Here's the manuscript for the sermon. I almost stuck to it. There are a few differences but feel free to read along. Feel free to use the comments section to further the conversation!
I would like us to take a look at the ministry of Jesus this morning, with some special attention to the death and resurrection, but I want to look at it in a different way. Like all of the stories we have in scripture, we have a multi faceted gem on our hands. A story that has the potential to draw many meanings for many people.
I have no intention to tell you that you’re wrong for believing in the death and resurrection of Christ as a means for saving us from our sins. That would be irresponsible of me. I simply ask that you turn the gem over this morning and get a different look at this beautiful thing. So, I do want to encourage you today to think of the cross and resurrection in a different way…just this once.
Let’s start at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus has grown up under the guidance of his father and the local rabbi’s. Geopolitically, Roman oppression is in full swing. Local leaders are trying to keep the emperor happy. Now here’s a new word for you this morning. Theo-politically (yes, that’s the politics of God because that’s what had become of things). So, theopolitically, religious leaders are trying to keep peace between a non-jewish oppressive military superpower and the Jewish people and they are becoming increasingly overcome by the desire to keep the government happy.
On top of this, Religious leaders have also taken Old Testament Biblical laws, The torah and other writings that are hundreds and even a thousand-plus years old, a part of their culture, and turned them into an oppressive, ritualistic religion.
So on multiple levels, the Jewish people are being oppressed and it’s killing them as a nation and by nation I mean people group. You have government over-reach, foreign militaristic rule, and your religious culture all beating you into the dust on a day in and day out.
Then Jesus, as a mature man, steps into the role he was destined for. He has gone to John the baptist to be baptized, in effect identifying himself with his people. He then spent some time alone with God in the wilderness. By the way, how many of us need to just stop and spend some time alone with God in the wilderness to restore ourselves and prepare ourselves for what’s to come?
And then Jesus returns home. I’m still not sure what he was thinking going back home.
Jesus returns to Galilee region preaching some fabulous messages and doing great things. Jesus had made a name for himself. The text says “word about him preceded him all over.”
Then he goes home. And I mean HOME HOME. Hometown HOME. This is where he lets loose. He's given the chance to preach in his synagogue and he’s given the Isaiah scroll.
Now, as a good Jewish boy, he would have known this passage was coming through the calendar. Like many of our churches do today that follow a Lectionary, they systematically read the scriptures.
And Jesus reads this passage from Isaiah about caring for people.
8 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Then Jesus says “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
At first everyone is all excited. They're like; go Jesus! Preach it brotha!
Then he challenged them with the truth - you haven't been doing it, and it shows. Look around you at what the world has become! This is not what it looks like to proclaim good news to the poor, proclaim liberty for the oppressed, to give sight to the blind. This is not it!!
And they got mad…
…and they tried to kill him
These people he had been raised with.
They cared for him, helped raise him, taught him,
and because they couldn't handle the truth of what Jesus was trying to tell them, they were determined to kill him
So Jesus spends his ministry healing the sick
Jesus was dining with “sinners and tax collectors”
I love how the text often goes so far as to add a whole new label for tax collectors, like way worse than sinner, You’re a tax collector. And I get it. Because a tax collector was a Jewish man, working for Rome, aiding in the oppression of the Jewish people.
Jesus talks to a whoreish woman at a well
Heals the blind, lame, and lepers; all societal outcasts because of the belief that these things came from a present sin in someone’s life.
He redeems the women and children and gives them a voice again.
He speaks out in a prophetic voice against the religious leaders who have held redemption and salvation as hostages.
He speaks truth and love and hope into the lives of those who are oppressed, unloved, and hopeless due to a geo-theo-political system.
Jesus stepped into the mire to pull people out of it. He showed up in the hard places. Spoke hard things.
And it was this geo-theo-political system that ultimately killed Jesus. This crooked system where religion and politics slipped under the covers together and, claiming the name of God, crucified the man who represented God and everything God really cared about. They crucified God.
Jesus’ death on a cross represented what happens when you are willing to step outside the comfort of political and religious social structures and truly love God and be in relationship with God.
The death on the cross is what it looks like to take that to the very end. The system will do everything it can to squash you. To Silence you. To kill you like the roach they think you are.
I studied systems theory in college, which is applied to families and churches, and gangs, and all kinds of other things. The system is any group of people that relate to each other and it tries hard to maintain status quo. Homeostasis, ….or equillibrium, as my scientist wife corrects me. The system doesn't like disturbances. Like when a person lives into who they were created to be and that looks different than the people, the religion, the politics of their day. You see, disturbance is hard to deal with. Hard to swallow. The system tries to maintain itself because that’s what it knows. The system killed Jesus
So, to be a follower of Jesus… what would it look like?
When you read the text where Jesus says “I am the way, the truth, and the life” maybe he speaks about a path of love and justice for all of humanity because we were ALL created in the image of divine and we take that to the very end. Being crucified by our family, our friends, our religious structure because we refuse to give in.
I hear you out there. You're saying “Bryan, this is pretty heavy. What happened to the resurrection? The joyous celebration?”
So in light of our take on the story today, what’s the resurrection all about? The resurrection reminds us that the system can not win. The image of a lifeless body lying in the grave and suddenly (BREATHE). Victory. Jesus rises from the grave and says go make more disciples! Jesus says Love wins here y’all (y’all is the actual hebrew, by the way). If one of us who loves without boundaries and submits ourself to live into God’s perfect SHALOM and gets crucified for doing so, love will always resurrect itself. Whatever heartache, heartbreak, we experience. Whoever may try to quench our thirst, silence our voice, or tell us that we’re just too radical, we live in the hope that Christ has been there, and defeated it.
1 corinthians 13 - If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,* but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;* it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends.
Jesus’ death and resurrection saves us from an oppressive religious system that was wrapped around the government’s finger. And surely that wouldn’t be the case 2000 years later, right?
Our call is to BE the resurrected Christ.
This morning, Are you tired? Are you weary? Are you sick of fighting? Do you know down deep in your soul that the marginalized and oppressed need a voice of redemption because #everylifematters.
Do you need to take some time and mentally find the person that YOU have oppressed, pushed out, marginalized? Or the person that you have attempted to calm or to silence because they stood up for the poor, the homeless, and the outcast.
We invite you into a time of reflection, confession, and contemplation on the life and work and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.