Who Spits On Jesus?


The_Empty_Tomb020When I was growing up, it was a popular attention getting device for youth leaders to equate the abuse Jesus received during His trials with the indifference and sinful behavior of contemporary teens. Our lies or lust or gossip were nothing more than us spitting at Jesus.

There’s a certain truth to that line of thinking, though I have to admit, it lost a lot of its power with frequent use. The point is, sin is our way of turning our backs on God. We are choosing to go our own way, not God’s way.

He says follow Him; I say, I’ll go where I want. He says His word is true; I say, I’ll decide what I think is true. He says, love your enemy; I say, I’ll love who I want. And so it goes.

The difference, though, between my sin and those who spit on Jesus is that by faith I understand His sacrifice purchased my redemption. Where once my sin was a barrier between me and God, now His Spirit lives in me.

It’s the difference we see in Peter’s life. Where once he denied knowing Jesus, he began preaching Him openly in front of thousands. Peter said it like this in his first epistle:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who, through His great mercy, has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. (1:3)

The life I now lead is being brought into conformity with Christ. He will transformed the body of my humble state into conformity with His glory by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself. (Phil. 3:21)

The only people spitting on Christ, then, are those who can’t claim this new life. Their lives aren’t being transformed. They have no new birth. They still have their sin separating them from the God who loves them.

In short, Christ’s resurrection was a game changer for all who believe. We have no righteousness of our own, so He clothes us with His righteousness.

Are we still spitting on Jesus? From time to time we try. But God lovingly brings us back, convicts us of sin, transforms our minds, corrects our waywardness, instructs us in the way we should go.

Our response to His work in our lives is the clearest way we have of knowing what kind of relationship we have with Him. Some of us, like small children, throw tantrums, but in the end we come back to our Heavenly Father in submission to Him. Others are quicker to hear His voice and respond.

Still others aren’t part of His family and resist His call and complain about His justice.

The Creator of the universe, the preexistent I Am, the Holy One who is Truth, who is Love, who knows the end from the beginning deserves our falling-on-our-face-at-His-feet worship. To withhold what He deserves is to spit on Jesus.

Published in: on April 18, 2014 at 6:45 pm  Comments (1)  
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Easter And The Declension Of Western Civilization


Easter_LilyPerhaps some will think I’m crying wolf. Is Western civilization really declining? I think we have only to look at Easter and see how our society treats it to realize that there’s been a fundamental shift.

Many Christians–perhaps most–identify Easter as the single most important event in human history. It is also the bedrock of the Christian faith–without a resurrected Christ, we have nothing. In fact the Apostle Paul said, if Christ was not risen from the dead, we are most to be pitied:

if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied. (1 Cor. 15:14-19 – emphasis mine)

For years–perhaps centuries–Easter has been afforded a place of honor in Western civilization among “Christian” nations. Here in the US many traditions sprang up around Easter that have little to do with Christ’s resurrection.

For a time it was the Easter bonnet and the Easter dress. Then there was the Easter lily, the Easter basket, and the Easter bunny with Easter egg hunts. There was even Easter vacation for school kids. TV often put on special programing, and stores kept special Easter hours or remained closed. For years Easter cards have been available, and these often contain something of the resurrection message.

What seems apparent to me, however, is that Easter, even its non-religious traditions, is fading from the public arena.

A minor controversy arose that proves this point. First Google chose Easter to “honor” Cesar Chávez with a doodle. As it happens, March 31 was his birthday and two years ago President Obama declared that date to be Cesar Chávez Day. The point is clear, however–Google had a choice, Cesar Chávez or Jesus Christ. Their response? OK, we’ll honor Cesar. After all, he means so much to Western civilization.

The other part of this controversy, however, is the way some are downplaying it, calling it “silly” and “much adoodle about nothing.” In other words, commenting or complaining about a business like Google ignoring the holiday that marks the singular most important event in Christianity is simply not newsworthy.

Of course, Google isn’t the only entity that ignored Easter. CalTrans, the road maintenance organization here in California, was busy at work Sunday morning on at least one freeway. I don’t recall any businesses posting “Closed for Easter” signs either, so perhaps the criticism aimed at Google is not silly but misguided. It’s all of Western civilization that is leaving Easter behind.

Is it such a bad thing to strip away non-religious Easter traditions? Was Bing more respectful to Christians for including Easter eggs on their site? I have to say, no, I don’t think so. They were more respectful to Easter tradition, to Western culture, however.

As the world has become smaller, those of us in the West have learned that the East also has a rich heritage and has made significant contributions to Humankind. We’re learning to appreciate different ways of looking at the world. However, some take this learning and appreciation a step farther and denigrate that which has formed the West.

I’ve heard, for example, slams against the “Greek mind” and against Aristotle. Too linear, the accusation is. The Eastern mind understands time to be cyclical, as we see all of life to be. Look, for example, at the water cycle or the life of a plant.

Individualism is bad too, according to a recent radio commentary. Especially here in the US we have prided ourselves on being individuals, but we live in a world of community. We need fewer Lone Rangers and more group hugs.

The ironic thing is that Christianity isn’t actually a Western religion. It’s roots, of course, are Semitic. While the New Testament of the Bible was originally written in Greek, the Old Testament was written in Hebrew or Aramaic. Then, too, Christians celebrated Easter all over the world, not just in enclaves in the West.

And community is practically a Christian’s middle name. In fact Christianity provides a beautiful marriage of individualism and community. God gives each Christian a special gift, and then instructs us to “employ it in serving one another” (1 Peter 4:10).

In short, if it’s possible to wrap this weighty subject up in a sentence or two, when the West ignores Christ, we’re not expanding our worldview or becoming more cosmopolitan. We’re actually taking a step backward and denying the most unifying Power and Person imaginable. God Himself said He loves the world, not the West or the East, not Africa or North America. He loves the world. He gave His followers the commission to make disciples, not just at home but in the farthest recesses of the world.

Why else have Christians from any number of nations gone to far-away places to live and work and preach the good news? It’s not to claim that one culture is better than another. It’s to bring into the family of God people from every tribe and tongue and nation scattered throughout the world. Yes, family. I have brothers and sisters in all kinds of places, some who risked their lives to celebrate Easter.

Ironic, I think, that Western civilization seems intent on divorcing itself from the philosophical and spiritual underpinnings that influenced our worldview, while people all over the East are embracing those same truths.

Published in: on April 2, 2013 at 7:00 pm  Comments (7)  
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He Is Alive


The_Empty_Tomb004Sunday we’ll celebrate Easter. Those adventurous enough to awake in the waning hours of night and find their way to a Sunrise service actually commemorate the moment of discovery.

Grieving women, determined to provide Jesus with a proper burial, made their way to the tomb where they’d seen His body laid. They brought with them the necessary spices to preserve His corpse, but the tomb had been closed with a stone too big for them to maneuver.

According to Mark’s account this difficulty hadn’t dawned on them before they set out. Otherwise they could have asked a couple of the disciples to accompany them. Interestingly, they didn’t decide to turn back once they realized they couldn’t get into the tomb with that boulder blocking the entrance. Perhaps they kept going instead of searching for a few strong men because they knew a Roman guard had been stationed there. Were they hoping to find mercy from their persecutors?

No telling what kept them going, but their persistence paid off. When they got to the tomb, the stone was already rolled aside. That’s when they first heard the truth: Jesus isn’t in the tomb because He’s alive. Not, mysteriously missing. Alive!

While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men suddenly stood near them in dazzling clothing; and as the women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living One among the dead? He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.” (Luke 24:4-7)

I love this announcement. It carries a subtle rebuke–as if the angels are saying, Hel-lo! Weren’t you paying attention? He told you He’d be out of here in three days. And you’re still looking for Him in this tomb? Why? Why would you do that?

I can only imagine the confusion those women felt. The shock at not finding His body, the questioning–yes they remembered His words; could it be true? Had He meant literally “rise from the dead”? The flicker of hope fanning ever brighter. And at last they went to report what they’d seen to the disciples.

Two at least, Peter and John, went to see for themselves. But seeing, they still didn’t totally get it. They recognized that the women had told the truth–the tomb was open and there was no body, even though the grave wrappings were still in place. It was as if His body had evaporated. Today we might think it looked as if His body had been transported elsewhere, leaving the grave wrappings undisturbed.

All they knew was that there was no explanation–apart from the one Jesus had given them repeatedly and with increased frequency: He had risen from the dead. He was alive.

The Living Christ makes Christianity unique among all other religions. And wonderfully, the Bible tells us His resurrection is emblematic of our own resurrection to new life: “and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead” (Col. 1:18b).

Paul clarified this in his first letter to the church in Corinth. Apparently some people were teaching that there was no resurrection. Paul said Christ’s resurrection proved this to be false:

20 But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. 21 For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming (1 Cor. 15:20-23)

So, yes, come Easter morning, celebrate because Jesus has risen; He has risen indeed! He is alive!

Published in: on March 29, 2013 at 6:56 pm  Comments (1)  
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I’m Not A Big Fan Of Easter


I know, I know. That’s a terrible admission for a Christian, but it’s true.

I grew up in the “new Easter dress” era. Money was tight in our household, so a new dress was somewhat of an ordeal. Sometimes Mom made each of us girls a dress, but she, not loving the seamstress role, required what seemed like an inordinate number of disruptions to my play time for measurements and fittings.

Then there were the Easter egg hunts, some with little kids, making me feel like a big kid out of water. And honestly, the whole thing of hiding an egg just to see people search for it seemed a little silly. I’d have tolerated it better if I actually liked cold hard-boiled eggs.

The few times we decorated eggs was fun, but then we were left with a whole basket of those cold hard-boiled eggs. As if colored shells and stickers all over could make them taste any better!

When I grew up and became a teacher, I shucked Easter eggs and the new-dress tradition, but the holiday was still more of a trial than a joy. For one thing, all too often Easter marked the end of Easter break and a return to school.

For another, church was packed with a lot of people who didn’t usually attend, and the sermon was almost always geared toward them. That was fine, important, even, but it didn’t leave me feeling like Easter was really for me.

In the end the day simply did not typify what I believed it was supposed to — liberation, restoration, animation.

Liberation — the grave clothes and the grave itself could not contain Christ. So too, guilt and sin, the law and death can no longer enslave the believer.

Jesus left the tomb empty

Restoration — on that first Easter after dying, after lying in the tomb, Christ rejoined His disciples. Imagine! And because He walked from the grave, He made it possible for me to join His family, united with Him, reconciled to God.

Animation — Christ’s lifeless body by a miraculous transformation became a glorious new body, more fully alive than ever. In the same way we believers who were dead in our sins are now alive to God.

I’ve discovered lots of great music celebrating Easter. Keith Green’s “Easter Song” is one piece that captures triumph and joy. I mean really, nothing should temper the hilarity of Resurrection Day.

Christ’s resurrection is proof that we believers will one day be raised incorruptible just as He was. Christ’s resurrection is the verification that death is a defeated enemy. Christ’s resurrection is the evidence that Jesus isn’t just another little god establishing a religious system.

Rather, He is the Lord God Almighty, the great I Am, the Living Water, the Bread of Life. None of those could be true unless He actually walked out of the tomb.

I think Paul encapsulates the significance of the resurrection:

I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
– Phil. 3:8-11 [emphasis mine]

But the truth of these verses isn’t really a one-day sort of truth, so I’m kind of back where I started. I’m not really a big fan of Easter — unless Easter is something we celebrate a lot more often than one day a year.

Published in: on April 22, 2011 at 5:35 pm  Comments (9)  
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