Prophecy #4 – Mother God and the Roman Eagle

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” —Jesus (Luke 13:34–35)Last week we looked at Jesus’ call to Israel to repent of her “eye for an eye” way of relating to the Romans, and to embrace loving and forgiving her enemies, which would end in life through the narrow gate of a nonviolent revolution.

The Hebrew (and remember, Jesus was a Hebrew) word for repentance is teshuvah. Teshuvah is defined as “turning”—it is a turning from sin to God. But what does this mean in the context of Jesus’ use of this concept? Jesus was calling them to repent for their violence and turn to nonviolence. The verb form of teshuvah is shuv, which actually means to “return.” Originally it held the meaning “to return to God from exile,” from the place of alienation and separation back to God. It referred to a return from the path of annihilation, the way of violence, to God and God’s path of life, the way of peace. It is returning from Babylon (Rome) to the fulfillment of the promises made to Israel. Jesus clearly taught that the way of violent retaliation and revolution against Rome accompanied simultaneously by stricter obersvance of the Torah was not the repentance he was referring to. Repenting, for Jesus, meant leaving the path of violence toward our enemies and entering the path of forgiveness and love of others, including love for our enemies (see Matthew 7:12–14).

The context of our passage this week is that Jesus was about to return to Jerusalem:

At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’” (Luke 13:31–33)

Then Jesus stops and muses:

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” (Luke 13:34–35)

Jesus, in a rare moment of clarity, through a momentary window, lets us into His heart to see what is transpiring within Him. Jesus steps into the role of a mother hen, as Mother God, and weeps over Jerusalem’s rejection of Him and the way out that He has been offering them. How fitting that Jesus would take up the image of a mother hen, covering her baby chicks with her wings, protecting them from the circling predatory eagle in the sky above (a very fitting description, as Rome’s symbol was the eagle)! Yet Jerusalem’s hope was fading. For three years Jesus had been holding on to the hope of nonviolent transformation through a divine love of enemies offered as an alternative to Jerusalem’s destruction by the eagle of Rome. The mother hen was now leaving Jerusalem to her own devices, yet she was very willing to return at any moment if Jerusalem would simply turn from this path of violent retaliation, this path of placing her hope in a militaristic messiah, and instead call blessed this coming to them by God himself in the form of a prophet of nonviolence. Instead, Jesus was seen not as blessed, but as dangerous. We see this most clearly in the words of Caiaphas:

You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed. (John 11:50)

As Jesus said, three days later He would enter Jerusalem. Would the people of Jerusalem repent and call him blessed, or would they take another step toward their annihilation and ruin?

As He rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, all of His disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” (Luke 19:36–38)

Would Jerusalem join the disciples in calling Him blessed? I’m afraid that’s not what happened. Instead:

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.” (Luke 19:39–40, emphasis mine)

Where does this leave us today?

I’m convinced, both within Christianity and outside of it as well, that Jesus is still longing and waiting with deep expectation for a people who, like the early Jesus movement itself, say, “Blessed is this this prophet bearing the message of hope for a world faced with annihilation! Blessed is the prophet that has come, giving us a way to heal broken people, to heal broken relationships, and ultimately the way that leads to the healing of the nations and the healing of the world!”

Lord Irwin is reported as having asked Gandhi at one point what he thought would solve the problems between Great Britain and India. Gandhi picked up a Bible, opened it to the fifth chapter of Matthew, and said, “When your country and mine shall get together on the teachings laid down by Christ in this Sermon on the Mount, we shall have solved the problems not only of our countries, but those of the whole world.”

Blessed is He who comes with the way of life, the way of nonviolently loving and forgiving our enemies, of restorative justice (rather than retributive) rooted in nonviolence. This forgiveness, with a view toward redeeming, restoring, and reclaiming, is the way to heal the world.

The thought that it is too late is of demonic origin. There is still hope, but that hope today is the same as it was back then. Wherever we are right now, the last great hope for us and our world is in calling blessed that Prophet Who came to us two thousand years ago with the message of an enemy-forgiving God Who is inviting us into His nonviolent way of living life.

HeartGroup Application

Too many times our rhetoric betrays us. Today we speak of inviting Jesus into your lives, into our agendas, into our hopes and dreams and aspirations and goals. But the question I would like to ask is, “Are we simply asking Jesus to join our world, or are we ourselves joining Jesus and stepping into His world?” Rather than inviting Jesus into your life this week, ask Jesus to show you how you may more fully step into His life, His agenda, His hope for this world, His dreams, His aspirations. Ask Jesus to take you further up and further into the reality of His passions becoming your passions.

1.I want you to go back and prayerfully meditate on two passages. The first is John 3:17: “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be HEALED [Sozo] through him.” The second is the parable of the pearl of great price (found in Matthew 13:45). Remember that the pearl is neither Jesus, nor ourselves—it is the establishment of Jesus’ kingdom on a restored, healed, and reconciled earth. This is the pearl for which Jesus gave up everything to accomplish, and it is the pearl He calls us to give up everything to join Him in accomplishing.

2.As you meditate on these two passages, write down each day what thoughts, questions, insights, or even other passages Jesus gives to you.

3.Share what you write down with your fellow Jesus followers in your HeartGroup, encouraging one another, spurring each other on to love and deeds that put on display what the world changed by Jesus looks like.

Wherever this finds you this week, keep living in love, loving like Christ, putting on display the beauty of the God we see in Jesus, restoring one human heart at a time, until the only world that remains is a world where love reigns.

I love you guys,

See you next week.

Prophecy #3 – Two Headlines and a Fig Tree

At that very time, there were some present that told him about the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.” Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”—Jesus (Luke 13.1-9)This week we are looking at the third of Jesus’ eight final prophecies concerning Jerusalem.

What I want you to notice right from the beginning is the phrase “At that very time.” As we discussed last week, Jesus had just plead with his audience to work in the specific direction of reconciling, of their own initiative, with their much-hated adversaries. Specifically, he wanted them to reconcile with Pilate, who represented the Roman Empire to them. What we are looking at this week is Jesus’ audience’s response: “Don’t you realize what Pilate did to the Galileans?” Enemy love is never initially responded to positively, but it is the way of life, whether it appears to be so from the outset or not.

Remember, the background of Pilate’s slaying of the Galileans is as follows. Rome very carefully watched the congregating of any of its subservient people, but especially those with subversive tendencies leaning toward revolt. The Galilean Jews certainly fit this description. Those who hoped for militaristic violence as the means whereby the Jewish people would throw off the yoke of Roman oppression also held to the belief that moral uprightness, obedience to the Torah, would ensure God’s blessing of their violent revolt, and also their success. This is the paradigm of the Maccabean revolts saga. It was the paradigm of those who still subscribed to this methodology in Jesus’ day as well. If there were an engagement between Rome and insurgent Jews and Rome won, the reason is because there must have been some “sin in the camp,” so to speak. It had nothing to do with using methods God could not bless, but rather the level of religious obedience and purity in regards to the Torah by those who were fighting. The details of the story are not clear, but it appears that the Galileans were offering sacrifices in preparation for their engagement with the Romans. According to scholars, Roman soldiers had surprised some Galilean insurgents while the rebels were engaged in these sacrifices. The soldiers slaughtered the men right then and there. The excuse offered by the religio-political part of the Pharisees would have been, based on Deuteronomy 28, “If we obey God will bless us, if we disobey God will curse our efforts.” When there was failure in revolting against Roman oppression, the reason was because those revolting must have been “sinners.” Thus Jesus’ response:

“Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans?”

Jesus goes on to say:

No, I tell you; but unless you repent [turn from your violence; your eye-for-an-eye retaliation against the enemy is instead love and forgiveness; this turning-the-other-cheek way of life I am presenting you with], you will all perish as they did.

Then Jesus responds to these objectors with a second occurrence everyone was talking about during that time:

Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem?

According to some sources, this was one of the weaponry towers used by Rome for weapons storage. A group of zealot insurgents had tried to dig a tunnel under the tower, with hopes of seizing the weapons stored there and using those weapons themselves in a violent revolt against the Romans. But the tower’s foundation was already in a state of decay, and the tunnel further compromised the integrity of the foundation, leading to the entire construction suddenly collapsing, claiming the lives of several Galileans.

Again, the logic was not that the approach itself was flawed, but rather how strictly those seeking to carry out the given approach were adhering to the Torah.

Jesus goes on:

No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.

The problem was not how strictly they were adhering to the Torah or not. The problem was the concept of eye for an eye, the violent methods they were endeavoring to use themselves. Jesus warns, looking all the way down to 70 A.D., that if they did not repent, did not turn away from their eye-for-an-eye retributive violence, it would continue to escalate until they themselves were destroyed.

Remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 7.13-14:

“Enter through the narrow gate [of forgiveness, enemy love, nonviolent noncooperation]; for the gate [of eye for an eye, violence, and retaliation] is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life,, and there are few who find it.”(Emphasis added.)

Jesus then finishes this third prophecy with a story. Please read this story prayerfully, fully remembering the social and political context within Jesus himself told this story:

Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”

Jerusalem was set on a collision coarse with annihilation if something didn’t change. What was the fruit the gardener looked for that would ensure it remaining?

I point you to the Sermon on the Mount:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not retaliate against an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies [i.e., the Romans] and pray for those who persecute you [i.e., the Romans], so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil [i.e., the Romans] and on the good [i.e., Torah observing Jews], and sends rain on the righteous [i.e., Torah observing Jews] and on the unrighteous [i.e., the Romans]. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5.38-48)

What does this mean for us today?

A lot!

Last December, the Washington Times published research that 84 percent of the world population practices some sort of faith; a third of those are Christian. That’s 2.2 billion Christians (32 percent of the world’s population). There are 1.6 billion Muslims (23 percent), 1 billion Hindus (15 percent), 500 million Buddhists (7 percent), and 400 million people (6 percent) practicing various folk or traditional religions, including African traditional religions, Chinese folk religions, American Indian religions, and Australian aboriginal religions. There are 14 million Jews, and an estimated 58 million people—slightly less than 1 percent of the global population—belong to other religions, including the Baha’i faith, Jainism, Sikhism, Shintoism, Taoism, Tenrikyo, Wicca and Zoroastrianism, and others.

Notice that those claiming to have some connection to the Jesus revolution of the first century (Christianity) are the largest of these groups. Imagine the world we could create if Christians simply insisted on following the clear call to non-violence represented by Jesus’ teachings, which were rooted in His picture of God as well as the way He looked at all of us. Again, I’ll ask the question I asked last week: What would happen if Christians started believing in Jesus once again?

HeartGroup Application

1.This week I’d like you to spend a few days praying through this passage one phrase at a time. I want you to pause at each phrase to contemplatively talk to Jesus about each one. I also want you to be listening for what Jesus does in each of your hearts. What is the passage?

Our Father in heaven,

May your name by hallowed.

Your Kingdom come.

Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

May we be released of the debts we owe others, as we release those who are indebted to us.

And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one.

2.I want you to write down any insights, questions, or inspiring gems each day that Jesus gives you.

3.Be prepared to share these with your HeartGroup this upcoming week.

Wherever this finds you, keep living in the enemy-embracing, self-sacrificial, other-centered, nonviolent love we see in Jesus, until the only world that remains is a world where love reigns.

I’ll close this week with the words of N.T. Wright:

“‘Thy Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.’ That remains one of the most powerful and revolutionary sentences we can ever say.”

I love you guys.

We’ll see you next week.

Prophecy #2 – Clouds on the Horizon

“When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, ‘It’s going to rain,’ and it does. And when the south wind blows, you say, ‘It’s going to be hot,’ and it is. Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time?” —Jesus (Luke 12.54–56 NIV)This week, I want to continue our look at the final eight prophecies of Jesus concerning the two fates that lay before Jerusalem for her choosing. Remember, our look at these eight prophecies is an attempt to understand more deeply what Jesus’s kingdom is all about—this kingdom that is not simply a new way of doing life, but a way that is deeply rooted in a radically different way of seeing God, ourselves, and everyone around us, even our enemies.

Also, I’d like to remind you once again about the two paths Jesus laid out before the people of his day in Matthew 7.12–14. We have the eye-for-an-eye, retaliation-and-retribution way of doing life that intrinsically escalates till it ends in death. And we have the enemy-love, enemy-forgiveness, doing-to-our-enemies-what-we-would-want-them-to-do-to-us way of doing life that brings healing, peace, and life eternal.

This is our context. This week we are looking at the second of the eight prophecies:

He said to the crowd: “When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, ‘It’s going to rain,’ and it does. And when the south wind blows, you say, ‘It’s going to be hot,’ and it is. Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time? Why don’t you judge for yourselves what is right? (Luke 12.54–57)

This second prophecy is the foundation and preliminary prophecy for the third prophecy recorded by Dr. Luke in Luke 13.1–9. I’d really like to discuss the third prophecy this week because what Jesus says in that prophecy is astounding! But in order for the third prophecy to make sense and to have its proper impact, we’ll have wait on that until next week and first do some pre-work this week with this passage.

The weather-wise Israelites of Jesus’s day could tell by watching the clouds over the Mediterranean or by observing the wind direction changes (when the wind veered around to the south) what the imminent weather would be in their region, and they planned accordingly. What Jesus is drawing attention to here is their keen ability to reason from cause to effect when it came to matters of weather, but their utter blindness and inability to reason from cause to effect when it came to the path they were on in relating to their political enemies, the Romans.

Jesus then uses a contemporary analogy, a metaphor if you will, of the then current court system to illustrate the trajectory of the path they were on with Rome, a path of retaliation, retribution, and violence.

As you are going with your adversary to the magistrate, try hard to be reconciled on the way, or your adversary may drag you off to the judge, and the judge turn you over to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison. I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny. (Luke 12.58–59)

What Jesus suggests here is not militaristic rebellion but, on the contrary, peacemaking and reconciliation, rooted in love for one’s enemies and forgiveness. Who was their adversary at this time? Rome, represented in the person of Pilate the Roman governor. Without stealing too much away from next week, this is exactly why Jesus’s listeners object in the very next verse (Luke 13.1) on the basis of Pilate’s atrocity against some Galileans. They were in essence saying, “You want to us to practice enemy-love and forgiveness, peacemaking and reconciliation with Pilate? You have got to be kidding us! Don’t you realize what Pilate recently did to the Galileans who were offering sacrifices? How can you expect us to turn the other cheek, not retaliating but following the way of peace?”

In Matthew this instruction is placed within Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount:

Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny. (Matthew 5.25–26)

In Matthew’s account, this is directly in the context of leaving your gift at the altar when offering a sacrifice if you remember that you have an adversary who is against you. Jesus commands, “First go and be reconciled to that person; then come and offer your gift.” Twice in Matthew, Jesus is recorded as saying, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice” (Matthew 9.13; 12.7; cf. Hosea 6.6) This is the path that leads to life, and the God of nonviolence that we see in Jesus is intently working with Israel at this stage, endeavoring to have them to repent, to leave the path of eye-for-an-eye retaliation, and to embrace the way of mercy toward one’s adversaries or enemies. This is the way of enemy-love, enemy-forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration. This was the path that would lead them to life eternal. If they did not change paths in relation to their present adversaries (the Romans), the trajectory of the path they were one would end in their “not getting out until they had paid the last penny.” It would end in their utter annihilation.

The options before them were transformation or annihilation. Remember, this was not an imposed annihilation force on them by a violent God, but rather a warning about an annihilation that would be the natural result of a course of action toward their adversaries that would escalate into their utter destruction and death in AD 70.

Jesus will say it again:

If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. (Luke 19.42)

Today we plan our daily activities around listening to weather forecasts or checking our weather apps on our phones, while we are strangely ignorant of the clouds of our own making that are gathering on the horizon of our lives in both our personal and global relationships. Last week we looked more personally at following Jesus’s way of nonviolence, of enemy-love and forgiveness, the way of mercy in relation to our family, friends, coworkers, or fellow students. This week I want to ask more global questions. Whether we ask these questions regarding our private relationships or our global ones, the implications are the same.

Next week we will be looking at Jesus’s words concerning a tower that fell in Siloam. Last week in America, the nation spent time remembering those who lost their lives when two towers fell in New York City in 2001. For many, the way of retaliation is the only logical response. Anything else does not make sense. Anything less would possibly be “dangerous.” But Jesus is whispering to us to take a different path than that which is intuitive to us. There is a way that seems right to us, but its end is death. More violence, according to Jesus, only ensures, not our safety, but our own destruction. War-making has today become a kind of “religion” rooted in sacrifice. Jesus calls us to peacemaking rooted in mercy. (Matthew 9.13; 12.7; cf. Hosea 6.6) What would happen if instead of supporting a military-industrial complex, Christians began spending billions on feeding the world’s starving? What would happen if instead of supporting more loss of life in Iran and Afghanistan, Christians went to work to establish new schools and hospitals in Iran and Afghanistan? What would happen if Christians today stopped funding Israel’s occupation of Palestine and began embodying Israel’s Messiah in teaching and demonstrating enemy-love and forgiveness, the way of mercy rather than militaristic sacrifice, to Israel the same way Jesus did so long ago? What would happen if Christians stopped believing that Jesus’s way is impractical, naïve, or insufficient and flatly stating that it “doesn’t work” in the “real world” and began to follow the way of life Jesus came to teach us, no matter how difficult? What would happen if Christians simply began believing in Jesus once again?

The Jesus of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John is still whispering to the world today, “Overcome evil with good. Reject your tribalism, and love everyone on the planet. Reject your way of violence, and become people of enemy-love, forgiveness, mercy, and nonviolence. If you do not do this, you as a global community, will be destroyed. It will not be God’s doing. Your own violence will come down on you.”

Much to ponder for sure.

HeartGroup Application

1.This week I would like you to go back and spend some time prayerfully meditating on these two passages:

As you are going with your adversary to the magistrate, try hard to be reconciled on the way, or your adversary may drag you off to the judge, and the judge turn you over to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison. I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny. (Luke 12.58–59)

Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny. (Matthew 5.25–26)

2.Get out a piece of paper, and with inspired imagination, tap into your creativity. Begin to brainstorm, writing down whatever comes to mind about what nonviolent conflict resolution might look like with those in your immediate life that you find most difficult to get along with. Begin by simply putting down on paper what ideas come to your mind, whether you think they are foolish or not, logical or not, practical or impractical.

3.Share and discuss with your HeartGroup what you come up with, getting constructive feedback and further creative options on ways you can follow Jesus’s path of nonviolent conflict resolution in your life.

Jesus gave us a way to heal the world, (Luke 9.2; John 3.17). Jesus did not come to this world to condemn this world, but so that this world, through Jesus and His teachings, might be saved. May it begin with each of us in our daily lives.

Wherever this finds you this week, keep living in Jesus’s other-centered, self-sacrificing enemy-love till the only world that remains is a world where love reigns.

I love you guys.

See you next week.

Prophecy #1 – The Blood of All the Prophets

“Because of this, God in his wisdom said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and others they will persecute.’ Therefore, this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be held responsible for it all.”—Jesus (Luke 11.49-51)This week I want to begin what I think will be an eight-part series on the final eight prophecies of Jesus in Luke, regarding Jerusalem and the options that were laid before her. If you are like me, that doesn’t sound very exciting at all, but trust me, this will not be a waste of your time. The reason I would like to share these eight prophecies with you is that they offer us immense insight into the character of the God we see in Jesus, as well as an abundance of wisdom in knowing how to apply Jesus’ teachings to our lives today. Remember, Jesus’ teachings, although they are spread all over the four gospels, are concentrated in both Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) and Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain (Luke 6). If you want a crash course inside the headspace of Jesus and what He was passionately seeking to accomplish, these passages are where to begin.

Now a few weeks ago, we also looked at this passage:

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7.12-14)

Jesus’ “golden rule,” his teachings on enemy forgiveness and love, IS this small gate and narrow path that leads to life. Remember how we looked at the idea of retaliation, an eye for an eye, leading to the whole world being blind, and ultimately destroyed. The way of retribution, rather than restoration, is the wide gate and broad path that everyone seems to follow, but it leads to destruction.

The context of our passage this week in Luke 11 is that Jesus has been working toward the goal of the Jewish people embracing nonviolence as a way of winning against their Roman enemies, rather than violence, looking and hoping for a militaristic Messiah to come in and crush the Romans. Jesus is clear that this way will lead to their destruction if they should so choose it. Jesus’ way of peace, if the Jewish people would have embraced Jesus and his teachings, would have not only eventually ended in Jerusalem’s liberation, but also in winning their Roman enemies over to embrace this Messiah named Jesus and his radical way of living life. This is what all the prophecies of the Messiah in the Old Testament foretold. Imagine with me. Jesus was offering a path that would lead to fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies, including the establishment of God’s kingdom in a Jewish context, and ultimately to the Old Testament’s prophecies concerning conversion of the nations (see Psalms 2; Daniel 7.13-14; Isaiah 66.18-23, 60.1-22; Ezekiel 37.28, 39.21-29; Zechariah 2.11, 6.15, 8.20-23, 14.1-21). What a hope!

But the catch was that the people of Jesus’ day would have to give up their violent ways of living, their “eye for an eye” way of solving problems, and learn a new way, the way of enemy love and forgiveness, taught and modeled by Jesus.

Also, it would be good to keep in mind that this first of eight prophecies by Jesus concerning Jerusalem seems not to offer the option of repentance. This, too, is much like Jonah with Nineveh, or Isaiah with Hezekiah. But like these, Jesus’ words in Luke 11.49-51 are not irrevocable; repentance is always a possibility. As we continue through the rest of these eight prophecies, we are going to see Luke open the possibility of another outcome through repentance, in subsequent warnings. At this stage, it was not too late for Jerusalem, IF they would embrace Jesus and his teaching on the way of peace, enemy love and forgiveness. Jesus was offering them a way to be healed and to heal the world. They were instead choosing a way that Jesus saw would lead to destruction.

What does this say about God? If God looks anything like Jesus, God too is calling us to a nonviolent path of love and forgiveness. Jesus reveals that this is what God and His Kingdom are all about. Jesus reveals a God who loves His enemies. Jesus reveals a God who freely forgives His enemies, of His own initiative. Jesus reveals a God who is endeavoring not to destroy the world, but who is spending all His energy to heal the world. The destruction that lies ahead is not that which God is threatening to impose. On the contrary, it is a destruction that is the inherent, intrinsic result of the escalating nature of living by the violent way of retaliation, retribution, and an “eye for an eye.”

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” (Matthew 5.38-39)

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” (John 3.17)

What does this mean for us in our daily lives? What does it mean to live our lives, as Jesus’ followers, in the way of enemy love and forgiveness? Maybe it’s a person at work that is difficult. Maybe it’s a family member whom you can’t stand. Or for those of you in school, maybe it’s a fellow student. What does it mean to relate to them without the way of retribution, retaliation, and eye for an eye? But instead, like the God we see in Jesus, to freely forgive, to even love them, to work for their restoration and healing from their dysfunction? What does it look like to see those who are your enemies as victims of the real enemy? To see them in need of your compassion, patience, prayers, and possibly active engagement on your part, seeking to restore them to the way of love for which they were made?

HeartGroup Application

Jesus came to save people from the path that leads to destruction. Jesus was a revolutionary, calling us to a way of living life that was radically different. It was the way that leads to life. In the specific context in which Jesus was ministering, Jerusalem was on a collision course with annihilation, but it was not too late. They could still follow Jesus and his new way of life and be saved. One path intrinsically led to death, the other intrinsically lead to life everlasting.

1.This week I want you to spend some time focusing on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 as well as Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain in Luke 6.

2.I want you to use holy imagination and prayerfully try and map out on paper how Jesus’ way of doing life would intrinsically lead to healing, a restoration of the relationship with the Romans, and ultimately LIFE. Focus specifically in relation to their attitude toward their oppressors, the Romans, because this was the cultural context in which Jesus’ teachings were given. I want you to also map out, if you can, how their present course would continue to possibly escalate to their destruction. This is actually easy to map out, because that is exactly what historically happened.

3.Think about your own relationships in your daily life. List five relationships you currently have with other people. Whether you consider them your friend or someone you place into the category of “enemy,” ask yourself if the way you relate to them is the way tending toward life or a way that tends toward death. Try to be honest. And where you find paths that lead to death, ask Jesus to help you make changes, even if they are small changes, that will put you, in that relationship, at least for your part, on the path of life.

4.Share any insights or discoveries you receive with your HeartGroup this upcoming week.

We’ll be looking at the second of Jesus’ eight prophecies concerning Jerusalem next week. Until then, wherever this may find you, keep living in love and loving like Christ, until the only world that remains is a world where love reigns.

I love you guys.

See you next week.

 

Conduits

“The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed . . .” —Jesus (Luke 9.22)

This week, I’d like to begin with something a little different. Are you ready? I want you to listen to an imaginary story.

Once upon a time, there was a God who sang a world into existence. He loved this world and its people. But these people, over time, through no fault of their own, became afraid. They began over time to believe that this God, who had made them, did not like them. They began to believe that He was angry with them. They came to believe that God even hated most of them—not all, but most. Because of these beliefs, they eventually became afraid of each other as well. These people were afraid—very, very afraid. They not only feared this God, but they also feared one another. They looked at each other with suspicion. Days were spent endeavoring to discern whom it was that God hated, so that those who deemed this to be true could hate them, too, and thereby invoke some possible favor from this God.

As fear had turned to hatred, hatred turned to anger, and anger ultimately turned into rage—murderous rage.

It was when this world was at its darkest that this God dreamed up something daring. He would attempt the impossible. Would it work? Some believe that not even this God knew for sure. It would be risky—really risky. Not pretend.

He would come to them in disguise. He would turn their entire social system on its head. He would embrace all, loved and revered, or hated, feared, and scorned alike. He would simply love, radically, inclusively, daringly, and somewhat dangerously. This would unsettle everything, top-down, upside-down. And then it would happen. If it worked the way He planned, they would turn on His threatening love, this love that challenged and threatened to change everything. This social system, remember, was how they even provoked the “favor of God.” Their life, their security, their assurance, what defined them, EVERYTHING for them was bound up in this. How would they respond?

They would label Him as their ultimate enemy. They would let loose their murderous fear on Him. Yet how would He respond? Having loved them, He would love them to the end. And if this worked, He would do one final thing that would pull back the veil and show them all who He really was the whole time. This would change everything, banish the lies, illuminate hearts, and set the world right once again.

Would it work? If only God knew. But they would be worth the risk. They would be worth risking it all.

I want to take a moment and talk about conduits. Jesus believed He would be a conduit of God Himself. Jesus also understood that God would be taking on Their enemy, who would be using humanity, the object of Their love and affection, as his conduit. How do you defeat an enemy that is using your loved ones as a weapon against you? In light of last week’s fiftieth anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, I’d like to quote, at length, a Christmas sermon of King’s from the winter of 1967:

“I’ve seen too much hate to want to hate, myself, and every time I see it, I say to myself, hate is too great a burden to bear. Somehow we must be able to stand up against our most bitter opponents and say: ‘We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We will meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will and we will still love you. We cannot in all good conscience obey your unjust laws and abide by the unjust system, because non-cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good, so throw us in jail and we will still love you. Bomb our homes and threaten our children, and, as difficult as it is, we will still love you. Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our communities at the midnight hour and drag us out on some wayside road and leave us half-dead as you beat us, and we will still love you. Send your propaganda agents around the country and make it appear that we are not fit, culturally and otherwise, for integration, but we’ll still love you. But be assured that we’ll wear you down by our capacity to suffer, and one day we will win our freedom. We will not only win freedom for ourselves; we will appeal to your heart and conscience that we will win you in the process, and our victory will be a double victory.’” (Emphasis added.)

You see, from Jesus, King learned to look on his enemies not really as enemies, but simply as victims. They were conduits of the real enemy, held in captivity to a systemic evil, and as someone who was to be won over from the real enemy and the systemic evil, over to the cause of truth. But where exactly could King have discerned this from the Jesus story? I believe this is exactly what the closing week of Jesus’ life was all about.

How do you win your loved ones away from the real enemy and his systemic evil?

They process is very simple, and it’s the same every time.

It’s rooted in something original to the ethics of Jesus—enemy love.

First you provoke the system of evil.

Second, the system responds violently.

Third, you bear that violence, that hatred, that “sin” in your own body, choosing to love nonetheless. Through the power of nonviolence, you pull off the veil of the very system itself, hopefully winning the very ones held captive by that system away from the evil, through empathy, to the cause of the victim. In short, you seek to overcome evil with good.

It is the same in every era that Jesus’ example has been followed. I’ll give three examples.

Steps

1. Provocation

2. Violence of System

2. Nonviolent Love

Jesus

Temple “Cleansing”

Crucifixion

Nonviolent Love

MLK

Sit-ins

Beatings/Prison

Nonviolent Love

Gandhi

Salt Marches

Imprisonment

Nonviolent Love

(*for more on this, see the presentation A New Way, in the new Life Unlimited series at https://renewedheartministries.com/AudioPresentationSeries.aspx?series=30)

You see the perplexity was never about how we can make an angry God loving again through some kind of appeasement. Rather it was a question of how a loving God could make us good again through becoming the victim of our violence Himself.

“Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out.”—Jesus (John 12.31)

HeartGroup Application:

1.Remember the cross, to the original followers of Jesus, was viewed as something Jesus did for them, but never instead of them. They believed that they too were called to embrace Jesus’ way [a cross] of putting the world right again, forming human society once more into the image of love rather than fear, hatred, and violence. In light of this reality, ponder the following texts:

John 18.11: Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?”

Mark 10.38: Then Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized…”

Luke 9.23-24: Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it.”

Romans 16.20: The God of peace will shortly crush Satan under your feet.

2.Go back and prayerfully re-read this entire eSight. Write down any thoughts, questions, insights, or perplexities that surface as you, through Jesus, meditate on the cross. Do this not as a means of changing God, but as a means of changing the world.

3.Share with your HeartGroup this week what you have written down, respectfully and openly encouraging one another to keep following this Jesus and way of healing the world. Remember, “if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—the work of each builder will become visible, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each has done. If what has been built on the foundation survives, the builder will receive a reward. If the work is burned up, the builder will suffer loss; the builder will be saved, but only as through fire. Do you not know that you (plural, as a HeartGroup) are God’s temple, and that God’s Spirit dwells in you (as a group)?” – Paul (1 Corinthians 3.12-16)

Remember, Jesus did not come into the world to condemn the world, but intended that the world, through Him, might by saved. Wherever this finds you, keep living in love, loving like Christ, until the only world that remains is a world where love reigns.

I love you guys.

I’ll see you next week.