IVP - Strangely Dim - What Jesus Started: Part Four of Five

December 16, 2012

What Jesus Started: Part Four of Five

An Advent series inspired by the book What Jesus Started. Read the entry for the first week of Advent here, and the prefatory post here.

Advent is an act of faith. In the weeks that lead up to Christmas we declare that God is, that God sees, that God reaches toward a people in profound need of God's touch. "O Come, Emmanuel," we sing, "and ransom captive Israel." We long for this Emmanuel--this "God with us"--to intervene in the desperate condition of every Israel among us--each of us who "strives with God."

The amazing thing is, God does in fact come to be with us, and the God with whom we so often strive makes equally forceful commitments to us. "Surely I am with you always," Jesus tells his followers at the moment he departs from the earth, "to the very end of the age" (Matthew 28:20). It's not unusual to cry out to God for deliverance; it's life- and world-changing when God actually does it.

So, if our lives and our world are changed by this intervention from God, then our attitudes, perspectives and approach to life need to change as well. Jesus recognized this during his time on earth, and while we might anticipate that a great and cosmic God would invest his one and only incarnation in magisterial, majestic, world-altering acts, we find in the Scriptures that instead Jesus consistently started remarkably, frustratingly small.

  • Rather than starting in the house of the emperor, Jesus started in the womb of an unmarried adolescent girl, in a town of no account among a people of no power.
  • Rather than starting with the storming the temple or palace gates, seizing control and establishing his rule, Jesus started in the wilderness, where he was tempted by the Satan, and at the river Jordan, where he was baptized by his cousin.
  • Rather than starting with the best and brightest, the movers and shakers, Jesus started with a ragtag collection of followers from the margins of society.
napkin image.jpg

Whatever Jesus was starting, it would be unlike the movements and institutions it would be set against. It would, in fact, serve as a prophetic symbol against those movements and institutions. Everything that made sense to the world would be overturned by Jesus, from the merchandise tables at the temple to the presumption of power at the governor's residence. Even the presumed finality of death would be turned on its head, as Jesus emerged from a grave and declared himself the resurrection and the life.

This radical reordering of reality would blow anyone's mind. So Jesus invested himself not simply in restructuring the world but in training the people who followed him to live in the way of his counter-cultural kingdom.

  • "The greatest among you," he told them, "will be the servant of all."
  • "Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you."
  • "Blessed are you who are poor . . . who hunger . . . who weep . . . who suffer because of me."

Time after time Jesus drilled into the minds of his followers principles that would sound absurd if they didn't feel so true. In Jesus the intuitive logic of the world God created came to the surface and confronted the imposed logic of the ways of the world. Those with eyes to see and ears to hear were confronted with a choice--the same choice that confronted Moses' followers on the mountain and which confronts us still today: Will we choose the ways that seem so sensible to us but which lead inevitably to death, or will we choose the ways that defy conventional wisdom but lead us steadily into life?

One of Jesus' more perceptive followers--we're not told which one--once said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray." Jesus taught them gladly, and he teaches us gladly today, as an act of service to the world, so that it might be set right in us and among us. Jesus taught and teaches his followers in joyful anticipation of an earth and everything in it recalibrated to be as it is in heaven. And even as he left earth for heaven and turned over the administration of his kingdom to us, he encouraged us to go and do likewise. So let's go do it.

***

9780830836598.jpg

Read chapter four of What Jesus Started, and work through sessions seven and eight in the implementation guide. You can get the book here.

Get together with a friend or two, pick one of Jesus' provocative, counter-cultural teachings, and develop a plan for trying to live it out. See the experiments at the Jesus Dojo for some examples of what you might try.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at December 16, 2012 9:10 AM Bookmark and Share

Comments are closed for this entry.

Get Email Updates

You'll get an email whenever a new entry is posted to Strangely Dim

Behind the Strangeness

Lisa Rieck is a writer and copyeditor on the communications team for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. She likes to discuss good ideas over hot drinks and gets inspired by the sky.

David A. Zimmerman is an editor for Likewise Books and a columnist for Burnside Writers Collective. He's written three books, most recently The Parable of the Unexpected Guest. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/unexpguest. Find his personal blog at loud-time.com.

Suanne Camfield is a publicist for InterVarsity Press and a freelance writer. She floats ungracefully between work, parenting and writing, and (much to her dismay) finds it impossible to read on a treadmill. She is a founder of the Redbud Writers Guild and blogs occasionally at The Rough Cut.

Likewise Books from InterVarsity Press explore a thoughtful, active faith lived out in real time in the midst of an emerging culture.

Subscribe to Feeds