Friday, September 28, 2018

Sin and Guilt

Josiah Tilton
Wednesday, September 12, 2018

A while back I got a ticket. I deserved it. It was Sunday morning and I was on my way to assemble with the brethren. I was on By Pass road, almost to Main. There was no traffic, and I wasn’t paying attention to my speed. A sheriff’s deputy turned off Main and must have had his radar on. I saw him, as I zoomed by, pull into a driveway, turn around and flip his lights on. There is a traffic law that if you are doing more than 20 MPH over the posted speed limit, you have to appear in court. So, off to court I went. Not that morning, but soon after.

There were probably seventy or eighty people in the courtroom, all waiting for their case to be called, which they do alphabetically. My last name starts with T, so I spent a lot of time in court that day. Finally, after several hours, my name was called, my crime was read by the prosecutor, and, just as was the case in every other traffic offense violators moments before the judge, he was looking down, staring at the paper before him and never looked up. He never even saw me. He asked me how I pled. When I said guilty, without emotion of any kind and still not looking up, he said, “If you do not get another ticket for the next six months the court will not inform your insurance company about this ticket. See the bailiff.” She was sitting off to the side, and as I walked up to her, she handed me a form where the two blanks had been filled in with my name and the amount of my fine. She told me I needed to “run” down the hall to get to the cashier’s window because they were going to close within a couple of minutes. I got there in time, paid in cash, because they do not take checks, (I wonder why? Hmmm.), was given a receipt and I left the court house, still carrying part of the weight of the ticket, because it wouldn’t be completely over until the end of the next six months.

This is an example of “Law.” It is written in black and white and is impersonal. The judge doesn’t have to look at you. Law doesn’t need to know your name, your weight, your age, your color. The sign saying the speed limit is 30 miles per hour doesn’t care if you drive a brand new Mercedes or a beat-up, rusted 2001 Ford Escort.

I bring these things up because we tend to define sin in law terms. To speak of sin as “a crime” or “a trespass” or “lawlessness” (anomia) makes use of law court metaphors, which while they can add depth to our understanding of sin can also lead us to miss its essence—personal, relational infidelity.
The sign says, “Speed Limit 30”. Sin, however, isn’t written on a sign, it is written in the heart. And what’s terribly important for us to realize is that the judge of our sins is not the impersonal judge who asks, “how do you plead?” No. The judge of our sins is also our Father. It is not the law He is interested in, it’s us. God the Father doesn’t look at us and say something like, “I gave you a law. I love that law. You broke my law!” and then demand restitution. There is NO restitution for sin. Let me repeat that; There is NO restitution for sin. What did Paul tell us was the payment for sin? “For the wages of sin is death.” Romans 6:23. How long is that death to be? It is eternal, meaning the debt can never be paid. 

So, this being true, something other than payment had to happen. Jesus did not come to PAY for our sins. Reread Romans 6:23. If He paid He would still be paying. His death would have to be an eternal death, because that is the wages of sin. What, then, was it that Jesus did, because He certainly died on the cross for something? What did He give to the Father that was essential to our being forgiven?
From those first moments in the garden when sin approached Eve and enticed her, sin has been in control. Sin told us to do this and we did it. Sin told us to do that and we did it. Sin sat on the throne of our hearts and we could not or would not drive him away. Sin had all power. We gave it to him. Then Jesus came.

Before He was formed in the womb, Jesus did not exist. The eternal Word existed as part of the Godhead, but Jesus did not. God, the eternal creator, was His Father and Mary, that fifteen or sixteen-year-old human, virgin, was His mother. The human Jesus came to be, was created in Mary’s womb. In her womb all that is, everything eternal and everything created, came together. The human and the divine were joined in the person of Jesus. When the shepherds saw the great vision of angels and heard the message and the song, they rushed to see. And what did they find? A superhero? No. They found a baby, wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger. They found one of us.
The one they named Jesus reached out His hand and held onto the hand of His eternal Father, and with He other hand he held on to His earthly mother and from the moment of His birth the Divine and the earthly were forever joined together. The wall of separation (Isaiah 59:1) was being dismantled and taken out of the way, as that man, that first truly human man, gave to His Father what the Father had always wanted – not for Himself, but for us. The Father always wanted FOR US what Jesus was giving Him. And what was it that He was giving? 

Remember David’s mournful Psalm 51? “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” David’s mother did not get pregnant through some sinful means. There was no adultery or fornication. David is speaking of the world he was conceived in. The world full of iniquity. The sinful, broken world. It’s like smog in Los Angeles, no matter where you go the smog is all around you and you are affected by it, even if you are not the one producing it.

So, what was David to do? He had committed adultery with Bathsheba and even had her husband killed. Should he offer a sacrifice? Would that take care of things? Wasn’t that what the Law required? He even tells God, “if I thought you wanted a sacrifice I would give you a sacrifice.” But no. That wasn’t it at all. Read Psalm 32 and see what was happening to David as the sin ate away at him. His palms were sweaty, his stomach ached, he felt pain in all his joints. Why? What was causing this? Was it the adultery with Bathsheba? I would have thought that was a pleasurable thing. Was it the murder of Uriah? Wasn’t that just one of the consequences of war? No. It wasn’t these things. It wasn’t even actually the terrible sins. It was his heart.

David felt in his heart the loss, the emptiness, the overwhelming sadness of separation from the God he loved. He had written psalm after psalm after psalm expressing his great love for his heavenly Father, and now? The reality of the great wall of separation was so powerful within his heart that it was causing physical pain.

When Nathan approached David with his story, and gave the confession, “Thou art the man!” David wasn’t angry or arrogant, he was relieved. His heart burst open with joy. It wasn’t over between him and God. God was looking for David. That’s why He sent Nathan. Of course, the Father was angry about David’s sin, but sin wasn’t the end of the story. David was sick about his sin but overpowered by what he had done to his relationship to the Father. 

Look at 51:3-4. It wasn’t Bathsheba or Uriah, it wasn’t even the nation he had sinned against. It was God. He had hurt his Father and caused there to be a separation between them. “Against you and you only have I sinned…” David confesses.

OK. So, we look at this episode in David’s life and what are we seeing that tells us what Jesus gave to the Father? If we look carefully at Psalm 51 we see it there. It’s clear that David understood what it was that the Father truly wanted. I think it’s also clear that He wanted it for us and not for Himself. Here’s the focal point of the whole Psalm, as far as I’m concerned:

For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
    you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
16-17 ESV

God wasn’t looking for sacrificial animals offered on the altar. He was looking for hearts offered in love. If mankind had never sinned but had always given the Father the love and respect He deserved, we would not be cheating, stealing from, raping, lying about, even murdering each other. There would be no such thing as sex slaves, no marital unfaithfulness, no mistrust and no fear. After eating, Adam and Eve hid in the garden because they were afraid. Without sin there would have been no fear. We would be perfectly content in every way…if only.

What then did Jesus do to bring man and God together? He gave the Father what the Father always wanted. He gave Him the love, respect and obedience He deserved and we, mankind, needed. He did not allow sin to rule over Him. In doing that He was telling sin that it was not the one in charge. Sin had no right to rule. Paul, Romans 8:3, tells us that:

“God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh”
Jesus took away sins’ rule; He destroyed sins’ kingdom. Proof of that was given when Jesus was obedient, obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. He didn’t go to the cross to pay for sin. If He had He would still be dead, for the wages of sin is death and that’s not talking just about physical death. The wages are not just a three-day death but an eternal death. We see this in the sermon (Acts 2:24) Peter gave on Pentecost. “God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.” Why? Because He overcame sin, He wasn’t ruled by it. Death had no right to hold on to Him.

From the moment Jesus was born and during His lifelong battle with the rule of sin in the lives of men, Jesus was beginning the restoration process (2 Corinthians 5:17). Now we believe and know (1 John 5:11-13) that we have eternal life because we are “IN” the one who condemned sin in the flesh. We are in the light. We are in the kingdom. Sin is continuously being washed away. 

When is sin being washed away? Continuously. Continuously. Continuously! As we are sinning it is being washed away. We dare not trust our sin to wait on us to confess something before it is washed from our hearts. (Our daily walk in Christ Jesus is our continuous confession that we are sinners and we need Him desperately.) We will fail. We will continuously fail. If there is a lapse of time between our committing sin and it being washed away, we are lost during that time. It doesn’t matter if it is moments, hours or days. From the moment the sin enters until it is washed away we are lost. So, we must understand that sin is CONTINUOUSLY being washed away. How and why can this be true?
John gives us the answer in 1 John chapter 1:

We often look at verses 7-10 to find the answer to these questions, but the answer is really found in the first few verses.

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.” 1-4 ESV
Verse three in particular is telling that all of what he, John, is writing and sharing with them is relational. It’s all about fellowship. Our lives on this planet were given so that the Father might have a relationship with us and that relationship is found in and through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. We sin. We will continue to sin. Our relationship with the Father and not our sin is what is important to us and to Him. Of course, He hates our sin. We do too. We don’t want to sin. We want to please the Father. Yet we do sin, and the Father tells us He knows we are going to sin. If we say we don’t and won’t we are calling Him a liar. BUT if we walk in the light – if we remain in Christ Jesus – as He is in the light, we HAVE fellowship one with another and the blood of Jesus Christ CLEANSES US from all sin. That word “cleanses” is a continuous action verb. It means it is constantly cleaning us up and will, as long as we walk in the light. Remember, even as we walk in the light we will still sin. John is not giving us a license saying it’s ok to sin. He makes that plain in 2:1, “I’m writing these things that you don’t sin”. What he is telling us is that Jesus is always going to be with us and He will take His blood and continuously wash us clean. He does this so He can present us to His Father without spot, wrinkle or any other blemish. 

It is only right, therefore, for Paul to tell us (Romans 8:1), “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”

So, what should we do with guilt? I know this is easier said than done, but guilt must be pushed out of our lives. We are penitent, yes. We are not, however, guilty. The sin is washed away. We are sad that we have, as David said, sinned against the Father, but He plainly tells us that He is using the blood of Jesus to wash that sin away. How often do we hear in prayers, “please forgive us of our sins”? Nearly every public prayer offered. What we should be saying is “Father, thank you for forgiving us of our sins!”

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Supper Four


When we speak of communion with Christ we usually think of it in two different ways. One is knowing that we are always with Him or He is always with us. Matthew 28:20 "And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." We feel the closeness as we speak to Him in prayer or visit Him through the scriptures. We sense His presence most especially in times of difficulty, sickness or even the passing of a loved one. We are people who love the stories of Him and see how He was with the people of the first century. Lazarus dies and Jesus weeps. People come to listen to Him, he has compassion on them because they were both like sheep without a shepherd and they were hungry. So He feeds them spiritually and physically. 

 As we read the stories we are moved by His love for the people and realize that what we are seeing with them is what we should be seeing with us. The woman taken in the act of adultery is one special story that seems to move us and touch our hearts deeply. I always picture the woman barely clinging to her clothes, since she was grabbed by wicked, unmerciful hands in an obviously planned event. She barely had time to cover her nakedness before she was dragged from the room out into the light of Jesus and the shadow of those who would attempt to make a fool of the Savior. She's sitting on the ground, leaning on one hand, with her head bowed so those around her couldn't see her face. I picture her with her face in shame one minute and the next with a look of contempt for those who would use her like she was nothing, just a tool in their evil game. 

Once their jeering was over and they, with their heads bent in shame, walked silently away, Jesus looked down at the woman. He wasn't looking down ON her, but looking down at her as she sat on the ground. "Where are all your accusers? Are there none who are accusing you?"

The tightness in her chest begins to ebb and she unclenches her fists and her breath begins to even out, at least this is how I see it. Then she answers, "No one, Lord."
She knew this man before her was not one of the raucous crowd who had just left, but He was special. She called Him Lord.

"I don't condemn you either." I hear these words in gentle tones. I see a smile, not of admiration, but of love and compassion for this humiliated woman. I also hear words of warning, "Go and don't continue is such sin."

I picture Him extending His arm and helping her to her feet. Thee is a desire in her to hug Him and tell Him thank you, but she restrains because of what she had been doing before this whole humiliating experience began. To put her arms around Him wouldn't have seemed appropriate. So I see her smile, wrap her arms around her chest and walk away, feeling better about herself then she had in months, perhaps years.

This is how I see Jesus with me/us. Eager to forgive and gentle in His warnings. This is the first way we see our communion with Jesus.

The second way is when we meet Him at the table. On the first day of the week we assemble for the express purpose of dining with Jesus, Acts 20:7. We are gathered to break bread and share some juice with Him and with our brothers and sisters. We are going to commune together as a family. When we read Psalm 139 we realize there is no where we can go to hide from His presence, even if we wanted to. He is just too big. At the same time, we see Him sitting at the table with us, not filling all in all (Yes. I know He still does this even when we are at table with Him), but joining us and occupying a seat as each one of us is occupying. He is not small, but He is with us, in our likeness, as a brother, a friend, an equal. He is being Emmanuel - God with us. 

As reminders of things Jesus did and said are offered to the diners and the bread is passed, we are eating and thinking our own thoughts of the Savior. We are thinking of things we, as individuals, need to think and remember. It may be a thought of Him raising the widow's only son from the dead or we may be thinking of how He saved the newlyweds from humiliation when He turned water into wine. Whatever it is, it is what we are needing at the moment, because in those thoughtful moments we are demonstrating again and again that Jesus IS all in all and offers to us what we are needing when we are needing it most. This is one of the great things about the Supper. We gather with Him and are reminded of powerful, positive, life giving and sharing things. We are reminded of that which will meet us where we are at and we will be renewed all over again.

The Supper is prepared, we are gathered together and sitting at the table. Let's eat! 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Supper Three

Seeing More In the Supper

I’m discovering that this great blessing we share on the first day of each week, the Supper of the Lord, is more than I have believed and practiced before. With each passing day and every scripture I read I see the Christ in it and understand just a touch more about who and what He is. In gaining understanding I’m able to see more in the Supper than before, and in seeing it I’m blessed with a greater nearness to our Lord Jesus Christ.

John begins his narrative of the Christ with the following:

1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) 16 And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known.

This tells us great things about God and God’s purposes. “In the beginning was the Word…” John begins his story with a reference to God’s creative purposes. The first thing shown is the “Word”, which we know is the Christ, the Messiah, and the Savior of the world. Then he tells us that this “Word” created everything.  Keep this in mind, because we are coming right back to John, but first…

Look at Paul’s writings in Ephesians 1:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

See what Paul shows us in his narrative of events what took place before the foundation of the world.  We must look back there for there is where the great riches in Christ all began.  I don’t know how eternity works and getting my mind around it is difficult. Yet somewhere out in that vast eternity God thought of this great beginning of creating and loving mankind. And His loving of mankind included Him choosing to make His home with us or, better yet, our home with Him. God wanted to live with us. This is an amazing thought!

Look at Colossians 1:15ff. 

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

We see again that the narrative begins with God’s creative purposes being brought before us. By Him, by the Christ, all things were created. Before Christ began His work there was nothing in this physical realm, for there was no physical realm. This passage shows us that God was working wonderful creative things, and we get glimpses of his creative purposes and ideas of what they were. We see reconciliation and peace, but there is still more; much more.

When we go back to John’s gospel, we see that throughout his story John is portraying God’s creative purposes as beginning and ending with Jesus Christ. Again, John starts by telling us, “In the beginning was the Word…” He ends by telling us that Jesus did many more things than what he recorded, but the world could not contain the books if they were written about all that Jesus did. I think this is saying much more than just items about miracles performed or lessons taught. I believe John is telling us that we are going to be learning and learning about the many things Jesus did that are not as obvious as feeding five thousand or giving sight to a blind man. We’re going to be learning concepts, notions, ideas, and thoughts that go beyond mere physical; concepts that lead us to other concepts that lead us, etc. etc.

We cannot box up the creative purposes of God through Jesus as being merely physical, fleshly and time oriented. They are more than that; deeper than that. The Psalmist, in his pained hungering for God in Psalm 42 expresses the thought that “deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls.” There is an idea offered that the deeper you go the deeper you can go and the deeper you are called to go. We start with a foundation and we build on that, grow from that and never come to a final brick. There is always more to learn and more to see. Boxing up God’s creative purposes into a few well defined parameters is just not reasonable, and perhaps impossible. When we think of the ideas of redemption, reconciliation, restoration and re-creation we see more than just physical. There are ideas, ways, uncountable blessings and a host of other things wrapped up in these concepts.

Look at these passages:

2 Cor. 5:16bff, the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.  16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

John 3:3-5, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Romans 8:1-17, 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

As we examine these we see glory, and we are looking for Glory, aren’t we?  Every bit of it is found in the new creation or re-creation, if you will, and that is only found in Christ Jesus. 

New creation; Born again; No condemnation, these are all found in Christ. How wonderfully glorious this is, yet it is not merely (that’s a bad term) Himself He is showing us. There is more to Him than that. Remember, John tells us of Jesus saying, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.”

The last thing we should do with that statement is put limits on it. While it’s clear that Jesus was talking to us about the characteristics of the Father, there is more. He was also talking about the Father’s intentions toward us. The very term “Father” expresses ideas that fill our hearts and exercises our minds, causing us to look deeper into the heart of God. Clearly Jesus is saying, “What you have seen me doing with you is what the Father has intended from the beginning.”

In John and the rest of the gospels, we see Jesus living with us, among us, as one of us, fellowshipping with us, experiencing life with us and giving us life. He was held in his mother’s arms, nursed at her breasts, played with other little boys, learned carpentry at Joseph’s feet. Surely He smashed His thumb a time or two, and scraped his knees as He ran and tripped. Why would I think this? Because this is what we do – what I have done, and He is one of us. Remember Hebrews 5:8? “He learned obedience by the things which He suffered (underwent).” No parent can protect their child from every scrape, fall, bruise and heartache. We don’t really want to. Life is not perfect and our children have to learn to live in this world. So these things are teachers as well as we. I believe the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ allowed His Son to go through these very same things. Of course He did.

Ah, but look. Jesus did more. He spoke with the priests in the temple, ate our food, went to our weddings and wept at our funerals.  He was/is Immanuel – God with us. Hear this: GOD WITH US!!! That is what God always intended from before the foundation of the world!!  He intended to BE WITH US!!

I understand how people can think this absurd. Many who believe there is a God also believe that He just started everything, wound it up and set it out there, then removed Himself and let things move along as they might. Others think that He did go to the trouble of sending Jesus, but He got Him out of here as quickly as possible. But why should this be so? And why would He bother sending Jesus if He really didn’t want to have a close relationship with us?

Remember the angel appeared to Joseph and told him that Mary should not be put away, but that she was part of the fulfillment of promises God had made to bring the Savior into the world. He was told that the child would be called “Immanuel.” He would be called “God WITH us!” And God is the giver of life. He is also the sharer of life. Having life, but not life alone, rather He shares life with us. We, His children, share with Him the blessings He richly pours on us. Hand in hand with Him we share them. He is like the Father who takes his child to the Circus. They both watch, see the clowns and laugh, ooo and ahh at the trapeze artist and are amazed at the one standing up and riding the backs of horses. These are shared things, human things that we enjoy. They are also things that teach us how the heavenly Father shares life with us.

We sing…

”My God and I go in the fields together.

We walk and talk as good friends should and do.

We clasp our hands, our voices ring with laughter.

My God and I go on unendingly.”

We sing this because this is what the Father is doing with us. And He is doing it in and as Jesus the Christ.

Everywhere Jesus goes, life abounds. John recounts the episode of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. This is a great example of the power of Jesus, but the message of Lazarus is not limited to, “See how powerful Jesus is.” Lazarus himself is a promise. His resurrection demonstrates more than power. Lazarus would say to us, “See! If he can do this for me, he will do it for you. He will raise you from the dead.”

Picture, if you would, a funeral and the dead man being able to walk among the gatherers seeing and hearing what is going on.  That’s how G. K. Chesterton presented Lazarus in his poem, The Convert:

The Convert

By G. K. Chesterton

After one moment when I bowed my head

And the whole world turned over and came upright,

And I came out where the old road shone white.

I walked the ways and heard what all men said,

Forests of tongues, like autumn leaves unshed,

Being not unlovable but strange and light;

Old riddles and new creeds, not in despite

But softly, as men smile about the dead

The sages have a hundred maps to give

That trace their crawling cosmos like a tree,

They rattle reason out through many a sieve

That stores the sand and lets the gold go free:

And all these things are less than dust to me

Because my name is Lazarus and I live.

Lazarus gets it.  All of the world’s things and all of its wisdom are nothing.  All that matters is life, but not just earthly life. It’s more than that. It’s the life that is found in Christ Jesus. But Lazarus teaches more than this.

Jesus stood at the grave. He saw all the people who were sharing in the mourning of Martha and Mary. Friends and family, neighbors and loved ones all gathered together so that they might demonstrate the blessing of shared hurts and the collective easing of pain. Jesus saw and He wept! The weeping was not just for Lazarus nor was it merely for Mary and Martha. It was for us as well. It was for all those down through the ages who witnessed the death of a loved one and felt the pain, hurt and heartache that came from those terrible moments. This was God saying “I hurt with you!”

These stories of Jesus that John brings to us are veritable wells of truth about who God is and what He wants for us and how He longs to be with us. They are about feelings of love and shared emotions. They are also about renewal and resurrection. This was demonstrated in Lazarus, but also in Nicodemus.

Back in John three, Jesus tells Nicodemus, “You must be born again.” To put limits on what Jesus is saying here is a mistake. He is not talking merely of baptism as a “requirement for salvation.” He is talking about New Creation – being made brand new; a new start; a new beginning, and not just for the individual Nicodemus. He’s talking about the renewal of Israel first and then of the entire creation. These bodies, so full of sin and death need renewal and recreation. Jesus comes to us with that in mind and in fulfillment. He brings life. True life. And that life is with Him; holding on to Him and He to us.
Finally, John ends his narrative where he began: with an image of God’s creative purposes.  John says, “Just as day was breaking,” (21:4). Do not miss the power of that statement. John was not just informing us of the coincidental time of day. This was the symbol of a new beginning. It was the beginning of a new day; a new start! And what does John show us? He shows Jesus fellowshipping with his beloved followers; giving them life-sustaining food; and all of this on the brink of the greatest grand adventure.

This IS resurrection life.

And here we are living it.  Are we really thinking about it as we live it?  Picture yourself in the assembly on the first day of the week. There you/we are together; assembled; finding in Christ Jesus a great fellowship.  And as we meet we are defying the world and repudiating sin, both ours and the sins of the world.  We are refusing to hear the doctrine telling us that there is no God and we call out to the Lord as we assemble – “Jesus, you are the King of kings and Lord of lords.  You are our Rock and Redeemer.  You are the eternal, all-wise, all-powerful God.  We worship and adore you.  May your name be praised forever and forever!” All of this we are saying in the mere fact that we are assembling together. As the world, ignoring the awesomeness of the God of creation, lies in bed recuperating from a late night of drinking and partying or takes time to go jogging or goes out to a café for some coffee and breakfast, we are gathered together shouting to the world – “Jesus IS Lord!”

And this, all of this I’ve just spoken of, is why we gather together on the first day of the week to break this bread and share this glorious meal with our Savior.

At the beginning of the week,

·         the same day God began his creation –

·         the same day he resumed his creative activities in raising Jesus from the dead

·         The same day the church was established

·         The same day the apostles met with disciples to break bread

·         We symbolize the new beginning God has brought about in Jesus Christ.

·         In the Supper, the supper that we sometimes take so lightly and even callously, in that supper we eat and drink New Creation, because that’s what Jesus is and so much more.

This do in remembrance of me cannot, must not be limited to mere thoughts about His death and burial.  It’s more than that; it’s deeper than that; it’s eternally greater than that, even though that was a great and awesome thing and in that death our salvation is found, but it’s more than that! Of course it is, and Paul tells us that when we take the bread and the wine we are showing His death until He comes, but we are doing more than that. Jesus is more than just His death and burial and when we remember Him we must look at all that He is to see what it is that we ought to think of as we partake of this glorious meal.

I sometimes think of the time Jesus was sitting somewhere near the temple, perhaps in it, I’m not exactly sure. People were coming and making contributions. I’m guessing some did it with great fanfare, taking their bag of coins and holding it high so all could see and as they tipped it over to drop its contents a great clanging of coins was heard, drawing attention to the one making the contribution. The contributor would smile a humble little smile, acting as if he didn’t mean to do what he just purposely did. Then he would move on forward to one of the prominent seats that was always reserved for him.

In my mind’s eye, as I watch the contributors pass by, I see a thin, bent lady, wearing thread-bare clothing, eyes looking at the floor. She passes by the box where the offerings were collected and she drops in two small coins. There was no fanfare, no attention grabbing. She was a nobody, just one of the many nobodies that were passing by the box that day. She meekly dropped in her offering and went to the back to stand, hoping that she could hear the word read as the Rabbi or the priest took the scroll. It is my belief that only one person in the entire room that day even noticed that the old woman was alive and standing there.

Jesus turned to his disciples and said: “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box.  For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” Mark 12:43b-44 ESV

In remembering this story I have it in my mind that Jesus sees me there in the assembly. He is with us all and paying attention to what we are actually doing. I don’t see it as “Oh, I better pay attention and act right because Jesus is here watching.” No. I see it as Jesus seeing us there, in all our weakness, with all our sinful moments and yet loving us as He watches us speak to the world: “Jesus is Lord. Jesus is Lord!”

If we don’t take the time to think about more than His death and burial we will miss so much of what taking the supper in remembrance means and the strength it gives. We will lose sight of the truths about Jesus the writers were sharing as they told the many stories of Jesus being with people and doing for them. We will miss the teachings offered in story form. We will forget about the relief the woman taken in the act of adultery found and felt as Jesus offered “Neither do I condemn you…” We will not think about how Jesus is with us in the weddings and funerals of our children and loved ones. We won’t really remember that Jesus wept at a funeral or that He saved a family from terrible humiliation when the wine played out.

Our remembrances must not be just about death, but about life and loving and sharing and laughter and even mourning. We look at Jesus in all that has been revealed to us and remember that the things done were not done just for them, but for us also. We see how Jesus was with them and we realize that He is still here with us doing the same things. He has not left us on our own to work it all out without help, but is here with us rather and He is working it with us. We do not have a death in our family or among our friends that He is not weeping with us.

Thank you Father, thank you Jesus, thank you Spirit for bringing these things to our remembrance, so that we can be the richer for it.

We know that in the thinking of Him and remembering the many stories we are made stronger and better able to face the coming week, for we have shared a meal with Jesus and we continue to share all week long.

Please, pass the bread!