jobs for a prophet that didn't pan out. The two had heard stories about Jesus rising from the dead, but when some of the other disciples went to His tomb He wasn't there. They didn't believe. Then a stranger walked up.

The stranger says "'What are you discussing so intently as you walk along?' They stopped short, sadness written across their faces. Then one of them, Cleopas, replied, 'You must be the only person in Jerusalem who hasn't heard about all the things that have happened there the last few days.'" At this point the stranger (which, as we know, turns out to be Jesus) could have thrown off his cloak and said something along the lines of "Ah ha, behold, it is me, Jesus, the Christ. I have risen from the dead and have come to give you life." At least that is what I would have done. But instead Jesus replies, "What things?" Basically He is provoking a conversation. The two go on to tell this stranger about the prophet who did powerful miracles but was put to death. Much like the power structures Jesus rejected, the two strangers did not have eyes to see and ears to hear (until later that night) and "had hoped he was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel." Jesus obviously had, but nobody realized it. They had all been looking for the wrong things. The stranger then rebuts the two calling them foolish and then gives them a history lesson starting with Moses and covering all of the prophets who had all pointed back to Him.

Assuming the average walking speed is 2-3 miles per hour, it would take a person around 3 hours to walk the 7 miles between Jerusalem and Emmaus. This is a long time to not recognize the man you followed with your life the past few years. For whatever reason, they don't, and after His rebuke and history lesson, they beg Him to come home and have dinner. "As they sat down to eat, he took the bread and blessed it. Then he broke it and gave it to them. Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And at that moment he disappeared!" Talk about drama, you can't make this stuff up! These disciples had to have been impacted in a deep way. Luke says that they headed back to Jerusalem that night (another 3 hour walk - this time in the dark) and told the eleven disciples all that had happened. Can you imagine how energized and excited they had to have been at this point?

Put yourself there on that road to your hometown - dejected, confused, betrayed. Sometimes when Jesus shows up He plays possum just so we can have a deeper revelation of who He is.

Monday, July 5, 2010


The most powerful things happen when the church surrenders its desire to convert people and convince them to join. It is when the church gives itself away in radical acts of service and compassion, expecting nothing in return, that the way of Jesus is most vividly put on display. To do this, the church must stop thinking about everybody primarily in categories of in or out, saved or not, believer or nonbeliever.

- Rob Bell

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Shrinking Gospel

Only a fraction of our sins are personal. By far the greater part are sins of neglect, sins of default, our social sin, our systemic sin, our economic sin. For these sins Christ died, and continues to die. For these sins Christ atoned, and continues to atone. . . . As long as evangelism presents a gospel centered on the need for personal salvation, individuals will acquire a faith that focuses on maximum benefits with minimal obligations, and we will change the costly work of Christ's atonement into the pragmatic transaction of a salvific contract. . . . The sanctifying grace of God in Jesus Christ is meant not just for the sinner but also for a society beset by structural sin.

- David Lowes Watson