Good News of Great Joy

Today’s reading is Luke 2.

When Luke was written, “gospel” or “good news” was not a religious word. It was a political word. That is, “gospel” or “good news” usually referred to some great news about the emperor, the empire, or victory. It was the word used to describe the birth of the coming emperor or the ascension of a new emperor or the victory of the emperor over Rome’s enemies. When the angels used this word to describe the birth of Jesus, it was a powerful word for those Jewish shepherds. The anointed King of Israel, the descendant of David was born. He would be both Lord and Savior of the Jews. Rome would not be able to withstand this King. It was very much a challenge to the politics of the day. It was good news of great joy because finally the real King had been born, and victory over all enemies was coming. What good news of great joy this still is today. Our King was born. He lived. He conquered. He reigns. Follow Jesus today. He is the Savior. He is the Lord. He is the King. He is the Emperor. He is the only way to victory over and salvation from every enemy, including sin and death. And that is good news of great joy.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 2.

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My Yoke is Easy; My Way is Hard

Today’s reading is Matthew 7.

Alright! Which is it? I know in just a few chapters I’m going to read Jesus say His yoke is easy (Matthew 11:30). But in today’s reading He says His way is narrow and hard. I’m completely confused. In all honesty, I don’t know what the exact answer that makes these two statements both work at the same time. Further, I don’t even want to give you the answer. I just want to notice something about Jesus. Some of us focus on Matthew 7:13, talking about how narrow and hard Jesus’s way is. Some of us focus on Matthew 11:30, talking about how easy and light Jesus’s burden is. We often fuss and fight with each other, lobbing these passages back and forth like grenades for “our side” to prove Jesus is everything we claim He is. What these passages tell me is Jesus is not easily placed in a box. Jesus cannot be placed in the taskmaster, law administrator, my-way-or-the-highway box so easily. Neither can Jesus be placed in the happy-go-lucky, my-grace-will-cover-you, just-know-I-love-you box so easily.  I imagine if Jesus showed up today, He would have something to say to all of us on every side about how we are missing it and where we need to repent. And I imagine we would all stand side by side for a moment as together we shouted that He should be crucified and His blood be on our hands and the hands of our children because the Jesus who showed up didn’t fit our expectation. Each generation has a tendency to redefine Jesus. Amazingly, He almost always looks exactly like what that generation really wants Him to look like. Why? Because we can find verses that, taken alone, will make Jesus look the way we want. But all such simplified definitions are caricatures which may contain some truth but will ultimately be wrong headed. Rather than trying to define Jesus for a generation, let’s just do what He says. I guarantee you such a path is so narrow and difficult that few will choose it, but such a burden is so easy and light that all could bear it.

Tomorrow’s reading is Matthew 8.

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