Is there room in the church?

Jesus went straight to the Temple and threw out everyone who had set up shop, buying and selling. He kicked over the tables of loan sharks and the stalls of dove merchants. He quoted this text:

My house was designated a house of prayer; You have made it a hangout for thieves.

Now there was room for the blind and crippled to get in. They came to Jesus and he healed them.

Matt 21:12-14

(from THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language © 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. All rights reserved.)

My friend Dave Drozek wrote in response to this passage…

As I read this passage this morning, I was struck with the way The Message put this.  It changed my whole thinking about what Jesus did in the temple.  Maybe he wasn’t so upset about what was being done as he was about what was NOT being done in the temple.  Business and organization had pushed out those in need, those who were inefficient, those who drained our resources, rather than serving them!

Is this what we do today?  Are we all about expediency?  Do we really want “those people” in the church who are emotionally needy, who want to monopolize our time and conversation?  Do we want those who are on the margin of society to sit next to us, to require that we smell them, maybe even to help them in some way?  Don’t we rather prefer to sneak in, talk to our friends, and leave quickly, avoiding eye contact with the unlovely?

What would Jesus do if he came to our church today?  Hmm….

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Why did Jesus have to die?

What did Jesus have to die? Why couldn’t he have just turned more water into wine? Or healed another person? Or just choose to forgive our sin? Why did He have to die?

I have wrestled with these questions as I seek to help others understand Jesus’ death and resurrection. Sure, I can logically deduct this. And even explain the rational for Jesus death and resurrection from the Bible. But how can I communicate the answer to these questions in a way that people get it? How can I communicate the significance of God’s sacrifice in a way that people feel it? That is a whole other challenge.

To answer this question, I believe we must first understand some basic assumptions.

1) God takes our sin a whole lot more seriously than we do. Whether we lie and call it a “white” lie. Whether we justify personal expenses on the corporate credit card as… “I’m not paid enough.” We constantly minimize our sin. We try to make it less than what it is, or we justify it way. But God doesn’t. God takes our sin so seriously that before the first sin was committed, He prescribed death as the punish for sin. Our sin is so serious to God that it requires death. God set the rules before the first sin was committed. And God lives by His rules.

2) Even though not all of God’s children have received His invitation to be part of His family, we must understand that both pre-Christians and Christians are children of God. God love’s all of his children. And is willing to do anything to prevent them from dying and being separated from Him for eternity.

Recently, my kids and their cousins were sword fighting in my back yard with pool noodles stuffed over PVC pipes. My son  watched this battle unfold when his unarmed sister took several cheap shots from her cousin. Immediately my son caulked his fits, got into an offensive Tae Kwon Do stance, started moving toward his cousin, and with a forceful and raised voice, definitively told his cousin… “If you hit my sister again you’re going to get hurt!”

I have a confession to make… my son got this from me.

If anyone tries to hurt my kids, I will do everything in my power to take them out even if that means die. And this response is natural. It is part of the survival of the fittest. It is a theme of creation.

Not long ago, I was spreading the branches of a bush to look at a nest of baby birds. I ignored the squawking parents in perched above in the tree until they started dive bombing me. These birds were crazy. They wouldn’t stop. And I quickly withdrew my position. The parent birds risked their lives to preserve the lives of their children.

We see this play itself out in all of creation – parents willing to sacrifice, even die, for the preservation, protection, and sustained life of their children.

God is the source of the natural phenomenon. This response is birthed from God’s nature. And is inborn at creation.

But God’s love for us for us is so great, that as the author of life, he wrote himself into the story of our lives in the character of man named Jesus. God came to earth as a man named Jesus and chose to satisfy the consequence for our sin by dying. God came to earth, as Jesus, to preserve and protect our lives by risking everything and dying. Through death, God satisfies, the punish for the sin of all humanity. And then proves His power and authority over death in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Jesus can do this because he is both God and man. Because of Jesus death we don’t have to live separated from God. Jesus can forgive us because he satisfies the consequences of our sin through his death and resurrection.

The question is… as children of God, will we receive the forgiveness that God offers through his death? By accepting God’s forgiveness through Jesus’ death and resurrection, we enter into God’s family.

Footwashing

Footwashing“Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” John 13:3-5

The natural question is… why would Jesus wash his disciple’s feet? That seems odd. I wash my own feet. But I wouldn’t wash my friends feet. And I certainly wouldn’t my friends feet just before dinner at the dining room table.

Let’s understand the cultural context. There are no cars or bikes. So people walk everywhere they go. The landscape is sandy. The roads are unpaved and dusty. Donkeys, horses, and other cattle, used in the transportation of goods, are relieving themselves on the road and sidewalks that everyone walks on. The street is the sewer system. After walking a mile or two to get to dinner, the guests feet are a dirty, dusty, disgusting mess. With all sorts of crud squished between their toes.

It would be like throwing a house party and each of your guests stepping in a pile dog poop while walking to your front door. Are you going to let them in with their shoes on?

In Jesus’ day, a servant would wash the feet of each guest as they entered the home to remove the dirt and crap.

The first part of this verse says… “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God”

Catch this! The entire world – all of creation – is under the authority and power of Jesus. He is the President – King – Prime Minister – CEO – Lord over every government, civic group, business, and society in the world.

He has every right to be honored, revered, feared, and served. Jesus didn’t have to lift a finger to do anything for us. Instead, we should be asking, “What can I do for you?”

But Jesus striped down to his undergarment and picked up a towel, to help us clean up the mess we’ve made in life. He set aside his rights and privileges as God to become a servant to you and to me – to the people he created that should be serving him.

We don’t know why a servant wasn’t there to wash the guests’ feet. But regardless no one offered. No one was willing to sacrifice their greatness and play the role of a servant except for the guest of honor.

Jesus did at the dinner table what no one else in the room was willing to do.