It’s All About Jesus – July 7, 2019
July 7, 2019
This story is part of the story we read last week, the one about Peter healing the lame man at the Temple gate. As I said last week, those who thought they had stamped out the growing movement surrounding this young “rabbi” from Nazareth, would soon find out otherwise. And my thought for today is that Peter left no room for mistaking this. It is indeed “All about Jesus.”
As I say that, I recognize that there are many people in our world who are not comfortable with that thought. They’re not against God, they are just uncomfortable with all that has been taught over the years about Jesus.
It is an interesting world in which we live! Many people in our world consider themselves to be “spiritual” but not “religious.” Did you ever hear that? I often think about what that means. A big part of it means they are not “comfortable” with “organized religion.” (Some even use the word “distain!”) They don’t like rules and commandments. I suspect that many of them didn’t like to be “told what to do” when they were growing up, and they never got over that! And so they don’t like the idea of a God “telling them what to do,” either! (It’s very interesting to me how people react to God much the same way they do their parents!)
The problem is, that’s the extent of their “theology.” The problem with people’s “theology” is that they often only concerned with what they want God to be, or what they’re “comfortable” with God being, rather than on finding out what God really is! That’s why my job – as a theologian – is not easy in our world. I believe the infinite nature of God should make us “uncomfortable!” If we’re not at least a little uncomfortable about the eternal, all-powerful God, then maybe we don’t realize how eternal and powerful he is!
People don’t want that image. They want to define God for themselves. They want a God they can control. And, they don’t want to think they’re sinners, and they don’t want to think they have to be forgiven for anything. (And there’s that “judgmental God” thing again!) They don’t think they need a Savior. And they don’t think Jesus is necessary to reach God. Those are huge things we have to deal with in our “Post-modern” world, any one of which would warrant a long discussion.
I don’t want to get into all that today. But this is just to recognize what’s out there, and what we’re up against when we try to tell people about what our faith means to us. And it’s also to say that we need to be finding ways of dialoguing with people who think differently than us, and we need to find new ways of speaking about what we believe in ways that are meaningful. And the challenging thing to us is, those ways may be different than we’re used to! This is tough stuff, my friends!
The other problem in our world is that many people have a bad impression of “church people.” And that’s what I’ve been saying for a while now. We have to change that image for them! But it’s not easy! We need them to see what loving, uplifting people we are! That’s what’s going to help in changing people’s image of God. Again, they see God as condemning, and judgmental.
So here we have Peter healing the man we talked about last week. And in doing so he began a long controversy. And I asked you at the time, “Why was it controversial?” And you said, “Because he did it in the name of Jesus.” So now, not only did he preform this healing, but now Peter stands and gives his second “Christian sermon.” And the controversy continues because he tells them that “It’s all about Jesus!”
It’s funny. But in the early days of the church, the word “Christians” was used as a derogatory term for followers of Jesus. (They didn’t call themselves that. They called their religion “the way.”) But as time went on, the name sort of “stuck.” It came to make sense that that’s what we are. Because our faith is all about Jesus. It’s all about the Messiah – the Christ – who has come to show us the kingdom of God. Though some there are who try, you can’t really talk about the Church without talking about Jesus.
I remember when I came to that realization. I remember being in the church, and having friends there, and having good teachers. I have many fond memories of those times. But there came a time when I started to come to grips with the fact that the Church is “All about Jesus.” I had heard about him, but I didn’t know what it all meant.
As you know, I’m a space nut! I remember as a kid, watching people climb aboard rockets and fly into space. The funny thing is that I was a bit too young to have heard John F. Kennedy’s speech about going to the moon. So I didn’t know that part of it. But I did hear a lot about the Gemini program, and I was captivated by it. I thought the point of all of it was about going into space and doing amazing things! And then I began to hear that the Gemini program was coming to a close, and I didn’t understand why. I was upset! But then I started to hear about Apollo, and that Apollo was going to take us to the moon. And I finally understood what it was all about! It wasn’t just about floating around in space. And I remember thinking, “Holy cow! We’re going to the moon!” I’ll never forget that moment.
Well, it wasn’t many years after that when the same kind of thing happened to me about Jesus. As I said, I’d been to church. We were always in church! I knew church was a good thing to do. It was just part of life. And I had heard a lot about Jesus. But like Apollo, it didn’t “click” at first. Because I also heard a lot about Moses, and David, and Elijah, and all “those guys.” But then I started to realize that Jesus was God himself who had come to earth for us. And I started to think “Holy Cow! Jesus is God! It’s all about Jesus!” Suddenly, it was not about me being a good guy. It was about God being good. It was about God loving us! I’ll never forget that realization!
That’s what Peter was telling the people there that day! It’s all about Jesus! And the people responded. Five thousand of them responded! But not all! There were skeptics. There were those who didn’t believe it was true. There were many who still followed their religious leaders – who also thought it wasn’t true! And remember how the people of Israel were “steeped in their faith” – way more than us, I’m afraid! Their faith permeated every part of their lives. And their religious leaders held great authority for them! So, for someone to challenge their leaders – like Jesus did, and now Peter – that was a big deal!
That’s what Peter told them that day. It’s all about Jesus. But it’s too easy to let that slip away. It’s too easy for our “religion” to become “routine.” It’s too easy for our “religion” to become our “religion!” It’s too easy to forget that it’s all about Jesus. I think that is a realization we need to come around to, again and again! It’s something we need to remember, again and again.
It’s all about Jesus. It’s all about what Jesus himself told Nicodemus. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.” And he did that for us!
Eternal God, we thank you for your great love for us, and for sending your Son to be our Savior and Lord. Help us to look to him as God incarnate. Help us to follow his example, to love as he loved, to fall on his Grace. These things we pray in his name, Amen.