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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Jesus, Light, love

Of Course He Does

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My daughter was in her crib napping and I was on my bed wrestling.  Weeping, wrestling, clutching my Bible and searching.  Searching for answers, searching for relief, searching for a way out of the wilderness.  I felt like Israel, wandering in the desert, forsaken by God.  But how had I gotten there? What fatal mistake had I made?  In what ways was I a worse wife than the others in my young marrieds class?  One of them had an affair.  Why was she still married and not me?  I asked God, “Am I Israel?”

He nudged my thoughts to the New Testament and to verses that spoke of His love for me.  Forget those, I thought, because clearly He doesn’t.  I kept turning my attention back to the Old Testament wilderness passages trying to find the way out.

My defining moment.

Finally He said, “You are going to have to make a choice.  You can believe what your circumstances say about my love for you, or you can believe what I say about my love for you.”  I chose to believe Him.  Months of wrestling came to an end in that one defining moment and, with a deep and cleansing sigh, I curled up and fell asleep.  He knew how my marriage was going to end the day I said I do.  He knew I did not believe in divorce and yet He allowed it anyway.  He loved me and He allowed it.  There were no cracks in His fingers through which I had fallen.  I hadn’t made a fatal mistake.

His defining moment.

I had been a Christian for eight years, and the divorce was my first faith-testing experience.  I wouldn’t have another for seventeen years.  My daughter had just gone off to college, when a sudden fall set off a string of strange neurological symptoms that baffled a string of doctors.  I sat on my sofa day after day trying to distract my fearful thoughts by watching movies as I waited to die.  It occurred to me that maybe God didn’t care about me as much as I thought He did.  Perhaps I had been foolish to think He cared about me at all.  I teetered between hope and despair until He finally reminded me of His defining moment.  The question of whether or not He loves us, whether or not He cares about us, was answered once and for all the minute He said yes to the cross.

One step further.

“Okay,” I thought a few weeks later as I was washing my tear-streaked face, “He loves us.  But does He love me?”  I had always felt special to Him because I loved Him so much, but maybe I wasn’t.

As I grabbed the hand towel He reminded me of the day He called my name.  He reminded me of the following night when He revealed Himself to me.  It was a glorious revealing.  He made me His own.  Knowing that I would let Him down, knowing that I would let myself and others down, knowing every bit of my past, present and future, He chose me.  “Why would I call you into a relationship with Me and show Myself to you, only to abandon you?”, He asked.  I love it when He reasons with me.  He reminded me of everything I love about His character, His plans, His stick-to-itiveness.  He wouldn’t adopt me as His child and then turn His back on me.  He isn’t a bad parent.  He finishes the good work He begins in us.  He accomplishes His purposes.  He isn’t lazy or distracted.

“But Christians sometimes die in their prime, when their ministries are thriving and there is still work to be done,” I countered.  “So there is no guarantee I will recover.”

“If you do not recover, it won’t be because I don’t care or because I am not paying attention or because I am unable.  It will be because it is time to come home.  And if it is your time and my will, you will have peace.”

I thought of the peace He gave my sister – still gives her – as she battles cancer.  And that is when I realized that it wasn’t God who was trying to kill me, it was the author of fear.  If there is fear, then God’s hand is not in it.  And since the presence of fear proved the strange illness was from the devil’s hand, I was going to be okay because God is stronger.  God loves us.  God loves me.  I rested in that and I recovered.

More defining moments.

Job’s defining moments came when he resolved, “Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him.” and when he realized that “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.”

Peter’s greatest moment came not with words, but with action.  After he denied Christ thrice, after he threw his best friend under the bus to save his own skin, he got back up and walked with Him.  Not as one who was just barely forgiven, but as one who was amazing. (Acts 2:14-41)

Those are the moments the Holy Spirit illuminates when I am struggling.

I wrote this post to say, “Of course He loves you, sweet Shazzameena.”

He sees the ministry that happens at your table, your hospitality.  He gave you gifts and He is not going to waste them.  He is not wasteful, He is perfect. He saw you clambering over stone walls to see the old well.  He saw you noticing the stain-glassed window.  He heard your heart on the way home saying you want to be remembered as a sower of His word and He smiled.  He loves how you love Him.

Beth Moore shared something sweet in the Bible study video I watched yesterday:

God to Beth:  “Don’t say, ‘I love you’ to Me.  Say, ‘I love you, too.’  Because I am always saying it first.”

I like that.

Our defining moments, as tough and heartbreaking and scary as they are, are designed to bring us to the place where we “come to know and believe (once and for all, but with occasional need for reminders) the love God has for us.”  1 John 4:16a

Does God see you?  Does He love you?  He chose you, dear child.  Remember that day? That was the day He answered “Yes!”  Forever.

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church nonsense, Jesus, Light

Passionate About Paul?

 

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I love Jesus.  Not just because He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords.  Not just because His is the Name above all names.  At least it’s supposed to be.  Unfortunately, sinfully, at my church, and perhaps at yours, it isn’t.  It’s Paul’s.  For a while I kept track.  Two columns.  A hash mark every time Paul was mentioned or quoted and a hash mark every time Jesus was mentioned or quoted.  It was pitiful.  Jesus, I began to realize, is almost completely left out of Sunday morning services, and I miss Him.

I commented the other day that elevating Paul above Jesus is a nuance of false teaching.

The post garnered quite a bit of debate.  Some of it involved my comment:

One fellow commenter wrote:

“Paul and his gospel were “In Christ,” as long as that is acknowledged it should not be a problem. The ascended Christ hand picked Paul for the revelation of the secret which God kept hidden from the beginning. Through that revelation we are here in Christ’s place just as Paul was. Paul’s words were Jesus’s.”

This is a common church teaching, but are we sure it is actually true?  When did Jesus say that He hand-picked Paul to reveal these mysteries? I know Paul said it, but when did Jesus say it? Nowhere in Scripture does a voice from heaven say, “This is my servant, Paul, with whom I am well pleased, listen to him”. Paul certainly earned the right to speak by all he suffered, but I don’t think we should elevate his words to the status of a prophet. He never claimed to be a prophet. He was a church planter. We Protestants criticize Catholics for ascribing inerrancy to their Popes and yet we do the same with Paul. As you know, Paul was well-steeped in the teachings and traditions of the Pharisees, and ingrained teachings die hard. Perhaps that is why Jesus told His disciples to beware the yeast of the Pharisees. Perhaps that is why, high atop the Mt. of Transfiguration, God said to Peter, James and John, “This is my Son, whom I love, listen to Him!” [italics added].

Another commenter quoted 2 Timothy 3 :16-17:

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be Perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.(K.J.V)”

Except that when Paul wrote those words to Timothy, he wasn’t referring to his own letters.  He was referring to the Law and the Prophets.  Extrapolating that verse to include all that man has canonized may be a mistake on the church’s part.  No where does God include New Testament writings as part of His Holy Scriptures.

You, like this commenter, might be thinking:

“During the lifetime of Peter and Paul there was an understanding that what the Christian prophets were writing was “Scripture” (2 Peter 3: 14-16). 2 Peter 3:14-16 14 Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, 15 and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, 16 as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.

Peter tells his audience that Paul’s letters are equivalent to “the rest of the Scriptures”. Of course the “rest” means that remaining of what was considered Scripture at that time; basically this means what Jesus considered Scripture. For those who do not regard Paul’s letters as Scripture as much as anything else, please read the above verses many times before making that determination.”

My response:  You may not be reading this correctly. You are linking Paul’s letters with “the rest of the Scriptures”. But, if you read it carefully, the link is actually between “these things” (the difficult to understand Scriptures that were being distorted) and “the rest of the Scriptures”.

Peter was linking the distorted Scriptures that Paul was writing about with the other Scriptures that were being distorted. In other words, Peter was saying that Paul was writing to them about these things that the unstable distort – just as they distort the other Scriptures.

If you diagram the sentence, you may see that I am correct.

Finally, a third commenter warned:

“Beware of those who try to remove the inspiration of the books of the New Testament away from the time period when they were written to the time when they were “officially recognized”. Those who do so have an evil agenda to try and subvert and overthrow our confidence in the New Testament books handed down to us as the inspired, infallible, inerrant Word of God.”

A few years ago I wrote a Bible study which included two chapters on the subject of Paul.  I was on my knees as I wrote asking the Holy Spirit to be my Editor, to guide me into all Truth and to prevent me from writing a single thing that was incorrect or untrue.

Now I am turning that Bible study into a book and my prayers are the same.  I ask God whether my thinking has gone astray.  Our conversation often goes like this:

Me:  “Am I unwittingly promoting an evil agenda?  Stop me if I am!”

Holy Spirit:  “Judge a tree by its fruit.”

Me:  “You and I have produced lots of good fruit together over the years, but what if it has become worm-infested?

Holy Spirit:  “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit.  What is your aim, friend?”

Me:  “My aim is to know You rightly and to make You known. To lift high the name of Jesus and give Him His due.”

Holy Spirit: “Fear not, loved one, because there is certainly nothing evil about that.”

Turn on your television, your radio or your computer and you will be smacked in the face with the harsh reality that today’s church has been woefully ineffective at stemming the tide of darkness.  Why?  Because there is no power in the name of Paul.

The only name that has any power is Jesus, and if we Christians are going to be effective, we are going to have to bring Him back to church.  How is your church doing?  How much of Christ is in your Christianity?

I would love to hear your thoughts, but I will not approve comments that merely throw knee-jerk Scripture at me.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Scripture.  But what I want to know is how your church is doing.  I want to know how this post strikes you emotionally, spiritually, logically?  Does it elicit any fear?  Fear not, if your faith is built on Christ, it will not crumble just because you question a few man-made things.  Jesus did it all the time.

© The Reluctant Baptist, 2014

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