May 25, 2009

Scandalous II

In the media, there is much abuzz concerning justice, fairness and integrity. We speak of the proper separation and independence of the different wings and powers in government. We applaud all efforts to establish responsible interpretation, discharge and accountability. We despise and shame every allusion of corruption and scandalous behavior. We demand transparency and that public entities be not even remotely tainted. We profess high moral and ethical maturity, impeccable standing and untarnished integrity. We hold ourselves as pillars, fortresses and bulwarks, standing tall and resolute, against all unseemly ravishes.

And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to put him to death, for they feared the people. (Luk 22:2)

And they cried out again, "Crucify him." And Pilate said to them, "Why, what evil has he done?" But they shouted all the more, "Crucify him." (Mar 15:13-14)

Pilate went out again and said to them, "See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him." So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, "Behold the man!" When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, "Crucify him, crucify him!" Pilate said to them, "Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him." The Jews answered him, "We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God." (Joh 19:4-7)

In the trial accounts of Jesus Christ, the Son of man, we are familiar with the many discrepancies; a trial by the Chief Priests and religious authority, founded on a prior betrayal plot, secured by silver coins from the Temple treasury, to dispose of the Man. The local Herodian authority reverting responsibility to the Roman governor, who by his own admission could not determine any crime in the Man. An incensed mob driven to prefer a condemned Barabbas than the recently revered Teacher and Healer of Galilee. To have every wing of government, local and foreign, both religious and secular authorities, and the public at large, all and sundry turned against one Man for a crime, none could ascribe, except for the claim He made; that He is the Son of God. It is difficult to reconcile how, that only days earlier, His triumphant entrance into Jerusalem riding on a donkey, symbolic and in the tradition for the inauguration of the Jewish king. But still they would crucified Him, as King of Israel. Scandalous?

So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, "He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, 'I am the Son of God.'"(Mat 27:41-43)

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" that is, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, "This man is calling Elijah." And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. But the others said, "Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him." And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. (Mat 27:46-50)

And thus Jesus Christ died. But is it not disturbing that even God had forsaken Jesus Christ? In the entire cosmos, could we not expect that God should have done right, that He being the final arbiter and witness would ensure justice by preventing this gross injustice; was this His son or not? How could the Father forsake His Son? In the name of love? That Christians should propose that mankind benefit from these proceedings? Scandalous.

He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike, an abomination to the LORD. (Pro 17:15)

This text makes for uncomfortable reading. There are no two ways to interpret or to understand it. Did the LORD do the abominable Himself, in justifying the wicked, and leaving Jesus Christ condemned? The gospel proclaims that Jesus Christ, the sinless Son of God, died, condemned and cursed on a cross, to justify us sinners. How can any judge condemn a righteous man and justify the wicked? What more, a God, who would justify all the wicked by condemning His righteous Son? Scandalous?

There is no denying that the gospel provides for the wicked to be justified by the condemnation of a righteous; furthermore, this considered abomination is proudly proclaimed and the two (the justification and condemnation) are irrevocably intertwined. How do Christians reconcile this inconsistency? If we had our own Richter scale for scandals, how would we compare? Which disturbs us the more? The current affairs of this age, or the Gospel itself? Is there yet another scandal, one not quite so conspicuous?

Calvary and the cross needs to be distinguished from Christian cliché. The gospel has always been presented as "life-saving", and we have gotten used to the scenes so often that they no longer repulse our senses. Yet it is scripted as “a stumbling-block to the Jews and foolishness to the Greek”, "an aroma of death or of life". Then what of our own response; If we embrace the cross and proclaim the wisdom of God, what aroma emits of our lives? Of dry bones and rotting flesh or of newness and progressing growth in the resurrected life? Scandalous?

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (Joh 15:5)

God bless.


May 19, 2009

Scandalous I

but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, (1Co 1:23)

For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? (2Co 2:15-16)

Do we spread the Gospel? As a matter of fact, we are gospels whether we open our mouths or not. The world will see and smell the aroma of Christ in us.

And what of this aroma? Of life or of death? The gospel; a reason for reverent fear, or for despicable refute. Christ crucified; a stumbling block, foolishness and probably a most scandalous event. There is much cliche in Christiandom. We have gotten used to, and gloss over because of repeated hearings over years in church and Sunday Schools.

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, (Joh 3:16)

We love this verse; it speaks of God’s love for the world. But a careful re-read will invite disgust for a scandalous act. What kind of father, will give his son, for whatever it is that he so desires? If our fathers would give us away, for his own satisfaction, would we really appreciate his doing so?

And he came to her and said, "Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!" But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." (Luk 1:28-33)

Consider, an unwed virgin receiving this visitation by an angel of the LORD, pronouncing favor and promise, that the son she would bear will be great, called the son of the Most High, made king forever, and of his kingdom, there shall be no end.

When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son!" (Joh 19:26)

Then see, that Son on a cross. Scandalous? Simeon’s prophecy could not have been more apt when he said that “a knife would pierce through your soul”. For Mary; what ever happened to all that was announced? Why could she not scream "Fraud!"? What was clearly presented before her own very eyes? Promises? Of the Most High?

Consider the cross, and our crucified Lord. An aroma of death to some, but of life to us. A reality appreciated?

God bless.


May 11, 2009

A Blessing

In the episode, where Jacob wrestled the whole night with the Lord at the brook and would not let Him go until he had received His blessing; we would wonder with regard to the import and urgency of this blessing. Why is blessing so consequential with the people of Israel? A father’s blessing was of great significance as evidenced in the blessing of Joseph’s sons, in the controversy arising by Jacob supplanting Esau’s privilege. Many today will still seek blessing. Some make dedicated endeavor by works and stricture. But there is this blessing than perchance we have not fully appreciated;

Then turning to the disciples He said privately, "Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it." (Luk 10:23)

What blessing is our Lord Jesus Christ referring here to? How are we, His disciples blessed more than prophets and kings? Do we know and treasure the worth of this blessing?

In his last speech to the people of Israel, Moses had this to say;

"Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the rules that the LORD your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it, that you may fear the LORD your God, you and your son and your son's son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long. Hear therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them, (Deut 6:1-3)

After a lengthy preamble, he had these words to add; “Hear therefore, O Israel,”. The prophets and the Lord Himself have observed and chided that oftentimes Israel although having ears were unable to hear. A frequent maxim announcing subjects of consequence is found in the precursor,“he that has ears let him hear”.

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. (Joh 10:27)

"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.' "Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. (Mat 7:21-24)

The Lord’s is clear and precise in His words. His lordship is not premised on us calling Him Lord, nor proofed by great deeds in His Name. He is still Lord, whether we regard Him as Lord or not. His Lordship, given to Him by the Father, is not dependent on our acceptance or acknowledgement. Knowing Him and more importantly, He knowing us is attested to, by our being able to hear and know His voice. His sheep hear His voice and follows Him in doing the Father’s will. It is indeed worrisome that on that day, many, many will hear Him declare those fearful words; “I never knew you; depart from Me,”

Consider our blessings seriously; have we conclusive evidence of this particular blessing? Can we, and do we hear and recognize His voice? How often do we hear and seek His voice? By His grace and in His bountiful mercies, we will then be enabled to follow His example of obedience ,and be conformed, to bear His image more and more, to the glory of the Father.

God bless.


May 4, 2009

Differing opinions

Secular wisdom proposes that progress is premised upon an exuberant blossoming of youth. Moving forward is tied to the breaking down of antiquities, moulds, models and norms. Youth must display flamboyant boldness, even brashness if necessary, in their challenge of their elders. Words and deeds are to be punctuated with derring-do, even if a shade lacking, owing to innocence and gullibility. Hopeful optimism, unconventional creativity, are to be encouraged to allow for latitude and to breach new heights and depths. No institution is inviolate; everything can and must be challenged. All boundaries must be subjected to “reinvigorated” examination. The clarion trumpet call is that the only constant is change, the objective, pushing the envelop.

"Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deut 6:4-9)

The biblical model is somewhat sedate in comparison. Much is promised by the simple act of remembering. We are told “to tell the story, speak to the children at every opportunity, make physical items that would help remind us” of the goodness, the faithfulness, and the mercies of the LORD. We are encouraged to remember, hold dearly and wear around our necks, what our fathers and mothers have taught us. We are told to stand, and with respect, for the aged sages of the community. We should search the scriptures first, the old paths second. We are encouraged to come together as a community, regularly, to collectively discourse and remind each the other, of the mercies of the LORD. And most important of all, we should all learn, to fear the LORD. The Wisdom of Solomon proposes that in the final analysis, there is nothing “new” under the sun; despite all the hype and fireworks, bells and whistles, the novel is merely a rehash. It is true that “new” wine requires new wineskins; still one has to conclude that the early necessary fermentation releases, but a lot of gas! We must be careful, not forget that the Lord Himself in Matthew expressly prohibited the elevation of any persons to the stature of fathers, teachers or masters. It was never required that we demonstrate to any other, unquestioning deference or stoic loyalties, but careful consideration of the traditions were to be encouraged. That the greatest among us must be the servant, is a truth, testament of the grace and glory of the LORD.

And he said to man, 'Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding.'"(Job 28:28)

God bless.