I am just coming off of a season where I’ve focused personally an awful lot on Jesus’ death and resurrection (technically, we’re still in the church season of Easter, but you get the point).
However, there’s this thing about Jesus: He’s always one step ahead of you, and just when you think that you have him figured out, there’s another aspect to him and his ministry, and you’re back at the start again, filled with wonder and shaking your head in humility and amazement (ideally, anyway).
Brennan Manning once wrote (more or less, anyway), “The signature of Jesus is the cross”, and I wholeheartedly believe this. It opens up heaven, defeats evil, frees all of us, and continually challenges and motivates me. Additionally, the resurrection breaks the power of death and sin, and unleashes a whole new power into the world (and, by definition, my life).
But Jesus says there’s still even more…
If you take Jesus’ words seriously (and, well, I do), then you have to acknowledge the fact that repeatedly Jesus tell people that you have to pay attention to his teaching—the things he says and does during his minitry.
Over and over again, he flat out tells people, “Look the reason I have come is to teach and preach.” (Check Mark 1:38), John 8:31, and especially John 6:63 and 12:47-48.)
We have a tendancy to focus so much attention on the cross and empty tomb, and then his miracles that we can sometimes tend to lose sight or downplay his teaching agenda.
And he taught a lot:
- In “The Sermon on the Mount” (Matthew 5-7, Luke 6) he lays out a vision for life that far transcends any “normal” human life (and I fully believe he expects us to be able to live it).
- In John’s gospel Jesus says things like, “The water that I give will become in those who drink it a spring of water that bubbles up into eternal life“ (John 4). He also refers to the fact that “Whoever wants to do God’s will can tell whenter my teaching is from God or whether I speak on my own” (7:17).
These are challenging teachings because (a) they often don’t fit into the neat little boxes we draw for ourselves regarding faith and (b) they actually challenge the way most of us look at and live in the world.
I think it’s pretty odd that we ignore Jesus’ own words to focus on his teachings.
Sometimes I think it’s because—as crazy as it seems—we get uncomfortable because his teachings expect too much of us. For those of us who grew up in church, it’s sometimes actually “easy” to focus on Good Friday and Easter, possibly because of the “paid for” and “finished” aspect to them (and I believe that).
But when you look at what Jesus taught, you realize that he actually expects more of you.
It’s like—if we were to actually take him at his word(s)—he actually expects transformation.
And that makes us uncomfortable.
We want to go to heaven, but often we don’t want to actually change beforehand. We are just as content to remain angry, pride-filled, self-focused, and addicted and compulsive.
I think Jesus’ ministry was a continual call to transformation that culminated in the cross and then the resurrection, but it’s not like that call ended with the four gospels.
The call is still going on.
What do you need to change?