February 26, 2023
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE READING:
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ Jesus. It is the power of God to bring salvation to everyone who believes; first to the Jew and then to the Greek [read ‘to the rest of the world].” (Romans 1.16)
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE REFLECTION:
So, I have attempted to establish that when it comes to “the end of the world as we know it today” which may be simultaneously the promised “close of the Age,” that is the finality of The Ministry of the Church in its commissioned purpose, we are to be wise enough to understand “the signs of the times” with an ability to grasp the “signs in the heavens.” Jesus said that this ability had escaped the Temple leadership, the teachers of the Law as well as the Scribes and Pharisees. This was nothing new because, as I mentioned, when the Magi came first to Jerusalem to inquire “Where is He who was born King of the Jews?” Herod and his political and spiritual advisors (Roman and Jewish in particular) had ignored the Star which remained stationary above the region for at least two years since if first appeared. They had no cognition of the signs in the heavens nor the signs of the times. What was the most critical of concerns was their own immediate welfare and survival in the world. In terms that we can understand as mighty ones of God informed by the gospel, “they were lost and had no desire to be found.” The Magi were not lost, however. “Being found” was not their purpose of inquiry. They operated by an informed assumption that the “King of the Jews” would most likely be found in the capital of Israel which is Jerusalem. Jerusalem, known as “The City of the Great King,” (sing Psalm 48) had long been the central focus of cultures and empires since before the days when Abraham was led to it by God’s direction of the Holy Spirit. It was called Salem at that time. It was ruled by a great king and priest named Melchizedek. So, in their desire to bring gifts to honor such a King of kings and Lord of lords (following their understanding of the prophecy presented by Isaiah seven hundred (700) years earlier, it was natural to believe that the Star in Heaven must be the Star of David and rest over all Israel beginning in Jerusalem. The fact of the matter was that such kingship had not yet been transferred from Bethlehem to Jerusalem. In that we can relate to the story of David. He was the youngest son of Jesse who, as a very young man, just passed the age of thirteen and had been anointed by Samuel at God’s command to be “king.” Tracing the path of David’s life from that moment until he came into Jerusalem and established his kingship following Saul’s death, we might find some similarities between his walk and that of Jesus. The least of those paths was most certainly not “through the valley of the shadow of death.” The pathway to “the House of the Lord forever” was directed by: “the rod and the staff,” (see the cross); an anointing with oil (see the anointing of Jesus by Mary of Bethany); the feast set before Him in the presence of His enemies (the Passover meal with enemies within the circle and outside of it) and ultimately the resurrection hope displayed in the Upper Room before and including His ascension into Heaven. All of that for the singular purpose of accomplishing that which had been given Him to do: “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19.10) Crucifixion was not the “end of His life.” Crucifixion was the fixed means of accomplishing the ends which God had ordained. There is no “end to Jesus’ life as the Christ” nor for those who choose to not only believe He is the Christ but take up their cross to follow Him and live in this world as He commanded and exampled. How this was amplified by Luke’s “Lost Trilogy” in chapter 15 which we have reflected upon most recently and hopefully now you see the value of reading it in that way.
And this is the mission and purpose of “The Church” as He ordained it and commissioned first, to His disciples who had been given to Him by God for this purpose of being His witnesses to the world (John 17.24) and second, those who would become disciples of Jesus as the Christ and would take up their own crosses to bear for the sake of the gospel and to themselves “seek and redeem those who are lost.” As Paul declared his understanding of his own calling there on the Damascus Road by the Resurrected Jesus the Christ of God, “It is the power of God to bring the good news of salvation first to the Jews and then to “the Greeks.” We can most certainly read “Gentiles” or “the rest of the world” in defining what sounds “Greek to him.” And in this, we find the thread of consistency from the teaching of Jesus concerning “when the end of the Age would be, the end of the Kingdom of Man as that current age and the beginning of the Messianic Age celebrated by the Messianic community on earth as it would be in Heaven.” It would come with an anticipation built up by “wars and rumors of wars, false messiahs and prophets of doom and insurrection, nation rising up against nation in a battle for domination, kingdoms against kingdom for territorial control, famines and earthquakes, persecutions and betrayals and the rising presence of lawlessness and unrighteousness known as the “increase in wickedness.” (Matthew 24.4-13) But, the end will come, as we know is confirmed by His Word specifically with the greatest evidence of all: the gospel of “this” kingdom will be preached to the entire world as a testimony to “the nations.” (Matthew 24.24) Thus, in His commissioning of the disciples to become teachers and future believers become disciples who become future teachers to the next generation of disciples who would become teachers, and so forth until the “close of the Age,” He says “Go into all the world and make disciples, preaching this good news to all the nations.” It makes sense, doesn’t it, that Jesus Himself would lay out the expectation for what the final inspection was (i.e. the Judgment on the Last Day) which would come upon the world like a thief in the night. He expressed this so that the “strong men (and women)” would understand the reality of being prepared. True preparation for “that Day” was not a “wait and see” but a “go and do.”
And what is it that we are called to “go and do”? That is the subject of our next series of reflections on God’s Word. Let me summarize it this way as a matter of preparation to receive, digest and be strengthened by the Word to “be the Word”: stewarding and shepherding. As believers in Jesus as the Christ and as mighty ones of God we have been given two tasks under the overarching banner of “God’s Abiding Love.” In duty (faithful obedience) and in service (unquestioned discipleship) we are to steward the resources which God has made available for us and to us in order that we can “shepherd” those who are lost so that they may know of their salvation and that it is real and available in God’s mercy and grace and ultimately “be found.” If what we are doing in the world or “our kingdom” or in “this nation” or in our own domain of community life is not bounded by the “ends of our existence” then the means of our existence serve little “good purpose” and bring no glory to God our Father. That, in and of itself, is a very solid accountability statement. It can certainly provide a much needed perspective on the life we live and the lives we lead. Let those with “eyes to see-perceive the truth” and “ears to hear- listen for understanding.” Until we speak again, shalom!
Father, You have not only created us with such wonder and purpose in magnificent opportunity to be Your children but You have shown us “the way, the truth and the life” which leads to our fulfilling our promised expectation of “dwelling in Your House forever.” There is no other place we would rather be. We commit ourselves to be good disciples of Jesus our Christ and in His name we live, serve and pray. Amen.