Sunday, April 8, 2012

The House of His Father

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, that you through his poverty might become rich” (2COR 8:9).

In the genius of the blessed Trinity, our cruel rejection of Jesus became the way of our adoption; our bitter abuse became the way of the Father’s embrace and the dwelling of the Holy Spirit. For how could our unfaithfulness and contempt and treachery, or the enslaving lie of the evil one, or death itself break the love and oneness and life of the blessed Trinity?  In dying at our hands, Jesus brought his life into our death, his relationship with his Father into our gnarled pathology, his anointing by the Holy Spirit into our twisted darkness. Out of his boundless love “he was dishonored that he might glorify us,” (Gregory Nazianzen, Orations, I.5.) “he endured our insolence that we might inherit immortality”( Athanasius, On the Incarnation of the Word of God, §54). Suffering our abuse to give us grace, he met our cruelty with his kindness, our rejection with his merciful acceptance, and our dead and despairing religion with his joy.  By accepting us at our very worst, by submitting himself to us in our great darkness, he entered into our world with his, thus transforming the shack of Adam’s horrid fall into the house of his Father and the temple of the Holy Spirit.

In a variation on St. Paul’s great statement we might say, “For you know the stunning grace of the Father’s Son: that though he was rich in the shared life of the blessed Trinity, yet for our sake he became poor, suffering our wrath to meet us, and that now through his suffering we who were so poor have been included in Jesus’ own rich relationship with his Father in the Spirit.”

Friday, April 6, 2012

Who Rejected Jesus?

“Behold, the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners” (Matthew 26:45). 

“For consider him who has endured such hostility by sinners against himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:3). 

“Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man will be delivered up to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death, and will deliver him up to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify him...” (Matthew 20:18).

The inherent legalism of the Western Church trains our eyes to see Jesus’ suffering as the judgment of God upon our sin, and virtually blinds us to the more obvious point that Jesus suffered from the wickedness of humanity. It was the human race, not the Father, who rejected his beloved Son and killed him.  The wrath poured out on Calvary’s hill did not originate in the Father’s heart, but in ours.  The humiliation that Jesus bore, the torment that he suffered, was not divine but human. We mocked him; we detested him; we judged him. We ridiculed him, tortured him, and turned our face from him. It was not the Father or the Holy Spirit who abandoned Jesus and banished him to the abyss of shame; it was the human race. We cursed him.

Either the Father, Son, and Spirit were caught off guard by our corporate rejection of Jesus, or there is a redemptive genius at work here that is too beautiful for words. Was the Jewish and Roman rejection of Jesus not foreseen by the triune God? Was the Father surprised when we killed the solution? Was Jesus bewildered and the Holy Spirit shocked when things went south and the crowds turned against him? No, of course not. The animosity of the human race towards the Father’s Son was anticipated, and indeed counted on, and literally incorporated (See Acts 2:23) as the critical part in bringing about our real relationship. Here is amazing grace. In breathtaking love, the Lord’s way of relationship and reconciliation involves the shocking acceptance of our cruelty. The Incarnation involves the inconceivable submission of the Trinity to our bizarre darkness and its bitter judgment.

And the point of such shocking grace is to find us, to meet us, to relate to us and to embrace us as we really are as broken, deceived, wounded, terror-filled, and rebellious creatures.  Here is the heart of the grace of the blessed Trinity.  Jesus bowed to suffer from our loathsome enmity.  He took a dagger to the heart.  He willfully and astonishingly submitted himself to us in our profound darkness—and we damned him—and in submitting himself to us he embraced us at our very worst. 

What does this mean?  It means that Jesus took our treachery, our betrayal, our murder and turned them into the way of his Father’s embrace and into the Holy Spirit’s anointing.  We killed him.  Jesus is saying to us on Good Friday: “I can take your murder, and I can let it happen, and in so doing I am accepting you as you are, and I am bringing my relationship with my Father, and my anointing with the Holy Spirit into your murderous darkness.  I use your murder to be the way I bring you into real relationship with my Father and the Holy Spirit. 

Our contribution to our adoption was to pour our wrath out upon Jesus.  And on this day we did.  Jesus took it, and drew us in all our anger and brokenness and sin into his Father’s arms.  Shocking, stunning, beautiful grace. It is not ‘dark’ Friday, but ‘good’ Friday.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

A Few Gems

"And I saw another angel flying in midheaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people" (Rev 14:6).

"Just 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 to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will (Eph 1:4-5)

"...who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity" (2Tim 1:9).

Sunday, April 1, 2012

First Words

The first words of Jesus in John’s gospel are a question: “What do you seek?”  Twice John the Baptist had pointed out Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  Two of the Baptist’s disciples followed behind Jesus.  It was then that Jesus turned and asked them, “What do you seek?”  Such a simple question, yet so loaded.  What?  What is it that you want?  What are you after?  What is driving you?  What is the prize you seek?  What is the object of your desire?  You?  What do you want?  Here the searching eyes of Jesus touch the heart.  This is not an abstract question, not even theological.  This is personal, profoundly so, searching.  Jesus himself turns his penetrating gaze upon two young men.  He has no time for surface conversation.  He wants to know what they think.  He cares about where they are in their journey of understanding, where they think they are.  What do you seek?

As I read it, the disciples are a little shaken, perhaps dazed. Who wouldn’t be?  There is no hiding with Jesus.  No wiggle room.  It was one of those moments when you know that he knows that you know that he knows.  It was a moment in the crosshairs of grace, which necessarily judges or exposes the inner world and its confusion.  Taking our cue from what Andrew, one of the disciples, did next and said—found his brother Peter and announced, “We have found the Messiah”—and the cascading ripples and implications that take shape immediately thereafter, we can see that a lot was happening in this simple discussion. The disciples answer Jesus with a question.  “Rabbi, where are you staying.”  I suspect this was a recovery question of sorts.  They knew how to handle the Baptist and his fiery passion, but Jesus and his question are so simple, so authentic, so real they were stopped in their tracks and rendered momentarily speechless.  The best they could do was, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” 

For John the gospel writer, their question too is loaded.  At first it seems arbitrary, if not inane.  The prophet had just declared Jesus to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, and these disciples get a chance to talk with him personally and all they want to know where he is staying?  Why the translators chose to use ‘staying’ instead of ‘dwelling’ is a mystery to me.  For the gospel writer, their question is dead on as well, and he gives them quite a compliment.  Jesus where are you dwelling?    In terms of the flow of the gospel, John had just written that Jesus is the one who was face to face with the Father from the beginning, and that Jesus is the one who dwells in the bosom of the Father, and the one upon the Holy Spirit dwells. 

In his ‘discussion’ with the religious delegation sent out to discover his identity, the Baptist answered, “I baptize in water, but among you stands One whom you do not know.”  Among you stands.  He is here, present, not absent, in your presence, and you do not know him.  The Baptist’s disciples, unlike the religious group, hear their leader, turn and follow Jesus.  They see something in Jesus.  They want to know where he dwells.  Jesus does not give a theological answer about his dwelling.  He does not name the place or describe how to get there.  He does not give them a map—if he did, no doubt, we would all try to get there without him. 

Jesus had to be thinking to himself, ‘so, you boys want to know where I dwell?’  With what must have been a wry smile, he simply says to these two young men, “Come, and you will see.”  Walk with me and you will know for yourself.  You cannot find the answer you seek in your heads.  This is not about five esoteric principles that can you apply to your life for your own betterment.  This is not about a place where the Father’s blessings are housed, and can be accessed.  This is about relationship.  Jesus is the one who knows the Father and dwells in his bosom.  Jesus is the one upon whom the Holy Spirit dwells.  He has come to be with us.  He is the living one.  He has life.  We cannot have what he has without him.  He commands us to walk with him.  This is a command of relationship, full of eternal promise.  Walk with me.  Put your agenda away, let go of your ideas, walk with me and I will show you who I am, and who my Father is, and the Holy Spirit, and thus who you are, and what your souls actually seek, and you will dwell with me in my Father’s bosom in my anointing in the Holy Spirit.

“In that day you shall know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you” (14:20).