Tag Archives: Jesus

Sarah, Jesus, and James.

Carol kept explaining the parable of the beaten man. “The first two people to walk past the man were people who would have known what the law said about helping your neighbor. They were a priest and a Levite, both employed in the temple, both aware of the commands to love. But both were also aware of the risk in touching someone sick. They would have been ceremonially unclean if they had helped him. They would have been kept from their work for God for several days.”

“But how do you resolve that?” Sara asked. “If making God happy means going to church all the time, but when I go to church all the time I don’t have time for doing what might make God happy, what do I do?”

“That states the question that James raises very well.” Carol said, referring back to the beginning of their conversation. “James was looking at the tension between saying that you believe God and then acting as if you don’t. He’s already given the principle by talking about the royal law. If we love our neighbor, we are doing right. If we are favoring the rich and ignoring the poor, we are not.”

Carol sipped her coffee. “Then James tells a story, like his brother Jesus had. Imagine that you know a person from your church that is hungry and cold. You are both people who follow God, who know the spiritual things to say. And imagine you say to the person, ‘be warm and well-fed.’ And then you turn back to your life without given them a sandwich or a coat.”

“Imagine you are like the priest or the Levite,” Sarah said.

“Exactly.” Carol nodded. “Which takes us back to the story Jesus told. Jesus offered another alternative. He creates a third person in the story, a Samaritan. A person separated from the Jews by culture and by religion. There is no one we hate more than someone we think has a warped practice of our religion.”

“It’s in every newscast from every part of the world.” Sarah sighed.


[to be continued]


How do I start living like Jesus?

The simplest answer is to take a time machine and travel back and start following Jesus around. That’s how the first disciples learned.

Peter and James and John. Mary Magdalene. A bunch of other people. They went where Jesus went. They ate what Jesus ate. They wore what Jesus wore. They listened to what Jesus taught and tried it out. When Jesus gave them a project, they tried it. They learned to live the way that Jesus lived.

These days, there are people who think that living like Jesus means robes and figs and kosher. And eating fish and not taking showers. And not drinking coffee. Because the original followers of Jesus didn’t drink coffee.

But at the end of his time on earth, Jesus gave a summary of what to do, a kind of a commissioning that happens when you finish boot camp or police academy or college.

I’d like to paraphrase it. (But read the original.)

“Make more followers of me the same way I made followers of me. Spend time with people, showing them how you live. When you do, make sure that you are choosing to spend some of that time with every class of people. The kind you fit with, and the kind you don’t.

follow“And the ones that decide to follow me, baptize them. Just like you’ve been doing. And teach people how to obey everything that I’ve taught you. Don’t just tell them what to do, live them what to do. That means you don’t tell people to love, you love. You don’t tell people to forgive, you forgive. You don’t tell people to love God more than money, you love God.

“You’ll have my Spirit with you. With the voice that will remind you of what I said and will teach you what I meant.

“I’ll be there, too.”

And then he disappeared. Leaving the disciples to start obeying. And setting an example for us.


This is building on my post about HOW last week.

And a great book about learning to live like Jesus is Ed Dobson’s The Year of Living Like Jesus: My journey of discovering what Jesus would really do.


What Jesus said he was doing.

IMG_0521Sometime before Thursday night of Holy Week, Jesus summarized his work. And when John writes the story, he puts this summary between the time Jesus walks away from the crowd and walks into the upper room, the place where he’s going to eat supper with his disciples.

You can read it in John 12:37-50.

It’s a soliloquy, the “To be or not to be” kind of moment. Whatever we as readers think about what’s happened in this story up to now, John wants to make a clear statement. So that in the drama that follows, it’s not just about the injustice. It’s about something deeper.

John starts the section with prophecy. He quotes Isaiah, the authoritative prophet in Israel’s history. This Jesus, John says, is who Isaiah was talking about all the time. We’ve been reading it for generations. And when it happens in front of our eyes, when the scroll comes to life, we missed it.

And then Jesus talks. He cries out loud to no particular audience. John give us no help. He doesn’t say, “Jesus called his disciples together” or “Jesus went on a hillside to teach.”

I’ll let you think about this as you read John 12:37-50, but I wonder if Jesus is standing by himself, on a hill, with the wind blowing, telling the rocks and himself and God that he didn’t live as a freelance artist, as a creative preacher. He wasn’t improvising, he wasn’t adapting to the moment.

He was doing what his dad told him to do. No more. No less. No spin.

You would do the same. In that last moment between and before, when you want to be sure that going forward you have nothing to regret, you get things right with God. And in this case, God’s affirming to God that they are good.

Which will be important the next day.


Jesus disappears.

IMG_0521We’re working our way through John 12 this week. John’s been building tension into the story. And in today’s passage, John 12:20-36, Jesus seems a little overwhelmed.

Some people in town (Jerusalem) for the big religious festival want to see Jesus.

Makes sense. He’s one of the tourist attractions, one of the controversial and popular rabbis. Who wouldn’t want to see him, whether you are interested in voting for him or not?

And when the disciples relay the message to Jesus, he ignores it.

Instead, he shifts the conversation to an odd mixture of glory and death. As if the two are intertwined. And then, in a most remarkable moment of vulnerability, Jesus says “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!”

Is this the same kind of tension soldiers feel right before the big battle they’ve trained for? Is this the tension before the final game of the NCAA tournament? Or the most dangerous brain surgery of your career?

It’s probably closer to the first. Nobody dies in the second case, and your patient could die in the last case, not you. But in the first situation, your own life is on the line.

And in Jesus’ situation, his life was forfeit.

No wonder he ignored the meet-and-greet. And no wonder, at the end of this section, he disappears from public view.

As you near the end of your mission, after you hear the divine “attaboy and Godspeed”, wouldn’t you want to get away by yourself for a bit?

That’s how John writes the story.

That’s how Jesus lived the story.

And as we read it, it leaves us with this sense of impending….something.

How did Jesus breathe?

(First published July 24, 2013)

I know. Through his nose. Unless he had a cold or allergies, in which case he breathed through his mouth.

The question occurred to me as I was reading Dallas Willard’s The Spirit of the Disciplines. He said that the reason we struggle to understand Jesus’s statement that his yoke is easy is that we don’t live like Jesus lived.

Instead, we look mostly at the big events, the cool events, the events that receive all the press coverage. All four biographies, for example, talk about feeding 15,000 people. All four spend a lot of time on the last week, the last weekend, the last few hours of his life. The time when he gave up his last breath. But realize that there was a lot of living in between that we don’t know about.

I’m not sure that we need to worry about the events that we don’t know about. But I think we could learn from the way Jesus lived.

So I started wondering the other day how Jesus breathed. He didn’t do some divine “take all your breaths at once”; he actually had to breath several times a minute for thirty-three years. He sighed a couple of times, once in prayer (Mark 7:34), once in frustration (Mark 8:12). Because he knew the psalms, because he went to synagogue and he taught, he likely knew the psalms that say “Everything that has life and breath, praise the Lord”. After he rose, at one point he breathed on the disciples, enacting physically the giving of the Holy Spirit (John 20:22). And, for all I know, he still is breathing. With his resurrected ascended body.

Since, apparently, he took one breath at a time, following him will mean the same thing. It is a life filled with unnoted but essential bits of living. Like breathing.