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the exhaustion of legalism


legalist God

I am a recovery legalist. Legalism is exhausting. Eventually the legalist reaches a threshold of pain, the line where his soul says to itself, “This is too hard.” Yet, we legalists go on and on despite the pressure of it, especially when we tabernacle our hearts in a colony of fellow legalists.

The legalists think that those outside their colony are still on a junket to “a far country” (Luke 15:13), but really what we have found is the freedom of coming home. 

..

Manning quote found here The Ragamuffin Gospel

background found here 101freegrunge textures


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Mark’s Gospel: the Temple “cleansing” and Jesus’ sovereignty


Mark's Gospel header

Jesus, our Gracious Sovereign

In previous comments on the “cleansing” of the Temple I mentioned the mercy of Jesus. His mercy stands in stark contrast across all religions. We know that Yahweh is indeed the One full of mercy not because he says it. He shows it. Jesus shows us perfectly what Yahweh’s mercy looks like.

No other religion is so clear and vivid in what it says as the Gospel. The Gospel tells AND shows this mercy-filled good news.

There is another narrative strand in the “cleansing” of the Temple. It’s the sovereign grace of Jesus. When Jesus ransacked the Temple he was no doubt concerned about dishonest leadership. He was no doubt concerned about showing mercy to outcasts. He was very concerned about shady business in the Temple courts.

Yet, when Jesus ransacked the Temple he was doing more than that.

He was trying to bring his people under the care of his sovereign grace.

He was declaring his divine sovereignty over the Temple system. It’s not enough to say that Jesus was (and is) God. Zeus claimed to be God. Caesar claimed to be God. Apollo claimed to be God. So, Jesus is just one more guy in a long line claiming to be God. So what.

Jesus’ claims are higher and better than that. He comes into the Temple in the full authority of the Sovereign One.

Here are a few things that signal his sovereignty:

 

In Mark 11:11 immediately after the Triumphal Entry of Jesus goes directly to the Temple. It’s like a sovereign coming home to his palace. He is the head of a new administration. How will he be received? Will the Temple receive him as enthusiastically as the common people did? The Temple leadership should have received him with the same enthusiasm and affirmation that the common people did just a few moments before. They did not.

After ransacking the Temple Jesus hangs around all week teaching (see Mark 11:22-13:1) openly in the Temple courts. It’s like he’s taken over. He has “moved in” so to speak. What would you think if a friend of yours showed up at your door and moved in without asking permission or negotiating a rental agreement? He is making the Temple a short-term seat of his governing word.

Later Jesus tells a parable within a parable about a keystone rejected and a vineyard owner’s son murdered. Both of these intertwined parables are a commentary on the Temple leadership of the day usurping Messiah’s divine authority over them.(see Mark 12:1-12)

Then most shocking of all Jesus declares that this Temple must come down. He is not interested in renovating the Temple system, but in its removal and replacement. This is his way of saying that he is the new temple. (see Mark 13:1 and following)

 tip: it helped me to understand the significance of the Temple Cleansing when I started to see it as an event connected to what happens before it and after it. In the BEFORE (the triumphal entry) Jesus is received as King Messiah as he makes his was to the Temple, the climax of this procession, (note: after Jesus ‘cleansed’ the Temple the children were chanting “Hosana, Son of David” – thus the kingly procession continues with the children what was begun with their parents the day before)

AND

in the AFTER (the parable of the vineyard’s son murdered) Jesus assumes all authority over the Temple, its operations, its doctrine and its final destruction. Jesus isn’t claiming only to be God. He is claiming full sovereignty as he moves in and about his Father’s House.

These are sign posts to the sovereignty of Jesus. He is not assistant manager, not vice president, not even prince of the realm with a life time appointment. Jesus is fully and completely sovereign.

The fact of Jesus’ sovereignty is often missed when we conservative Christians talk about the Temple cleansing event. For a long time I saw this Temple “cleansing” event as basically about the dishonest dealings of the Temple leadership or having concern for the poor.

That is true, but there is more. Jesus is “the messenger of the covenant” (see Mal 3:1), an arresting officer, prosecuting attorney and supreme judge all in one. This is Yahweh “suddenly coming to the Temple” to see if covenant stipulations are being obeyed.

They are not.

So with the full authority of the covenant behind him he acts as the covenant’s lord (because he is) and prosecutes covenant sanctions (see Dt. 28) on the corrupt leadership. Jesus has at his disposal full authority to foreclose on the Temple.

And he does.

Jesus is sovereign.

How did I miss this for so long? The Temple leadership saw this. They approached Jesus the next day to confront him on this very point.

 

[with restrained sarcastic tone]

“Where do you think you get the authority (sovereign right) to do

these things (in our temple)?”

[intense stares while waiting for his answer]

 

 * * *

 

This, then, is a brief explanation of Jesus’ sovereignty in ransacking and occupying the Temple. He did more than clean the Temple. This is a kind of take over. It’s not a hostile take over, but it is a bold theological take over.

So now you ask, “How does the grace half of this Gracious Sovereign show up in the Temple ransacking?”

Ah, good question. His grace is in his declaration about the Jubilee while he is “cleansing” the Temple.

More about this Ultimate Jubilee next time.

 

“We stop trying so hard to be

good Christians when

we see how good it is to

be in Christ.”


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Mark’s Gospel: Temple ‘cleansing’ points to Jesus’ mercy


Jesus, the Merciful

{thots from the ‘cleansing’ of the Temple by Jesus} Mark 11:11-22

Mark's Gospel header

{entered the Monday after Easter 2013}

Yesterday, at the end of a very blessed Sunday, I sat down to read my copy of the Quran. I turned to Surah (chapter) number two and read a few verses. I flipped through several other chapters. My eyes settled on this line:

 ‘In the name of Allah the Beneficent, the Merciful.’

 This line is deeply ingrained in Islamic culture. It’s repeated over and over throughout the Quran. This is the opening line to nearly every chapter of the Quran, a reminder to its adherents that Allah is beneficent, that Allah is merciful. In my translation it’s in caps – Beneficient…Merciful – a reminder that Allah is the embodiment of goodness and mercy.

 

Yesterday was not any Sunday, but a high day of worship. It was Easter. Seems like an odd thing to do at the close of a day for Christian worship – to read the central text of another religion.

 But there is beauty in contrast. There’s capacity of thought in seeing the starkness of a thing.

Recent in my thots,  almost alive, is Jesus cleansing the Temple. I could see Jesus rushing through the Temple the week before he was crucified. I see him slinging a whip. I see him upturning tables. I see him welcoming the blind and lame, unclean horde, into the Temple courts (see Matt 21). The vividness this “cleansing” the Temple washed the quranic text into the background.

 How do I know, I mean really know, that Jesus is merciful, that he is beneficent? 

Firstly, I know this temple cleansing, so called, is not really about cleaning the Temple. Jesus did not come into the Temple courts with a bucket and mop…or a shovel and broom as if to clean up after the animals. This event doesn’t look like a house call from Merry Maids (or Messiah Maids).

This is among other things a show of mercy. Yes, there’s bit of grand standing by Jesus, but it’s not surprising. Why not? The offenders had it long time in coming.

We know Jesus is mercy filled because he shows it. From the depths of his sincerity he doesn’t clean the Temple. He ransacks it. He intervenes. He brings its operations to halt even if only for a short while (“he forbid the vessels from passing through”). He displays the interruptive power of mercy. The greed and abuses by the Temple leadership were a stench on this holy place, but who would confront this? One man. Often mercy walks and runs and stoops alone. 

 Secondly, when Jesus ransacked the Temple he came into that space as a Defender. Yes, he was defending his Father’s expectations for covenant faithfulness in the one place on earth where it should not have faltered. And he was defending the weak, the outcast, the Gentile, the widow, the poor who wanted access to God. Jesus, an army of one whose weapon is mercy.

 I found it helpful to compare accounts from one gospel to another. When reading Mark’s account I also went over to Matthew’s.

So cool was it to notice that Matthew adds into his telling of that event that just after Jesus ransacked the Temple “the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them” (Mt 21:14).

“No way Jesus! You can’t do that!! Those…those people have to go through the process just like the rest of us. What in the world are you doing? Haven’t you read our laws?”

I conclude that Jesus was not only upset about the bilking of the money changers. He was upset that those hordes of people considered to be “unclean” were being excluded from worship except for their having to go through an intense – even expensive – process to be made ceremonially clean.

Jesus by his actions effectively says forget all the “red tape” ya’ll. Come on in! Just as you are. I’m going to heal you right here and now so you can immediately dispense with the frivolous gangway of man-made rules.

 Instead of being a place that breathed grace it had become a place tarnished by financial oppression and graft, a place where the outcasts felt very much like outcasts, where Gentiles seekers were threatened with capital punishment if they went past a certain point.

 You see, I know that Jesus is merciful, even if he were to say it over and over (but he didn’t), because he showed mercy. He lived it right in front of our eyes. I know for sure that Yahweh is merciful because I see Yahweh in the flesh being merciful, defending mercy.

 The one whose name means “Yahweh saves” comes defending and initiating his long storied intentions to make access to God free, open, without strings attached and priceless in its simplicity.

 I know Jesus is indeed the embodiment of mercy because he shows it. He charges solo into a Den of Thieves (see Jer 7:11 with Mark 11:17) for the sake of mercy. Then about a week later he hangs on a common cross for the sake of mercy, for the sake of bringing it to the world.