Tag Archives: Jesus

The night we betray Jesus

By Contributor Eric Blauer

Pastor Eric Blauer

The Easter Holy Week is almost here and it’s often forgotten that one of the central themes of the Gospel story is our betrayal of Jesus.

Many Christians memorialize the last days of Jesus by practicing foot washing, celebrating the Eucharist and spending time singing hymns and praying together as a church community. Woven into all those moments of Jesus’s passion were narratives of human abandonment.
Jesus washed the feet of disciples who would betray, deny and desert him.
Jesus shared the bread and wine with the disciples who were about to betray, deny and desert him.
Yet, he washed and fed.

Photo from biblical-art.com

Many churches begin communion times by reciting 1 Corinthians 11:23, “For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed.”

This passage offers us a deep and sacred place of human experience with the divine — the dark night.
Every person’s spiritual journey is made up of dark and light. It’s in the night time where Jesus dines and serves us, with the full knowledge of the blackness of our kisses and curses.
We can resist and reject this revelation like Peter did in his self-righteous moment at the last supper. We often offer up our grandiose narratives of personal fidelity. We are too dishonest about the brief span of our saintliness that is quickly drowned out with the mornings rooster cries.
We sing the songs of Sunday’s worship with the same mouths that kiss him amidst Monday’s mob of unbelievers.
We eat and drink at the table of our heart with angels and devils and yet are quick to recount the falleness of others — who doubt, desert and deny.
The holy night of betrayal is a path of confession for us all, a washing in the water of our own waywardness. A dip of bread in the wine of our own devilish possessions. A dark moment when we recognize our own adultery as we pass the holy kiss.
This Easter week, let’s take time reflecting in the mirror of the Passion and don’t forget what we have seen when the celebrations are all over.

Empathy betters society

By Blogger Daryl Geffken

Daryl Geffken

Value, or mutual respect, of each member of an organization is necessary because it is through our social construct that we learn. By valuing each element of a society, the ability to learn, adapt and bear significance is increased. Such value is communicated through sincerity and authenticity, through allowing for time to increase understanding, through deep listening that honors another’s perspective and encourages permission to speak freely, and a destruction of a system where certain members are deemed more necessary, more valuable than others.

In the Christian tradition, the theme of disparity appears frequently. Compassion and empathy drive Jesus’ view. Jesus upholds the principle that care for human beings is more valuable than attaining material wealth and comfort. Jesus asked, “What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” (Luke 9:25). One researcher suggests Jesus finally closed the gap between the haves and have-nots: In opposition to ownership, humanity is responsible for stewardship of the earth (Lev. 25:23-24). Humanity is given responsibility to do what is best for the planet. But currently, our world community plays favorites. Anchorwoman Susan Moeller is quoted as saying, “In the news business, one dead fireman in Brooklyn is worth five English bobbies, who are worth fifty Arabs, who are worth five hundred Africans.”

Jesus condemned “the rich fool” not because he was rich but because he was so naive as to believe that great wealth involved no social and economic responsibilities (Luke 12:21). Clearly there exists a culpability of leaders within a Christian context to live into and present the servant leadership modeled by Jesus for others to consider. We are not called to lead in a dogmatic manner, but in the humility that comes from understanding the true value of people and the world’s environment. Jesus encouraged his followers to be the change they hoped for, to enact an economy that was a fuller expression of God’s will.

Jesus himself is portrayed to be a master storyteller, many times bringing his listeners face to face with the issue of disparity through the use of narrative and analogy.

One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?”

The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

“Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!”

The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Jesus replied with a story, “A Jewish man was traveling on a trip from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road. By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side. Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here. Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.

The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.”

Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”

This is the second in a three-part series.

Why Jesus loves rugby more than football

By Contributor Daryl Geffken

Daryl Geffken

Someone I admire thinks the demise of traffic safety was ushered in with the Anti-Lock Brake System. In fact, he goes so far as to suggest each car should have a knife affixed to the steering wheel, tip pointing straight at the driver. His reasoning? Cars have become too safe, too able to correct for our carelessness; our lack of responsibility. Extreme? Perhaps. But he gets his point across.

I would suggest many of us have made our environments too comfortable; too safe.  Eighteenth Century pastor Jonathan Edwards is most famous for his sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. However, he made no distinction in Christian duty between saving the poor in spirit and the poor in material wealth and status. In a less cited, but equally powerful sermon, Edwards demanded, “Where have we any command in the Bible laid down in stronger terms, and in a more peremptory urgent manner, than the command of giving to the poor?”

Author Tim Keller argued that Jesus’ teaching was clearly understood by his audience as demanding the sacrifice of one’s social position and material well-being.  Keller explained that Jewish culture during the time of Jesus relied heavily on a patronage system. Social networking was founded upon the material investment of wealthy people into others, who would in turn provide favors and protect the interests of their patron. These networks were often created and maintained through lavish dinners, and though the initial investment was substantial, the return was well worth it.

It was within this context that Jesus made the following appeal: When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind (Luke 14:12-13).

According to Keller, a challenge such as this would amount to “economic and social suicide” for those hearing Jesus’ charge. It contradicted the standard practice of establishing networks with rich and powerful benefactors in favor of creating relationships with the poor and marginalized. Jesus expected his disciples to give without the expectation of being repaid in any way.

In Matthew 6:19-21 Jesus says, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Jesus’ basic economic view is simply that we take care of each other, friends and enemies alike. This is driven by compassion and empathy founded upon the Golden Rule of Luke 6:31, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” This may be dismissed as impractical idealism.

Pastor Brian McClaren stated, “Christian discipleship is training for apostleship, training for mission. From this understanding we place less emphasis on whose lineage, rites, doctrines, structures, and terminology are right and more emphasis on whose actions, service, outreach, kindness, and effectiveness are good.”

A scrum during a rugby union game between the Crusaders and Brumbie/Wikipedia

I just watched the World Cup Rugby Sevens Match. Don’t know the rules? Imagine hard-hitting football without pads. Not.one.single.pad.  Show of hands: who ever played Saturday football? I did. We didn’t use pads.  There was this one kid (I use the term loosely, because unless he was in a Sumo Dojo, there is no place where would not be in the top fifth percentile of size).  Whoever quarterbacked his team, would run one play and one play only: handoff up the middle. I remember trying to stop this guy. Correct that: I remember up to the point I tried to stop this guy. Then I remember grass. The next time he came at me, I wasn’t sure the risk was worth my broken body.

When you are close to pain, how you risk and what you risk changes. My fear is that many of us have so insulated ourselves from pain and real risk that we make decisions without considering the ramifications. Perhaps many of us think we are pseudo invincible? Perhaps we don’t realize the reality that if we have a privileged life, someone else by necessity is underprivileged. Maybe someday soon, you could invite some people over for lunch that could never repay you.

Finding God on the open road

By Contributor Daryl Geffken

Daryl Geffken

When I need God I take a drive. Well, let me back up. I need God all the time. When I am feeling very lost and in need of God to show himself in my life, when I seek truth, I head south. Not figuratively, literally. I go to the Palouse. Up High Drive, down Hatch Hill, all the way across Hangman Valley, and I end up on Valley Chapel Road. It’s beautiful at any time of day or year. It winds around through different little hills and dales and it leads me to a cemetery. Where, I slow down, I drive in, I park my Rodeo. Weird? Freaky? I could see where you might think so, but it gives me perspective multiple times in multiple ways. Today was no different, and very different.

Photo of the Palouse by Marj Johnston

I’ve discovered that I’ve become a bit more emotional. How so, you might ask? Easily explained. I’ve never understood the far-reaching affect of becoming a father. Having a child makes the death of a child far worse. I go to the Mt. Hope Cemetery from time to time. I go looking for God to meet me and teach me and refresh me. Today there is a new memorial site. It is adorned with fresh cut lilies and a little metal butterfly. It also has a small plaque with 1 Corinthians 13 engraved. What is really impactful to me is the big remote control monster truck and the two matchbox cars placed in its pickup bed. This was a kid — probably not much older than Tyler or Justin — the two boys that have totally won over my heart, and who were so hard to leave this morning — whose almost 5-year- or 2-year-old smiles make me want to stop the world just so I can spend more time with them. I can’t tell you exactly how messed up I would be if something were to happen to either of them. I can’t explain the horror of a memorial site with a beloved tiger or Captain Rex standing vigilant watch. I’d be a wreck and empty. A hollow shell. Part of me, the father part, would be dead.

This brings to light a story of a man who desperately needed Jesus. In Luke 8:4 a ruler of the local synagogue pleads with Jesus to come and heal his only daughter who was dying. He fell at Jesus’ feet. He was experiencing a helpless pain and must have thought he’d try anything. Jesus, who usually is fairly harsh with the religious elite, goes with the man and raises his daughter from death. Jesus seems to help this man because he is aware of his own need, his own inability and also recognized the ability of a God-man. This must mean there’s hope for me; a religious leader that is fairly prideful and not often convinced that he needs a savior. I can become appreciative of my own need and Jesus may not turn me away. Hope is found. Jesus can meet my need.

That’s my story for the day. I’m working my way through the gospels and through my life and you (like it or not) are the recipient of some of my thoughts. I hope and pray you find hope in the need of your life.

Seeing through the mist

By Contributor Daryl Geffken

Daryl Geffken

I travelled to Winthrop this weekend for a long-awaited family vacation.  In order to get to our destination we had to travel through the Nespelem District of the Colville Reservation.  For those of you unfamiliar with this area, it is a patch of desolate ground, strewn with volcanic rock.  No streams or rivers provide life here and several massive serpentine power lines that transfer power from Grand Coulee Dam to the rest of the state split the land.

I have taken this road several times over the years.  What struck me this trip was the fact that as we climbed onto the plateau, we entered a deep fog.  It was a mystical mist (yes, I just did that) and it carried a deep sense of isolation.  It got me thinking ; first from the Native Americans living on this reservation.  Did the clouds provide an insular feeling that denied the reality of relocation to this land?  As if trying to deny the horrible marginalization forced upon them?  I’m not sure I even know the proper way to ask this in a way to honor them.

For “my people” did this mist give us the opportunity to ignore what had occurred?  Or what continues to happen?  Up there in the clouds a people live in their “sovereign” state.  But it seems a state of destitution, broken down homesteads, poor roads and poorer people.  Was this land chosen because it can hide what we don’t want to think about?

I think we do this in our lives, too.  We create worlds of hazy shadow that protect us from our darkness.  We obscure the facts that cast us in too harsh a light creating a fuzzy, more palatable likeness if, and when, we take time for reflection.  C.G. Jung asserted that each person, on the whole, is less good than he or she wants to be. “Everyone carries a Shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is,” he said.

Many churches seem to perpetuate this type of existence. The pressure to present oneself and family as meeting these accepted norms has created something akin to schizophrenia.  This can be seen as a stressed-out, arguing family instantly transforms while walking into a church building, asserting that, “We’re fine.”  Many church leaders are content to leave this situation alone, being every bit engaged in such deception.  Church can be a dangerous place to fully expose oneself.  Church settings have lost their ability to discern the elements at work within a person and how this can help the community grow.  One may wonder if such institutions are desirous of deeply understanding the individuals within their community.

The foundational goals of Jesuit philosophy are amazing to me.  They can be summarized as, “know yourself, build community, impact the world.”  They have provided direction in my life. More than that, they have offered clarity: You can’t know yourself until you can be real, be transparent.

Being real is living at that deepest level of honesty with yourself. It’s not just going around and exposing everything that you are to everybody you see.  It’s looking for how you present yourself in a fake way, where in your life you put a mask on to prevent others from seeing what you’re afraid of them seeing.  Where you are nervous about life.

I think that the only way to be real is to realize that someone loves you unconditionally for who you are — not your effort, not your faking it, or the masks you wear, not your potential.  Jesus is the only person in my life who fits that. Check out what the bible says about him in Romans 5:8, “God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.”  That means that God loves me, not for what I can do for him, but because I am me.  I used to think Jesus recruited me, like he wanted me on his kickball team because of all the good I could do for him.  Or that he saw me for my potential, and if I didn’t reach that potential, he’d walk away.  That’s why Philippians 1:6 hits me so hard.  Paul talks about a faith that is “confident that he who began a good work will be faithful to complete it.”  It says God started something in me; he’s not going to walk away.  Combine that verse with my rambling thought and it may look like this to you and to me. Jesus sees all that we are, and loves us enough to sacrifice himself so that you and I can have a relationship with him and can experience real life. When we understand this, it makes us move, it makes us act.

I’m not sure I want all the expressions of my shadow to be present throughout the rest of my life.  But I’d rather build an authentic community that leads to a beneficial impact of the world.  If the requirement for this is truly knowing myself, it seems a small price to pay.

Physical, spiritual healing go hand in hand

By Contributor Dr. Prabu David

Healing at the pool (John 5: 1-14) 

Dr. Prabu David

Jesus’ second miracle is in stark contrast to his first one. While the previous healing was sought by a royal official, Jesus took aim at the dregs of society in this miracle (I wrote about the first healing in my previous post). The discards and the helpless waited in Jerusalem by a pool named Bethesda. Most likely the purpose of the pool was to cleanse and wash off before entering the temple. But the sick congregated outside the pool to receive a miracle from Bethesda, which means grace.

The Darwinian nature of the pool is interesting. Sometimes an angel would go into the pool and stir up the water. The first person who entered the pool after the stirring would emerge cleansed of sickness. The system was fundamentally unfair because only the fittest among the sick was most likely to be cured. In this race for a cure, recognition was reserved only to the one who finished first.

When Jesus saw the people scattered around the pool, he was drawn toward a man who had been ill for 38 years, but with no chance of obtaining a healing on his own because of his immobility. Why Jesus chose this man is not clear. Perhaps his plight was worse than that of the others. Perhaps the invalid’s time had come and it was a reward for his patience. Perhaps it was his unwavering faith that drew our Lord’s attention.

This miracle is representative of a group of miracles in which the recipient did not actively seek out a miracle. Unlike Naaman or the royal man in the previous miracle, the recipient did not have to travel to find the prophet. This time the prophet found the needy man and asked, “Do you want to get well?”

“Get up! Pick up your mat and walk,” (John 5:8) said Jesus.  Instantly, the man walked away from the pool carrying his mat, much to the dismay of the religious authorities who accused him of violating the Sabbath. Instead of wonder and joy at his cure, the Pharisees were bothered that the man carried his mat on the Sabbath. It was a legalistic technicality that concerned them most. For Jesus, however, compassion trumped legalism.

Later, Jesus found the man in the temple and told him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning, or something worse may happen to you” (John 5:14). This offers another insight into the dynamic between healing and accountability. Remarkably, although Jesus sought out the invalid and offered healing, he also demanded a spiritual transformation. Jesus made it apparent that healing the body without a transformation of the spirit is not a wholesome cure.

In this miracle we see wellness is sometimes offered even without our demand. It is also made clear that wellness is nurtured through principle and shaped in discipline. Jesus demands a transformation to accompany the miracle.  Also we see the legalism of the religious authorities who are keen on focusing on the brush strokes of the law only to miss the portrait of compassion Jesus sought to paint.

Are we saved through Jesus’ divine nature alone?

By Contributor Dr. Karin Heller

Dear Dr. Heller,

You said it was due to Jesus’ human nature that we are saved, and not through some account of a “magic Jesus.” I disagree. It was due to Jesus’ divine nature that we are saved. In 1 Peter 3:18 it reads, “For Christ died for sins once and for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the spirit.” If a human were to die it would not pay for the sins of humanity; the covenant between God and man would still require sacrifices. Yes, God can forgive sins without the death of Jesus or an animal sacrifice, but in order to bring him the most glory he has chosen this system so we can recognize his justice and recognize the greatness of the gift of his son Jesus. Jesus had to be God in order to pay for all the sins. The only reason he had to be human is so he could die because God cannot be killed. As it says in 1 Peter his death was in the body but he was made alive again in the spirit. Jesus was fully God and fully man. He knew who he was and what he came to do from a very young age. He died because he was man, but paid the price for all sins because he is God. This is how I believe the scriptures tell the story.

– Brendan

Dear Brendan,

Dr. Karin Heller

Thank you for your quick feedback. Well, if we were saved by Jesus’ divinity only, then there was no need for Jesus to become man. He could have just saved us with one word out of heaven. However, you, yourself write, that Jesus’ human body was necessary for salvation because only Jesus’ body can die! In other words, you reduce Jesus’ body to a mere instrument of death in his work of salvation. In this case, Jesus could have died at the age five from disease or at the age of 12 in an accident! It was just a matter of death of his human body. The circumstances were secondary, although God willed, and just a matter of greater glory to be given to God. This hypothesis overlooks that Jesus did not save us merely by his death. He saved us through his personal salvation history. He came to accomplish all that was written about him (Luke 24:27). And what was written about him was a totally human history, starting with Jesus’ conception in his mother’s womb, his birth, his growing up, his earthly ministry, his death, his resurrection, his ascension into heaven and his gift of the Holy Spirit to his church! Sorry, you narrow down Jesus’ saving acts to his only death, which is contrary to scripture. You are, however, right when you write, “If any human were to die it would not pay for the sins of humanity, the covenant between God and man would still require sacrifices.” Yes, all human flesh fails to pay for the sins of humankind. There is only one exception —Jesus’ flesh! That’s what you fail to see and recognize.

What you do not grasp is the fact that Jesus’ human flesh is Adam’s, which means human flesh before the fall. Protestants, and also many Catholics, tend to think that Jesus’ flesh is the flesh of you and me with the exception that he did not sin in this flesh because he was God! That’s a very bad shortcut with disastrous theological consequences. When the theological statement of “soli Deo Gloria” (to God alone all glory) is pushed to an extreme, it tends to reduce the importance of the human body to a minimum and transforms Jesus into “a man above mankind.” It also leads to the rejection of a correct understanding of the Catholic and Orthodox doctrine of Jesus’ presence in bread and wine at the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, or Eucharist, and it progressively eliminates the belief in the resurrection of the body. If one does not believe God can create a truly human flesh that can save us, then one progressively drifts away from sound biblical teaching, especially Genesis 1 and 2. It’s precisely this belief that gives greater glory to God.

– Karin

Dr. Karin Heller is a professor on the theology faculty at Whitworth University. Her blog, Table Talk with Dr. Karin Heller, features her responses to questions that students have asked her over the years.  Check back each week to see new posts, and if you have a question leave it in the comment section below.