New Testament

A Dream Come True

4_15_fortune-cookieDo you ignore your dreams? Christmas is a good season to pay attention to them.

Do you know where the highest concentration of dreams occurs in the Bible?  (Hint, think Christmas…)

It’s in the context of the story of Jesus’ birth, but only in one of the gospels (more on that soon).

Have you ever thought about the expression, “It’s a dream come true!” The logical connotation of that phrase would suggest that the vast majority of dreams do not in fact come true. It surprises us when it does.

Because we don’t take them seriously, most of us don’t pay attention to our dreams. We assume that our subconscious just imports events from our awake-world into our sleep-world–what we just watched, what we just read, what we just ate (particularly when we dream of a dancing burrito).

Whenever dreams are talked about in Scripture there’s no surprise, people assume the dream should be taken seriously since God speaks through dreams.

Three books of the Bible contain the vast majority of references to dreams: Genesis, Daniel, and Matthew. The dreamers of Genesis include Abimelech, Jacob, Laban, Joseph, the cupbearer, the baker and Pharaoh. In Daniel it’s Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel.

Curiously, Matthew is the only gospel writer to mention dreams.  In Matthew the people who dream dreams are Joseph the adoptive father of Jesus, the wisemen (I think there were five of them), and Pilate’s wife. Matthew’s gospel speaks of six separate dreams,
five of them in the context of Jesus’ birth in only 28 verses (Matt. 1:20; 2:12, 13, 19, 22; 27:19). Joseph of Nazareth experienced four dreams recorded in Scripture, more than any other biblical character.

The dreams of Matthew aren’t primarily predicting the future, they are giving guidance, in each instance somehow protecting Jesus.  Joseph’s dreams tell him: 1) Marry Mary, 2) Go to Egypt, 3) Return from Egypt, 4) Go to Galilee.  The wisemen are told not to go back to Herod, and Pilate’s wife warns her husband to “have nothing to do with Jesus” (which Pilate ignores–how would things have been different if he had followed her advice?).  All the dream warnings surrounding Jesus’ birth are heeded.  Praise God that these people took dreams seriously.

Why does Matthew uniquely have so many dreams, particularly surrounding the birth of Jesus?  I don’t know. But I do know God still speaks through dreams, and as we reflect on the birth of our saviour during this season of Advent, ask God to guide you as he did Joseph and the wisemen while you sleep.

 

 

Pastor Jimenez and Father Abraham

abraham-sodom-300x243Baptist pastor named Roger Jimenez in Sacramento has been making headlines for preaching that the 49 people who died at the gay club in Orlando deserved it.  Somehow a pastor in California has taken a horrific tragedy, the worst mass shooting in US history and made it worse.

I have many problems with his offensive message, but here I will only mention four points (keep reading after #1).  He apparently based part of his sermon on Romans, so I’ll focus my comments there before jumping to Genesis.

First, according to the apostle Paul, “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23) so, biblically one could agree with Pastor Jimenez that the people killed in Orlando deserved to die.  But this is not Paul’s main point, or where his message ends.

Second, Paul also said “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23), so we should add Pastor Jimenez, and Dave Lamb to the list of people who deserve death (and all the readers of this blog).  His sermon went viral, but it would have been more biblical if he included himself and everyone in his congregation in his list of people who deserve death.

Third, when Paul talked about the wages of sin as resulting in death, he also spoke of the free gift of God through Jesus (Rom. 6:23).  I haven’t listened to all of Pastor Jimenez’s sermon, but at least as his message and his subsequent comments are being reported in the press, he doesn’t mention anything about God’s grace, which again would have made his message more biblical.  Preachers shouldn’t conclude by saying sinners, like us, deserve death, but they need to get to the good news about God’s grace.

Fourth, father Abraham* instead of condemning the wicked residents of Sodom to death, actually risked his life in prayer for them, asking God to show mercy to the Sodomites (Gen 18:16-33).  I discuss Abraham’s prayer, the Bible’s attitude toward homosexuality, and what really was the sin of Sodom in more depth in Prostitutes and Polygamists in my chapter on homosexuality (pages 161-183), so I won’t go into depth on those subjects here. Tragically, Christians are often perceived to be more like Pastor Jimenez, than Father Abraham.  But how cool would it be if Christians were known to be like Abraham, in this regard, interceding in costly ways for people associated with the sins of Sodom?  We have a long ways to go.

*Father Abraham actually had 8 sons: Ishmael, Isaac, Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah; Gen. 16:1521:2-325:2.

Responses to Jesus III: Obedience

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Jesus’ Entry into Jerusalem by Pietro Lorenzetti

Has anyone ever asked you to steal a brand new car for them?  It’s never happened to me, but I’m not sure about the rest of you.

Jesus appears to do something roughly equivalent to his disciples shortly before his death, which will be the topic of today’s blog.

This week we’re looking at responses to Jesus, starting with his enemies (mocking, beating, killing), then his friends (abandoning, denying, betraying), and finally today looking a faithful response of obedience.  I’ve taken my 10-minute Palm Sunday sermon and milked it into three separate blog posts.  It’s still in terse, outline format.

  • Obeying Jesus.
    1. But in the midst of this rather depressing narrative (mocking, denying, killing, etc), there is a bit of hope.
  • Let’s back up to Palm Sunday, right before Jesus came into Jerusalem.
    1. Jesus commanded two of his disciples to go get a colt that had never been ridden (Luke 19:29-35).
    2. If someone told you to go to dealership, find a car that had never been driven, take it and bring it so your friend could drive it into Philadelphia, what would you call that?
      1. Most people would say “theft.”
      2. It appears that Jesus is telling his disciples to steal a colt (the animal, not the Dodge).
    3. Now, I assume Jesus returned the colt.
      1. Mark’s gospel informs us that the disciples promised to return it.
      2. But none of the gospels record the return of the rented Colt.
    4. Jesus’ errand here is a big ask.
      1. Go steal a colt from a stranger.
      2. I probably would have said, “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
    5. But Jesus’ knows exactly what is going to happen. He says…
      1. Go to a village with an unridden colt tied up.
      2. People will ask, “What are you doing?
      3. You’ll give your line “The Lord needs it.
      4. They’ll agree.
      5. You’ll do it.
    6. The two disciples did it.
      1. They responded to Jesus with obedience.
    7. Everything Jesus predicted about the colt came true, just as it did with the mocking, betraying, denying, and killing of Jesus.
      1. Jesus’ words come true.
  • So, what can we learn from this Palm Sunday colt-stealing story?
    1. The words of Jesus are true.
    2. But there are times when we have to wait to see it.
    3. After his death, on Saturday, one final word of Jesus still needed to come true for the disciples.
      1. Jesus did come back to life.
    4. This story can give hope to the disciples even post-resurrection as they look back upon their epic failure, to a time when they were obedient and followed Jesus.
    5. And Jesus knew they would respond in faith and they ultimately did, which is why we’re here today.
  • How do we respond to Jesus?
    1. Like the disciples who got the colt, we respond in faith because we know his word is true.  Even when it seems crazy.
Image from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Assisi-frescoes-entry-into-jerusalem-pietro_lorenzetti.jpg

 

Responses to Jesus II: Friends

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Prayer on the Mount of Olives, Duccio di Buoninsegna

How loyal are your friends? Have they ever hurt you, let you down, or perhaps even betrayed you? If you’ve been disappointed by someone close to you, then you and Jesus share something in common.

I have divided my  10-minute Palm Sunday sermon on Luke 22-23 into three blog posts. The first one was about how Jesus’ enemies respond to him, during Passion Week.

This post looks at the response of Jesus’ friends.

  • How do Jesus’ friends, his disciples, respond to him?
    1. One, they argue in front of Jesus over who is the greatest (Luke 22:24-27).
      1. As Jesus is going to die, his disciples are bickering who will be considered the greatest after he’s gone.
    2. Two, they abandon Jesus while he prays (Luke 22:39-46).
      1. On the Mount of Olives, Jesus asks his disciples to pray with him, but they fell asleep (see image above).
      2. And in Mark’s gospel, they fall asleep three times (Mark 14:32-42).
    3. Three, they betray Jesus, with a kiss (Luke 22:21-23, 47-48).
      1. Despite being warned by Jesus beforehand, Judas betrays Jesus to his death, essentially handing him over to the Jewish leaders to want to kill him.
    4. Four, they deny Jesus (Luke 22:31-34, 54-62)
      1. Three times Peter denies being a friend of Jesus.
      2. And like Judas, Peter was warned ahead of time, and yet he still did exactly what Jesus predicted.
  • Not Shocking Jesus
    1. The fact that Jesus’ enemies treated him negatively (mocking, accusing, and killing–see last blog) we can understand, but the fact that even his disciples, his closest friends treated him so negatively (arguing, abandoning, betraying, and denying) is shocking.
    2. Yet, most of these actions against Jesus were predicted by Christ himself beforehand and many of which were repeated three times.
    3. One thing people didn’t do to Jesus was to shock him.
    4. I’d like to think I wouldn’t have been among the people betraying, denying, mocking, and killing Jesus. But realistically, I’m sure I would have.
    5. In the final hours of Jesus’ life everyone rejected him, a microcosm of what happened in the Garden of Eden, and throughout human history, as all of humanity ultimately rejects Jesus.

In the final post, I’ll look at one often over-looked hopeful response to Jesus during Passion week.

Image from http://www.artbible.info/art/large/157.html