Postmodern Prophet -

No Torment Will Ever Touch Them

But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment will ever touch them. In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died, and their departure was thought to be a disaster, and their going from us to be their destruction; but they are at peace. For though in the sight of others they were punished, their hope is full of immortality. Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good, because God tested them and found them worthy of himself; like gold in the furnace he tried them, and like a sacrificial burnt offering he accepted them. In the time of their visitation they will shine forth, and will run like sparks through the stubble. They will govern nations and rule over peoples, and the Lord will reign over them forever. Those who trust in him will understand truth, and the faithful will abide with him in love, because grace and mercy are upon his holy ones, and he watches over his elect.
(Wisdom of Solomon 3:1–9, NRSV)

Don’t you wish that was in your Bible? (If you are Roman Catholic, it is in your Bible.)

Apparently, one of the prominent views of Second Temple Judaism is expressed by the Wisdom of Solomon here. Wouldn’t it make for a good funeral sermon?

I can’t think of any place in the Protestant Bible that says anything similar. Can you?

Wild with Rage

At this, the enemies of Jesus were wild with rage and began to discuss what to do with him.
(Luke 6:11, NLT)

All he did was heal a man. He made his messed up hand whole. On the Sabbath.

He didn’t hurt anyone. In fact, he helped someone. On the Sabbath.

Nothing makes self-righteous people more angry than someone breaking the rules.

The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.

Scum

But the Pharisees and their teachers of religious law complained bitterly to Jesus’ disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with such scum?” Jesus answered them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.
(Luke 5:30–31, NLT)

Those who are scrupulous about the law are concerned with separating people into groups. What group you belong to is the most important thing to them. Ultimately, they divide people into those who are in and those who are out. Anyone who attended high school will understand this concept.

Jesus blows away the dividing lines. People are people.

  1. I want to be like Jesus in this regard.
  2. I, too, am sick.

Fulfilled

Then he began to speak to them. “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!”
(Luke 4:21, NLT)

Jesus claimed to fulfill the OT. That’s pretty bold. You need to be pretty sure of yourself to do that.

They tried to kill him for his impudence. But it wasn’t yet time for him to be killed. That would come later.

Jesus brings good news to the poor. Jesus proclaims release to the captives. Jesus proclaims recovery of sight to the blind. Jesus proclaims the year of the Lord’s favor.

Then he died for it. He died for those to whom he made the proclamations. He died for us.

The Baptism of Jesus

One day when the crowds were being baptized, Jesus himself was baptized. As he was praying, the heavens opened, and the Holy Spirit, in bodily form, descended on him like a dove. And a voice from heaven said, “You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy.”
(Luke 3:21–22, NLT)

The Old is giving way to the New. The time of the prophets is giving way to the one prophesied. The time of the elves is giving way to the time of men.

The Father and the Holy Spirit mark out the Son for his task in this new age. The game is on.

Preaching

When the crowds came to John for baptism, he said, “You brood of snakes! Who warned you to flee the coming wrath? Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God. Don’t just say to each other, ‘We’re safe, for we are descendants of Abraham.’ That means nothing, for I tell you, God can create children of Abraham from these very stones. Even now the ax of God’s judgment is poised, ready to sever the roots of the trees. Yes, every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire.” (Luke 3:7–9, NLT)

Imagine a preacher today mounting the pulpit and speaking to the people as did John the Baptist.

By about the third week, murmuring about “not being fed” and “looking for another church” would begin. You can’t build a megachurch by berating people when they come. And why have a church if you aren’t trying to build a megachurch?

In these days of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD), we want to be coddled. We want preaching that addresses our “felt needs”. We want preaching that builds the church and doesn’t attack our conscience. It’s ok if preaching attacks a lifestyle other than our own, though. We go to church to be blessed and to feel better when we leave, not to get hit in the head with the truth.

John’s preaching even points out that it takes more than baptism and words of repentance be safe (saved). It requires a change in one’s ethics. It requires bearing fruits. It requires good works.

We don’t like to hear that stuff. In our MTD religion, we want to come to church and amen the sermon and go home feeling better, but basically the same. We want to say the sinner’s prayer and get baptized and live a good enough life to get to heaven. John wouldn’t hear of it.

I guess, overall, I’d rather feed on the preaching of the Baptist, the friend of the Bridegroom. Lord, come soon.

As Usual

Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Passover festival. When Jesus was twelve years old, they attended the festival as usual. (Luke 2:41–42, NLT)

There is something to be said for customary behavior. Good habits are good.

Jesus grew up in a family that kept the traditions. Jesus himself is the very definition of new wine, but he grew up drinking the old wine from old wineskins.

We do our families a favor when we at least respect the traditions of those who have gone before us. Church, for many of us, is not traditional in any aspect these days. We remind me of the Fosterites in Stranger in a Strange Land. Not good.

If you ignore tradition, you are missing a side of the quadrilateral. And you can’t sense when things are getting out of hand.

Waiting and Waiting

At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him. (Luke 2:25, NLT)

Anna, a prophet, was also there in the Temple. She was the daughter of Phanuel from the tribe of Asher, and she was very old. Her husband died when they had been married only seven years. Then she lived as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the Temple but stayed there day and night, worshiping God with fasting and prayer. She came along just as Simeon was talking with Mary and Joseph, and she began praising God. She talked about the child to everyone who had been waiting expectantly for God to rescue Jerusalem. (Luke 2:36–38, NLT)

Anna and Simeon are what you would call a remnant. They were still waiting for God’s salvation of Israel long after most people had given up or decided to get along with the ruling powers. They were still waiting.

God enabled them to recognize that Jesus — just a baby — represented that salvation. Simeon prophesied about the child’s future, and that of his mother. Anna joined the shepherds as the first bunch of evangelists.

The salvation of Israel had come at last. And of the world.

In Person

And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them. (Luke 2:6–7, NLT)

In some of the Psalms, people cry out to God as if he is at a great distance, as if he were distracted from watching the world of men. People need to get his attention and they are crying for help. They wonder why he has been absent and why the world is going bad.

They were hoping for a divine intervention. Those usually had come by one army defeating another army. The prophets said it was God using the armies.

In Jesus, God came in person.

It might have seemed underwhelming, seeing God lying in a manger. But that was God. In person.

God’s plan was incipient in that place, in that baby. Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ. He will save his people from their sins. He will be the first one resurrected. He will restore the earth to its initial purpose. He will rule it will power and glory.

Everyone will bow to him. In person.