Link to audio version of the sermon:
Doing That Jesus Thing
Part 2 of Worship Series: What Christians Believe and Why It Matters
With help from the book “Creed” by Adam Hamilton
September 10, 2017
A couple of weeks ago a few of us were talking out in the hallway;
Many of us have had the experience with people saying –
Your church does a lot of great things –
But I just don’t do that “Jesus thing.”
What is that “Jesus thing”?
A number of years ago I remember a huge sense of relief
When I discovered that Jesus was a historical figure –
He was someone I didn’t have to take ‘on faith’ –
That there were historians – historians who didn’t follow him – who wrote about him.
Flavius Josephus and Tacitus were historians of the time of Jesus
Who wrote about Jesus being crucified under Pontius Pilate.
Later, Seutonius wrote about the fact that Jews who followed Jesus and Jews who didn’t
Were creating disruption in Rome,
so Emperor Claudius expelled all Jews from Rome in 49 AD.
Around the year 110, Pliny wrote a letter to his emperor asking for some advice.
He didn’t know what to do about these people in his province
who were worshipping Jesus as a god.
Contemporary agnostic Bart Ehrman remarked…
“Jesus really did exist…whether we like it or not!”
Who was this Jesus?
What is that “Jesus thing”?
Most of what we know about the life of Jesus comes from the gospels
Of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.
Jesus was born ~4BC – under the reign of Herod the Great.
Shortly after birth he and his parents lived in the village of Nazareth.
His father was a woodworker –
Which meant that his job was likely to make furniture, repair tools,
And perhaps do some stone masonry work for clients in the larger city of Sepphoris.
Many of the villagers in Nazareth would have been laborers
For the wealthier people living in Sepphoris.
Fast forward 30 years – because we don’t really know much about Jesus’ early life.
Jesus goes from Nazareth to the Jordan River.
There his cousin John is telling people to repent –
To turn away from their current way of living and turn toward God.
He is immersing people in the water of the Jordan as a sign of that repentence – of cleansing.
Jesus is baptized by his cousin
And then he goes into this time of wilderness for 40 days.
It’s described as a time of testing or temptation.
It’s a pivotal moment for Jesus because he comes out of that experience
Ready for ministry – his mission is set.
Jesus’ ministry lasts merely 3 years.
One of my favorite songs about Jesus’ ministry is John Bell’s “First Born of Mary”.
In the song Jesus is described as a
Itinerant teacher; and
Choice of outsiders.
He’s provocative in his preaching.
The word ‘provocative’ means to call out – and he calls out everyone!
He calls out the religious leaders –
Particularly when they get so concerned for their rules and ways of doing things
That they neglect to show compassion.
There’s a story of Jesus in the synagogue,
And he sees a women who is bent over –
She has been bent over for 18 years –
And he heals her.
That gets him into all sort of trouble with the religious leaders because it’s the Sabbath–
But Jesus reminds them that the Sabbath was created for humans,
Not the other way around.
He calls out the religious when they try to make their rules
More important than compassion.
Jesus is a provocative preacher.
He calls out the religious leaders…and he also calls out the secular leaders.
He talks about a different kind of kingdom than the one Rome was living out.
He said that in the kingdom of God,
The people love God, love their neighbors…and love their enemies.
He said that in the kingdom of God,
Those who are hungry are fed;
Those who are naked are clothed;
And those who are sick or imprisoned are visited.
Jesus was a provocative preacher – he called out the religious leaders, he called out the secular leaders,
And he even had the audacity to call out the people who were sitting right in front of him –
He called them out as well.
He told this great story about a man who was traveling and was beaten up by robbers
And left in a ditch.
A religious leader walked by and saw the man in the ditch,
But crossed the road to the other side.
A priest walked by and saw the man, but hurried on without stopping.
A third man walked by on the road,
Saw the man in the ditch, and began to care for him.
He even put him on his own donkey,
Brought him to an inn, and told the innkeeper to continue to care for him,
And he would repay him for whatever he spent.
And then Jesus came out with the zinger…
This man – this 3rd man – was a Samaritan….
He was the one the people listening to him disliked because he was an outsider –
Ethnically and religiously different from them.
Jesus called out his listeners and said,
In God’s kingdom, there is no room for prejudice.
Jesus was a provocative preacher;
And of course he was an itinerant teacher.
His home base was in Capernaum.
Scholars think that he traveled at most 100 miles from home in his lifetime!
He walked from village to village around the Sea of Galilee –
Really a misnomer because it’s actually an inland lake.
He taught on mountainsides, in valleys, and sometimes crowds got so large,
He’d get on a boat and teach from the water.
He taught things like God’s desire for forgiveness rather than revenge;
That to be truly ‘great’, one must be a servant;
That humility is a virtue.
He was a provocative preacher, itinerant teacher,
And he was the choice of outsiders.
There’s a story about a woman who had been bleeding for 12 years sees Jesus.
She’s been to doctor after doctor and none could help her.
She was thought to be ‘unclean’ because of her bleeding – unwelcome, untouchable.
She reaches out and touches just the edge of Jesus’ robe…
And she is healed.
Outsiders feel safe around Jesus.
He touches them and they are healed – people with all kinds of diseases.
Well about a week before Passover,
Jesus is headed to Jerusalem.
And he arrives on a donkey
(which is rather remarkable because no where else in the Bible does he ride on a donkey),
And the people are clamoring about him shouting, “Hosanna!”
They are convinced he’s the Messiach – which means the ‘anointed one.’
They are convinced he’s the one who will lead them out of oppression by the Romans;
Lead them to liberation.
The word “Christ” in Greek means ‘anointed one,’
And that name stuck to Jesus –
Such that when we hear “Jesus Christ” it’s easy to assume “Christ” was his last name.
But it’s not – it’s his title – Jesus, Anointed One – Jesus Christ.
Well the religious leaders and the secular leaders
Are threatened by this ‘messiah’ who talks about a new kingdom,
And Pontius Pilate does what he’s done before with other messiahs who had similar claims –
He sentences Jesus to death.
And he thinks this will be the end of it.
But this time, it doesn’t work.
First a couple of women say that they’ve seen Jesus alive.
And then some of Jesus’ followers – about a dozen of them – say that they’ve seen Jesus alive –
In different places and in different circumstances.
And then we’re told that 500 people at one time saw him alive.
And that thread – that Jesus was put to death but then was/is alive again,
Is a thread that carried on through his followers, through the other writings of the New Testament, and through 2000 years to today.
Jesus is living.
The gospel of John puts it this way:
The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
Jesus is living among us still.
He is alive when we experience provocative preaching –
Which calls us out to love our enemies,
Feed those who are hungry;
Clothe those in need;
And visit the sick and imprisoned.
He is alive when we experience his teaching –
Forgiveness, Greatness in service, Humility.
He is alive when we welcome the outsider;
When those who have felt unsafe feel accepted by us.
This afternoon we will meet the living Jesus.
As we welcome over 130 people to our food packing event this afternoon,
We will be welcoming outsiders.
I have no idea how the word got around,
But over half of these volunteers are not from our church or from the mosque.
We will meet the living Jesus as we welcome them,
As we help them know they can feel safe with us;
And as we prepare these meals to feed people.
When we do this,
We are doing “that Jesus thing.”
Thanks be to God.