Thursday, June 16, 2016

Finding Joy in Digging Deeply

It has been more than a year ago that I first sensed that my current sermon series would focus on the life of Jesus. At the time, I did not know which of the four authors I would use for my source, although I was fairly certain it would be one of the synoptic accounts. (If you want to know why I chose Mark’s account, read here.) But all along, knowing that I would be taking a trip to Israel before this series began, I knew that the series must look beyond our usual glimpse into what Jesus did. This series had to be in part, “Why did He do what He did?”

The simple answers to that question have been given in Sunday School and sermons for years. I know, I have done that. But, for this series, I was compelled to reach deeper. Now, I am not suggesting, in any way, that I am capable of fully realizing who Jesus is, or why He did what He did in full, or any other sort of preposterous nonsense. Jesus, as both fully God and fully man, is beyond my comprehension, but that does not mean that I am not to simply take a passive wave at Scripture and glean from the leftovers of the field. No, God has gifted me to discern certain truths as one who should attempt to harvest the deeper truths. By no means am I perfect at this – in approach or in understanding – but that truth should only compel me to dig deeper yet like an archaeologist who discovers a hint of something on the surface that makes s/he want to dig deeper.

That is what this series has become. It is not about accepting the Jesus I have come to know, but learning more about Him in ways I never did. (Yes, I know that Yancey has written such a book. No, I have not read it – at least not yet.) But in learning so much more about the customs of Jesus day, of better realizing why the Pharisees were who they were, and, perhaps most importantly coming to better realize that Jesus didn’t come to die for our salvation, but rather to inaugurate God’s kingdom to a people still in exile in order that God’s will would be done on earth as it is in heaven. Of course, He knew He had to die to make this happen, but dying was part of the process, not the entirety of His purpose.

A part of my process of learning intensified this past week as I prepared to share about the Feast of Shavuot. Seeing the ties, both biblically and through Jewish tradition, from Acts 2 (what we call Pentecost) to Leviticus 23 and even Exodus 32 (what the Israelites and then Jews call Shavuot) made certain biblical truths come to life. Furthermore, my experience in attempting to understand this feast has whetted the appetite to go even deeper in understanding the others. This is not about Judaism, but rather understanding why God implemented these feasts in the first place (Leviticus 23) and how Christ has, or will, perfectly fulfill each one of them. Again it goes back to not only knowing what Jesus did, but why as well.

I have greatly enjoyed the first two months of this journey. It continues to make my understanding so much clearer than it has been before. As I have often said, “To stop learning is to start dying.” That is one of the top principles in my life and to share my learning with others is a part of the grace of God. For those that read this blog or the church’s blog, I thank you for letting me share a bit of what I learn with you each week. God has also graciously given me opportunities to invest in other current and future ministers in classrooms as well as many other opportunities to share His message, His truth, and His love as well. I pray I will never take this responsibility for granted. And I pray I will learn to dig even deeper to gain an even better understanding, so that those God entrusts to learn from me can supplement their own studies by gleaning from what spills out of me. The purpose: not just so that we might know more. Rather, the purpose is that we might partner together to make God’s kingdom a reality on earth as it is in heaven by following in His footsteps and continuing the work that He called His followers – both then and now – to do, until He returns again.

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