“Sons of the Father”
Pilate stood on the platform and yelled to the crowd, “I find no guilt in Him,” motioning to the man standing silent in chains.
“But you have a custom that I should release someone to you at Pesach.” Pesach is Passover, the Jewish holy day where they remembered how God had set them free from slavery in Egypt. God had visited all the houses in Egypt and taken the firstborn of each family and each animal. But when He came to the Israelite houses, He passed over them. Because on each door they had taken a bunch of hyssop plants, dipped them in the blood of the lamb which they had slain and which they were eating inside their homes. And they had struck the bloody bunch of herbs on the doorposts of their houses so that they dripped the spattered blood.
And when the Lord visited the homes in Egypt to kill the firstborn, He passed over the houses which were marked with the blood of the young lamb that had been slain and now was being eaten indoors.
So the Jews had a custom that their Roman overlords should free one prisoner at Passover.
Pilate shouted, “Do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” gesturing with His arm to the silent man with him on the platform.
Immediately the crowd erupted into a roar. “No! Not this man! Barabbas! Give us Barabbas!”
Barabbas was, depending on who you talked to, a freedom fighter—or a highwayman. Judea was filled with men like this. They might be rebels against the Roman occupation, or they might be gangsters. Or both. You could never be totally sure.
What was known is that Barabbas had blood on his hands. He was in prison because he had murdered someone during a riot or revolt. His name in English means, “Son of the Father.”
So the crowd shouts, “Don’t give us the King of the Jews! Give us the Son of the Father!”
The son of which father?
1 Corinthians 11:23-32 + April 17, 2014 +
“In Remembrance of Me”
In your house you probably have a box of memories. Maybe it has letters and pictures from your spouse when you were first falling in love. Maybe it has pictures from your childhood. Maybe it has fingerpaintings and other art work from your kids when they were little.
These are not treasures that anyone would pay much for. They are valuable to you because you treasure the memory of your first child who made you the picture, because you love the person whose hand wrote the letter, whose image is caught in the photograph. And because of this they are worth more than money.
God also had boxes like that. One was the ark in which He put Noah and the animals. He was sorry He made the world and He got rid of all the people in it. But He wanted to keep Noah. So He put him in the ark, and after the earth had been destroyed, He brought Noah out of the box. And when Noah came out he made a sacrifice, and the Lord smelled the pleasing smell and promised never again to destroy the earth with a flood, even though man was evil from his youth up.
God had another box like this—the ark of the covenant. And there God kept some mementos of when He had taken the people of Israel to be His people. He wanted to keep them for the same reason you keep the baby photos of your first born child stored in an album or in a box in the closet.
That box with your kids’ memorabilia in it has significance. You keep it treasured away because they are in your heart. As long as you have such a box, it’s a fair bet that the firstborn child has a claim on your heart.
Is there any way that could change? Probably not. You’re always going to love that child who made the finger painting.
But what if the kid who made the finger paint landscape and the play-doh sculpture of a rabbit that looks like a warthog—what if that kid breaks faith and turns into someone else?
They come into your house high on drugs and try to use their relationship with you as a way to get money out of you? They try to make a deal?
You’d still probably treasure the fingerpaintings, but you’d be angry at them for trying to use that child’s memory as a claim on you. Because it would be false. They would no longer be your child making beautiful, terrible art because they love you. They would be someone pretending to still be that child in order to con you.
The child made the fingerpainting because they loved you and you loved them. But the child who has broken faith is just using your relationship to get something else they love more than you.
Yep. What red-blooded American family doesn’t want their kitchen, laden with the abundance of the capitalist west, presided over by a poster of a glowering Soviet peasant? Just think how much better they must have eaten on the collective farms.
Besides, haven’t we always been at war with Eastasia?
Jesus is king. He gives an unmistakeable sign that He is king of the Jews when He sends His disciples to fetch the donkey and rides it into Jerusalem. And when the crowds respond to Him as the Christ, the anointed One, the promised King, He does not refuse their praise. He allows them to lay down their cloaks on the road in front of Him with leafy branches of trees as a royal carpet. He doesn’t stop them when they cry out “Hosanna!” Save us! “Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord!” The Lord has appointed you to rule in His Name!
The crowd reads Jesus’ actions as proclaiming that He is the King. And even the people of Jerusalem pay attention, the citizens of the city the Lord chose for His dwelling place, the temple. Living in such a holy place, the people of Jerusalem aren’t easily impressed by people claiming to be prophets. But today, on Palm Sunday, when the crowds of Passover pilgrims raise the festal shout of salvation, they ask, “Who is this?” (21:10) And the answer comes back, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee.” (21:11)
Everything seems to be going so well. Jesus makes signs that He is the King, the Messiah. The people greet Him as their King. So what if Jesus has a few enemies? What are they going to do when the people are laying their cloaks on the road in front of Him? God seems to be making Jesus’ way straight before Him straight to the throne of the King of Israel, and from there Lord and King to the very ends of the earth, over all the nations.
The donkey Jesus needs is right where He says it would be, and its owner sends it just as Jesus said he would. Jesus goes into the temple and throws out the money changers, and no one does anything to Him. He comes back on Monday and Tuesday and silences and rebukes the priests and scribes with their false, godless teaching. God seems to be preparing everything.
And then everything changes. Doesn’t it? Was God really making His way straight before Him? Was He really being made King when He was flogged to the point of barely looking human (Isa. 52-53), clothed with a scarlet robe and crowned with a wreath of spiny thorns? Was He really being made king when the soldiers knelt down in front of Him and spit in His bloody face? Had God really prepared His way to the throne when Pilate brought Him out in front of the crowd, dressed up in this royal apparel, and said, “Behold the man,”? Had God made Jesus king then when the crowd roared “Crucify, crucify Him”?
Several decades after Moses had tried to set the Israelites free and failed, he was watching sheep in the wilderness. He was a failure. He went from being a nobleman to one of the most menial jobs. And he grew old in that job.
And then God appeared to him in a bush that was on fire that didn’t burn out. He said, “I have seen the suffering of my people in Egypt; I have heard their cry under their slave drivers. I know their pain, and I have come down to bring them out of slavery into a good land.”
And, He said, Moses, you will go tell Pharaoh to let them go for me.
Moses said, “Who am I that I should do that?” He didn’t want to, but God said He would go with Moses. So Moses said, “If the people of Israel ask me the name of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who sent me, what am I supposed to tell them? I don’t even know your name.”
God said, “I AM WHO I AM.”
That is the name by which God revealed Himself to His people—I AM. The Jews would not say the name, because who can really say “I AM” except the one who is, and was, and is to come?
The Lord is the only one who exists by Himself. Everyone and everything else depends on Him for their life.
He gives life and being—He gave it at the beginning. He also gives redemption to His people. Moses didn’t do it. Israel became His people because the Lord took the initiative. We exist and continue to exist because He wills it.
We don’t live and continue to have food and clothing and reason because we make it happen but because the Lord—“I AM”—wills it and says it.
A righteous man then looks to Him for everything and gives Him all honor, thanks, and praise. That’s what Jesus says that He does.
But the people of Israel, though they were called by His name, didn’t want to belong to Him.
What about us? Do we seek the glory of His name? Or are we mostly focused on ourselves?
When we suffer or have dishonor, do we try to escape it?
Do we seek to know God’s will and what pleases Him? And when we know, don’t we often find that we don’t want to do it? Besides the times where we choose not to, or convince ourselves that His will isn’t really His will?
Why are we like this?
Jesus says, “Before Abraham was, I AM.” He is the Father’s beloved Son, who was with the Father in the beginning.
And He is in flesh and blood in the temple. The temple was called by the name of the Lord. It was His dwelling place. But now Jesus says “I AM.” He is the new temple, the new dwelling place of God.
The people came to God at the temple, but now we come to God in the body of Jesus.
Outside of Jesus our flesh is always seeking its own honor, and there is no help for it. We fight against it but it is always grumbling, always starting a new revolt. Only when we escape ourselves and are in Christ are we free from it.
That happens through His Word. “Whoever keeps my word will never see death.” His Word—the Good news, the Gospel. That in His death our old Adam died and in His resurrection is our new life. Our life is hidden in Him at the right hand of God.
I AM has come to us Himself to speak the Word that frees us from death.
Eternal life is honor and praise from God. God gives it to the one who pleases Him—who is righteous, and seeks not his own glory and honor but God’s.
That glory and honor belongs to Jesus, who did the Father’s will. He gives it to us though, to the one who keeps His Word, who holds to what He says—that His obedience frees us from sin and death.
So you may consider yourself a hopeless case. And you are right. In yourself it is impossible to please God and have life.
But the living One whose word brings everything into existence—He says His obedience is yours. His life is yours. His honor is yours.
He says to come to Him with your sin your life long, with your hopelessness. He is the God who is and who creates out of nothing; the God who does the impossible. The God who calls what is not as though it were, as He reckoned Abraham righteous because Abraham believed God.
I AM says He has justified you. He has made you pleasing to God. He has already done this in His death. He has given it to you in your Baptism. He says come with your sin to my table and eat and drink my body and blood which are given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.
The living one who died says this to you. The one who sent Moses to Pharaoh to tell him to let God’s people go; He stands in our midst and tells you that you will never see death. He has tasted it for you.
Soli Deo Gloria
from “The Post-Protestant Ethic and Spirit of America” by Joseph Bottum
…We live in what can only be called a spiritual age, swayed by its metaphysical fears and hungers, when we imagine that our ordinary political opponents are not merely mistaken, but actually evil. When we assume that past ages, and the people who lived in them, are defined by the systematic crimes of history. When we suppose that some vast ethical miasma, racism, radicalism, cultural self-hatred, selfish blindness, determines the beliefs of classes other than our own. When we can make no rhetorical distinction between absolute wickedness and the people with whom we disagree. The Republican Congress is the Taliban. President Obama is a Communist. Wisconsin’s governor is a Nazi.
We live in a spiritual age when we believe ourselves surrounded by social beings of occult and mystic power, when we live with titanic cultural forces contending across the sky, and our moral sense of ourselves, of whether or not we are good people, of whether or not we are redeemed, takes its cues primarily from our relation to those forces. We live in a spiritual age when the political has been transformed into the soteriological, when how we vote is how we are saved.
Our world is filled with bastard Christianities, on both the Left and the Right. It is populated by Christian moral ideas set loose from the churches and the theological dogmas that once contained and controlled them. Victimhood, the all-American cult of niceness, the merging of social classes with social politics, they all derive in their way from what the novelist Flannery O’Connor once mocked as the Church of Christ without Christ.
For example, there’s a very interesting debate going on in some French intellectual circles about whether political correctness could possibly occur in any culture that wasn’t formerly Christian. Or perhaps even clearer, think of environmentalism. It is commonplace among conservative commentators to point out the ways in which environmentalism sometimes acts as though it were a religion, rather than a political or social view. But few of those commentators pursue the thought down to the actual worldview, which is almost definitively the Church of Christ without Christ.
This is a Christian story, a supernaturally charged history that would have been familiar to Augustine and Anselm. We have an Eden, a paradise of nature, until the fall, which was the emergence of sentient human beings as polluters, injuring the world as the world was meant to be. We have a long era of progressive damage, all aiming toward the apocalypse – the final injuring of the world beyond repair. Strong environmentalism offers, in essence, St. Augustine’s dark worldview without any grace or redemption for human beings. Environmentalism offers, in essence, Christianity without Christ.
The real question, of course, is how and why this happened. How and why politics became a mode of spiritual redemption for nearly everyone in America, but especially for the college-educated upper-middle class, who are probably best understood not as the elite, but as the elect, people who know themselves as good, as relieved of their spiritual anxieties by their attitudes toward social problems.
“Some gay-marriage proponents also argue that the issue is unique, and opposition should be considered beyond the pale of social acceptance – seeking to dismiss Eich and others is therefore perfectly reasonable. According to this view, being against gay marriage is like – pick your analogy – opposing inter-racial marriage, backing the KKK, espousing neo-Nazism, etc. But this logic doesn’t hold up. For a start, in a free society, the expression of such ideas, however odious, should be tolerated (and argued against). More to the point, these analogies are wildly off the mark as a way to describe how gay marriage is viewed in society. Today, according to Pew Research, 46 per cent of Americans are not in favour of gay marriage; are we to believe that these millions of people are the equivalent of KKK members who should not be tolerated? Barack Obama was opposed to gay marriage until 2012, and Hillary Clinton was against it until last year; were these two on a par with neo-Nazis until their recent conversions?”
” This will affect many other companies, including other tech companies in Silicon Valley, that want to ‘align with the values of their employees’. Ridiculous as it may seem, ‘Are you, or have you ever been, opposed to gay marriage?’ could become a litmus test.