John Day 13 - The Jesus Who Cared Enough To Get Angry
It's been a long two days. Yesterday I watched my nephew dying. No one could help him. Some will say it isn't fair. They are right. Neither are the countless wars waging right now, or the sick suffering, or any of the other countless tragedies that plague our little ball called earth every day.
Life is marked at times by the completely unexpected.
In the second half of John 2 we find this:
2:13 "Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business. 15 When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables. 16 And He said to those who sold doves, “Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!” 17 Then His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up.”
Jesus on a rampage. It flies in the face of "gentle Jesus meek and mild". It falls squarely in the category of the unexpected. You can hear the gasps of the onlookers, the tinkling coins as they struck the stone floor, the bleating of sheep as they scattered and the general buzz of all the confusion.
I was raised to be quiet in God's house although I didn't always succeed. I've been to cathedrals where any small sound echoed like an unwelcome guest. Jesus throwing over tables? In the temple?! Why? What has Him so fired up? There were two things actually but to be fair to John and his account he only focuses in on one. Jesus is angry because His Father's house has been turned into a market. Not just any kind of market either. It's not the animals being sold but why they are being sold that has Jesus in a fury. The temple represents His Father and the plan He has to rescue us from this place where the unfair happens over and over. The plan is simple. The Lamb of God will away all that is wrong and evil. In Him is the hope of the world. Every lamb and dove and oxen was to point to this One. Instead the Lamb of God was replaced by a system where heaven was for sale. His story was replaced with big business turning hope in Jesus to something sick and twisted. Instead of finding a Father eager to forgive and save people coming to the temple found an angry unfeeling God looking to make a profit from their guilt and shame.
It's at times like these when tragedy strikes and the issues of life and death are brought into sharp that my soul aches to have people know the truth. Our Father is not offering heaven on a payment plan. He is nothing like that. He is consumed with our rescue. All of His resources are stretched toward achieving that one goal. When people came broken down by life and it's tragedies and burdens Jesus wanted them to find a sanctuary not a sales office. He wanted them to find help, hope, and healing, not greedy men in holy looking garb looking to help themselves.
When I read or hear any persons professing to represent God painting any other picture than the truth it makes me angry, sad, and frustrated. Jesus cared enough to do what needed to be done that day. He cared enough to begin to set the record straight for our benefit. Eternity with our God and our loved ones is priceless but it is not for sale. Whether we are poor in cash or poor in spirit or poor in faith or poor in any other way makes no difference. Whatever we lack He has supplied.
There are no words to describe the pain of Nicolas not being with us for now. Jesus came to reveal the heart of His Father. A heart that weeps with us. A heart that knows the loss of children. A heart that knows how cruel and unfair a sin sick world is. A heart that cares too much to leave us here forever.
The next voice Nicolas will hear will be the voice of Jesus and He won't be asking for paid admission to His Home either. He'll be welcoming him with open arms and nail pierced hands, the price paid in full.
You may not find an accurate picture of Him in church. You may have to search beyond those who profess they represent Him. Keep searching. He promises not only to be found but that you will discover He was close all along the way.
"Thank you Father for Who You are. Thank you for the hope you've placed in every human heart. Help us all to grab hold and believe."
John Day 14 - Down But Far From Over
2:18 "So the Jews answered and said to Him, “What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?”
19 Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
20 Then the Jews said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?”
21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body. 22 Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said."
"Destroy this... and... I will raise it up again."
There is nothing and no one that this world can destroy that God can not raise up again. It's for us to remember what He has said in His Word and believe...
"Let not your hearts be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so I would have told you. I am going to prepare a place for you and if I go to prepare a place for you I will come again and receive you to Myself that where I am there you may be also." - Jesus
"He is not dead, he is sleeping... I will wake him up." - Jesus
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live."
John Day 15 - Who/What Do We Trust?
23 "Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did. 24 But Jesus did not entrust Himself to them, because He knew all men, 25 and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man."
This is a profound passage. As a pastor one of, if not the most frustrating traits of character to deal with in people is insecurity. I know people who are more gifted than the average person yet feel they are inferior. This sense of being less drives them to think and then do irrational things in an attempt to compensate for their perceived lack. Some have affairs simply because they need to prove to themselves that they are desirable. Some become workaholics to prove themselves. Some actually push people away by their neediness to constantly be affirmed. Lack of self worth is like a bucket with a hole in it. No matter how much you fill the bucket it keeps emptying.
Jesus had no such problem. The opinions and views and support of others had no impact on His view of Himself. He knew what we are like. Sports proves this reality over and over. When things are good we cheer and call them heros. When they don't perform we boo and call them zeros. Jesus knew the popularity that was growing towards Him would be temporary. He knew the "love" the crowds had was shallow and would quickly turn when things didn't go their way. The same crowds that wanted to crown Him king would later cry "Crucify Him!!!".
Because of this He could not entrust Himself to men. He could not even trust His 12. What a lonely existence. Instead He drew His worth, He viewed Himself through the only set of eyes that could be trusted - His Father's eyes. The words "This is My Son in whom I am well pleased" were His foundation. This was His identity. These words defined Him no matter what anyone else said. These words defined Him no matter what His own emotions felt.
Yesterday someone asked me if I could explain why things like Nicolas's tragedy happen. No I cannot. I know that some people survive events that should have killed them and others die. I know great miracles still happen and yet sometimes God is so seemingly silent in answer to our calls for another miracle.
I know even Jesus heard this same silence and felt the same sense of abandonment. After crying "My God, my God why have you forsaken Me" He said "Into Your hands I commit Myself". Jesus knew His Father and trusted Him over His own feelings and circumstances.
Oh that we could know Him and trust Him like that and see ourselves through the only eyes that really count.
"We believe God. Help our unbelief".
John Day 16 - Searching in the Darkness
3 There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”
The theme of light and darkness is introduced immediately in John's gospel and weaves through the whole story. Nicodemus is the first in a series of one on one encounters with Jesus. He is supposed to be an enlightened one. He is a ruler of the Jews, highly educated, well respected, and a teacher. Despite all this he comes to Jesus sending mixed messages. He comes saying with his words that he and others believe He is a teacher sent from God. However he comes under the cover of darkness meaning he doesn't want to be seen. How sure can he be in his belief that Jesus is a teacher sent from God? Who are the others believers he is referring to who didn't even have the courage to come?
In our western culture we are becoming increasingly afraid to admit we believe in God at all. Churches are emptying steadily. We keep our personal views in the shadows. If we have questions we are afraid who to ask. As the conversation between Nicodemus and Jesus continues tomorrow we'll discover that coming to Nicodemus to find light would only have put you into deeper darkness.
Observing the confusion and mixed up ideas about death as my family and friends and loved ones etc... process this tragedy I can only think one thing: If there is a heaven it is God's heaven. The truth or light on the subject is found only in His Book. "Your Word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path." Truth is not found in our made up theories or in songs or in the media or movies or any other place.
Several years ago Reader's Digest tackled the question "What is Death?" The article outlined the confusion because some people are resuscitated long after being considered medically dead and are fine after. Others suffer much damage to their brains after only moments of being "dead". There is further confusion created by those who claim after "coming back" that they went on an amazing journey into the light etc...
Reader's Digest asked the wrong question though. They should have asked "What is Life?" That's the real mystery. As humans we like to define everything and think we can break everything down and understand it. Life is a mystery. In theory no one should ever have to die. In theory when a heart fails or a spleen ruptures or some other "part" fails we should be able to replace the faulty part and bring the person back to life. However life is not created by the sum of our body parts. Life is a gift from God and when that breath of life is gone no human can restore it.
Here is my point. In spite of all the knowledge Nicodemus had, he saw in Jesus more. Much more. So he came seeking answers. My advice for all of us is if we want the truth about what life and death are really about we need to seek the answers from the Source.
Tomorrow we'll discover what Nicodemus discovered and it will be humbling.
John Day 17
"Nicodemus if you want to understand Who I Am and why none of this makes sense to you, you must be born again."
"Born again? You want me to return to my mother's womb and come out again?!"
"No, I want you to be born by the water and the Spirit. I want the water to wash away all your preconceived ideas and all the things you are sure about and start with a clean slate. Then I want you to allow My Spirit to teach you and lead you to see things like you have never seen them before. Unless you do this you won't even see the kingdom of God. You will remain blind to what He is truly like and what His kingdom is all about."
Nicodemus was a teacher in Israel. He taught others what God was like but the truth was he didn't know God himself. Humbling.
To lay all my ideas on the table and question my whole lens through which I see the world. Frightening.
So many worldviews on this planet. So many conflicting ones. So many seemingly crazy ones. They can't all be right and true.
Let's pray for the courage to see everything through His eyes. To come out of the darkness into the Light. Not easy. Our eyes automatically want to close. We want the light turned off. It hurts. It's too bright, too different, too unfamiliar.
Do it anyway. You know deep down the darkness is unsatisfying and has no real answers and no true rest.
Jesus said we're always looking but never seeing, always hearing but never understanding, always learning but never coming to a knowledge of the Truth. It took Nicodemus awhile but in time he saw the kingdom, He understood Jesus and he chose Him.
If Nicodemus can see with new eyes so can we.
"Open my eyes that I may see..."
John Day 18 - It Can't Be
3:6 "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
9 Nicodemus answered and said to Him, “How can these things be?”
10 Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things?"
Nicodemus is struggling to grasp what Jesus is saying, not because he can't hear the words but because the implications are too far reaching. My dad grew up farming. Every fall they plowed the fields. Every spring they harrowed the fields. Here in Alberta they rarely do either. They seed directly into the soil through the stubble left from the year before. By not plowing or harrowing the ground retains much more of the moisture allowing crops to grow with less rain. Several farmers have explained this to my dad but he just can't get his mind around it. For him plowing and harrowing are the way it's done so if you don't do either you aren't doing it right.
I've had church members tell me that to celebrate the last supper we must use one cup shared among everyone because that's what Jesus did. Christianity is divided into countless denominations sometimes over less.
What is my point? My point is that we assume our way or our understanding or our framework is the correct one. Years of repetition and generations of tradition plow the furrow deeper and deeper into our minds. Nicodemus is not only influenced by all of the above but gains his income from teaching it all to others. He is fully invested in a framework that Jesus says needs to be tossed out so His Spirit can bring the Light of truth to his darkened mind.
Thankfully Jesus is patient with us. He does not expect us to "get it" in one moment or one day. He chose 12 men to be His disciples that took a long, long time to "get it". The truth is they never fully got it during their entire lifetime. Does this mean they will be shut out of eternity? We'll find out tomorrow...
In the meantime consider Him. Let Jesus be your teacher and hang on...
John Day 19 - Two Voices
3:11 "Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved."
What did Jesus mean when He said "We speak" and "We testify"? Who else was speaking to Nicodemus? Who told Nicodemus to go see Jesus. What voice was telling him that in spite of how impossible it seemed Jesus was The One?
It's the same Voice that speaks to you and I. It's the Spirit of God. Today we still have two Voices speaking to us. We have the Word and we have God's Spirit. Without the Spirit of God His Word is just paper and ink that can be anything from confusing to meaningless. Without the Word, the voice that speaks in our minds could be His Spirit but it could also be another spirit trying to lead us away from God. In the Jewish culture you had to have at least 2 witnesses to establish anything.
Nicodemus was hearing the voice of Jesus and he was also hearing the Spirit of God confirming that Jesus was telling the truth.
So again let's review what is happening here. A man who teaches about God for a living is speaking to the Son of God and hearing the Spirit of God confirm what Jesus is saying yet Nicodemus still does not believe it...
Watch this video and you'll begin to understand on a very practical level why this happened to Nicodemus and why it continues to happen to us today. Tomorrow we'll explore God's solution to our unbelief...
John Day 20
3:10 "Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things? 11 Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved."
Comfortable. Pajama pants, yoga pants, jogging pants. They might not be the most fashionable or the best clothing but they are comfortable. We like comfortable. We seek out comfortable. Comfortable clothes, comfortable situations, comfortable people, etc... Sometimes we bypass better and best in our pursuit of the familiar and the comfortable. Being disturbed out of our comfort is unwelcome and unpleasant.
Nicodemus was comfortable. Everything was fine until Jesus showed up. He had answers. He had a system.
A few days ago I watched a video of a young Amish couple who were comfortable. They liked their simple lifestyle. They loved their family and community. Life was good. Then he met a guy. They began to talk. They had faith in God in common. They had the Bible in common. As they talked they discovered they didn't see everything in the Bible the same way. Suddenly his comfort was disturbed. He shared his discomfort with his wife. She became uncomfortable. One thing lead to another and eventually they were shunned by their entire Amish community. They decided to follow the twin voices of the Bible and the Spirit of God. It literally rocked their entire world.
Nicodemus is facing all that and more. He will be unemployed, shunned, mocked, and alone following the illegitimate son of a poor carpenter from a hillbilly town in Galilee.
The problem was that Jesus had 3 voices now working in concert. His own, the Spirit of God and the writings of Moses.
See Nicodemus had a picture of the Messiah. He was to be a charismatic, savvy, popular, politician who would rise to the vacant throne of David and make the Jewish nation the kings of the world. He was taught this and now he taught it to others. He had proof texts to back it all up. He had tradition and commentaries to back up the proof texts. His view of the Messiah was airtight.
Then came Jesus... He reminded Nicodemus of an Old Testament story. It was well known. Nicodemus would have learned it on his mother's knee. Way back in the wilderness when the Israelites were travelling to the Promised Land they were attacked by venomous snakes. Every Jewish boy knew snakes represented evil and sin. People were being bitten by the snakes and dying from the poison. Moses prayed and God told him what to do to save the people. He was to make a bronze snake and put it on a pole. Anyone who looked to the snake hanging on the pole would live.
Jesus referenced the story and then added that the Son of Man, the Messiah, the anointed one must be lifted up in the same way.
Things are getting really uncomfortable for Nicodemus. Tomorrow we'll see why...