Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’

He Wants to Build What?

You are likely familiar with the quote from Jesus: “on this rock I will build my church…” (Matthew 16:18) and, of course, we all know what a church is. But what if you were in that group, nearly 2000 years ago, that first heard Jesus say it? What would you have thought he meant? What expectations would he have raised? Hearing Jesus’ promise through the ears of his first hearers gives us a new and helpful perspective.

As I said, we all know what a church is. We hear the word church and think of the white steepled building we pass on the freeway and the stained glass adorned brick building downtown. Not that we are focused on the building. We are focused on the people that meet there, their creed, and their religious affiliation. That is what the word means to us in our society.

But, just as Jesus certainly was not talking about building a physical structure, neither was he speaking of some sect or denomination as we think of church today. When Jesus said “church” his disciples did not think of a religious group that meets down the road. That’s our interpretation. Their interpretation would have been based on their experience of the word. In the Greek and Hebrew languages, it stresses the idea of a group called together for some specific purpose. You can look at Acts 19 where the same word is used of the Ephesian townspeople assembling, both as an angry mob and as a legal forum (vs. 32, 39, 41). The word in these instances is translated “assembly” rather than “church” because this was certainly not a church!

So Jesus’ phrase, “I will build my church,” is synonymous with “I will call together an assembly.” And that fits the religious background of the Jews. The prophets had often spoken of the time to come when God would make a great assembly. Frequently the Lord mentioned gathering Israelites back from captivity (e.g., Isaiah 11:11-12). He also spoke of gathering “yet others to him” (Isaiah 56:8) and making a people for himself where there once was “not my people” (Hosea 1:10, cf. Romans 9:25-26 and 1 Peter 2:9-10). So the Jews were expecting a Messiah that would gather people from all nations into the house of the Lord (Isaiah 2:2, Micah 4:2).

That gives me a different way to look at the word church. Yes, I know that it still has the meaning of a religious institution or even a religious meeting place to those of the society around us. But I also know that Jesus and his apostles who carried his message to the world were trying to build a very special entity: a gathering of all who love God and accept their place as his people in submission to him. Jesus built one gathering for one people who will disregard all worldly barriers to fellowship and harmony.


Still Thankful

I was still thinking of thanksgiving as I read my Bible this morning and today’s schedule happened to include Matthew’s short description of Jesus being baptized by John (Matthew 3:13-17). I am thankful that we have the wonderful example of Jesus’s life. He has laid out the race we should run (Hebrews 12:1-2). We are to have the same mind as he did (Philippians 2:5), to love as he did (Ephesians 5:2) and to act as he did (John 13:15). And his baptism is part of that exemplary life.

In Jesus’s baptism we have a simple but powerful display of how he planned his days. “It is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Jesus said this in response to John’s protest: “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”

It was true–John was baptizing penitent sinners and Jesus certainly was not a sinner. But Jesus had come to earth to follow God’s will in all respects. Since John’s baptizing was God’s will, Jesus would follow the command, even though he had no sins that needed to be remitted.

Often we are moved by a desire to prove that we are right. It matters not how trivial the issue, we demand to be seen as right. Here Jesus relinquishes his claim to rightness–even though he is the only one that could have claimed it. The only thing that mattered to him was God’s will fulfilled.

I’m thankful for this example. I often think that I know better how to do certain religious things, but here is Jesus, who certainly could have come and taken over for John rather than submitting to him, but didn’t. I need to submit to God’s will, not take over. I need to hear his commands for my life and not make excuses for ignoring them. I need to accept the wisdom of God’s instructions even if I can’t understand it right now. I need to practice what the apostles taught even if it doesn’t seem to fit society’s politically correct view of things.

Father, Thank you for Jesus and his wonderful example. And help me be more like him today. Amen.