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Temples in antiquity were not merely viewed as the meeting place for a god and his devotees.  They were often viewed as the dwelling place on earth of a god as well and so the center of worship.  But when Jesus came, he became the focus of worship, he became the temple, the meeting place of God and humanity for his followers.   Willimon ponders why it is that the temple veil is rent the moment the sacrifice of Christ on the cross is complete.  Could it be because the barrier between heaven and earth, God and humanity, the buffer zone had been removed?  The other possibility of course is that the rending of the veil was the sign that Elvis, that is God, had just left the building and now his Temple had been abandoned and would become a temple of doom.

What the end of Jesus’ story shows is that God’s love is costly, to himself, more than to any of us. It is not a sappy, sentimental, sicky sweet love. “God is free to walk away from the horrors of humanity or to love even down to the dregs of suffering and death. In love, God chose to love all the way to the end.” (p. 106).  True humanity is obedient, trusting love.  But that is also the character of true divinity, as Jesus revealed it.  “Rome solidified power with the whip, nails, and cross: Jesus accomplished what he wanted to do through non violent, suffering love”  on a cross. (p. 107).  Real power is redefined on the cross, but we seem to miss that point. If the cross is how God beats sin, death, and Satan, than somehow the empires of this world missed the memo.   On the cross Jesus disarmed the principalities and powers, and a naked Jew hanging on a cross actually revealed that the Emperors have no clothes.

In the last two chapters Willimon goes on to talk about who we become once we become followers of Jesus.  He contemplates the story of Paul and calls it a call rather than a conversion that happened to him on Damascus Road.  It was both. He went from being an anti-Christ preacher, to a pro-Christ preacher.  Will stresses that what Acts shows is that Jesus is a delegator.  He really does authorize us to act for him and like him, and he empowers us to do so.  He’s not like those preachers who can’t ever let go of the reins of power and delegate any important tasks.  Jesus didn’t come to meet our demands, wishes, or to ‘complete us’.  He came to enlist us in this bringing in the Kingdom thing. “Jesus is not here to get what you want out of God; Jesus is God’s means of getting what he wants out of you.”  (p. 116).   Jesus doesn’t say please love me, or please agree with me, he says’ follow me and I’ll make you fishers of human beings— very slippery eels to catch.   We as it turns out, are God’s walking talking sermon to the world.  Jesus didn’t dumb down discipleship.  He raises the bar so high, that no one could get over it without direct divine help and lots of it.  Jesus invites himself into your life, and the next thing you know you are a man on a mission, with an urgent job to do.   You’ve just signed up for the salvation army, of sorts.

The last chapter of this remarkable little book focuses on the fact that Jesus not merely had a body, he continues to have a body. Embodied existence is what life is all about. Jesus is not interested in being a disembodied spirit in heaven.   “In saying we believe God will raise our dead bodies to new bodies, we are saying that we believe in the resurrection of persons with recognizable personalities.” (p. 124).  And there is more.  Jesus didn’t just call individuals, he called a group, the Twelve, a body of believers. “The Jesus movement was a corporate social movement; not a conglomeration of religiously inclined individuals.”   There always was a church, even before Jesus died, there already was a body of believers.   The heavenly Jesus did not ask Saul, why are you persecuting my people?  He asked, why are you persecuting me?  If you mess with the church, you mess with Jesus.

Why Jesus?  Because for humans like us,  love has to be embodied to be fully grasped, both literally and mentally and emotionally.  God didn’t just send us abstract truths, he sent an incarnate truth– his Son.   What convinced the crushed disciples that Jesus was alive was not an empty, subject to many explanations.  No it was that the risen, embodied touchable Jesus appeared to them and dined with them once more.   Will suggests that the divergences in the Easter stories reflect the great difficulty in describing and articulating something as stupendous as the resurrection of Jesus, and the various ways he appeared to them thereafter.  In the resurrection God has the last laugh on sin and death and the Devil.  And the joke involves forgiveness, justice being done, victory, and sweet life everlasting.  

The best way to know Jesus is to obey him and follow him and imitate his ways.  Reading Scripture and books isn’t enough.  We have to get up and hit the road Jack…….

Happy New Year


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