Tag Archives: redemption

Kingdom of Cannibals?

10 May

Many years ago, a young Jewish man from Galilee began shaking things up. He referred to himself regularly as the “son of man” but at times also implied he was the son of God. Many people though he was the man they had been waiting for. Prophecies long ago had told of a man from God who would restore God’s kingdom on the earth. The Jewish people knew exactly what that meant. In their minds, that meant that a messiah would come and rescue Israel from their oppressors and then set up a perfect Jewish kingdom that would last forever.

But the messiah they got was not the messiah they expected. While they expected him to begin gathering weapons and training soldiers, He instead traveled from town to town teaching, healing, and showing up their religious leaders.

Once, he miraculously fed a crowd of thousands with only a few loaves and fishes (John  6.5-13). The people were astounded! If they could have a messiah that not only ended the Roman occupation, but could also miraculously provide food, there would be no stopping them! The people made up their minds that no more time could be wasted, they must make him their king!

By now, the man, Jesus, was avoiding the crowds, choosing instead to spend his time off in the wilderness. But even then the crowds hunted him down. But this time, the crowds were coming for more than to hear his teaching or see a miracle. They were going to force him into his destiny as their king (Jhn 6.15). They raced around the lake of Galilee to find where he had gone (Jhn 6.25).

Jesus, though, was not ignorant of their plans. He knew what they wanted of him, and even more He knew what his purpose really was. Regardless of how many times he had taught love over violence (Luk 6.27) and forgiveness over revenge (Mat 5.38-45;Mat. 18-21-22), the message had rarely made it through their thick skins. He was not there to fight (Jhn 3.17), he was there to model a different and better way of living.

The situation was tense when they found him, but before the crowd could do anything, Jesus shocked them with these words:

“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. Anyone who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in them.” (Jhn 6.53-56)

This caught them by surprise and completely disarmed them. They entered that situation set on making him their king, and now they were hearing him say that needed to drink his blood and eat his body? They could not recall anything in their prophecies about Israel becoming a kingdom of cannibals! Why would he say such a thing?

The sad fact is that most of his followers did not listen past the first line of that teaching, and it is recorded that “many of his disciples went back and walked with him no more.” (Jhn 6.66)

This was no mistake, though, on Jesus’ part. He was giving them a glimpse into his own heart and his own motives. They wanted a powerful king who would save them from the Romans. He wanted to save their souls. They wanted Him to live in a palace, but He wanted to live in their hearts. They wanted him to take up weapons and spill the blood of humans, but he wanted to give his own life for them.

Jesus said, “Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in them.” He lived, died, and rose again to show us a better way of living. No more eye for an eye or tooth for a tooth. And he calls us as he called those Jewish people so long ago to do the same. He wants us to partake of his flesh and his blood, so we can continue his ministry in the world.

Jesus is alive and well on the earth today through the bodies of those of us who follow him. The life he offers us is his life, and it’s a life lived for others. Unlike the violent kingdoms of the world, we are part of a peaceful kingdom where rather than shed the blood of others, we give our lives for the sake of others, even if it means allowing our own blood to be shed.

Jesus gave his life for us, in order to free us from guilt, from shame, and from the old way of living. And today he invites us to join him in his resurrection as he works through us to redeem the entire world and everyone in it.

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You Are Amazing

19 Oct

Does God have to hold his nose when He interacts with us? Does He grit his teeth and say, “Well, I died on the cross so I guess I have to deal with them.” Many in the church would give this impression of God and his view of humanity. A popular term I have heard in books is “worm.” It is seen as humble for church leaders to say, “I am such a worthless little worm, yet for some reason God continues to love me.”

But is that really how Jesus sees us? An important term used in the New Testament is “redemption.” To redeem something means to buy it back, or to return it to its original value. Jesus illustrates this in Matthew 18.11-14 when He tells the story of a sheep who wanders away from the fold. When the shepherd realizes that the sheep is gone, He sets out to find it and bring it home, or redeem it. The concept of redemption assumes original value. Something can not be brought back to its original value unless it had value to begin with.

We each have individual value as unique and special creations by God, and our value was proven by Jesus’ death on the cross. In Romans 8.31-32, the apostle Paul says, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” According to Paul, we lost the right to question God’s love and value for us when Jesus sacrificially gave his life for us. This is also emphasized in 1 John 4.9a where we read, “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world…”

We are each children of God, but when we sin we take on guilt and shame which causes us to flee from God just as Adam and Eve did long ago (Gen 3.1-8). But God was not willing to leave us wallowing in guilt and shame. So He came to the earth and weighing his own life against ours, He willingly chose to sacrifice his own life for us. When He was killed, he took all of our shame and guilt and buried it deep in the ground, never to be seen again. But did He do it reluctantly? We read in Ephesians 1.5 that He has adopted and redeemed us “according to the good pleasure of his will.” Did you hear that? It pleased God to save us and adopt us as children!

When we speak down of ourselves we are misrepresenting the heart of God. He does not see us as disgusting little worms, He sees us as something amazing, as something worth redeeming. We lost the right to question God’s love and value for us when He gave himself for us on the cross. God did not die for you because you are a disgusting worm, He died for you because you are amazing and worth it! Let’s praise Jesus for that.