ALL THE RIGHT ENEMIES

(From Luke 6:20-49)

One thing that constantly amazes me about Jesus is that he had no problem making enemies.

Most of us go through life trying to avoid conflict, keeping our thoughts to ourselves, and going to extraordinary efforts NOT to make people mad at us. We sugar coat things. We hold back. We think twice. We bite our tongues. We beat around the bush and rely on “little white lies.” We easily fall in line, and would never want to rock the boat.

That. Wasn’t. Jesus.

If Jesus were doing his thing today, the progressives would label him a conservative. The conservatives would label him a liberal. The rich would ignore him. The middle class would feel threatened by him. The government would not know what to do with him. Even most churches would feel it best to distance themselves from him.

Jesus: “Blessed are you who are poor”


Us: But the poor are just lazy. They are a drain on society. They’re only in that situation because they abuse drugs or alcohol. We should drug test them before we help them.


Jesus: “Blessed are you who hunger now.”


Us: There MUST be a work requirement and drug tests for food stamps. We can’t have people abusing the system. Hmm…now what should we do with all this excess food? Just throw it out. No one would want to eat that junk.


Jesus: “Blessed are you who weep now.”


Us: Here, watch this funny cat video. That will cheer you right up! What? You’re depressed? What do you have to be sad about? Don’t you realize their are people who have it much worse than you…?


Jesus: “Woe to you who are rich.”


Us: Yeah, those One-Percenters. They’re so evil and corrupt. Now excuse me while I Tweet about it from my iPhone in the drive-thru line at Starbucks in my brand new hybrid.


Jesus: “Woe to you who are well-fed now.”


Us: Well, I could lose weight I guess…


Jesus: “Woe to you who laugh now.”


Us: Here, watch this funny video of skateboarders crashing.


Jesus: “Woe to you when everyone speaks well about you.”


Us: Look how many LIKES I got so far! It’s like triple digits. OMG… what were you saying, Jesus?


Jesus: “Love your enemies.”


Us: Oh yeah, I love everyone. I have nothing but love for people I disagree with. And it’s out of love that I must correct their “false narrative” and misguided political beliefs in the comments of their latest Facebook post. I love them so much that I want them to think just like I do. Then we won’t be enemies anymore once they realize I’m right! What’s so bad about that?


Jesus: “Give to everyone who asks you.”


Us: But I can’t give at church AND work AND school AND the checkout line. Everyone is looking for a handout these days. It’s pathetic.


Jesus: “Do not judge and you will not be judged.”


Us: Aha! There it is! Who do you think you are, Jesus, telling me how to live my life?


Jesus: “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart.”


Us: But wait, you just said…


Jesus: “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?”


Us: …

I’m reminded of what GK Chesterton said: “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”

Jesus came to topple the rich and powerful from their thrones and to exalt the downtrodden and marginalized. In other words the GOSPEL is truly good news for “the least of these.” And the GOSPEL can be downright terrifying for the rest of us.

We’ve come so far from the original message of Christ. We are no longer shocked when Jesus says, “It’s easier for a camel to enter the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.” Because WE DON’T THINK WE’RE RICH. We think Jesus is always talking about someone else. Jeff Bezos, Tim Cook, Bill Gates, Oprah – they’re RICH. No me! But yeah, you are. I am. And therein lies the danger.

We rationalize and come up with all these reasons Jesus isn’t talking to US. But he is. And he means it. “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,” and not do what I say?”

Do we realize just how RADICAL Jesus’ message is? Probably not. And that’s the problem. That’s why we are where we are. That’s why the church is shrinking – at least in the West.

Want to turn the world upside down? Start living out the teachings of Jesus. The world needs true disciples now more than ever before.

But be warned – It was this kind of action and preaching that made Jesus’ family think he was crazy and made the religious leaders begin to plot his death. So there’s that.

IDENTITY

This week in our Young Disciples class we recapped and finished the topic “RESCUE” and then moved on to introduce the topic “IDENTITY.”

As always, click the link below to listen to the class recording. Follow along with the presentation slides and the videos.

_____________________________________
___________________________________________
ADDITIONAL VIDEO RESOURCES

RETHINK YOUR EXPECTATIONS

(from Luke 3:1-4:13)

If you were going to save the world, how would you do it?

First, you’ve gotta have a problem to solve, right? That’s pretty straight forward in most superhero movies. Batman has to save Gotham from the Joker. Spiderman has to save New York from Doctor Octopus. The Avengers have to save the planet from Ultron. The Guardians of the Galaxy have to save…the galaxy (!) from Thanos.

In movies and books like this, the “bad guys” are always pretty obvious. So an obvious problem demands an obvious solution. Are you with me?

But what about the problems that aren’t so obvious? One reason I appreciated Captain America: Civil War so much (stick with me, we’ll get to Jesus in a second) is that there was no really “villain.” It was just a guy who vengefully set out to turn the Avengers against each other. Both sides thought they were right. And yet both were very, very wrong.

Imagine you are living in the early decades of the BC-AD changeover in a region of the Roman Empire known as Judea. You’ve grown up going to synagogue every Saturday morning your entire life. And just about every sermon you’ve heard always turns back to the fact that God will send his Messiah, overthrow the Romans, and establish an unshakable kingdom. All this is going to take place as soon as we Jews get our act together. The King will come. The victory will be won. The triumph will be glorious. And the throne of David will be occupied once more – for good this time.

Jews = good guys. Romans = bad guys. Messiah > Romans. Problem solved.

It plays out in your mind just like these comic book story lines we are so drawn to.

So a guy named John shows up on the scene and begins preaching to people that they need to repent and be immersed in the Jordan. Their sins (collectively, mind you) will be forgiven and God will send the Messiah, the Deliverer. John says that he immerses with water, but the Messiah will immerse people with the Holy Spirit and Fire.

That sounds awesome!

It’s really happening! And you’re there to witness it. This is going to be epic.

Then a man named Jesus (AKA Joshua) shows up to be baptized by John. As he comes out of the water, you see the clouds open, like a spotlight from heaven. You see this dove-like presence materialize out of nowhere and hover over this Jesus character. And then the rumble like thunder. You can just make out what sounds like a voice in that deep shaking.

“YOU ARE MY SON,” says the voice. Oh, you know this! It’s from Psalm 2 – the coronation song of Israel! That hasn’t been sung in an official way for hundreds of years. This is it. This guy MUST be the Messiah. It’s crystal clear now. Get your pens and papers ready for autographs.

“WITH YOU I AM WELL PLEASED,” the voice continues. Uh….(insert record-scratch-stop here) What? That can’t be right. The voice just quoted Isaiah when he’s talking about the “suffering servant.” You know what happens to that servant? He’s humiliated, beaten, tortured, and killed.

This is the newly “anointed” king – the Messiah – but he’s also the suffering servant? Psalm 2 – a coronation – and Isaiah 42 – the beginning of an obituary, a death sentence.

To quote Luke Skywalker in the latest Star Wars, “This is not going to go the way you think.”

If the real enemy had been Rome, then it would make sense to have a Messiah who conquers through military might and conquest. If Caesar were the real bad guy, then it would make sense to have a mighty King assume a throne in Jerusalem in opposition.

But what the Jews (and everyone else) didn’t realize was the real enemy, pulling the strings behind all other earthly enemies, was Death and all his friends – sin, fear, etc. The only was to conquer Death was to let Death do its worst to the one least deserving of all.

In other words, only a Suffering Savior could truly save the world.

The Jews had to rethink their expectations. So do we. It’s time to see Jesus for who he truly is.

WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY ALL?

I LOVE a good plot twist. Think about the last book you read or movie you watched that had a major turn. One classic is the scene in Empire Strikes Back when Darth Vader drops the bomb that he is, in fact, Luke’s father (**SPOILERS!**). I think of stories where a character who was thought to be dead turns out to be very much alive, or where the main character has been dead all along. I think of stories like Ender’s Game that make you think something is happening when really it’s something else entirely.

I love books and movies that keep me guessing. The best stories are unpredictable at key moments. And that’s what I appreciate about Luke.

The gospel of Luke is full of unexpected events and outcomes. Right from the start we’re introduced to an elderly couple (Zechariah and Elizabeth) who have been childless their entire lives. An angel appears out of nowhere and says, “Guess what? You’re going to have baby!” Zechariah is in shock and doubts the angels news, so the angel strikes him mute…like ya do.

Then the same angel appears to a young peasant girl from podunk Nazareth who is engaged to a construction worker. The angels tells her that she is going to conceive a baby boy by the power of the Holy Spirit (not with her fiancé or another man). And this baby is going to be the savior of the world. Mary is afraid, but she humbly accepts the news and lives her role out faithfully.

The priest doubts and questions. The peasant girl believes and trusts. Did not see that coming.

Then there’s the fact that it’s because of Caesar’s decree that Jesus ends up being born in Bethlehem as foretold in the prophets.

Then the King of the World, the Lord of Lords, the Messiah is born – to a poor peasant family in a stable.

Then the birth is announced by a host of angels to smelly, uneducated shepherds.

Things just keep getting weirder and weirder. I think that’s why Luke opens up by telling us that he investigated and checked out all these claims. You can’t make this stuff up!

But one little word goes seemingly unnoticed in the first couple chapters of Luke. Yet this one small word sets the whole course for the story Luke is trying to tell about Jesus.

The word is “ALL.”

Two verses in particular strike me:

Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. (2:10)

For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations (2:30-31)

Thankfully I took Greek in college so I can tell you what “all” really means in these passages. The word for “all” literally translates as… ALL.

All the people. All nations. Luke is making it clear from the start that 1) the story of Jesus is the continuation and fulfillment of Israel’s story, and 2) Israel’s story is now becoming the universal story of all mankind. The story of Jesus takes place within the context of Israel, but his mission is by no means limited to the Jews. The coming of Jesus is good news for all people. It is the beginning of God’s work for salvation for all nations.

It’s a party and EVERYONE is invited!

Israel had forgotten that this was part of their original mission. They were to be a light to the Gentiles, a city on a hill, a house of prayer for all nations. But they had become more exclusive, more inward focused, more self-involved as the years went on.

He’s OUR God and YOU can’t have Him!

Good thing we don’t make those same mistakes today…

Remember, Luke was a gentile writing to gentile Christians in gentile churches. The main issue threatening to destroy the church in the earliest times was the issue of Jews vs. Gentiles. Who is in and who is out? Do Gentiles have to become like Jews to be followers of Christ? Or should Jews turn aside from their Jewish customs and practices in order to become more like the Gentiles?

We still struggle with that in our churches today. We say (maybe not consciously) or at least imply that people should become more like us if they want to be a part of our church. We predetermine who gets to hear the message of the gospel, who gets to be a full-fledged citizen of the kingdom, who can be leaders, who can do x, y, or z…

Luke reminds us that all means ALL.

This is not just Israel’s story. This is the story for the whole world.

This is not just my church’s story. This is the story for the whole world.

That’s radical. That’s unexpected. And that’s what got Jesus killed. (**SPOILERS!**)

_________________________

2017 SLIDESHOW

Every year I make a slideshow for us to watch at our New Year’s Eve Lock-In. I have a ton of fun making these little videos, looking back at all we’ve done throughout the year. I really couldn’t ask for a better group of teens to work with. They make me so proud. Anyway, here’s the video before I tear up too much…

RESCUE

We have begun a new Wednesday night series based on “I Am a Disciple: A 40-Day Student Discipleship Journal.” Each week our students are encouraged to complete fives days of devotionals and studies in this journal. And each Wednesday we will introduce the new topic for the week.

This week we introduced the topic of RESCUE. The journey of discipleship begins with the recognition that we are all lost children of God in need of rescuing.

Below you will find a link to listen to our class, presentation notes to follow along, and additional video resources.

__________________________________
__________________________________
ADDITIONAL VIDEOS

When In Doubt…

Christian Twitter kind of exploded a few days ago. The popular “Desiring God” account posted this:

I read the linked article, and it has a point to be made. But I don’t think it is possible to have faith without some doubt. The whole point of faith is having that “I could be wrong” feeling, yet trusting anyway. It may sound contradictory, but I believe the enemy of faith is not doubt – it’s certainty. Certainty leaves no room for growth, questioning, exploration, further discovery. Only faith can do that.
Do I ever go through seasons of doubt? Absolutely. I’ve spent countless nights lying in bed wondering if this whole church thing is worth it, if God really called me to this, if the Bible is really telling us the truth, and if Jesus is really worth devoting my life to. How can I know? I can’t. That’s part of it.
Faith is a choice. It fails to be a choice when we can no longer say no, when there is no possibility of being wrong.
The real question is, “Does it make sense for me to choose faith over disbelief?”
Here enters the writer/physician/historian/professor/explorer Luke. By the time Luke writes his gospel account, Mark and Matthew had already written their own (presumably). These gospels and some of Paul’s letters had been making the rounds through the churches. And there were also a plethora of stories being passed along simply by word-of-mouth. And while a few letters or fragments of the gospels carried around by traveling preachers might be enough to convince and convert many people throughout the Roman world, others may not have been so easily persuaded. You know the types – they don’t fall for emotional manipulation or clever story-telling. They want sources cited. They want facts. They want thorough investigative journalists to give an accurate recounting of the events.
And that’s exactly what Luke gives us.

So many others have tried their hand at putting together a story of the wonderful harvest of Scripture and history that took place among us, using reports handed down by the original eyewitnesses who served this Word with their very lives. Since I have investigated all the reports in close detail, starting from the story’s beginning, I decided to write it all out for you, most honorable Theophilus, so you can know beyond the shadow of a doubt the reliability of what you were taught. (Luke 1:1-4 // The Message)

Luke tells us exactly who his audience is – a man named Theophilus (God-Lover), possibly a wealthy patron paying Luke to do this research. Luke tells us exactly how he wrote – through careful investigation, using interviews and other sources. Luke even tells us WHY he wrote – to provide a more ordered account of the events, actions, and teachings of Jesus.

All this is done so that we may know with a greater degree of certainty that the things we’ve been taught about Jesus are actually grounded in reality.

When you are in a season of doubt and discouragement, when you are finding faith difficult to come by, when you are beginning to question if Jesus is even real and if it even still matters today – Luke has written a book just for you.

___________________________________



This is the first in a series of supplemental posts to my Sunday morning class series on the Gospel of Luke, which I have titled “The World Turned Upside Down.”