The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

Citizens of another nation

with 2 comments

Third Sunday of Easter April 30, 2006
Acts 3:12-19; Psalm 4; 1 John 3:1-7; Luke 24:36-48

1 John 3:1-7 What marvelous love the Father has extended to us! Just look at it–we’re called children of God! That’s who we really are.

ColtenThis is my sweet grandbaby Colten (chewing on a lid during his bath in the kitchen sink, obviously). I like babies. But this guy does something to my heart that I haven’t felt for quite a while. He’s my own grandchild! I love it when he’s around. When we go for walks, I’m watching for danger. He changes everything!

S’pose God thinks of me that way? You?

But that’s also why the world doesn’t recognize us or take us seriously, because it has no idea who he is or what he’s up to. [more later]

It has no ideaThree mixups. Here’s the first. It’s a double:

Peter and John are on the way to the temple, they see a beggar whose been unable to use his legs all his life, they tell him to rise in Jesus name, and he does – he’s well. A crowd gathers, they gawk at Peter and John, and Peter speaks:

Acts 3:12-19 “Oh, Israelites, why does this take you by such complete surprise, and why stare at us as if our power or piety made him walk? 13The God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, the God of our ancestors, has glorified his Son Jesus. The very One that Pilate called innocent, you repudiated. 14You repudiated the Holy One, the Just One, and asked for a murderer in his place. 15You no sooner killed the Author of Life than God raised him from the dead–and we’re the witnesses. 16Faith in Jesus’ name put this man, whose condition you know so well, on his feet–yes, faith and nothing but faith put this man healed and whole right before your eyes.

See, they didn’t get this healing of this guy – they thought Peter and John were something special – because they didn’t get Jesus. You get Jesus right, you get a lot right. You get Jesus mixed up, a lot gets mixed up.

17″And now, friends, I know you had no idea what you were doing when you killed Jesus, and neither did your leaders. 18But God, who through the preaching of all the prophets had said all along that his Messiah would be killed, knew exactly what you were doing and used it to fulfill his plans.

19″Now it’s time to change your ways! Turn to face God so he can wipe away your sins, pour out showers of blessing to refresh you,

You didn’t get it, now you do, so turn toward God.

Second big mixup – this time it’s back at resurrection day again, in the evening, in the upper room. Remember what the atmosphere was? Scared! Now who’s mixed up?

Luke 24:36b-48 36… Jesus appeared to them and said, “Peace be with you.” 37They thought they were seeing a ghost and were scared half to death. 38He continued with them, “Don’t be upset, and don’t let all these doubting questions take over. 39Look at my hands; look at my feet–it’s really me. Touch me. Look me over from head to toe. A ghost doesn’t have muscle and bone like this.” 40As he said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41They still couldn’t believe what they were seeing. It was too much; it seemed too good to be true.

He asked, “Do you have any food here?” 42They gave him a piece of leftover fish they had cooked. 43He took it and ate it right before their eyes.

Why’d he eat the fish? Probably to straighten out the mixup. Don’t let all those doubting questions take over. Ghosts don’t eat much fish, far as we know. Now watch as he shows them how to fight off mixups:

44Then he said, “Everything I told you while I was with you comes to this: All the things written about me in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets, and in the Psalms have to be fulfilled.”

45He went on to open their understanding of the Word of God, showing them how to read their Bibles this way.

What way? The way of discovering Jesus in the Bible. See:

46He said, “You can see now how it is written that the Messiah suffers, rises from the dead on the third day, 47and then a total life-change through the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed in his name to all nations–starting from here, from Jerusalem! 48You’re the first to hear and see it. You’re the witnesses.

Now why would he be so intent on showing them how to look for Jesus in the Bible? Perhaps, to avoid mixups. If I become like Jesus, I get a lot right. If I get that mixed up, a lot gets mixed up.

Now back to 1 John:

1 John 3: 2But friends, that’s exactly who we are: children of God. And that’s only the beginning. Who knows how we’ll end up! What we know is that when Christ is openly revealed, we’ll see him–and in seeing him, become like him.

Seeing him makes us like him. Now – Romans 12:20: fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Or Hebrews 12:

2Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed–that exhilarating finish in and with God–he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. 3When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!

And if seeing him now changes us, apparently the change we experience here is nothing like that we’ll experience when we see him face to face: v2: we’ll see him–and in seeing him, become like him.

3All of us who look forward to his Coming stay ready, with the glistening purity of Jesus’ life as a model for our own.

Why? If Jesus becomes my model, I’ll get a lot right. If something else becomes my goal, a lot will get mixed up.

Now the third mixup:

4All who indulge in a sinful life are dangerously lawless, for sin is a major disruption of God’s order. 5Surely you know that Christ showed up in order to get rid of sin. There is no sin in him, and sin is not part of his program.

See? Given all these mixups, can you guess why he’s telling us this? Perhaps he’s trying to get us to see Jesus right, to keep us from mixups.

6No one who lives deeply in Christ makes a practice of sin. None of those who do practice sin have taken a good look at Christ. They’ve got him all backwards.

7So, my dear children, don’t let anyone divert you from the truth. It’s the person who acts right who is right, just as we see it lived out in our righteous Messiah.

Let me show you how this matters. See if you can guess who said these words:

[Our people] are no longer the people without honor, the people of disgrace, self-destructive, narrow-minded, with little faith. No, God, [our] people have become strong again in their spirit, in their will… Lord, we do not let you go! Now bless our struggle, our liberty, and, with that, our … people and our [home].

Any guesses? Here’s a hint: He went about sharing this message, saying “This is what I preach everywhere I go …”

Another hint: He promised to build a new nation based on traditional values.

Final hint: When he finished his speeches, cries would ring out from the crowd: “Heil Hitler! Heil Hitler!” Yup, the speechmaker was Adolph Hitler.

I heard these words on last weeks PBS special entitled Bonhoeffer. Listen to historian John Conway, speaking on the program, as he describes the roots of Hitler’s popularity that began back in the First World War:

When World War One broke out in 1914, German churches unanimously supported the war effort. The were fully convinced by the propaganda that this war had been imposed on Germany by her encircling enemies, out of envy, who wanted to stop German development and cultural and spiritual and political expansion. The automatically became enthusiastic believers that, indeed, God was on their side.

Were the Germans especially perverted, somehow? ‘Fraid not. Bishop Wolfgang Huber spoke about theologian Karl Barth’s insights:

Karl Barth’s great observation was every part of the conflicting parties in the First World War reclaimed God for themselves, made of the one Christian God a tribal god of Germany, British, French people, and so on. This was a catastrophe for Christianity.

Focusing on something other than Jesus himself – movements or causes – forces Jesus into the back seat.

Here’s Daniel Clendenin in his excellent column Journey with Jesus:

Two radical corollaries follow from this robustly Christian global vision—the decentralization of your geography and the reorientation of your politics.

First, Christians are geographic, cultural, national and ethnic egalitarians; for them there is no geographic center of the world, but only a constellation of points equidistant from the heart of God. …

Second, because of this, Christian global vision asks that you care as much about any and every country and its people as you do your own. Christians grieve the deaths of 35,000 Iraqis as much as 2,300 Americans, or lament the human tragedy of the Iranian and Pakistani earthquakes as much as that of Hurricane Katrina. This implies that your politics become reoriented, non-aligned, and unpredictable by normal canons.

Then he quotes from the 2nd century Letter to Diognetus, as its author describes followers of Christ:

… They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners [or resident aliens]. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers.

So let’s make an example of how looking at Jesus might affect us in America right now. Consider the issue of immigration. I thought of writing an opinion piece to the local paper about it, that might include words like these:

Watch Jesus, as he chooses the company of those without prestige.

Watch the self-righteous fume when he consorts with lawbreakers (as in the currently popular expression “They broke the law!”)

Sense the disappointment of the Palm Sunday crowd, who, after waving the palm branch (the flag, if you will, of Jewish nationalism), discovered on Good Friday that Jesus was not going to toss out the illegal Romans and enforce Israel’s borders.

And catch the amazement among his followers as they find themselves bearing his affection into the homes of foreign nationals, becoming law-breakers themselves.

Surely Jesus is just as interested in seeing Mexicans provide for their families as he is US citizens. His call to us is always, “When you serve the least of these [meaning the least powerful or wealthy or influential], you serve me.”

I have no idea what kind of laws we’ll get. But my loyalty is to be like Jesus, regardless.

1 John 3:1-7 What marvelous love the Father has extended to us! Just look at it–we’re called children of God! That’s who we really are.

May all who observe discover that amazing love in us!

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Related Posts: Christ in the Migrant , Reclaiming America from illegal immigrants [cartoon], We want you to feel like you belong [news], “Christian” values, Jesus’ preference for the poor [sermon]
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Written by Monte

May 5, 2006 at 3:48 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Though this is the first time i reach here,
    but feel like home i’ve been staying days long.

    thanks for the good words and phrases introduced here,
    will drop by again if possible

    bye

    Monte says: Thank you very much for your kind comment. I visited your also – but I could not read Korean! You are welcome here!

    seoulrain

    August 6, 2008 at 2:04 am

  2. ….. hi….. I have enjoyed browsing your blog and would suggest you look at RichardMcChurch.wordpress.com —- Rod Smith

    Rod E. Smith, MSMFT

    May 11, 2006 at 8:57 pm


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