Tuesday, 19 July 2011

One bit of what happened... perhaps

Having asked the question yesterday "Why did Jesus have to die how he died?", I've been digging.

I like digging - it satisfies my insatiable appetite for knowledge. Unfortunately, in a family-tree-esque expansion of subjects, it always ends up with me asking more questions - which ends up in more digging.

This bit of digging did, though, provide some kind of answer - which is that perhaps Jesus had to die the way he died because of the Passover story. 

Passover was the story of how God redeemed the Israelites from slavery. It was a convenant, wrapped in a story... a story that the Jewish people told to remember how God chose them and rescued them to be the salvation of the world... wrapped around a promise, that God would be with them.

The central actor (rather despite himself I'd have to say) was the passover lamb - a "male without defect" which was selected (by Jesus' time) five days before Passover, killed ceremonially at the Temple on the Friday afternoon... the day after a passover meal that includes the curious tradition of taking three striped and pierced (no, seriously - from prophesies in the O.T.!) wafers, breaking the middle one, and then wrapping it in a cloth and 'burying' it until the end of the meal, when it is 'resurrected'.

I don't really understand where some of those traditions came from... more digging ahoy!

But, surely, there are too many parallels for Passover to not have something to do with Jesus' death.

Jesus rode into Jerusalem five days before Passover, was killed at 3.00 p.m. on the Friday afternoon just as the sacrificial lamb was being killed in the Temple, and was buried on the Friday evening. Before being resurrected early on the Sunday.

And Jesus seems to have seen his involvement as central to the story. In the Passover meal that he shared with his disciples, he took the bread and broke it and said 'This is my body'... and then after eating took the wine and said 'this is the new covenant in my blood'

 What covenant?

Well, Jeremiah 31 says:

"Behold, days are coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them," declares the LORD. "But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days," declares the LORD, "I will put My law within them, and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. (Jer 31 : 31-33)

So, from yesterday's slightly tentative question about obedience, I'm now wondering if Jesus death was another covenant, wrapped in another story, which represents and resurrects the original plan that God had for the salvation of the world...

Pop... right back at you with your lack of plan B ;)

And more digging... 

Monday, 18 July 2011

Why the way it happened?

There a niggling question that has been in the back of my mind for a few weeks.

Not a big one, at least not to start with, but one that highlights another situation where what I've always been taught (and - I'll admit - accepted,without even a murmur of questioning) and what the bible seems to be teaching in a more complete sense glide past each other like Hogwarts staircases, reaching different landings and taking you off in different directions.

My question is this:

If, as I was always told, Jesus' primary reason for living was to die, and then be raised from the dead, why did he have to die the way he did? On a cross, violently, in his prime, at 33 years of age?

Could he not have simply lived until he was old, and then died, and then been raised?

If the aim of his life was simply to overturn the sin that Adam and Eve brought into the world, wouldn't that have done the job? Wouldn't that have demonstrated the final victory of God?

Obviously not... because when Jesus asked God if there was another way, the answer was pretty conclusively 'no'. 

So Jesus did have to die the way that he did. Why?

I think there's a clue in the question of obedience... Philippians tells us, for example, that "He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross"

NT Wright even goes as far as to suggest that it was Christ's obedience, not just his death, that was crucial - his actually doing what Israel was supposed to have done - obeying God.

I've not finished unpacking this by any means, but if that's true - there's quite a difference between the Jesus I was taught about, for whom life was basically just a precursor to death, and a Jesus for whom life was also a key part of his mission.

... and what that means for me in how I live before I die.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Have you ever noticed...

... a particular style

of speech or praying. In church where, people move.

All the punctuation and word breaks around into strange. Places so that the sentences.

All stop.

And start.

In the wrong places and it sounds like they're on drugs?


Friday, 1 July 2011

It takes a long time

Earlier this month I said I'd start blogging again. I have. This month's tally has reached five (I think, with this one included) - not a bad start.

(I started this yesterday... seems that saving a blog on Blogger also takes a long time)

Writing those five, though, it's struck me though how different this blog is from my work blog. There, I can just drop in comments here there and everywhere and not worry too much about how they read. Here, maybe because there's something eternal about what I'm talking about, and something of God that I'm sharing, there's a need to take a bit more care.

Ultimately, I don't know who reads this, what they think, whether they know me or Jesus... and, although there's a bit of good-natured ribbing goes on in Christian circles, the kind of scattergun approach that is often employed in academia - picking at anything and everything just to provoke it to some kind of self-critique - would turn this blog into the rantings of an unabashed cynic.

That's not very constructive because, after all, whatever the minor or major niggles or questions, I am committed to Jesus, excited by his vision of Church, empowered by us being God's plan for the salvation of the world (Ephesians 2 somewhere!) - and that needs to show through too.

Writing this month, though, (oh, and a birthday that took me ever closer to the magic 40) has driven home the fact that things take a long time. I'm still writing, and thinking about issues that I've been thinking about for years. Church hasn't really changed much in the grand scheme of things. People are largely in the same place, situations and issues pretty much the same as they were 6 months ago. 

At least, that's the way I see it from my limited point of view.

If you feel that way too... then there's something that was shared in our homegroup a few months ago that has helped me come to terms with this and cope with the frustration.

Reading through 2 Corinthians, we reached the (chapter 10 and 11) bit where Paul is talking about the difference between him and the 'Super Apostles'.
  • Super apostles big themselves up, do big showy things and compare themselves with themselves. They commend themselves.
  • True apostles don't boast about what they do but simply produce fruit, work almost unseen except by God, are people of integrity. They are commended by God.
Key to our discussion was the nature of how the Kingdom is built; slowly, often hidden, simply one fruit at a time, a truly humble movement dependant on truly weak humans. We used the phrase 'viral' at one point - spreading like yeast, unseen, unstoppable, unnoticed, untrumpeted.  

And that's not a mistake. It's the way God intended it to be. 

That's the opposite of what I've always been told; that the Kingdom is built through Super Apostles.

It's so reassuring to know that God designed the Kingdom to be something that doesn't rest on my ability to deliver big things in short time scales. Rather, he designed it to be much much bigger than us so that it only successfully works, when each of us subsumes ourselves into it, playing our small, temporary, limited, hidden, human parts and leaves Him to worry about everything else.

The antedote for things taking so long, I've found, is accepting that they're supposed to...