The Marginalized Crucified Jesus

Today’s reading is Matthew 27.

There is an increasingly romanticized notion about the life and ministry of Jesus. To hear it told today, Jesus came into town, ticked off all the oppressive elites, while He called all the marginalized, vulnerable, oppressed people to Himself just loving on them until they turned their lives over to Him. But those wicked, awful Roman oppressors and hypocritical religious elites got Jesus crucified. Have you ever noticed though who actually got Jesus crucified? It was the crowds. It was the marginalized, vulnerable, weak common people. Pilate knew the religious elites had brought Jesus to him because they were jealous. That is, he knew Jesus had garnered a following among the people of which the Jewish leaders were envious. So, Pilate, backed into a corner because of his own political situation and trying to get out of crucifying Jesus without causing a career ending riot, decided to give the decision to the people–the oppressed, vulnerable, marginalized people whom Jesus had welcomed, touched, loved, served, healed, cleansed. And they shouted, “Crucify Him!!!” They chose a known thief, murderer, and insurrectionist to be set free. Of course, the priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to do this. But how? Up until then, they hadn’t taken action because they feared the crowds. But somehow on that day they were able to persuade the crowds. And here is the key we need to understand. The vulnerable, oppressed, weak, poor, marginalized crowds turned on Jesus for the exact same reason the scribes, elders, priests, Pharisees, and Sadducees did. Jesus didn’t measure up to the kind of Messiah they expected or wanted. As far as every one of these groups was concerned, Jesus had demonstrated He didn’t come to serve their interests. And so they were pliable. A week earlier, they were ready to make Jesus King. But He hadn’t come in doing what they expected, so today, they were amenable to His execution. Wow! The amazing thing was, there wasn’t a single person in that crowd that if you had asked them would have said, “Why yes, I think the Messiah should be crucified.” Yet, they ended up doing so because they all, with just a handful of exceptions (perhaps 120), decided this guy couldn’t possibly be the Messiah because He didn’t act the way they wanted Him to. I know I need to take that as a warning.

Tomorrow’s reading is Matthew 28.

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Waiting for Help

Today’s reading is 2 Corinthians 9.

So, I admit I’m not very well-versed on the timeline of events regarding the famine in Judea and the need for help among the Jerusalem saints. However, I know Paul was writing to the Corinthians about taking up collections in his first letter. Then he visited them. Now he has written another letter and is still talking about it. He even says he has been telling folks the Corinthians have been ready to give “since last year.” I have to think about this from the standpoint of the saints in Jerusalem. They have been in need for some time. We are talking months, maybe even more than a year. I live in such a fast paced world, I am blown away. A hurricane, an earthquake, a fire, a mudslide hits an area and within two weeks the area has aid. The Jerusalem saints had been waiting for months and months and months. I think about this when I am facing a hardship. I ask God to do something about it and expect a positive response in less than 24 hours. Here were these Jerusalem saints waiting for…well…I don’t know quite how long, but it was longer than 24 hours, likely longer than 24 weeks. I need to remember this as a model for my own patience. God is listening. God is planning to come to my aid (and I’m sure it will be at just the best moment). He will not act on my time table. But He will act. I need to be patient and wait for His help.

Tomorrow’s reading is 2 Corinthians 10.

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Who Will Respond to the Gospel?

Today’s reading is Luke 14.

Do you realize Jesus is not really talking about feasts and banquets? He is talking about feasting on the gospel. He is talking about banqueting at His table of salvation. And through this story, He explains the only people who will actually respond. Folks who think they can feed themselves if they miss out on the proposed banquet usually back out. In the story, these are the guys who have enough money to buy a field, purchase oxen to plow his fields, pay the bride price in order to get married. However, the folks who understand they won’t eat apart from the proposed banquet never come up with excuses. They show up no matter how much it costs them to get there or how hard it is. They are desperate to eat and they know this is the only option they have because they can’t get it done themselves. The sad part is, regarding God’s proposed banquet, no matter what anyone thinks, there is only one place they can eat. No one can actually feed themselves. But it is only those who realize it who will heed the gospel invitation no matter what it costs; everyone else will come up with excuses.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 15.

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On Feeding the Masses

Today’s reading is John 6.

Okay. So, I know that what I’m about to say is not exactly popular today. However, please hear me out. It is very common to hear people claim Jesus came into the world feeding the hungry. “This is what Jesus did. He traveled around feeding the poor.” Then they claim our churches should make that part of their mission as well. When challenged, John 6 is thrown out. But please read the chapter again. Is this really an example of Jesus going around feeding the poor as if that was part of His mission that He just did all the time, everywhere He went? Why did this feeding happen? Because Jesus found poor people and He wanted to show His love so they might listen to Him teach? No this happened because these people were already following Him. He didn’t go find them and offer to feed them. They came to Him. He didn’t use food as permission to get to teach. They were already listening to Him teach. Then Jesus fed them. When they misunderstood and came back for the food, He scared them off. Do Christians do good as they have opportunity? Absolutely. But our mission is to get the Bread of Life to all people, not get bread of wheat to hungry people. Don’t let Satan distract Christ’s church with a neat mission and cause us to hinder and neglect the greatest mission. This is why we need to focus on making disciples.

Tomorrow’s reading is John 7.

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Impartial Disciple-making Disciples

Today’s reading is James 2.

Disciples love their neighbors, rich or poor. Let’s be shocked for a moment. James was writing to poor Christians. The norm at the time of the Bible was for Christians, for the congregation members, to be in the lower class. How tempted they must have been to bring in more wealthy members to give their group a little street cred. Not to mention, how much help those wealthier members might be to the group in need. Yet here we are in modern America and the norm is middle to upper-middle class with a few outliers on either side of that socio-economic class. Not to mention, the underlying idea most modern American Christians have is if we were really faithful, we’ll get wealthier. If we are not careful, we will subtly have some of this very partiality James warns against and not even realize it. It will just seem normal. After all, poor people must be doing something wrong. Right? Not necessarily. The point of this is not that churches need to have benevolence ministries. The point is if the “normal” church is middle to upper-middle class, we might need to take an inventory of ourselves and make sure we really are being impartial as James encouraged. James was worried about Christians telling the poor to stand in certain places in the meeting places. Let’s make sure we aren’t tacitly, subconsciously telling them not to come in at all. Disciple making needs to be impartial. I know I need work on that. How about you?

Tomorrow’s reading is James 3.

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He Became Poor

Today’s reading is 2 Corinthians 8.

Sometimes, as I search through Jesus’s life on earth to see His example, I can miss the big overarching picture of His example. Paul opens that up for us by reminding us that though Jesus was rich, He became poor in order to save us. He doesn’t mean Jesus was rich in this life and gave up His riches. Rather, He means Jesus was on the throne of heaven and gave that up to become a carpenter’s son in a backwoods town of a backwoods, enslaved nation. He grew to be an itinerant (read that, poor and practically beggarly) teacher. Despite at times having numerous followers, He ultimately went to the cross to die as a criminal, becoming the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Perhaps my concepts of being rich and poor in my life are a little messed up. Today, I want to look to Jesus who became poor for me and then I want to look around at my brothers and sisters in need and the lost who need the gospel. How much am I holding on to because “surely Jesus would require me to give this up”? How much did He give up for me?

Tomorrow’s reading is 2 Corinthians 9.

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The Call to Discipleship

Today’s reading is Luke 14.

Jesus amazes me. He doesn’t pull punches. Unlike so many today who want to soft sell discipleship and then try to fill people in as they grow in their discipleship commitment in some crazy hope that they won’t abandon it once they really find out what discipleship is all about, Jesus just lays it on the line. “So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” There it is. All the cards on the table. Discipleship isn’t one hat added to many, it is the hat. It is the overarching definition of who we are. Are you ready to renounce all in order to be Jesus’ disciple?

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 15.

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