Jesus, Light

Jesus Christ Superstar

I didn’t watch the live performance of Jesus Christ Superstar last night, did you?

I planned on watching it but when the time came I just wasn’t feeling it, watched a movie instead.  At one point I switched over, hoping to catch Sara Bareilles singing, “I Don’t Know How to Love Him,” because I LOVED that song as a young teenager back in the 70’s, when the album came out – sang it over and over again.

But Sara wasn’t singing, Alice was singing and the song sounded like a circus tune, so I switched back to the movie.

I’ve been thinking about the musical, though, about how it was banned in some places back in the 70’s, about how Christians protested it.

Because they didn’t get it.

They didn’t get that it wasn’t meant to be a Biblically accurate portrayal of the passion of Christ.

It was meant to be the passion told from Judas’s point of view.

And his view was skewed.

The hub and I were invited to watch a production of it in the home of one of his friends, back when we were first married.  The production was well done.

If you’ve never seen it, it ends with Jesus on the cross.  Dead.

During the discussion that followed I may have offended the host and hostess by commenting, “They left out the best part – they left out the resurrection.”

I didn’t get it back then either.

I didn’t get that from Judas’s point of view that’s how the story would have ended, had he been alive to see the end.

Scripture doesn’t tell us when Judas started following Jesus, but my guess is that he was among the great crowds who began to follow Him in response to the miracles He performed.

Judas saw the miracles, saw the opportunity and jumped on Jesus’s coattails, hoping to ride them all the way to the top.

Fame and fortune.

Perhaps Judas thought Jesus was a brilliant con man and he wanted in on the con.

But the con wasn’t playing out as one would expect.

Every time I look at you I don’t understand
Why you let the things you did get so out of hand?
You’d have managed better if you’d had it planned…

… Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ,
Who are you? What have you sacrificed?
Jesus Christ Superstar,
Do you think you’re what they say you are?

Was Judas beginning to fear that the whole thing wasn’t a con, that Jesus actually believed His own press?

A con artist had coattails he could ride, but a lunatic who actually believed what He was selling?

That wasn’t going to get him anywhere.

Or perhaps the betrayal was as simple as money.  The love of money is, after all, the deep-seated root of every devious deed.

I started a ministry and asked a like-minded friend to serve on its board.

She did.  Happily, peacefully for several years.

And then the ministry received a large grant.

Little by little she no longer served happily, peacefully.

Discontent took root and grew.

While we had all been content to serve without compensation, she began saying, “You’ll have to pay me for that…”

I didn’t.

The grant wasn’t for salaries.

Her unrest hacked away at my strength, my soul, my faith in my fellow humans.

Or at least in my fellow Christians.

And then one day she resigned, to my great relief.

The chronology of Scripture puts Judas’s plot right after a scuffle about money:

Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples, said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.)

Jesus told Judas to leave Mary alone.  She was doing the right thing.

So he left and sought out the chief priests.

He was going to make money one way or another.

But it turns out he had a conscience.

When Judas saw that Jesus was condemned, he repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. He said, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” Throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed; and he went and hanged himself.

He hanged himself before the end of the story, before the resurrection.

The passion from his point of view ended with Jesus hanging dead, because he hung himself dead.

Had he waited a few days, had he wept bitterly – as Peter did – and then carried on, had he not been completely blinded by his own agenda and preconceived notions, he would have understood that Jesus was all about restoration and forgiveness.

Had he waited, he would have encountered Mercy.

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Tragically, restoration and forgiveness were too far off his radar.

We sang joyful songs in church yesterday:

Hear the bells ringing they’re singing that you can be
healed right now
Hear the bells ringing, they’re singing
Christ, He will reveal it now…

Joy to the world, He has risen, hallelujah
He’s risen, hallelujah
He’s risen, hallelujah, hallelujah

Jesus Christ Superstar ends with Jesus dead on a cross.

Such a shame, Judas leaving the theatre before the radiant final song.

#radiant

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faith, Jesus, Light

Low & Mighty on Passover Eve

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Exodus chapter 12 describes, well, the exodus, the mass departure of the Israelites from Egypt.  On the night they were to leave God instructed them to roast a lamb and eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. They were to eat in haste with their loins girded, sandals on their feet and staff in hand.

“This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance.”

And so it is that the Passover is celebrated faithfully, year after year.

In the 13th chapter of the Gospel of John we learn that the Last Supper took place before the festival of the Passover.  It was Passover Eve.  Not Christmas dinner, but Christmas Eve dinner.  The rehearsal dinner, not the actual wedding banquet. The Last Supper was not the actual Passover Seder, it was the night before.

John’s gospel tells us a few more things about that evening:

  1. Jesus was aware that He would soon be returning to His Father.
  2. He was aware that each and every one of His dinner companions had been given into His hands.  That’s what the phrase, “knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands” means.  “All things” is better translated as “each and every one.” Each and every one of them was gifted to Him, even Judas.
  3. He loved His charges with an agape  love. One aspect of agape is “to be full of good-will toward.”

And so it was with love and good will that Jesus sat down to His last human supper.

In Chinese culture, jade symbolizes nobility, perfection, constancy, and immortality. It is viewed as the most valuable of all precious stones.

A Chinese boy set out to learn all about it. He went to study with a talented old teacher.  The old gentleman put a piece of the stone into the youth’s hand and told him to hold it tight.  Then he began to talk of philosophy, men, women, the sun and almost everything under it.  After an hour the teacher took back the stone and sent the boy home.  This procedure was repeated for weeks. Finally the boy became frustrated – when would he be told about the heavenly properties of jade?! – but he was too polite to interrupt his venerable teacher.  So he held the stone and listened. Again and again. Then one day, when the old man began their lesson by pressing a stone in the boy’s hand, the boy cried out instantly, “Hey wait! That’s not jade!”

Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself.” (italics added)

It seems out of place, that third sentence, “The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him,” since John doesn’t speak again of Judas until later in the chapter, but it isn’t out of place, it’s the reason Jesus got up from the table.

He knew He was about to be betrayed, He knew human nature full well. Perhaps at that moment He remembered back to the disciples’ argument about which of them was the greatest, perhaps He remembered all the way back to when Adam and Eve disobeyed so they could be like God, perhaps He remembered even further back to when Satan wanted to be greater than God. He may have also looked ahead to all the ways evil men would infiltrate the church and exploit Him for selfish gain.

It was His awareness of our propensity to competition, our desire to be “better than” that got Him up from that table.   It’s what caused Him to take off his outer robe, tie a towel around his waist, pour water into a basin and press a precious stone into His disciples’ hands one more time.

So they would remember what He feels like.

You know the foot washing story and you know Peter. When Jesus got to his ten piggies, Peter said, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

In other words, “You’re too good to wash my feet!”

Jesus answered, “You don’t get it yet, but you will.”

Peter insisted, “You will never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.”

And so Peter, being Peter, said, “In that case, wash all of me!”

So Jesus laid it out for him. Again.

“One who has bathed does not need to wash.”

Wash and bathe in this passage are separate greek words.

“Wash” is nipto – to cleanse (especially the hands or the feet or the face); ceremonially.

It was customary back then – as it is now – to wash their hands before a meal.

“Bathe” is “louo,” it is a word used in the context of washing a dead person or cleaning blood from a wound.

Peter was already bathed as a dead person when he was baptized, when he was crucified with Christ and raised to new life.  He never needed to be bathed in that way again.  Just as a person doesn’t need to keep going forward at every altar call.  Once is enough.

All of the disciples had been bathed in the waters of baptism, except one. Scripture doesn’t tell us how and when Judas was called to follow Jesus, but it is telling us right here that he was never baptized, never raised to new life.  Even so,  Jesus loved each and every one of the 12 His Father had given Him.

“So Peter,” Jesus was saying, “zealous, enthusiastic Peter, you don’t need to be bathed, you only need to be washed.  Bathing is for souls, washing is for feet.  Feet that get dusty trodding through this sin-filled world.”

If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive them and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Our souls need to be bathed only once – through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit – it’s our bodies and minds that need daily cleansing from the stink of sin.

After Jesus washed their feet, put back on his robe and returned to the table, He asked:

“Do you get it?

I just pressed something important into the palms of your hands.

I’m not too good to wash feet and neither are you.

Peter had it backwards. It’s not a matter of being too good, too high and mighty; it’s a matter of being good enough, of being low and mighty.

Servants are not greater than their master, so if I’m good enough to wash feet, then you be good enough, too.

Once you understand this concept, and do it, you will go through life blessed.

Isaiah said so, too: ‘take care of one another and then your light shall break forth like the dawn,

and your healing shall spring up quickly;…

The Lord will guide you continually,

and satisfy your needs in parched places,

and make your bones strong;

and you shall be like a watered garden,’

Take care of one another and you will flourish.”

As someone who is chronically dehydrated and has osteoporosis, I like Isaiah’s wording – strong bones, well-watered….

Be low and mighty enough to serve others and you’ll like your life.

The lectionary for Maundy Thursday (you’re reading the homily I gave last night) skipped over the details of Judas’s departure, but you know how it went down. It picked up again at verse 31:

“When [Judas] had gone out, Jesus said, ‘Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him.'”

Judas’s departure set Jesus’ finest hour in motion.

His finest hour as a man – enduring physical and emotional abuse, bearing false accusations silently, as a sheep before its shearer.

I watched a tribute to Andrew Lloyd Webber Wednesday night.  At the end of it,  John Legend, who will play Jesus in Sunday night’s live presentation of Jesus Christ Superstar, asked Andrew for advice on playing the role.

“It’s all about redemption after all,” Andrew replied.

John mentioned the angst and fear and doubt Jesus experienced as He faced the cross.

“And yet He went through with it,” Andrew replied.

“Yes,”  John smiled slightly, “He went through with it.”

He was glorified as the Son of Man by going through with it.  By laying down his life for his friends – there’s no love greater than that.

His finest hour as God was defeating sin and death, which no man can do.

His Father’s finest hour? Showing a restraint in the face of His Son’s suffering the strength of which no human father could match.

John didn’t mention the bread and the cup in his account of the Last Supper, but our epistle reading from 1 Corinthians 11 did.

“…the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”

The Passover feast was a perpetual ordinance for God’s people to remember their deliverance from the physical bondage of slavery.

And now a new perpetual ordinance has been instituted, to remember our spiritual deliverance from bondage to sin and death.

My body broken for you. My blood shed for you, because without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

Jesus, Our Passover Lamb.

Our gospel reading ends with a precious plea:

Little children, I am with you only a little longer.

At my church the children come forward and crowd in the aisle between the rows of pews for “The Lamb’s Liturgy.” The pastor gives a brief lesson and then touches each of their heads and blesses them before they head off to Sunday school. It’s my favorite part of the service. I love to see them walk back down the aisle, their little heads blessed, their faces Hopeful, expectant that the future has good things for them.

The tenderness with which the pastor blesses our children is the tenderness with which Jesus beheld those at the table, on the eve of His great suffering:   “Little children, dear ones, my charges, my responsibility, my baby chicks, my friends…

I’m leaving and you can’t come with me.

So just love one another.

By this everyone will know that I taught you well, if you love one another.

By this my Father and I will be glorified.

By this our strength will be shown.

Because no one can live low and mighty apart from us.”

Amen.

#betrayed

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Jesus, Light, war on women

The Fabled Rib

Whenever I see something that causes my soul to despair the opening line of Paint it Black (Rolling Stones) hums in my head.

This morning, skipping church to look after Dixie, I had a little internet with my coffee and I discovered that the same people who brought us The Mask You Live In (the trailer of which I shared with you yesterday), also did a documentary entitled Miss Representation. Based on its trailer, it’s about the distortions our culture teaches boys and girls about the value of women.

I’m not going to share the trailer, though, because it might be hard on those who are struggling to overcome a pornography addiction.

Sad, sad, sad: A documentary on what we teach boys and girls about the value of women and the images in the first half of the trailer are so pornographic I can’t show it to you.

I see a red door and I want it painted black.

The trailer blames advertising and the media, I blame the church.

More accurately I blame the devil, who declared war on women way back in the beginning. I blame the church for playing into his crafty hands.

I’ve written about this before.  Search “War on Women” at the top of my blog if you’re interested (or click here).

The Fabled Rib

In Purple Reign I explained that, contrary to popular belief, God did not create woman as an afterthought. She was not created merely to meet man’s need for companionship. Man and woman were created together, at the same time, and given a joint purpose.

Now let me explain about the fabled rib.

Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.  Genesis 2:22

The word translated rib here is the Hebrew word tsela’. It is an architectural term that means “side, beam, plank, leaves of a door” (think 2 sides of a double door). The only place tsela’ is translated as “rib” is here in Genesis 2.

Anytime a word is translated a certain way only once, it raises a red flag. Especially when the 41 other times it is used it is translated as side, plank, beam, etc.

Actual ribs are mentioned only once in the Bible. Daniel 7:5 refers to three ribs of an animal. That portion of Daniel was written in Aramaic so we cannot do a direct word comparison but the Aramaic word translated “rib” in Daniel is ‘ala.

So how and why was tsela’ mistranslated in Genesis 2:22?

The idea that Eve was made out of one of Adam’s ribs has its origin in rabbinical lore. One story says, “Eve was made out of a tail which originally belonged to Adam.”

Rav, the great head of the Babylonian rabbinical school, declared, “Eve was formed out of a second face, which originally belonged to Adam,” and another rabbi declared, “Instead of a rib taken from Adam, a slave was given him to wait upon him.”

(Remember when I told you the Hebrew word translated “suitable” or “help meet” in Genesis 2:20 is neged? And that neged means “in front of, in the sight or presence of, before the eyes of, face to face”?  I’m guessing Rav got his “second face” from a misinterpretation of neged – “face to face.”)

But it’s Rabbi Joshua’s disdainful commentary that has provided the fable which has been most promulgated by Christian Bible commentators.

Rabbi Joshua wrote: “God deliberated from what member He would create woman, and He reasoned with Himself thus:  I must not create her from Adam’s head, for she would be a proud person, and hold her head high. If I create her from the eye, then she will wish to pry into all things; if from the ear, she will wish to bear all things; if from the mouth, she will talk much; if from the heart, she will envy people; if from the hand, she will desire to take all things; if from the feet, she will be a gadabout. Therefore I will create her from the member which is hid, that is the rib, which is not even seen when man is naked.”

This is the inane fable which lies at the basis of the idea that Eve must have been made out of Adam’s rib, a fable still being told in the church today.

(Info on the rib fable taken from Dr. Katharine Bushnell’s, God’s Word to Women, paragraphs 42 and 43.)

A misogynistic Rabbi wrote a fable which was included in the Talmudic teachings (the Talmud was not Scripture, it was more like a collection of rabbinical commentaries), and those teachings have worked their way into the church.

“Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees,” Jesus warned His disciples. (Matthew 16:5-12)

But someone, some many were asleep at the switch.

Need proof that the yeast of the Pharisees has permeated our Christian bread?

Open your Bible to 1 Corinthians 14 and read verses 26-35.

Now shift your eyes back up to verse 34, “[Women] are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says.”

Law? What law?

Notice the lower case l.

The “law” to which the verse is referring was likely the Talmud (remember: not Scripture but a collection of rabbinical teachings.) Here is a sampling of those Talmudic teachings: “Out of respect to the congregation, a woman should not herself read in the law.” “It is a shame for a woman to let her voice be heard among men.” “The voice of a woman is filthy nakedness.”

The upper case “Law” is the Torah. The Torah is Scripture, it’s the first five books of the Bible, aka the Pentateuch.

Search your memory, search your concordance, search God in prayer. Can you come up with one instance when the Law or the Prophets or Jesus said that women are not allowed to speak in church?

Can you come up with a single instance when any of them said a woman must be in submission?

I couldn’t come up with one either, and believe me, I searched and researched.

I did, however, find plenty of instances where women were allowed to speak, and where God elevated their status above the culturally prescribed submission. Here’s my list:

Sarah (Genesis 21); Miriam (Exodus 15); Deborah, a judge and a prophetess through whom God spoke (Judges 4 and 5); the daughters of Zelophehad (Numbers 27); Huldah, another prophetess through whom God spoke (2 Kings 22); Job’s daughters, whom Job elevated once he saw the Lord clearly (Job 42); Anna, another prophetess through whom the Lord spoke (Luke 2); the various women Christ compelled to speak in public (Luke 8:47, Luke 13:13, John 4:1-42, John 20:1-18); the females whom Jesus invited into His church’s very first small group (Acts 1:12-24). There are plenty more but I’ll save them for you to add.

So here we are in 2017 despairing of a dire and dangerous Miss Representation of women and it’s all because of a misrepresentation of Scripture and a failure to beware the yeast of the Pharisees.

Failure because some like the yeast.

Failure because some chose a long time ago to side with the devil in his war on women.

I see our misread Bread and I want it painted right…

Sing with me.

#fadetoblack

 

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Jesus

Without Compassion or Love

Thursday night the hub and I binge-watched 5 of the 8 episodes of Manhunt: Unabomber.

Last night, after he returned from his weekend fly fishing trip, we watched the final three.

And though I found the whole series interesting, I was very disturbed by episode 6.

Why is it, I wonder, that I was more disturbed by the evil done to innocent minds than I was to the evil done to innocent bodies?  Have I simply become numb to physical violence?

Or is it because I am so aware that, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me,” is so NOT true.

Or was I disturbed by episode 6 because the evil done by Dr. Ted Kaczynski was rightly reviled as evil while the evil done by Dr. Henry Murray was lauded as science?

As far as I’m concerned, both should be in prison – if Dr. Murray were still alive.

If you aren’t familiar with the unabomber’s backstory, he and his IQ of 168 enrolled in Harvard at age 16, where he volunteered to be a subject in a very unethical 3 year psych experiment. Unethical and evil.

Forgiveness.

At the end of episode 8, at Ted’s sentencing, the victims were given a chance to speak. They described the horrendous impact Ted’s actions had on them and their families and then one of them said this:

“As you start your life sentence in prison, this is what I wish for you: Given that your victims were blinded by your bombs, may you also be blinded by being deprived of the incredible light of the moon, the stars the sun, the beauty of nature for the rest of your life. Given that your victims lost their hearing because of your bombs, may you spend the rest of your days in stony silence. And given that your victims were maimed by your bombs, may your body be shackled with the same violence and hatred that have already imprisoned your mind. And given that your victims were killed by your bombs, may your own death occur as you have lived – in a solitary manner, without compassion or love.”

That last phrase especially – “without compassion or love” – made the hub and I both wince.

“That’s all so wrong,” I said, shaking my head.

The hub nodded in agreement.

We prayed this yesterday in church, we pray it often:

“Lord, in compassion, help us see beneath the surface of things to the wounds and sorrows in the hearts of those who sin against us. Deliver us from a pride which accounts them as sinful and us as righteous. We are not better than them. We are one with them at the foot of the cross. We cry out, ‘Forgive us!’ Set us free from the snares of hatred. Enable us to see our enemies as you see them from the cross, as persons you created and intended them to be, and make us instruments of their healing.

Lord, remember not the suffering the enemies of the cross have inflicted on creation and humanity; remember instead the fruits your disciples have born – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control – which have grown out of the trials they inflicted, and when they come to judgment, let the fruits your persecuted ones have borne be their forgiveness. Lord, hear our prayer.”

“Let the fruits your persecuted ones have borne be their forgiveness.”

That’s all so right*.

Because the persecution Jesus has borne, and the fruits He has born, has been our forgiveness.

It is right that Ted Kaczynski remain in prison for the rest of his life, but depriving him – or anyone – of compassion and love makes us more like Ted and less like God.

It’s God’s kindness that leads us to repentance.

*even as it is so, so difficult.

#believe

 

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Longing

If you’ve been following my blog for awhile, you know that I used to teach the Bible to children on Monday nights.

If you’ve ever been a Children’s Leader in BSF (Bible Study Fellowship), you know how it works:  At some point during the summer break the age group you will teach the following school year is selected for you. Then, at the Leader’s Workshop in late August, you are given your assignment.  You can make your age-group preference known, but you likely won’t get it.

One of the reasons I stepped down from teaching this year is because I didn’t want to risk being assigned the first and second graders, the third and fourth graders, or even the fifth and sixth graders.

The only level I could remotely imagine teaching this year is Level 5 – the senior high students.

Why?

Because we’re studying the book of Romans and I’ve taught it before, to youngsters, in BSF.

BSF is well structured, organized and uniform – which is a good thing in the adult program – but it’s too much of a good thing in the Children’s program.

For instance, the leaders in every level – whether they are teaching 6-year-olds or 18-year-olds – are given the same outline from which to teach.  They have the freedom to make the illustrations and applications age-appropriate, but the aim and the principles must be stated exactly as written.  It can be awkward in any study to be teaching in your own voice and then have to abruptly switch to the the writer of the principle’s voice to deliver it exactly as written.  And in the case of Romans, it’s not just awkward, it’s HARD.

Or, more accurately, it’s HARSH.  The principles can be very harsh, causing the youngsters to appear browbeaten by week 6.

Because Paul – or at least the way his letter is presented – wants to make sure they know that they are horrible sinners.

“But hang on,” we tell them, “good news is coming.”

But what if we framed it differently (and no less accurately) right from the start?

Here’s what I mean.

Wrath.

Paul begins his letter by stating that he is a minister of the gospel and then, in verse 18, he abruptly switches from gospel to wrath.

And I say, “What?”

So I look up the Greek word translated “wrath” and I learn that the word is orgē, pronounced or-gā’.

And I see that the KJV translates the word in various places as wrath, anger, vengeance, indignation.

And then I read Strong’s definition: properly, desire (as a reaching forth or excitement of the mind), i.e. (by analogy), violent passion (ire, or (justifiable) abhorrence); by implication punishment:—anger, indignation, vengeance, wrath.

Strong’s definition is taken from the root word for orgē, oregō – which means “to stretch oneself out in order to touch or to grasp something, to reach after or desire something.”

Thayer’s Greek Lexicon defines orgē this way:

ὀργή, ὀργῆς, (from ὀργάω to teem, denoting an internal motion, especially that of plants and fruits swelling with juice (Curtius, § 152); cf. Latinturgerealicui forirascialicui in Plautus Cas. 2, 5, 17; Most. 3, 2, 10; cf. German arg, Aerger), in Greek writings from Hesiod down “the natural disposition, temper, character; movement or agitation of soul, impulse, desire, any violent emotion,” but especially (and chiefly in Attic*) anger. In Biblical Greek anger, wrath, indignation… (bold added)

So the original Greek word could be translated as a ripening desire; a longing; reaching out for something.

And then, beginning with the writings of a poet named Hesiod, an element of anger was attached to the desire/movement of the soul.

Did you notice that last bit of Thayer’s defintion? I hope so because I emboldened it for you. In Biblical Greek, orgē is translated as anger, wrath, indignation.

Why? And what is Biblical Greek anyway?

Why isn’t it translated as longing, desire, a movement of the soul, as it was originally used?

At what point did God’s longing for us become a browbeating?

Did Paul intend that the word be interpreted that way? Was his intention to browbeat the Christians in Rome to whom he was writing  – Christians whom he had just commended for having world-famous faith? Did he want them to fully appreciate just how good the good news is by reminding them of their wretchedness? Why spoil the good news by rubbing their noses in their past? Or was he addressing any Pharisees who might get their hands on his letter thus blurring his audience? (I ask that because in several places throughout his letter he seems to be presenting an argument to those who think like he used to think, i.e. Pharisees.)

If Paul was indeed trying to lay out his (already saved) audience’s need for a Savior, Isaiah did it so much better. And faster.

In just one chapter Isaiah laid out the tangled condition of the world. Click here to read it.

And then, at the dawn of the next glorious chapter, he told the world what God’s longing/desire was going to do about it.

He left His throne and stepped into our darkness.

To redeem us.

And that’s how I’d be teaching Romans this year, if I were teaching it.

I’d define wrath as God’s longing for us, as His desire, the movement of His soul toward redemption. Any anger associated with the word is directed at the tangled mess we’ve made of things, at the mess we and His enemy have made of things, not at us, whom He loves. Paul said so himself in chapter 5: “While we were still [a tangled mess], Christ died for us.”

God’s longing is for us, His wrath is against that which entangles us.

If I could put the principles in my own words, I’d write them with God’s longing in mind. I wouldn’t alter any facts, I’d just sift each one through the good news: God knows how to untangle the mess.

*Attic is a dialect of Greek.

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P.S.  Please don’t take this post as a dis of BSF, I love BSF and I’m studying Romans with them as a general class member – but this time around I’m going to take a look at the book with fresh eyes.  I’ll probably show you the stuff I see.

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Jesus

We are both poor.

I was in the bullpen Sunday, the provisional preacher in case the one who was scheduled was called away at the last minute.

So I prepared a back-up sermon, went to bed early with a horrible headache and woke Sunday morning with the pain still raging.  I took a maximum strength Sudafed, put a heating pad on my face and prayed the preacher would show.

He did, thank you Jesus.

I sat gratefully and gingerly in one of the back pews – careful not to move my head too much, the pain just barely masked and threatening to break through full force at the slightest wrong move – and listened to plan A’s take on the passage, which went in a completely different direction from mine.

While sipping coffee in fellowship hall a woman asked whether I would give my sermon another time.  “Probably not,” I said, “since the lectionary will have moved on to a new passage.”

But wait a minute, I can give my sermon another time. I can give it to you right now. I can turn my tentative sermon into a definite blog post. Lest it go to waste.

The gospel reading was from Matthew:

Peter came and said to Jesus, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.
“For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”  – Matthew 18:21-35

“Forgiveness,” our pastor said the previous Sunday, “is the hardest thing Jesus asks us to do.”

I pondered why that is and came up with a few possibilities:

1. We don’t understand how it works.

Josh McDowell explains it best:

“… let’s say my daughter breaks a lamp in my home. I’m a loving and forgiving father, so I put her on my lap, and I hug her and I say, “Don’t cry, honey. Daddy loves you and forgives you.” Now usually the person I tell that story to says, “Well, that’s what God ought to do.” Then I ask the question, “Who pays for the lamp?”  (More Than a Carpenter p.156)

Who pays for the lamp? It’s such a brilliant question. It completely redirects our skewed thinking.

I’ll forgive him/her/them after they’ve suffered enough, is what we think. After I have exacted enough payment. After they are sufficiently sorry for what they’ve done.

That thinking completely misses the point.

It is the forgiver who pays for the lamp, not the offender.  That is what makes forgiveness so hard, that is what makes it so great – the innocent party pays!

Forgiveness says, “I’ll pay for that.”

“I’ll pay for that, too.”

“And for that, and that, and that.”

Seventy-seven times.

Which brings us to what makes it so hard #2.

2. We haven’t really looked at the price-tag.

I can’t afford to pay for all those lamps, we think, I’m not rich (financially, spiritually, emotionally). I can’t absorb all that cost.

And that brings us to our parable.

The first guy – the really rich guy – forgave a huge debt because he could easily afford to do so.

But the guy who was forgiven wasn’t rich.  So he harshly demanded payment from some guy who was as not-rich as he was.

And that’s what we do. We flippantly accept God’s forgiveness because we think He can easily absorb the cost. We think that all of our many, many lamps combined are a mere drop in His vast ocean.

We think our sins against God are like pilfering pencils from the supply room of Ford Motor Company, but when someone sins against us they are taking food from the mouths of our babes.

We think this way because we haven’t taken a good look at the price-tag.

We parrot a phrase that never really made sense to me: “All sin is the same.”

But all sin is not the same – my little white lie told to spare someone’s feelings is not the same as a mass act of terrorism.

All sin is not the same but all sin does carry the same price tag.

“For the wages of sin is death.” – Romans

“Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” – Hebrews

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No matter how small or insignificant we deem them to be, our broken lamps all carry the same huge price tag, which is not as easily absorbed as we like to think.

I sometimes picture God readily handing out volumes of forgiveness vouchers to each of us when, in fact, He handed out One voucher to all of us. And we only come face to face with the itemized invoice once a year on Good Friday.

Okay, you might be thinking (if you’re like me) it wasn’t easy for God to pay for our lamps, but…

3. If I give my heart to you, I’ll have none and you’ll have two.

Why should the offender keep getting away with it?  Why should I keep having to pay for the carelessness of others?

Because God did/does.

“Be holy because I am holy.”

And look what paying for our lamps got Jesus – a seat with the Father in glory.

You won’t be left with nothing, while the perp has two.

It may seem like the story I’m about to tell has nothing to do with this principle, but it does.

When I was in high school, I dated a basketball player.  He was a starter on the varsity team as a mere 10th grader. I went to a huge high school so that was a really big deal – it’s not like we were desperate for players.

I had been dating this player for a year when the seniors on the team started to tease him about not having sex, so he started to pressure me.

I said, “No, we’re too young.”

I should have said, “No, we’re not married,” because sex is a matter of marital status, not age, but I didn’t know anything back then.

Anyway, I kept saying no so he dumped me.

He immediately started dating a girl who had had a crush on him for a looong time. She was more than willing to do whatever she needed to do.

And she did.

And as soon as she did, he lost respect and dumped her.

So, we both got dumped – me for saying no and her for saying yes.

But I still had my self respect, the respect of my friends, my virginity and apparently the respect of the b’ball player.

Because he wanted me back.

No, thank you.

So don’t worry that the lamp breakers are going to get away with it, or get ahead of you financially, emotionally, et ceterally.

Just say, “Yes, I’ll pay for that.”

“And for that and that and that.”

And enjoy your self-respect.

And the camaraderie and esteem of the One who sits contentedly on the throne.

The parable Jesus told was in response to Peter’s question about forgiving another member of the church.

But those outside the church have issues with forgiveness, too.

I know someone who suffered a lot in her youth. I don’t know how much, exactly. I don’t know if it was much more or less than anyone else. But to her it was a lot.

So she has the idea that she has already pre-paid for any sins she might commit. She took it.  She took it all without complaint for all those years and God owes her.

She doesn’t need His forgiveness, He needs hers.

I guess this falls under not getting a good look at the price-tag.

She may have paid for the lamps of others with her innocent little girl heart and soul, but she didn’t shed innocent blood on a horrific cross.

And it also falls under not understanding how forgiveness works.

You can’t pre-pay for your own sins because with forgiveness, the innocent party pays and you are not the innocent party.

That is what makes forgiveness so powerful.  Perhaps it’s why Jesus tied it to love.

Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.  You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet.  You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet.  Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”  Luke 7:44-47.

Love says, I’ll pay for yours because He paid for mine.

And we are both poor.

#tentative

 

 

 

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Jesus

Cold Calling Jesus

We did a year’s worth of catching up over breakfast last week, my wonderful friend and I, while she was in Michigan for a brief visit.

“It’s been kind of a tough year,” she said, as we placed our orders.

Her son-in-law had been caught in an affair and her daughter, of course, booted him.

He then ended the affair, sought counseling and joined an accountability group.

Hurt, disgusted and betrayed though they were, the family decided to go the rocky route of redemption.

Because redemption is what Jesus is all about.

So the father of my friend’s young grandchildren was welcomed back home – welcomed into the guestroom, that is.

Until trust is rebuilt.

Later our conversation turned to other things.  I mentioned that I had seen the series of Facebook posts she had written on the Ten Commandments.

“I see people all the time who need Jesus,” she explained, “but I never know how to broach the subject. So I thought I would try sharing Him through Facebook posts. Not that I’m Facebook friends with any of them.”

There’s the rub.

The pulpit puts a lot of pressure on evangelicals to tell others about Jesus.

cold calling Jesus

Photo courtesy of Kenneth Tanner*

But cold calling Jesus doesn’t get many sales.

Think about it.  When was the last time someone cold-called while you were making dinner and you bought what they were selling right there over the phone or through your storm door?

Me? Never. I just get annoyed.

When did someone start telling you about Buddha out of the blue because they noticed you could use his philosophies and you immediately converted from Christianity to Buddhism?

Probably never.

You probably just smiled and nodded and said, “If Buddha works for you….”

Jesus didn’t tell us to cold call.  He didn’t even tell us to tell others about Him exactly.

He told us to teach others what He taught us.

After breakfast we went for a short walk along the lake and then drove back to my house just in time for her to hurry off to a lunch date.

As we were getting out of my car I said, “You know, friend, you actually tell people about Jesus all the time. Your whole life tells people about Him (it really does). You just told whoever was eavesdropping at the restaurant that loving Jesus means choosing forgiveness and working toward redemption. Who knows? Perhaps someone in the next booth is struggling with that very thing.”

Jesus came to show us what His Father is like.

His whole life on earth was a show and tell.

Ours can be, too, my evangelical friends.

We can fulfill the great commission by just living our lives. Just living our lives showing what the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are like. We can do the easy stuff – pass out some bread, pass out some fish, lend a helping hand, speak a few words of wisdom – and we can do the hard stuff – forgive, sacrifice our broken and betrayed hearts to the cause of redemption.

And one fine day we might earn the right to actually speak.

“And if you should lead out the esteemed from the unworthy you will be as my mouth.”  -LXX
“…if you utter worthy, not worthless, words, you will be my spokesman [woman].”  NIV

 

*Who was not out on a cold call when he buckled Jesus into his passenger seat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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