The Knowable Mystery

When we think of great people in the Bible, we are all going to have our favorites.  Characters that appeal to us, that speak to us, that mean something to us.  Moses, Noah, David, Ruth, Ester, Mary, so many names of people that may speak to us.

But one of the names that is one many of our lists is Paul.  Paul has a dramatic conversion story, travels the world preaching, and wrote many books that make up the New Testament.

Paul is one of the most important figures in the Bible and in world history.  He was the first to take the Gospel into Europe.  He started churches across the world.  He brought the Good News to Gentiles.  Through His love of devotion to Jesus, he literally changed the world.  Look at what he says, though, in 1 Corinthians 2: 1-5, is important to him:

When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. 3 And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. 4 My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.

21818_433630803383117_578966460_n.jpgYesterday Erin Hicks, our Associate Pastor here at St. Matthew’s shared a quote from John Wesley that this passage reminded me of.  Wesley said this -. “If we could once bring all our preachers, itinerant and local, uniformly to and steadily to insist on those two points, ‘Christ dying for us’ and ‘Christ reigning in us,’ we should shake the trembling gates of hell.”  That is the truth of the Gospel.  Jesus dying for us (and being raised for us) and reigning in us every day, through the power of the Holy Spirit.  That is what truly counts, that is what is all about.

And that is what Paul preached over and over again.  As he says in this text – I decided to know (or preach) nothing Jesus crucified.

Paul says, I didn’t worry about the mysteries or these lofty words.  Jesus.  Crucified.  Resurrected.  Returning.  As we as part of our communion liturgy -as we proclaim the mystery of faith: Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again.

And this mystery, it is a knowable mystery.  We don’t “understand” it, who can really understand the power of resurrection and the cross.  But we can know it.  Because it is true.  And this truth sets us free.

In other words, all of this is to say what matters most.  Not mysteries that none but God truly know.  Not opinions, no matter how well thought out.  Not preferences or likes or dislikes.  Not the worry and fears of this world.  Paul didn’t focus on any this.

He focused on Jesus.  He loves us.  He died for us.  He will return for us.  That’s the truth of the Gospel.

The folks all around us, their need is not really the answers to all the mysteries of the world.  Their need is Jesus.  Christ, and Christ alone.  That’s our hope, and the hope for the world.

Today, may we know Jesus, and Him crucified. And may we know that nothing compares to that.

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Day Fifty-Nine with Mark: Mark 15:21-32

Today we look at the crucifixion of Jesus in Mark 15:21-32:

21 They compelled a passer-by, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross; it was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus. 22 Then they brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull). 23 And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh; but he did not take it. 24 And they crucified him, and divided his clothes among them, casting lots to decide what each should take.

25 It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him. 26 The inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.” 27 And with him they crucified two bandits, one on his right and one on his left. 29 Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, 30 save yourself, and come down from the cross!” 31 In the same way the chief priests, along with the scribes, were also mocking him among themselves and saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. 32 Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down from the cross now, so that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also taunted him.

There are so, so many things that we could look at in this passage, so many different things of great import here, things that changed the course of human history.

We see here Simon of Cyrene, being forced to carry the cross.  He was just standing there, when this was thrust upon him.  We never know when life may come to us in ways that we don’t understand and that we are not ready for.

We see them dividing Jesus’ clothes, taking what would have been considered His only real possession of value and picking over it.

We see Jesus being mocked, one last insult.

But to me, and this is something I learned from my trips to the Holy Land, the thing that speaks so much to be me, is the place where Jesus is crucified.  Golgotha, which means the place of the skull.

Why was it called “the place of the skull?”  I always thought it must have looked like a skull.  I may have been taught that some point in my life. But I always believed that it was a reference to the appearance of the place.

12466137_10156386423985043_7373605738327891786_oThat’s not true.  I wanted to share with you  a picture of from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  This is the site of Jesus’ crucifixion and burial.  This mural shows Jesus on the cross, but look what you see beneath the cross.  You see a skull.

Golgotha, in Jewish tradition and legend, was the burial place for Adam.  So, within tradition, when the earthquake came and the earth was split open, the blood of the second Adam (Jesus) washed over the skull of the first Adam.

Now, this is just legend, there’s no proof that any of this happened. But here’s the deal. That’s exactly what happened. Paul writes about it in his letters.  Through Adam, all died.  Through Jesus, all live (1 Corinthians 15:22).  Through Adam, all of us are fallen.  His sin, his betryal of God, it is passed down to all of us.

You, me, all of us. We are all broken. We all choose wrong.  We all rebel. We all push against God, we all blow it.  Each of us. We all stand in need.

Through Adam, all die.

And through Jesus, all can live.  Jesus died for the world.  His blood washes away the affects of fall.  As we sing in “O For a Thousand Tounges” – He breaks the power of canceled sin!

Just as through Adam, all suffer and die, through Jesus, all live.  Through Jesus, all are forgiven.

All are forgiven.

You are forgiven.

Through Jesus.

Today.

The blood of Christ washes away the effects of the Fall. Through Jesus Christ you are forgiven.

Tomorrow we’ll look at Mark 15:33-41.

What questions do you have?  How does this strike you?  Shoot me an email, comment below, or connect with me through social media.

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Day Fifty-Eight with Mark: Mark 15:21-32

Today in Mark, we look at Jesus being abused and mocked, as found in Mark 15:16-20:

16 Then the soldiers led him into the courtyard of the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters; and they called together the whole cohort. 17 And they clothed him in a purple cloak; and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on him. 18 And they began saluting him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 19 They struck his head with a reed, spat upon him, and knelt down in homage to him. 20 After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.

12513776_10156386421290043_2022810508822942294_oThe image to your left is one that I took while we were in the Holy Land a few weeks back.  It was taken at the Lithostrotos.  That was the site of the Roman fortress in Jesus’ day.  Anyway the picture you are looking at is something carved into the street, or what was the street in Jesus’ day.  It’s a game that the soldiers played called Game of the King.

This game was pure torture.  The soldiers more or less rolled dice and where ever it landed was the abuse that they would deal out upon the prisoner.  They would mock, beat, abuse and in many times, killed the prisoners before they could be formally excused.

One of the things that I always take away from going to the Holy Land is seeing that these things, they actually happened.  This isn’t pretend. This isn’t a fairy tale.  These things, they happened.

Wow.  Read that text again, seeing what happened.  And know it is fact, not pretend.

One of things that is most striking to me about the crucifixion was the abuse that Jesus took.  He suffered so much, not just physical, but suffered mockery, abandonment, betrayal, He suffered so much.

And He never complained.  He never said that He was wronged.  He never protested His innocence.

Would you or I have done that?

Yet He did. Because He was driven by His love.  His love for me and you.  His love for all the world.  His love even for those that were mocking and abusing Him.

He laid down His life out of love, to save the world.  Oh, the love that that He has for us.

Today, may we not take that love for granted.

And may we not forget all that Jesus endured for our sake.

May we remember.

Tomorrow we’ll look at Mark 15:21-32.

What questions do you have?  How does this strike you?  Shoot me an email, comment below, or connect with me through social media.

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