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Bible Study for "Out of the Box"

                                  

We probably all are intrigued by, or drawn to, different qualities of Jesus Christ. The three verses of my song "Out of the Box"
include three particular aspects of our Lord which make me say, "Wow!"

The first stanza of the song is about Jesus' teachings. As a poet/teacher myself, I bow to Jesus' excellence and creativity here. His parables, especially, are remarkable for using everyday objects and situations to convey larger, unseen truths about God, the Spirit, and the Kingdom. Who could come up with that stuff?

Who, exactly! The gospels tell us that the people who heard Jesus teach were amazed because Jesus taught "with authority" (Matthew 7:28-29). I suppose that Jesus' authority stood in contrast to religious teachers who often discussed or argued their interpretations of the Jewish religious texts. Jesus proclaimed, because He knew.

Another aspect of Jesus' teaching is authenticity. Jesus practiced what He preached. The apostle John starts his gospel by describing Jesus as the Word of God becoming flesh (John 1:14). Even Jesus declared that if people had seen Him, they had seen the Father (John 14:9). Jesus was the embodiment of God, in person and in purpose.

Not surprisingly, all this fabulous teaching, from town to town, got Jesus into trouble with the religious leaders. Perhaps the leaders became jealous that the people flocked to hear Jesus preach, listening to Him over them (Matthew 27:17-18). In any case, the religious leaders tried to publicly discredit Jesus by "innocently" posing him a lose-lose question: "Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar?" (See Matthew 22:15-22.)

You may remember how, at the time of Jesus, the Jews in Palestine were subjects of Rome's military power, having been conquered in the year 63 BCE. The people were forced to pay taxes to support Rome, the Roman leader--Caesar--and the brutal soldiers who maintained Rome's domination. For any number of reasons, these taxes were HATE-ED!

So, the religious leaders decided to use this topic against Jesus. If Jesus said He supported the tax, He would lose popularity with the people. If He spoke against the tax, He would be in trouble with the Roman forces. Check the end of the story in Matthew 22:15-22 to see for yourself how Jesus handles the showdown. Again, my Bible says that people were "amazed."

 

The second aspect of Jesus that amazes me is Jesus' extraordinary manner with individuals. Many stories of his interactions with people have fed into Stanza 2 of the song.

One person I'm thinking of is Zacchaeus, the chief-tax-collector that Jesus called--by name--out of the crowd of on-lookers in Jericho. When Jesus invited himself home with Zacchaeus ("that sinner!"), people were shocked! Another shock followed: For his part, Zacchaeus made amends for his greedy past by giving half of his wealth to the poor, and repaying any dishonest over-taxings four-fold! (Luke 19:1-9)

And Zacchaeus wasn't the only person with a past that Jesus reached out to!

Another classic story is His encounter with the woman at the well in John 4. Jesus surprised his disciples by speaking with her, for a number of reasons. First, she was a "she." (John 4:27) Second, she was a Samaritan (John 4:9). Third, she'd had at least five "husbands" (Apparently, having more than three was frowned upon by rabbis!)

Jesus knew all this about her, even though they'd just met. Tired from traveling, he had stopped at a well in Samaria for a simple drink of water. Shortly after he'd begun talking with the woman, he proceeded to tell her about her life!

"Come see a man who told me everything I ever did!" the woman proclaimed later to her neighbors. "Could this be the Christ?" Some of those neighbors later "crossed lines" to believe in Jesus. This was a result of Jesus "crossing some lines" to speak first to her.

It's a pattern, you know, how Jesus reached out to people, straight through barriers. Luke 7:36-50 records how Jesus accepted the washing of his feet with tears and perfume from a woman with a sin-filled past. In John 8:1-11, he refused to condemn a woman about to be stoned for committing adultery. Even on the cross (Luke 23:39-43), Jesus accepted the devotion of the criminal tortured alongside him, and promised him a future in paradise.

Like the lepers Jesus cured--who could now escape their "quarantine" to return home--sinners he reached to and forgave became free to re-approach God.

But Jesus doesn't just summon us back to love and security!
When Jesus called his first disciples on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, they left behind their fishing nets, boats, and familiar territory to follow and learn from Him. Later, they went on to share His teachings with the world. Do you ever wonder what it was Jesus possessed, to draw people after Him like that?

And, I haven't even mentioned His miracles! While I think Jesus' astounding feedings, healings, and such may have gotten him attention from people, I don't think it explains the lifelong faithfulness of the disciples in preaching His ways afterwards, when Jesus had gone into Heaven.

Or, in other words, I'm personally not so much amazed (as the disciples were) that Jesus tranquilized a storm that was raging around their boat (Luke 8:22-25), but that Jesus had been sleeping so calmly in the boat beforehand! There are different kinds of power.

 

Stanza 3 of the song gets to the power of Jesus that wows me to the core. When Jesus calmed the storm, the disciples were open-eyed, asking, "Who IS this?" Somehow, for me, "Why is this--that the Lord of Heaven should come to earth at all?" has always been the crux (yes, like "cross") of the matter.

I try not to skip over Good Friday and the suffering of our Lord Jesus on the cross. But, the celebrations of Maundy Thursday--the night before--are both easier to watch, and compelling.

On Maundy Thursday, the Christian church marks Jesus' "Last Supper" with his disciples, when Jesus passed out bread and wine, saying, "This is my body…. This is my blood….." You know the words! Jesus' tenderness for His friends here--knowing what would come next--astounds me still.

On Maundy Thursday, the church also marks how Jesus became like a household servant toward His disciples, taking a basin of water to wash their feet (John 13:1-17).

Disciple Peter was more than amazed by this; at first, he tried to stop Jesus from doing it at all! It's true that the disciples, on more than one occasion, had tried to show themselves to be greater than each other. (Luke's account of the Last Supper mentions a dispute about this, even on that last night! Luke 22:24)

So, Jesus' humble example of foot-washing would have been a difficult lesson. Yet, even after Peter protested, Jesus insisted on washing Peter's feet--telling Peter that is was necessary to let Jesus wash him. This could be a deeper thing than a lesson in humility or being a servant to others; I think it's about "cleansing." The disciples were the dear, "inner circle" around Jesus, who had, already, even performed some miraculous healings on their own (Luke 9:1-6). Did they need this last reminder that their sins, too, needed cleansing by the Lord?

It's awful, and it's necessary to be in that spot, getting our feet washed by the Son of God! The apostle Paul--who had chased down early Christians--wrote, and understood, that "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)

Like Paul, I am amazed that the Son of God would freely stoop to be crucified for sins of mine, or even to wash my feet. And like Peter, I am comforted to hold the fact and feel of being cleansed by the Lord. Beyond the who and the what, however, I remain amazed by Christ's why. And that, to me, is holy power.

 

 

Question: What has Jesus said or done that really sticks with you?


link to lyrics, sheet music, and audio files

 

written by Constance Morgenstern
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