This is the twentieth day of our reading through the New Testament, taking us from Luke 10 through Luke 12.
And at this point, I’ve read enough. I am now convicted in a way I’ve never been before.
God is speaking something into my life. And I’m pretty sure it’s leading me somewhere. God just hasn’t shared the “where” with me yet. Here’s why.
We are not at all in line with the teachings of Jesus. And when I say “we,” I’m including myself, by the way. I’m growing incredibly weary of how we idolize a religious system to protect ourselves. There is nothing in the life of Jesus that even alludes to this sort of faith. And, if I’m being honest, it’s beginning to sicken me.
Because in Matthew (the kingdom gospel), Mark (the hero gospel), and Luke (the biography gospel), I’ve found a new Jesus, a Jesus I never really knew before. A Jesus so focused, so compassionate, so angry, that he has little time to be still.
This Jesus has little patience for those who would rather teach the nuances and embellishment of scripture. Yet he loved and respected those who wanted an experience — an authentic, spirit-filled experience — with God.
Fishermen, tax collectors, political zealots, women, the diseased, soldiers. This was the stock of his kingdom.
Not preachers. Not seminary students. Not guys who could translate all the original languages. Not the successful. Not the wealthy. Not the entrepreneurs.
Seriously. He didn’t really seem to trust people like that. If he did, he would’ve called those kinds of guys to a three-year time of intense discipleship.
I was at a Christian concert event recently. Lots of bands played. Interspersed in the music was a pastor. He wore skinny jeans, kept his feet together when he talked, and looked like he couldn’t believe God was calling him to this moment, in front of thousands of people who wished the worship bands at their churches were as awesome as what they were hearing. He moved, on stage, kinda like a cheerleader. Scripted movements. Sharp head turns. At least that’s how I remember him.
The message he brought was good. Typical, but good. And I’m certainly in no place to judge his heart, and won’t. But he did something in the speaking time that unnerved me. And still does. And, even as I confess this to you, I’m not even sure I should.
He would yell this phrase, especially when he believed the crowd of thousands needed any more adrenaline:
“Give it up for Jeeeeeeeeeeeeesssssssssssuuuuuuuuuuuussssssssssss!”
And, of course, the crowd went wild.
He did that at least five times. Maybe more.
Okay. That probably isn’t a major deal. Our world constantly criticizes and convicts those of us who are believers. So to be in a large arena, with thousands of believers, it’s probably nice to give it up for Jesus every once in a while.
But I thought this: are we really ready to give it up for Jesus? Really?
And, by giving it up for Jesus, I don’t really mean the kind of “giving-it-up” that is done by screaming at the top of our lungs and swaying the glow-bracelets back and forth in the dark arena.
I mean, Jesus, the living Word of God, walking in the midst of humanity, may be an obvious miracle to us, but to God, it’s really no big deal. I mean, he is God, after all. And, of course, he can do anything he wants.
So is there really a good way to give it up for him? And how do we do that, exactly? By screaming? And then by spilling our Coke on our feet because we just can’t contain ourselves?
I was a bit appalled. I really was. Sickened may be too strong of a word. But appalled is certainly a contender.
Because Jesus was just a commodity that night. He was just something that would sell more merch, more tickets, and more songs on iTunes.
I didn’t give it up for that Jesus.
The other Jesus, though, the one I’m following in the gospels through these twenty days has my head spinning. I can’t quit thinking about his compassion. His mercy. His anger. His words. His healings. His power.
I can’t quit thinking of the boundaries he’s crossing, of the scandalous conversations he’s having.
And I can’t stop thinking about how obviously far our path has taken us from this very Jesus.
When we get to Luke 11 and Luke 12, then, we see all these crisis moments. It’s heavy. And it’s a different path from the Jesus of the first ten chapters. He has proved he will grow a kingdom from the derelicts and outcasts. Now he turns his attention to the current religious system.
He tells a crowd of thousands (Luke 12:1) that they should be on their “guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.”
And before we transfer this sort of teaching onto others, or other religious groups, we better wait. If we idolize any tradition, or transform those traditions into unspoken requirements for membership into our exclusive church clubs, then we are the people Jesus is warning against.
We are the Pharisees.
And any tradition that we uphold makes us just as guilty as they were. So, right now, inventory those little traditions in your church that seem to form some kind of identity for your church.
Wait. I’ll do it for you.
- Bible classes.
- Types of songs.
- Types of music.
- Who can stand on stage and who can’t.
- Translations of bibles.
- How we really expect people to dress when they come to worship.
- Where we should really send our kids to school.
- Get the idea?
So, yes. Wow. In Luke 12, Jesus has a crowd of thousands of people standing in anticipation at his words. And the first thing he says is that anyone who idolizes any tradition is standing in judgment of hypocrisy.
That’s the first thing he says!
This is the Jesus I’m talking about. The Jesus who just isn’t afraid of much at all.
That was a big statement. I did a little outside reading for it, in hopes of framing some of my comments here.
But I was stopped dead in my tracks. What I’m writing now is pouring from my heart like water from a faucet.
I’m bothered. Hurt. Our compassion seems to be lacking. Or, maybe mine does. I don’t know. I think of this Jesus all the time. And I’m not kidding.
And I am bothered that no one else is in this world with me.
People, countless numbers of people, this summer, these last few weeks, are almost offended when I ask them to read these words with me. Yet, they have been quick to talk about drama. Movies. The NBA. They come to life when those passions are mentioned.
This is Jesus! This is the Word! This is life-changing material here!
And yet our heartbeat quickens when we drop $10 for a movie ticket, and $10 for popcorn. We relish fictional moments, at the expense of the own deepening of our faith.
Juvenal, a now infamous Roman poet, observed the same cultural dregs in his time, which was the Roman Empire of 2,000 years ago. Rome was certainly not a God-fearing Empire, and the people in his day weren’t believers, but he was appalled at the apparent lack of life-changing, life-altering decisions from them.
You’ve read these words before, written around 100 AD, but here they are, again:
The people who once bestowed commands, consulships, legions, and all else, now concerns itself no more, and longs eagerly for just two things – bread and circuses!
I think we’ve become incredibly distracted. There are so many residual attractions, that we’ve found gods in lots of places. We have our own “bread and circuses” that are deathly attractive, concerning ourselves with cheap wastes of time.
And, instead of really, really, really involving ourselves in our own sort of “good Samaritan” story, we tire of hearing it – because we’ve heard it so many times. We would rather have Facebook and iPhones.
Honestly. When was the last time that parable really moved your heart?
So, I’ve found myself at the mid-point of this gospel in a complete state of awe. Not so much at the majesty of God. That hasn’t really changed. Every day, before God, I feel smaller than the day before.
Rather, I am in awe of how little time we spend honestly searching these words, and how little time we spend really letting them change our lives. After twenty days in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and reading them every day, and reading various perspectives of other authors, I am in awe of their power, and the scandalous, dangerous presence of Jesus.
And I’m tired of Jesus being some commodity, some identity, some cross we wear on our shirt, around our neck, or inked into our skin. Jesus is no identity for us, unless we are willing to come to Jesus with hurt and filth in our lives, and beg for his mercy, and engage in a transformation.
Maybe then we would weep at his feet, or share this transformation with those in our own city.
This is where I am today.
You can read all of the posts from these ninety days here. Thanks for stopping by.