“Finding God in the Waves: Jesus Is a Pretty Big Deal!”

Weekly Bible Devotional

Finding God in the Waves: Jesus Is a Pretty Big Deal!

September 18, 2022

 

 

Scripture: Matthew 11:1-6

Now when Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and proclaim his message in their cities. When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” 4 Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. 6 And blessed is anyone who takes no offence at me.”

Notes on the Text:

The disciples struggled with fully understanding who Jesus was and what his mission and methods were truly about. Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist, also wondered about Jesus. He knew Jesus. He knew about the coming Messiah. He knew what Jesus was doing. After all, John was the one who baptized Jesus in the Jordan River. And even though John was in prison at that point, he must have been able to keep up with the ministry of Jesus because John’s disciples would have been visiting him daily to provide him with food. Prisoners at that time depended on family and friends for their daily food. John had all that information and all that knowledge, but somehow he wondered if Jesus was truly the one whom he was expecting as the Messiah, the promised one to liberate the people of Israel. Part of the problem for John and others like him was that Jesus somehow did not fit into their presuppositions and expectations of who the Messiah was going to be. In John’s mind, the Messiah was supposed to come with the vengeance of the Lord upon the wicked ones. The Messiah was supposed to come and destroy the evil doers in order to bring forth God’s justice and peace. That is why John began to question whether Jesus was truly the one sent by God. “Are you the one who is to come or should we look for another?”

 

It is fascinating to see how Jesus responded to John’s questions. He did not answer him with a “yes” or a “no.” Instead he challenged his interpretation and understanding of the scriptures. He responded to him using several statements from the book of Isaiah (Isaiah 29:18; 35:5-6; 42:8, 17; and 61:1). And in that selection Jesus left out the phrase, “The day of vengeance of our God” from Isaiah 61:1-2. You might say that Jesus was selective in what he quoted from Isaiah. He was reinterpreting the scriptures to John the Baptist to show him a different way of understanding the Messiah. Jesus’ mission was about liberation, healing, and restoration. John the Baptist needed to know that Jesus was not going to be a military leader. He was not going to bring a violent revolution to the land. Violence and vengeance were not going to be part of the picture. The apocalyptic visions of the Messiah were supposed to give hope through metaphors. They were not seen as literal manifestations of God committing violence against the evil doers.

This was such a challenge for John the Baptist because he wanted justice, but what John needed to learn was that justice and restoration in God’s way do not come through violence and coercion. In fact, much of what Jesus taught was a slap in the face to many! Jesus taught about loving the enemy and those who persecuted them. He taught a radical way of transformation because Jesus knew that this is the way of true love and healing. The evidence he gave of his identity as the Messiah was the healing of those around him who were in need.

For Reflection:

This week we focus on how Jesus shows us the pattern of God’s work and love in the world and the universe. But Jesus is often misrepresented and misunderstood because the radical ways of Jesus’ love challenge our concepts of justice and redemption. We expect God to judge people like we judge them. We even expect God to be on the side of the same political party we support. In his book Finding God in the Waves, Mike McHargue talks about his struggle with understanding Jesus as a “substitute” for us before God. He describes it this way, “The idea that Jesus’ death was a sacrifice to erase the sins of humanity is called penal substitutionary atonement. It’s the idea that Jesus’ perfect, sinless life made Him worthy surrogate to take on the punishment that the rest of humanity had earned…God sent himself in the form of his own son to sacrifice himself to himself so that he could save humanity from himself.”

 

You can see in this way of understanding the life and death of Jesus, people tend to project their own violence and fear onto God. Throughout history, people have understood Jesus in so many different ways and that is still the case today. For example, the Eastern Orthodox Christian traditions “view sin less as a crime to be punished and more as a sickness to be healed.”

 

In his book, The Powers that Be, Walter Wink notes that, “We should love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us so that we may be children of this strange Parent, who ‘is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked’ (Luke 6:35). Much of what passes as religion denies the existence of such a God. Is not God precisely that moral force in the universe that rewards the good and punishes the evil? This had been the message of John the Baptist, and it would later be the message of the church. In John’s preaching, God is depicted as verging on a massive and final counteroffensive against evil in which all evil will be exterminated. One whole side of reality will be wiped out… Jesus, by contrast, understood judgment not as an end but as a beginning. The penitential river of fire was not to consume but purify, not annihilate but redeem (Luke 15:1-32; 18:9-14). Divine judgment is intended not to destroy but to awaken people to the devastating truth about their lives…Judgment no longer is the last crushing word on a failed life, but the first word of a new creation… He [Jesus] did not wait for them to repent, become respectable, and do works of restitution in hope of gaining divine forgiveness and human restoration. Instead, he audaciously burst upon these sinners with the declaration that their sins had been forgiven, prior to their repentance, prior to their having done any acts of restitution or reconciliation. Everything is reversed: you are forgiven; now you can repent! God loves you; now you can lift your eyes to God! There is nothing you must do to earn this. You need only accept it.”

 

This is such good and challenging news. The salvation which Jesus brought us is about healing our brokenness so that we may feel and know how sacred everyone is. It is not about giving a special status. It is about allowing us to live into our true identity.

Jesus is the founder of our faith and thus his life, teachings, death, and resurrection are so central to our faith with the invitation to see his pattern of life as the way God shows us our path of life.

 

Ilia Delio, a Franciscan sister and scientist, writes this, “Divine Love, breathed forth into Word incarnate, marks the history of evolution. . . . Every star, every galaxy, every leaf and bird breathed forth in divine Love, reveals the Christ who is the personal unity of divine being-in-love. From all eternity, God has sought to love another, to be love in another, and to be loved by the other forever—this other is the Christ who is the aim and purpose of this evolutionary universe. [Evolution] is not only the universe coming to be, but it is God who is coming to be. Divine Love, poured into space-time, rises in consciousness and erupts in the life of Jesus of Nazareth, becoming the pledge of our future in the risen Christ: “I am with you always until the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20). We can read the history of our 13.7-billion-year-old universe as the rising up of Divine Love incarnate, which bursts forth in the person of Jesus, who reveals love’s urge toward wholeness through reconciliation, mercy, peace, and forgiveness. Jesus is the love of God incarnate, the wholemaker who shows the way of evolution toward unity in love. . . . In Jesus, God comes to us from the future to be our future. . . . Christian life is a commitment to love, to give birth to God in one’s own life and to become midwives of divinity in this evolving cosmos. We are to be wholemakers of love in a world of change.”

Terce

By Ilia Delio

 

Was Jesus of Nazareth God?

Can we really ask this question, as if we might ask,

What is the inside of matter?

 

The patristic giants put on their heavy

Philosophical armory to tackle

This question.

Some said, “Yes,” Jesus was truly God.

Others said, “maybe” but he was also

Human.

Still others said, the logic of natures

Demands a distinction of terms.

So the question became

Illogical,

A battleground of intellectual wits

And Power.

 

A poor woman in a small village

Awoke every morning with the

Words, “I believe.”

She believed without logical arguments,

She trusted without formal distinctions,

She surrendered in faith,

Throwing herself wholeheartedly

into

The arms of God.

She did not ask the question,

She was the question and

And God was the answer received

in a heart full of love.

For the logic of God,

Is the logic of love,

And one who lives in love

Lives in God and God lives in her.

This is the Christ.

 

 

 

Finding God in the Waves

Weekly Bible Devotionals

Written by Pastor Roula Alkhouri

Cycle of Blessings

“Inflation & the Cycle of Blessings: The Currency of Time and Place”

Cycle of Blessings

“Inflation & the Cycle of Blessings: The Currency of Gracious Leadership”

Cycle of Blessings

“Inflation & the Cycle of Blessings: The Currency of Wellness”