Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Towards a Jesus Theology

All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments...

The man lying on the bed was in his early thirties, but one could scarcely tell that to look upon his frail frame. A victim of homelessness and a prolonged life on the streets, he had seen much more than many
his age would ever see, and his body showed it. Right now he was in a coma and wasn't likely to recover, his body had an air of "worn-out-ness" to it that all homeless people tend to have, but this man more so than any other she had ever seen.
His ruddy pockmarked face showed the obvious signs of daily life under the sun through summer and winter, with sun burn upon sun burn upon sun burn, and with a dull rubbing of a decade of dirt in the pores for good measure. A scar above his chin and a nose like a horse shoe showed that this man had been in at least one serious fight, and probably many more, in his life. Through the hospital gown one could see the subtle tells of scars that crisscrossed his body. They spoke of pavement and air vents as beds, old moth eaten jackets and mildewy cardboard as pillow and blanket.
His chart showed that his body, old and tired, was indeed in the process of giving out. He had not really regained consciousness since coming in 72 hours ago. Sadly, his insides were a victim of a relentless onslaught of drugs and alcohol, of trying to kill the inner pain. His vital organs, despite the doctors best efforts, were one by one shutting down.
He had been dumped on the front steps of the hospital dressed in tattered flannel shirt and jeans crusty from wear, with no drivers license, with no wallet, with no identification, with no-one to vouch for him, and no way of knowing who he was.
As he laid there in silence, and with death soon to come, one of God's unlikely anointed ones stood in his room quietly. She had been through some serious pain of her own, the death of family, friends and the recent divorce of a husband. All within the last two years. From the standpoint of anyone who knew her, she had every right to be angry at the world.
She knew that somewhere there was likely a mother who hadn't seen her son in 10 or more years. She knew that there was a mother that craned her neck wildly when she passed someone that just might look like the son alcohol drugs and life on the street had stolen from her. She knew that there was likely a father who had been so despondent with grief that he may have laid in the street at one point, every muscle on his slightly overweight frame racked with anxiety looking to the heavens for some relief from the crippling terror of not knowing whether your offspring was alive or dead.
As this unlikely angel stood in her scrubs, she walked over and put her hand on his shoulder and said a quiet prayer. She didn't know what to say when she started, but she knew no one else would stand and pray for this man. Words flowed from her lips. A few tears from her eyes, even though she tried as hard as she could to hold them back. Though her words were oh so quiet, her spirit groaned to the Lord of heaven for all of the pain and suffering for this "John Doe" before her, for his family, for his mother and father and for his salvation. She asked the Lord of heaven to forgive this man, and to take away his pain.
In doing so, this humble critical care nurse became another one of Gods quiet emissaries.

And yet, even as we can all agree that this critical care nurse was definitely exhibiting Godly ways in praying over her patient, its not a set of actions that fits neatly into our theological hierarchy sometimes.

The thing that blows me away about Jesus is how unlike the world he is. I know that sounds obvious, but hear me out.
Just look at his birth. He was born in a manager, which despite the somewhat sterilized view that comes to us from children's plays, was really a trough for food for animals. There was likely animal spittle mixed in with the hay that the living God of the Universe was laid in. Ezekiel mentions the standard birth method for the time was to be washed with water, then rubbed with salt, to prevent infection and disease. It would appear from the text that Jesus did not receive any of the standard birth procedure, in that he was born where animals were to be housed.
We sometimes forget the likely social fallout of the virgin birth. Mary was with child, having known no man, not even her husband Joseph. Now, In that culture adultery was a serious offense, punishable by death. Though Mary was obviously not guilty of adultery, I'm sure it didn't seem like it to those around her who knew her. Yet, despite the likely whispers, from the worlds view, Joseph took on the mantle of father, to a son he did not sire, likely to scorn and subtle ridicule from the community he lived in.
As an adult Jesus repeatedly went and ate with sinners and publicans. He repeatedly went to the very lowest in society, Even going so far as to walk forward, touch, and subsequently heal the ultimate outcast of that society, a leper.
As a rabbi and teacher, his full time ministry likely lasted only about 3-5 years. No 40 year careers and world evangelism centers complete with marble floors for this man that was God. His was a different ministry. A ministry of the Father.
Even on the day he died, it was most remarkable because of just how shameful it was. His clothes were stripped from him, an innocent man. He wore a crown of thorns. He was crucified alongside two criminals, his best friends scattering the night before when trouble came round, only now to stand afar off and watch helplessly.
Crucifixion was reserved for those that society thought to make an example of.
Interestingly, that is exactly what happened, just not in the way the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Romans intended.
With all this in mind, lets stop and consider for a second the verse in John.
"I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know the Father. From now on you do know him and you have seen him."
This could be a life verse for me it comes up so much in my day to day thoughts. It literally means that Jesus is the only way to know God. Through this man alone is salvation. If you're reading this its probably nothing new. (If this is something new, please lift you eyes to heaven and say "Lord, Have mercy on me a sinner!" before going any farther!) Lets take and quantify this verse...

If I am to know God, it is through Jesus.

If I am to have wisdom and knowledge of God, it is through his Son, Jesus

If I wish to study God and his attributes, then all I have to do is study is Jesus and his attributes!

In my slightly over rigorous mind, I have pondered how to reconcile all of this. Jesus didn't seem to care about peoples station in life, he seemed to care for people in pain, people who were hurting. He cared most about showing others the Father. He most often showed them the Father by loving them. He wouldn't violate their freewill, but He wasn't afraid to sacrifice his own comfort for others, or to wound them with the truth. He was a servant. He served others. He loved others. He chastised those that made others weights heavy, and would not lift a finger to help.
His burden was light. He told us so.
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart all your mind and all your strength. This is the first and greatest commandment, and the second is like it. Love your neighbor as yourself. All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments."
and yet how often do these verses show up in church creeds, in theological statements of faith? How often do we here this from the pulpit? How often have we said this to ourselves as part of a guiding philosophy of life? How often is this taught in Sunday schools?

In light of the above statements, perhaps we should examine the words and deeds of Jesus more closely.

Let this then, be the introduction in a (hopefully!) ongoing series of articles designed to examine Jesus and his ways during his time on earth in more detail. Call it "Things that Jesus Did" or "Loving like Jesus". The focus will be on discovering how to change our thinking and habits to become more and more like Jesus, so that, in turn, we can become more and more like the Father.


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