Maybe It’s Not About Food

Have you ever watched a movie, or read a book where what you thought the movie was about turned out to be nothing at all what it was truly about? Happens to me with the best of reads and flicks. I think good authors and directors design it that way. The writer of Hebrews sort of does that with this “paragraph” of text.

In the the last entry, I covered the consistency statement about Jesus sandwiched between trusting leaders to avoid false teaching. But, what the writer does with the “false teaching” reference is actually surprising. It turns out it’s not actually about food:

Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings; for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, through which those who were so occupied were not benefited. We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat. For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy place by the high priest as an offering for sin, are burned outside the camp. Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate. So, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach. For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come.

Hebrews 13:9-14 (NASB)

So, we start with the reference to teaching about food, and end up looking at Jesus in heaven. On the way, we leave Jerusalem and view the crucifixion. Yeah, it’s a weird journey when you think about it. From food laws through crucifixion to heaven…wait, that sounds vaguely familiar. Do you see it?

In this letter to Hebrews, one of the “elements” claimed to be missing is any reference to Communion. Yet, if you go back and read those last sentences of the passage above again, do you see it? It’s the path of Jesus from the upper room to His ascension. In common application of communion, that’s what the Lord’s Supper refers to as well (Luke 22:14-20, Mark 14:22-45, Matt. 26:26-29).

But, of course, the path chosen by Nicodemus, has to pass through Exodus, in a sense. The writer uses a reference to the sin offering, the type of offering which in English translations is often “whole burnt offering”. In this type of sacrifice, nothing is eaten, there is no portion for the priests, and all of it is consumed by fire. The problem is that, when it’s an ox or bull, that’s a lot of animal to burn up. So, it’s divided up, with specific parts of the organs burnt on the altar, and the rest taken outside of the camp and burned.

What the author does here is point out how Jesus was crucified outside Jerusalem. Remember that he is trying to encourage his audience to endure rejection from their fellow Jews rather than give in, and compromise their faith in Jesus as the Jewish Messiah. Here, he calls them to go outside the camp.

For us, this is like calling us to reject “science”, or “philosophy”, of the learned and schooled, the wisdom of this world. It’s challenging us to endure the smirks, the eyerolls, the sighs of the ones who have “done the math”. For this world, to believe that there is a Creator, that this Creator loves His human creatures, and that He is our Savior through the historical figure of Jesus is ludicrous. To go further and claim deity for Jesus is simply irrational. And yet, it’s true.

The writer of Hebrews calls on his audience to go “outside” and join Jesus, because the view from “outside the camp” is a view of the heavenly city. What we are seeking we will never find among the “accepted” of this world. We, like the host of witnesses who have gone before, seek a city not made with human hands. We seek to pass through the Holy Place, through the thick curtain, and enter the Most Holy Place, there to find Jesus on the throne interceding on our behalf with the Father.

So, it’s not about food, not really. It’s the transition from food (the upper room) to the cross (the sin offering burned outside the camp), and then to the foot of the throne in heaven. One day, the cup of communion will be shared with our Savior once again, when we “drink it new in the Kingdom of God”.

The writer looks forward, and the path he takes is the path of communion. The elements are there, flesh and blood. The crucifixion is in sight, and also the scene in heaven. The call is to leave the comfort of acceptance by the world, and go outside, to the reproach of the Anointed One. Rather than be carried away by pointless rules, carry the reproach of our Savior.

I suppose this is a call for volunteers to be the “village idiot”. Or, it’s a call to follow Pilgrim away from his family and village, to the Celestial City. It’s likely both.

What’s your view through the knothole this morning?

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation


Passion Week XXXIII

It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour, because the sun was obscured; and the veil of the temple was torn in two.  And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, “Father, INTO YOUR HANDS I COMMIT MY SPIRIT.” Having said this, He breathed His last. (Luke 23:44-46 NASB)

One of places all of the accounts of Jesus’ crucifixion seem to agree is the timing.  Except for John, who leaves the timing out completely, all the Gospel accounts seem to agree on the timing based on the darkness that covered the earth.  From the sixth hour until the ninth, darkness fell over the earth.  Only Luke, of the three, attributes this darkness to an eclipse.  He actually uses the technical term for it of his day.

A solar eclipse occurred as Jesus hung bleeding on the cross.  There have been many things written on the significance of this.  The position I have taken has been that Jesus had to suffer death in the form of separation from God as the penalty for sin for all mankind.  But I have also believed that this happened when He breathed His last, and lasted for the three days He was in the tomb.  Now, I’m not so sure about that timing.

What does the darkness mean?  Considering that the Creator of the universe set that date and time in place as He created the universe, as it was marked by an eclipse, the timing must be important.  Jesus lives through it, and breathes His last on the other side.  Or does He?  Luke says that the veil of the temple was torn, then Jesus cries out, committing His Spirit to the Father, then dies.  The other Gospels include only one other detail, Jesus asking why He has been forsaken.  Other than that, they agree, which presents an interesting option for timing.

It’s possible that Jesus breathes His last, and then the eclipse concludes, revealing the sun once more.  Consider the dramatic conclusion to this life, that, as He breathes out, the sun slides from behind the moon to illuminate his Creator’s body suspended in death upon a cross.  Why the sun now of all times?  Why not the darkness from that point?  But the  image translates what was considered a defeat into the illumination of a victory.  Jesus says Himself, “It is finished.”  And so the sun can, once more, reappear to reveal the body of his Creator.  Only now, that body is all that’s left…for now.

So, while Jesus hung for those three hours of darkness, what was happening?  At the end of them, Jesus cries out asking why He has been forsaken, and the temple veil is torn from top to bottom.  He commits His Spirit into the hands of the Father, and dies.  Although, I believe that, even though He breathed His last at the ninth hour, Jesus dies at the sixth.

What is the penalty of sin?  According to Romans 6:23, sin earns death.  According to Isaiah 59:2, our iniquities have caused a separation between us and God, and He hides His face from us, and does not hear.  In the Garden, God tells Adam that the very day he eats from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil he will certainly die.  Yet, the day they ate of the tree, Adam and Eve are banished from the Garden, and have children.  Did the “wages” change?  It could be important that the banishment from the Garden is the last recorded communication between Adam and God.

The impression left from this cursory examination of sin may redefine death.  Jesus, in order to pay this penalty for sin, would need to suffer that separation from God.  God would have to hide His face and not hear Jesus.  And this would be in keeping with God’s definition of death.  The problem of Jesus’ deity aside, the payment remains the same.  Just as the Trinity, the triune nature of God, is inexplicable, so too would be how Jesus could pay this debt.  Regardless of how, He did.  And so, I believe He did so, and as He does so, the sun is hidden behind the moon.

I believe Jesus dies in the sixth hour, is separated from the Father for three hours, and then breathes His last.  And is then joined by the criminal in paradise?  So it would seem.  Wouldn’t it be supremely ironic if, as Jesus breathes His last, He lives again?  The sun reappears.  For those at the cross who witness Jesus’ last breath, it’s over, and He dies.  But for the Father, that isn’t necessarily so.  The reunion of Spirit and body hasn’t happened yet, but does Jesus’ connection with the Father resume when He breathes His last and the sun reappears?  Or is the sun’s reemergence a promise of the hope to be revealed in three days?  Does the Father foreshadow Sunday on Friday?  I’m not sure.  But that day Jesus stands with a redeemed criminal in paradise.

What’s your view of Jesus through your knothole?

Passion Week XXXII

One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!”  But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?  And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.”  And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!”  And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:39-43 NASB)

One of the most poignant accounts of the crucifixion is the repentant thief on the cross.  But the thief is also one of the strangest characters in the Gospel account as well.  Keep in mind that we no nothing of why either criminal is being crucified, nor any other information about them.  Only Luke has this account of the repentant criminal.

The crucifixion crowd seems to be focusing their abuse on Jesus.  The chief priests are in attendance challenging Him to come down since He’s the “chosen one”.  The people claim He’s saved others but cannot save Himself.  The soldiers mock Him, now that they’ve finished divvying up His clothes.  And now one of the criminals joins in the mocking, “save Yourself, and us.”  Matthew and Mark mention the abuse Jesus receives from the criminals as well (Matt. 27:44, Mark 15:32), but they say both criminals abused Jesus.

In Luke only we have this lone criminal who, apart from everyone else, seems to actually understand what Jesus is doing.  Imagine the scene, crowds watching the tortuous death of three men, hear the shouted insults, taunts, the soldiers mocking, and the mocking criminal.  Then, the other criminal calls to the other, “Do you not even fear God?”  He continues by confessing that they belong there but Jesus does not.  This is a sharp deviation from the rest of the scene.

The criminal calling out his fellow and confessing his sin, then turns his attention to Jesus, and he says one of the most startling things in Scripture, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your Kingdom.”  To really get how strange this is, keep imagining the scene.  The painful death, the jeering crowds and soldiers all point to the immanent death of this same Jesus.  And the criminal says, “…when You come into Your Kingdom.”  How does this guy know the Kingdom follows after the cross?  Not even Jesus’ disciples seemed to know that.

The theological genius hanging on his own cross next to Jesus knows that there is more to follow this horrific death.  But He also knows to ask to be a part of it.  No one else asked for that.  The crowds, the soldiers, the priests, they all jeer the Savior.  But this guy wants in Jesus’ Kingdom.  This guy, probably as beaten and shredded as Jesus, doesn’t see the death of hope or of a problematic teacher.  He sees one in Whom he hopes anyway, regardless of the impending death, in spite of the jeers and derision he hears.  Who does that?

And Jesus replies even here, to this confession of faith, with a promise of paradise.  Up to this point, that term hasn’t been used by Jesus.  He’s used other terms for heaven, including “heaven”.  And there are various teachings or understandings about this term, both from rabbinic teaching and early church fathers.  Whatever it means technically, this criminal will be there with Jesus before the day is out.  That much is certain.

I learn some really important lessons here.  This criminal repented from his mindset to Jesus’ mindset at some point along the way.  Defending Jesus, confessing his own just death sentence, he then seeks to be accepted by Jesus Himself.  And, of course, he is accepted.  Can I, at the darkest point of my life, when the horrible end is obvious, and hope is really gone; can I, then, believe in Jesus’ Kingdom?  Let’s say it’s not actually that bad.  Can I, then, believe in Jesus’ Kingdom?

These are fairly meaningless contingencies for me.  I’m already in the Kingdom.  The real lesson for me is how I behave toward those seeking entrance.  Because people in those contingencies aren’t pretty, they aren’t typically “nice”, and they don’t “behave”.  Life, for them, is scarce and hard.  So, if they seek entrance, “Jesus, remember me…” then the plan is how to respond.

It doesn’t seem very wise, but Jesus makes His disciples “gatekeepers” of His Kingdom.  If it weren’t for the fact we’re kind of stupid, we’d be a fine choice.  Yet, in spite of our foolishness, Jesus uses us in this way.  And those outside seeking to enter see the fools at the gate.  And the challenge is to seek to be included among the fools, or seek another kingdom.  The criminal sees the impossibility of what was happening, and sought to be included in the foolishness.  Why not, he’s about to die anyway.  What does he have to lose?  Those closest to Jesus left Him.  The ones you would expect to be there seeking entrance to the Kingdom are hiding or looking on from a distance.  It’s the guy being tortured to death with Jesus who fearlessly asks for entrance.

So here’s to the fellow fools at the gate.  Doff the funny hat as the riffraff enter our Master’s Kingdom.  Smile and welcome them into the life of misfits where the fools are wise, and the wise foolish.  Welcome to the happy village of idiots.

What’s your view through your knothole this morning?

Passion Week XXXI

When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left.  But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves.  And the people stood by, looking on. And even the rulers were sneering at Him, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if this is the Christ of God, His Chosen One.”  The soldiers also mocked Him, coming up to Him, offering Him sour wine, and saying, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself!”  Now there was also an inscription above Him, “THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.”  (Luke 23:33-38 NASB)

All of the Gospels compress details about the crucifixion.  To understand what was meant by the term, crucifixion, the execution techniques of the Romans would need to be studied.  The point of the writers is not in the details of what Jesus suffers, but how He suffers.  The general approach, He was crucified, He was mocked, His clothes were divided among His executioners, all provide a picture of how He suffers.  He forgives.  Even as He is being tortured, He forgives.

Luke, with the other writers preserves the irony of the mocking, that He saved others, but now can’t save Himself.  The reality that Jesus is dying to save the whole of humanity draws these comments from the ignorant people He’s dying to save.  He suffers that too.  He is suffering to save them, the ones mocking Him.  And, in their mocking, dare Him to come down off the cross, an action that would have prevented their salvation.

The Romans put signs above those being executed listing their crimes.  This was to be a deterrent to others who would commit the same crimes.  Above Jesus’ head was “The King of the Jews”.  It was in Aramaic, Latin, and Greek.  No one visiting for the festival could miss it.  There, at the Passover, the pilgrims would know their King was being executed.  And He was being executed because His people rejected Him.  The Romans couldn’t care less, Jesus was just one less member of an unruly troublesome people.  And so, they joined in the mocking of the condemned, the One dying for their sins.

The soldiers at the foot of the cross, the crowd witnessing the torture of the Son of Man, the ones looking on either close or from afar, it was for these Jesus dies.  It was for the ones before He suffered.  It was for us He was tortured to death.  And still the world mocks.  Where, among the crowds, are we?  Weeping from a distance?  Standing near enough to hear in shock?  Or are we hiding our faces from what is happening?  Are we in a room in Jerusalem as Jesus hangs on a cross, atop a skull, outside the walls?

Where are you?  I’m weeping, but that’s what I do, I weep in His presence.  It’s how I know I’m there.

Passion Week XXIX

When they led Him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, coming in from the country, and placed on him the cross to carry behind Jesus. (Luke 23:26 NASB)

A man in Jerusalem for the Passover is swept into the drama of the salvation of the world.  Three Gospels mention Simon of Cyrene, and Mark says he was the father of Rufus and Alexander.  There is familiarity with this man and his sons in the Jerusalem church after the crucifixion.  Witnessing what took place made such a mark on this man that he became part of this movement started by Jesus.  It seems that he did and what he saw made a mark that kept him from returning to Cyrene.

The person who becomes known as the one who carried the cross for Jesus would become someone of importance to the church.  He lived out a part of the story that was missing for them.  But he also was pressed into living out the lessons of Jesus, to bear one another’s burdens.  He rendered a service to Jesus for which every disciple probably envied him, Peter most of all.  He may not have done it willingly, but he did it, and it put him right in the event of Jesus’ death.  For all we know he may have supplied the details of the mocking, Jesus’ forgiveness of the people, and the repentance of the one criminal and the centurion.

What I learn from Simon of Cyrene is that I too may be “pressed” into service for my Master.  I’m supposed to be doing it anyway, so that’s not a huge thing.  Probably more importantly is that others without a relationship to Jesus may also be pressed into service.  Will what they witness bring them closer to the Son of God, their Savior?  And how can I help foster that drawing near to Jesus?

In the movie, “God’s Not Dead 2”, a court-appointed attorney, an atheist/agnostic, is required to represent the defendant in a First-Amendment Rights trial.  In the process, he is confronted with some facts that astonish him.  As it nears the end, his assumptions are challenged, and he is faced with making a choice about his belief, either against or in Jesus.  While this depiction is both fictional and dramatic, that it happens to some degree or another is actually probable.

Two of the witnesses in the fictional trial were believers who had been atheists, but came to faith in their examination of the evidence of Jesus.  They were attempting to disprove Jesus’ story, and in the end became believers.  Those stories are true, the people played themselves.  One was Lee Strobel, the author of “The Case for Christ”, and the other was J Warner Wallace, the author of “Cold Case Christianity”.  So, it does happen.  Some who are swept into the story of Jesus come out the other side believers and contributors to His story.  I’m already in it, and have been.  So, how can I help those unbelieving, unsuspecting participants find the truth about Jesus?

Simon witnessed the death of Jesus, participated in part of it, and became part of His following because of what he saw.  How can I contribute to the journey of others as they are swept into “church”, into contact with other believers, even just struggling with the existence of an “annoying worship” (i.e. too loud, can be heard across the street).  I can either help or hinder that journey among the people of God, and within His story of salvation.

That’s my “oblique” view through this knothole this morning.  What does yours look like?

Passion Week XVIII

Then came the first day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed.  And Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, so that we may eat it.”  They said to Him, “Where do You want us to prepare it?”  And He said to them, “When you have entered the city, a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him into the house that he enters.  And you shall say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, “Where is the guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?”‘  And he will show you a large, furnished upper room; prepare it there.”  And they left and found everything just as He had told them; and they prepared the Passover.  (Luke 22:7-13 NASB)

While tempting, I’m not going to delve into the timing of the Last Supper of Jesus.  There’s lots of debates, and I tend to favor John’s timing which appears to differ with the other three writers, and there I stop…this morning.  Instead I want to again visit the use of knowing everyone and everything that Jesus has.  Back in Luke 19:28-35, Jesus just knows where a certain colt would be tied, to whom it belonged, and that it would be agreeable to them for Him to use it.  He already knew that.  Lots of possible explanations exist, but none are given.  We’re left with no natural explanation leaving the spiritual explanations (i.e. Jesus’ deity) open for application.

We are confronted with the humanity of Jesus throughout the four Gospels, and yet, in each, we also glimpse the divinity.  I think this is too important to miss, that Jesus exemplifies both qualities simultaneously.  Because Jesus knows what’s coming in an intimate and very personal way we can’t imagine or experience ourselves.  He is at once aware of the present, but also of the past and future (too an extent – He says He doesn’t know when He will return).  He knows the house, and the people in it where they will celebrate His last Passover.

The point I’m trying to bring out here is the tendency that perhaps I’m alone in, where I only think of Jesus in one way.  Either I don’t allow for His humanity (physical weaknesses) or I don’t allow for His deity (co-existence with God in human form).  And yet these simultaneous realities are absolutely necessary for what’s about to happen.  The practical application for me is that Jesus already knows what I’m going to face today, so I don’t have to worry.  On the other hand, the duality of Jesus where we have the Trinity located together in a physical body, at least in a sense, will define the crucifixion and resurrection.  It’s that power of the resurrection that enables me to face this day and glorify Him.  It’s all connected, the strange theological construct to help understand Jesus and what I do today.  I can’t divorce them from each other thinking one is “spiritual” and one is “physical”.  That’s the ridiculous thinking Paul addresses in several letters to churches.

So, that Jesus knows about a guy with a pitcher, a house, and that the household manager has an available room is important.  However He knew that, spiritual or natural, He knew.  Just as He knew Judas would betray Him, just as He knew Peter would deny Him, just as He knew the disciples would scatter, just as He knew He would rise up afterwards.  He knew, going in, He knew.  That the extreme physical torture wasn’t a surprise should really give us pause.  How many of us would voluntarily go there?  That the excruciating death of crucifixion was coming after the other torture should shock us.  And in John we’re told Jesus goes willingly, almost dragging the guards along behind Him so driven to this experience is our Savior.  In John, no one wants this more than Jesus.  And just as He knew about a guy with a jar of water entering Jerusalem, so He knew about the scourge and the nails and the suffocation to come.  Are you weeing yet?  This stuff destroys me.

What’s your view through the fence this morning?  It’s just a guy with a water jar, but what does it mean to you?


What Does Jesus Think?

But He warned them and instructed them not to tell this to anyone, saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and be raised up on the third day.” And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.  For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?  For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”  (Luke 9:21-26 NASB)

Luke makes some modifications to his account here.  In Matthew and Mark, Peter rebukes Jesus for saying He will be killed by the religious leaders; then Jesus rebukes him right back.  Luke leaves that out.  Then Luke adds in the “daily” element to Jesus’ challenge to pick up a cross and follow Him.  In Matthew and Mark this is missing, the challenge is to follow Jesus literally to His crucifixion.  All three have the familiar saying that the one saving his life loses it, and the one giving up his life for Jesus saves it.

None of the Gospels have any of the disciples following Jesus into death.  They all, but John, are executed afterwards at some point (John was too tough, he survived his execution).  It’s possible that Luke adds the “daily” element because of this.  Buy why leave out Peter’s rebuke?  Luke doesn’t leave a memo about that.  But regardless of whether Peter’s and Jesus’ rebuke-fest is in there or not, the challenge to follow Jesus with a cross is real enough.

What constitutes a “cross” is a constant debate.  What is really clear though is Jesus’ negative, unbalanced comment about Jesus being ashamed of those ashamed of Him.  So if we’re ashamed of Jesus here, He’ll be ashamed of us in heaven.  Think about that.  That concerns me deeply.  Why don’t I tell everyone about Jesus all the time?  Am I ashamed?  Because if that’s why, then I don’t have to wonder about what Jesus thinks, it’s pretty clearly spelled out here.  I think it’s very interesting that we debate the “cross” we’re to carry, but few debate what it means to live ashamed of Jesus here.  I’m really hoping the Christian-themed tee-shirts I wear count toward being unashamed.  Otherwise I’m possibly in real trouble.

I believe that our preoccupation with what Jesus means by “cross” here and the absence of what it means to be unashamed here are symptoms of our self-focused culture.  One is about us (what is my cross to bear?), and the other is about Jesus (what does Jesus think?).  The view through my knothole is that Jesus considers the cross to be the same as being unashamed.  It’s the attitude absent of shame that brings the ire of the world down upon us.  They hate and try to kill us when we’re obviously for Jesus.  Jesus is counter to every culture, so in every culture, being unashamed of Jesus brings dangerous attention.  It’s one of the ways we know we’re on the right track (but not the only or best way).  But it’s always the most uncomfortable way, so clearly not the American way.

Today, I will seek to be uncomfortably obvious in my devotion to Jesus.  I hope I don’t get fired.  What’s your view through the knothole?

Last Words of a Theological Genius

One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!”  But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?  “And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.”  And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!”  And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”  (Luke 23:39-43 NASB)

When this passage is discussed, it seems most of the conversation has to do with whether or not Jesus and the thief really went to heaven that day.  Seriously?  With a ridiculous understanding of the views of afterlife in that day, this really wouldn’t be a problem.  But I can’t find anyone asking how the thief knew that Jesus’ “Kingdom” came after the cross?

There are a lot of assumptions in the thief’s request.  First, that Jesus was a King, because His circumstances didn’t really bear that out.  Second, that Jesus’ Kingdom lay beyond the cross.  Jesus had told His disciples that, but how did this guy know?  And even the disciples He told didn’t get it, yet this thief, without having been told, gets it.

Perhaps, again, a basic understanding of what people believed about afterlife in that day would help.  But think about this, how was the word, “kingdom” used for Jesus throughout all of the Gospels?  Remember that those reading/hearing this live outside of Palestine.  So, what would they have thought from the word choice of Luke?  Would they have thought of Jesus going to “heaven”?

What I don’t have right now is access to apostolic fathers’ writings on this passage.  I’d like to know what they thought of it.  Chances are good that in the process of just trying to survive and combat the various heresies of their day, this issue didn’t really come up.  So, I’m not sure this would be found.

The reason I found this so fascinating is because this thief seemed to know so much, yet made such serious mistakes, and was then able to be redeemed.  Think about that. You may not, but I often really struggle with shame in knowing but not doing the good I know to do.  It’s not that I’m brilliant and others aren’t.  It’s more that I’m a total idiot because I refuse to let the deeper meaning of what little I do know have the affect on my behavior that it should.

I see in this character the genius to connect dots beyond what he could see in front of him, and conclude that this dying Religious Rebel wasn’t done.  How did he do that?  And beyond that, how, knowing that this man knowingly committed such crimes, could Jesus permit him access?  I know who Jesus is, and yet I make choices that contradict what I know.  I live as if Jesus is not my Lord and Savior and Master and Creator.  How then can this Jesus accept me?  How can this Holy One of Israel permit me to spend time with Him, even invite me into His presence?  That’s what’s crazy.  Not that the thief knew who Jesus was, that’s merely amazing.  That this thief, knowing, sinning, and having asked, is then accepted by Jesus is what is so crazy.

Can grace really be that vast?

What’s your view through the knothole?

(By the way, if you want my view of whether or not the thief and Jesus really went to “paradise” ask in and comment, and I’ll comment my answer – but you won’t really like my answer.  It’s too simple.)

But Before Being Dismissed…

And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him.  And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. (Luke 2:25, 26 NASB)

Simeon is an anomaly in this account.  He’s somewhat like John the Baptist, somewhat like Zachariah John’s father, and somewhat like a respectable old man.  He does stuff by the prompting of the Holy Spirit, which means, in his day, he’s really weird and unpredictable.  On the other hand, he loves his people, and he loves his God.  He’s probably one of the most upbeat people in the temple any time he’s there; and that’s with the people suffering under Roman rule and the religious leaders being ridiculously unrighteous.

Continue reading “But Before Being Dismissed…”