Have you seen the latest Direct TV commercial promoting NFL Ticket? Clearly, the father has limited time to communicate key life lessons to his son before he ascends into the coming football season!
Before Jesus left the scene after his resurrection appearances, he was remembered giving final instructions, too:
· Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:18-20 (New Living Translation)
· And then he told them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone. Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned. These miraculous signs will accompany those who believe: They will cast out demons in my name, and they will speak in new languages. They will be able to handle snakes with safety, and if they drink anything poisonous, it won’t hurt them. They will be able to place their hands on the sick, and they will be healed.” – Mark 16:15-18 (New Living Translation)
· So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?”
He replied, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” – Acts 1:6-8 (New Living Translation) Note: Luke and Acts share the same author.
· Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” – John 20:21-23 (New Living Translation)
The reality is, of course, that the little kid getting the speech while sitting on his bed wasn’t left with just these 30 seconds before kickoff. He may not realize it, but that kid has been in an internship from the moment he was born, learning about how to do life from the people he trusts the most – his parents. So it was with the disciples. Unconsciously, that little son will naturally follow in the footsteps of his mother and father. Nature and nurture combined provide an incredibly well-formed paradigm – for good and bad.
We can assume with pretty good confidence that the disciples who first received Jesus’ final instructions were committed. By their ongoing allegiance they verified that they were willing to die for the cause. I would be so bold as to suggest that they were, to a person, born again (to use Jesus’ famous phrase from John 3:3). Being born again, they had spent time with Jesus deconstructing the nature and nurture that had formed them. In truth, the moment of their decision to follow Jesus may have felt so powerful that they may have even blurted out that they had been born again – new life was being infused into their very being, or perhaps a better way to say it is that the Spirit of God was being awakened, freed within them. The greater truth, however, is that being born again is a lifelong process of discovering where the Spirit of God is inviting us to go and grow next.
After the dust settled a bit, the disciples must have had a lot of dinner meetings wondering what it meant for them to carry out Jesus’ instructions. I imagine they went through a lot of the same stages that everyone goes through when an unavoidable life transition hits them square in the face. When you finally launch into real adulthood when you’re on your own, or you get married, or you get divorced, or you get fired, or you have kids, or your kids leave the nest, or your spouse dies, or… When these things hit, we are left shocked for a season. We come to grips with reality. We begin feeling our way into the new normal. We do this over and over again as “normal” changes. So it must have been for the disciples. They likely just saw themselves as part of the larger Jewish movement until they were essentially kicked out. Then they shifted focus toward a non-Jewish audience. But all the while they remembered that they were given the instruction to go into the world and continue the mission Jesus had begun.
How did they know what to do? I think they attended CrossWalk, actually. I think they picked up our most central and essential motto, which I think truly functions as our living mission statement here as well. We say it a lot and we do it a lot. Do you know what I’m talking about? I think the earliest disciples owned our statement: Go Be Jesus.
I believe the disciples did their best to continue doing the things that Jesus did with them while they walked the earth together. I think some things had become extremely natural for them, and yet other things had to be learned and relearned. I imagine they remembered again and again with the public and each other what they experienced with Jesus. Their shared experiences and memory informed their steps, their policies, their vision – everything. All shaping what it meant for them to “go”.
This past Wednesday I had both of my PraXis groups tackle a story remembered in Luke’s Gospel that exemplifies a lot of Go Be Jesus principles:
One day while Jesus was teaching, some Pharisees and teachers of religious law were sitting nearby. (It seemed that these men showed up from every village in all Galilee and Judea, as well as from Jerusalem.) And the Lord’s healing power was strongly with Jesus.
Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a sleeping mat. They tried to take him inside to Jesus, but they couldn’t reach him because of the crowd. So they went up to the roof and took off some tiles. Then they lowered the sick man on his mat down into the crowd, right in front of Jesus. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the man, “Young man, your sins are forgiven.”
But the Pharisees and teachers of religious law said to themselves, “Who does he think he is? That’s blasphemy! Only God can forgive sins!”
Jesus knew what they were thinking, so he asked them, “Why do you question this in your hearts? Is it easier to say ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up and walk’? So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!”
And immediately, as everyone watched, the man jumped up, picked up his mat, and went home praising God. Everyone was gripped with great wonder and awe, and they praised God, exclaiming, “We have seen amazing things today!” – Luke 5:17-26 (New Living Translation)
We used a method of study and discussion used by missionaries all over the world to shape our interaction with the text and each other. Amazing insights came in both groups. Here are a few:
· The religious leaders who were known to be very narrow and legalistic in their thinking were not only an apparently negative presence but were in the way of healing – because they were taking up space, people who actually needed healing couldn’t get in the door. That’s still true today. How are we like these religious leaders? Are we in the way of people who need what God offers?
· What incredible friends – bringing their buddy to the source of healing, surely at great risk as they dismantled someone’s roof to lower their friend carefully in front of Jesus (interrupting whatever he was doing). How are we like these friends? Do we believe God has something for our friends who are in need of some sort of healing and hope? Are we even aware of what God has to offer?
· What a gutsy paraplegic! What could possibly go wrong here? And eventually he was called to exercise great faith as Jesus instructed him to get up, take his mat and go home. Are we trusting God with our healing or are we comfortable in our limited experiences of life? How have we said “no” to Jesus’ invitation to be born again, again?
· And then there’s Jesus, who didn’t flip out when he was so rudely interrupted, who was able to speak into every human being’s deepest fear: we are loved not condemned, we are of great value not trash. And how beautiful that he chose to let the healing power of God flow through him appropriately. All of this while under the critical gaze of those who wanted to restrict and restrain him. If we’re to be like Jesus, how are we speaking love and life to those who struggle with shame and interior death? Are we allowing the healing power of God to flow through us or are we too chicken to offer such hope? Or do we even know it flows within us?
As the disciples walked and talked, surely they had similar exchanges over and over again. And because they did, something new caught on and spread. More and more people not only heard good news, they experienced it alive in those sharing it.
CrossWalk is well known in Napa for living up to our motto-mission statement. Corporately, we are here for Napa in so many ways. We strive to Go Be Jesus beyond Napa, too. Globally in Mexico and Kenya. Plus we help struggling churches in our region move forward.
As Pastor of CrossWalk, I wonder which part of the story gripped you? Are you in the way like the religious leaders, so critical that you are cramping the space where God is moving? Are you a good friend to those who need help God can give, pointing them in God’s direction in some way? Are you acting as Jesus speaking and offering hope and healing in your life? Are you willing to be well even though it requires risk and a new future?
I do want to speak into an issue every church in America is struggling with. I am wondering if you know what struggles those closest to you are facing, and wondering if you know how God might help them in their struggle. I am wondering if you could find out so that as we discover those areas we might do something to serve people with the healing power of God to help them. I’m wondering if you might be so courageous and sacrificial as to be the kind of friend that shows up, who removes barriers as much as possible so that your friend gets help. Not simply mentioning in passing that Jesus is in town, but that you will join them in finding help. How do we pull this off?
I think there are multiple dimensions to this commission to which we’ve been called. The first has to do with reorienting our lives to be available to others, and the second has to do with our own awareness of what God is offering.
As far as being that friend goes, I would recommend that you simply begin by praying for them daily, asking God to bless them and if possible, use you to be a blessing in their life. Then, stay awake and see what moves in you and them to actually see that prayer answered. When the opportunity comes, Go Be Jesus to them, offering what you have, being a conduit for the healing power of God in some way. And then encourage them to discover this faith thing for themselves. Point toward CrossWalk – we have a ton of help available already and more is to come.
Are you aware of all that our faith has to offer? Are you “dialed in” to all that Go Be Jesus offers you and others? It reminds me of the scene in the movie, The Help, where Minnie shares with Celia some of the uses of Crisco vegetable shortening: Gum in your hair? Squeaky door? Bags under your eyes? Dry skin? Husband’s scaly feet? Crisco. The best use, of course, is for fried chicken. Please take a break and go get some fried chicken. Addendum, anyone?
Like Crisco was largely unknown to Celia, I think many people are really not aware of just how helpful following in Jesus’ footsteps can be. Could it be that our Go Be Jesus has greater implications than we have allowed? Like Crisco is good for much more than dead chickens, so Jesus is good for so much more than dead humans…
Feeling rudderless in your life? Not sure how to handle conflict well? Having trouble getting over something someone did to you? Having trouble getting over something you did to yourself? Feeling worthless? Bored with your faith? Want to make a difference in our political system? Having trouble with stress? Financial realities freaking you out? Wonder if you’ve done enough to merit God’s welcome in your life now and later? Not sure how to balance your time? Wondering about pretty much any major issue we will face in life? The answer you’re looking for is found in our motto-mission: God Be Jesus.
Much more than a glib phrase or an idea for the next best-selling wristband, Go Be Jesus calls us to deeply rooted action. “Go” is pretty clear – get off your butt – nothing changes if nothing changes. “Be” is much deeper than “do” – the stuff of life and faith is much more a being thing than a doing thing. Sometimes the doing helps shape our being, but the sweet spot is when our doing is the good fruit of our well-being. And the inspiration for our being? Jesus.
Some of you may have looked over the list of questions I raised that can be satisfied with the answer Go Be Jesus, and you have no idea how that can be possible because you really don’t know that much about Jesus. That is awesome! You know why? Because it means there is so much hope for you as you discover who this man was that was so infused and free in the Spirit of God that everyone could see the difference, calling him Anointed, Christ, Messiah, Son of God (all essentially the same thing). I’ve been learning to Go Be Jesus pretty much all my life. I know Jesus, and I know the Spirit that made him Christ. I’m not making this stuff up – Go Be Jesus works. If you’re clueless, that’s fine – it simply means you get to discover more than you could ever possibly imagine. This discovery is what caused Paul to stop midsentence in a letter to write this:
“When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.” – Ephesians 3:14-21 (NLT).
For your sake and the sake of all who live in the world as well as the creation of which we are a part and on which we rely for our survival, I invite you, I implore you, I encourage you, with anticipatory celebration I challenge you: Go Be Jesus.