Archive for category Jesus
It’s already been 10 years since the release of The Green Mile (1999). The Stephen King film stars Tom Hanks as a Death row guard and the massively large and mysteriously gifted prisoner named John Coffey played by Michael Clark Duncan. I finally saw it for the first time this weekend at the request of one of my youth group boys who has been powerfully moved by the Christian themes found throughout.
Here’s a general plot summary:
“Paul Edgecomb is a slightly cynical veteran prison guard on Death row in the 1930′s. His faith, and sanity, deteriorated by watching men live and die, Edgecomb is about to have a complete turn around in attitude. Enter John Coffey, He’s eight feet tall. He has hands the size of waffle irons. He’s been accused of the murder of two children… and he’s afraid to sleep in a cell without a night-light. And Edgecomb, as well as the other prison guards – Brutus, a sympathetic guard, and Percy, a stuck up, perverse, and violent person, are in for a strange experience that involves intelligent mice, brutal executions, and the revelation about Coffey’s innocence and his true identity.” Written by Kadi Lynnith
On a basic level this movie presents the difficulty for some to believe in the miraculous. At a much deeper level what comes through very clearly — even to the casual observer — is the obvious similarities between John Coffey and Jesus Christ as depicted especially in the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53. Here are some of the strongest parallels between Christ and Coffey:
- John Coffey is a hated and despised man, rejected and unwanted because of his race, reputation and size. “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Isaiah 53:3).
- John Coffey is a striking blend of power and might clothed with Jesus-like meekness and gentleness. He’s 8 feet tall with barrels for biceps yet afraid of the dark and wouldn’t hurt a fly. “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he leads justice to victory” (Isaiah 42:3).
- He has the ability to see what’s inside people’s hearts. “For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance,but the LORD looks on the heart” (1 Sam 16:7).
- He is characterized by “light” and cannot stand the darkness. “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12); “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). Read the rest of this entry »
[Following the Resurrection] “When the apostles met together with Jesus, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the Kingdom to Israel?” Jesus said to them, “The times and occasions are set by my Father’s own authority, and it is not for you to know when they will be. But when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, you will be filled with power, and you will be witnesses for me in Jerusalem, in all of Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” After saying this, he was taken up to heaven as they watched him, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They still had their eyes fixed on the sky as he went away, when two men dressed in white suddenly stood beside them and said, “Galileans,why are you standing there looking up at the sky? This Jesus, who was taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way that you saw him go to heaven.” Then the apostles went back to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, which is about half a mile away from the city” (Acts 1:6-12).
The cross and resurrection of Christ was the strange and paradoxical way God chose to begin restoring his broken world and advancing his Kingdom of peace, love and hope. In another startling move, God then chose a rag-tag group of nobodies to be the vehicle by which he would spread the message and mission of this Kingdom throughout the entire world. The book of Acts tells the story of the trials and triumphs of this small, persecuted, grassroots Jesus movement as it made its way across the expansive Roman Empire.
Sound exciting? Well it was. The life of the early church looked much different from many of our experiences of the church today. Yet, early on they were faced with three threats that still tend to plague the church today — and they can be identified in the one bold question this angelic man asked the disciples immediately following Jesus’ ascension:
Why are you STANDING there LOOKING up into the SKY?
As Christians today strive to faithfully advance God’s Kingdom on earth we must be vigilant to avoid being a church of STANDERS, LOOKERS, and SKY-GAZERS.
1. STOP STANDING. God has called us to “GO and make disciples of all nations.” In the passage above, they all stood paralyzed, amazed at the power of God as he took Jesus from their sight. They had just asked whether it was the time for God to restore His Kingdom, and Jesus’ indirect answer is often taken to be a “no.” However, I believe Jesus intentionally changed the subject from WHEN to exactly HOW this Kingdom was to come. The disciples all expected a military revolt and overthrow of the Roman imperial forces. Jesus however seems to hint that it will begin to come when God pours out his Spirit on the disciples at Pentecost and they begin spreading a taste of His Kingdom to the ends of the earth. The Book of Acts is not a book of beliefs, doctrines, laws or ethics. It is what it says — a book of “acts.” As we read we are swept up into the wild and adventurous MOVEMENT of the Spirit, and we travel along with Peter and Paul and the rest. The message of the Gospel MOVES thousands of miles from Jerusalem to Rome in only 28 chapters. The church today needs to become once again a people on the move, a forward-marching Kingdom-advancing church who take an active role in spreading God’s love, joy, peace, forgiveness, grace, healing and hope “to the ends of the earth.” There is too much standing around. “Go, therefore, and make disciples…”
2. STOP WATCHING. It is also easy to become a spectator in the church today. In fact, the way we have designed our “services” often encourages a multi-media presentation where the pastors and worship leaders DO everything and the rest of us sit rather passively in the audience observing the service, watching the pastors, receiving a message (i.e., “being fed”) and then leaving. Outside the Sunday service, we can also easily hide in the shadows watching others volunteer for service projects, go on missions trips, teach Sunday School classes, volunteer in the nursery, etc. Many of us generously give money toward the work of the Kingdom so that we can avoid actively getting involved in the nitty-gritty work of Kingdom-building. The mission of the church in and for the world is a truly hands-on project that involves real, messy involvement. We are called to be not only “hearers of the Word, but doers also.” Remember James’ rather pointed reminder: “My friends, what good is it for one of you to say that you have faith if your actions do not prove it? Can that faith save you” (Jam 2:14)? Let us stop watching, and start actively engaging in the work of advancing the Kingdom.
3. STOP SKY-GAZING. Finally, the disciples in this episode were fixated on the sky (“They still had their eyes fixed on the sky” v. 10), as if that was where all the action was to be. Granted, you don’t see a man ascend into the clouds everyday, so we should probably cut them some slack. But 2,000 years later there are entire strands of the church who are still staring into the clouds awaiting rescue. I speak of all escapist, dualistic versions of Christianity where the entire goal of the Gospel is to wait for Jesus to come back and take us up (“rapture”) into some heaven in the sky for all eternity. Many today are realizing the folly in this gnostic-like view, and are again placing their hope in the God of Creation whose desire it is to bring the New Jerusalem down to earth, to “make all things new,” dwell once again with his people (cf. Rev 21:22-25), and finally establish his righteous, restorative reign “on earth as it is in the heavens” (Matt 6:10). We are to partner with the God of Creation and to become wise stewards of his beautiful world that is “groaning for liberation” even now (Rom 8). God is coming — no doubt about that! Yet, as we await our savior from a high, we are to be focusing our eyes on those around us who are filthy with the dirt and grime of this world, and bring God’s love, hope and healing to them. We need to stop staring at the sky, and start bringing a little taste of heaven to those suffering here on earth.
So, as we move away from Resurrection Sunday to business as usual, let us make sure we are not still “standing there looking up at the sky.” Let’s get busy announcing and building the Kingdom!
1. Which of the 3 errors do you personally tend toward? Are you a STANDER, LOOKER, or SKY-GAZER?
2. Which of these 3 postures most accurately describes the American church today?
3. Do these 3 categories help classify the particular weaknesses of various denominations of the Church?
As the OT comes to a close, God’s plan to bring a tone-deaf and clumsy footed people back into the harmonious rhythms of The Father’s Song seems a giant failure. If only these notes on a page could become music in one’s ear. If only someone could learn to play each note perfectly, perhaps the world would be irresistibly drawn to the music and join in the chorus. If only someone could breathe life into the sheet music and make it dance like those dry bones did in Ezekiel’s vision. If only the Word, God’s very wisdom, power and purposes, could become flesh and dwell among us.
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). This shocking statement brings us to the climactic point of “The Father’s Song” survey of the Bible. Read the rest of this entry »
“Now it was the custom at the Festival to release a prisoner whom the people requested. A man called Barabbas was in prison with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the uprising. The crowd came up and asked Pilate to do for them what he usually did.”Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate, knowing it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him. 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead” (Mark 15:16-9).
Remember Barabbas? The crowd cried for his release and sent Jesus to be crucified. Did you know that some of the Greek manuscripts reveal his full name: Yeshua bar Abba which translates roughly to “Jesus son of the Father”? That’s right. If these manuscripts can be trusted then the crowd was choosing between two different sentenced men named “Jesus.”
Many have speculated on the significance of this name. Tony Campolo, in his short book Which Jesus? highlights the key differences between the two men and their missions. Jesus Barabbas was notorious criminal, most likely a political revolutionary or Zealot – “a terrorist” (CEV) – who was fighting on behalf of the Jews to violently overthrow Roman imperialism. He was condemned to be crucified for his revolt against the state. Campolo calls Jesus Barabbas’ way to freedom “the way of power.”
On the other hand we have Yeshua bar Joseph which translates to “Jesus son of Joseph.” Jesus is also arrested under suspicion of being an enemy of the state — not a violent revolutionary but a messianic figure claiming to be the “King of the Jews.” This Jesus’s mission is also to bring freedom to the Jews. Yet, the freedom he is bringing and the kingdom he is restoring to Israel does not come through violent, national militarism. Campolo calls Jesus bar Joseph’s way to freedom “the way of love.”
Two very different Jesuses. Two very different paths to freedom. As we reflect upon the Cross this Good Friday, we do well to ask again the question: Which Jesus do we trust today? Which path do we trust to move the Kingdom of God forward in the world today? Do we believe God is accomplishing his purposes in the world by power and militarism — the way of Jesus Barabbas? Or do we believe God is still accomplishing his greatest works through acts of sacrificial, cross-shaped love — the way of Jesus bar Joseph?
Which Jesus do you follow? Which Jesus do you trust?
“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the POWER of God… For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength”(1 Cor 1:18).
I love Colbert’s satire. There’s always such a sharp dose of truth hidden beneath all the jokes. Enjoy!
[Click on image to watch video]
The disciples wanted a kingdom without a cross. Many would-be “orthodox” or “conservative” Christians in our world have wanted a cross without a kingdom, an abstract “atonement” that would have nothing to do with this world except to provide the means of escaping it. Many too have wanted a “divine” Jesus as a kind of “superman” figure, a heavenly hero come to rescue them, but not to act as Israel’s Messiah, establishing God’s Kingdom on earth as in heaven. Jesus’ shocking combination of scriptural models into a single vocation makes excellent historical sense; that is, it explains at a stroke why he did and said what he did and said. But, as we shall see, it remains as challenging in our world, and indeed in our churches, as it was in Jesus’ own day.
-From Simply Jesus, pp. 173-4
“I find an increasing number of young Christians are willing to say “enough is enough” when it comes to militarism, to military budgets, and to embracing a peace orientation toward how Christians are to live in a world of international conflicts. Ronald Sider (Christ and Violence) and John Howard Yoder (The Politics of Jesus ) have been powerful witnesses to pushing more Christians to ask not what is best for our power but how did Jesus embody the way of God — he did so through a cross that led to resurrection, not through a sword that led to a throne.”