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And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come. (Luke 19:13 KJV)
This call to “occupy” is not new. Jesus of Nazareth told a story to his followers to encourage them, especially the ones who were asking if the kingdom would appear right away. They asked, “Will we live in a world with justice and mercy today?”
Interestingly, the people in the story actually “hated” the king. According to the Message, a popular common language translation of the Bible, those who hated the king…
“…sent a commission with a signed petition to oppose his rule: ‘We don’t want this man to rule us.’ (Luke 19:14 MSG)
What does it mean “to occupy”?
Well, according to this ancient use of the term, it refers to good stewardship. Those who were faithful to what the king entrusted to them, those who increased the King’s wealth, were given more than they already had. And to those who did not faithfully invest his wealth, the king took away everything.
Why was this the story Jesus told when asked if he was going to establish his kingdom now?
Perhaps the cry for justice in the heart of every generation can help us understand.
Most people do not want a king. They do not want to serve another, to be faithful to the cause of another. Most would choose not to trust a leader. While crying out for justice, they would reject the most faithful, the most merciful, and the most just leader the world has ever known. Few would see the importance of their own faithfulness.
Most did not, and still do not recognize him. He hid his identity in his humanity. Born in a little corner of a Roman Client State, Palestine. Entrusted to human parents of a middle eastern tribal people, Israel. Jesus was born a king. And only young shepherds and angels knew it. A few odd astrologers too.
Jesus, the son of God, preferred to be addressed as “son of man.” He occupied a human body. And, even after being rejected and killed by those to whom he came to love, he did not reject his creation. Raised in a resurrected body, he occupies that body today.
And he will return, no matter how many Freedom from Religion petitions are circulated, or similar petitions rejecting leaders. No matter how many continue to hate the thought of anyone being their leader, Jesus will return as king.
Have you been “occupying” in anticipation of the king’s return? Have you been faithful with what he has entrusted to you?
He is coming soon. In this Christmas season, may we all occupy our human bodies, our neighborhoods, and our world with the same attitude that Jesus did. Though he was privileged, he became a servant of all.
Have a blessed Christmas!
Hebrews is an “elegantly polished” text, which is “removed from the world of the Modern reader.” This book serves as a pastoral letter, which exhorts Christian believers, a “pilgrim people,” to “persevere” and to continue to grow. Though the letter is Pauline in content, he is not the author. Instead, the author is likely to have been associated with Paul. This author is an educated Jewish person trained in Greek philosophy and exegesis. This person is clearly an authority in the church with an important word for an increasingly diverse, though clearly the author’s contemporary Jewish audience, probably in Rome. This letter refers to the “tabernacle” more than the “temple”, with references to the “wilderness” through which the “pilgrim” community is venturing and can reach their destination “today.” This treatise, which describes the Hebrew Scriptures as “alive and active”, is clearly describing the realities and promises fulfilled through the finished work of God in Christ. The author outlines three key Christological arguments; Jesus is “superior.” Jesus is superior as the Son, the Pioneer of our Faith, and the High Priest. God has spoken in the past through angels, but now he speaks to us through his Son, the agent of God’s creation and revelation, in these “last days.” He shares our humanity, yet he is the heir of all things, who receives the promise on behalf of all human beings. As a superior pioneer, he has gone ahead of us, blazing a trail for us to follow, doing what we could not do. After the order of the priesthood of Melchizedek, he is a “perfect” high priest, who was made perfect through suffering, and can make our consciences perfect through his perfect offering made once for all.
The Christian life is characterized by struggle; however the readers of Revelation are given hope. Revelation is not an eschatological timeline predicting future events; rather it is a prophetic call to be vigilant, faithfully following Jesus Christ’s example of being truly human. What is Left Behind, or rather is removed, are those created beings and the “elemental spirits” over which Christ triumphed (Gal. 4:3, 9; Col. 2:8, 20) and those who reject Jesus’ universal invitation. Jesus leads his churches to look forward toward a new reality. Churches are exhorted to remain faithful, especially in the face of hostility. They are roused from their temptation to be comfortable in their surroundings. They are called to remain committed to Christ’s vision for all humanity. Revelation is plainly understood as a call to be faithful and obedient. It is not a mystery, or a road map to gain access to heaven. Revelation is a testimony of Jesus, calling the reader to exalt and worship him by every means, following his example and his eternal purpose to become truly human beings.
Achtemeier, P. J., J. B. Green, and M. M. Thompson. Introducing the New Testament: Its Literature and Theology. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2001.
González, J. L. Santa Biblia: The Bible through Hispanic Eyes. Abingdon, 1996.
Suter, David W., Harper & Row Publishers., and Society of Biblical Literature. Harper’s Bible Dictionary. 1st ed. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985.
Witherington, B., III. New Testament History: A Narrative Account. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001.
Wright, N. T. What Saint Paul Really Said: Was Paul of Tarsus the Real Founder of Christianity? Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997.
The revelation of a “new heaven and new earth” offers a destination, where Jesus will “dwell” with “his people” and all things are “new” (Rev. 21:1, 3, 5). Like John who was commanded to “come up here” (Rev. 4:1), Paul also claimed higher ground with his “revelations” (2 Cor. 12:1, 7) of God’s eternal plan. Paul emphasized the vision of one new humanity (cf. Eph. 2:15). Revelation exhorts the church to “wake up and strengthen what remains” (Rev. 3:2-3) in order that they may fulfill their calling to “reshape a humanity previously warped by sin.”
Jesus’ eternal nature, embodied in human flesh, implies a very human understanding of eternity, with limitations of embodiment. Just as John by implication, dramatically portrays the eternal nature of Jesus’ incarnation, he likewise implies the nature of the structures and spheres of life are eternal. The “harp” and “trumpets” imply the arts (Rev. 5:8, 8:2, 6, 13); “leaves for healing” imply health care and counseling (Rev. 22:2); the “scroll” (Rev. 5:1-9) and “golden bowls” (Rev. 5:8) imply the media; and “every tribe” implies that family will exist for eternity (Rev. 7:4-9, 13:7, 14:6). Education (cf. 1 Cor. 2:14) is implied where learning is present (cf. Rev. 3:9). And as the elders present their “crowns” (Rev. 4:10) in worship to Jesus, the King of Kings who became a servant of all, the model of governmental leadership is made plain for all eternity. Perhaps to communicate this point was not John’s intention. Little matter, the implication is evident. Revelation is a message of God’s rule, bringing peace and justice to all creation, every nation, and every structure of human existence, for all eternity in the new heaven and new earth.
Revelation is cast with vivid imagery, influenced by the backdrop of “volatile times” in Jerusalem and Rome. By illustrating a cosmic struggle with satirical exaggeration, Revelation employs symbols intended for his first century audience, not clearly understood by subsequent generations. To illustrate, the Roman instrument of execution would not be found in the “seven churches;” the symbol of the cross is not found anywhere in the text. The “beast” (Rev. 17:7) and the “antichrist” (1 John 4:3) were understood to be Rome and Nero and Peter had already designated Rome as “Babylon” (1 Pet. 5:13). Demystifying the symbols allows the reader to again focus on the central figure, the “image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15), the One “who was and is and is to come” (Rev. 4:8).
This powerful portrayal of the incarnation is coupled to John’s warning to the churches of the dangers of false “Gnostic” teachings, which inevitably lead to a lack of concern for Christ’s mission to all humanity. John reveals that the One who “emptied himself…being born in human likeness” (Phil. 2:7) is eternally incarnate, “every eye will see him” (Rev. 1:7). However, he is not merely physical; he does not only “seem” to have suffered physically. Likewise, he is not only spiritual. He is personal, a living soul who “became flesh and lived among us” (John 1:14). The revelation of Jesus’ incarnation confounds false teachings of dualism; he is God and human enthroned.
Today congregations are caught in a similar conflict between two extremes: One is the “secular” materialist view, which denies the miraculous, including the resurrection; and the other is the “super-spiritual” view, which tends to minimize Jesus’ incarnation and an ethical commitment to the surrounding world. The book of Revelation is about the “time” of “wrath” and “reward” for “all who fear [his] name, both small and great,” and included in that time of wrath is the destruction of “those who destroy the earth” (Rev. 11:18). The severe warning to John’s audience and churches today is this: distorting the truth of the incarnation will separate followers from Christ, from the reality of this life, and from responsibility for all of life. Failing to teach the incarnation leads to idolatry and immorality.
See more at http://johnthenry.wordpress.com
Something about that encounter on the Road to Damascus was so “utterly trustworthy” that Paul was convinced that the God of his fathers had appeared to him in the person of Jesus. God had called Israel to fulfill a purpose, which is the future for all people. This has always been the purpose of Israel’s election. Jesus is the ultimate exodus for Israel and the whole world. Israel’s destiny is summed up in the Messiah. Paul is not teaching Christian dualism and he is not launching a new movement. He is not forming a separate people. However, he is preaching a new message, one of the fulfillment of Israel’s promises, one new humanity.
Throughout his life, Paul was committed to Jewish monotheism. What changed was the depth of his understanding of that “fighting doctrine,” which declares “blasphemous” all other gods, all other philosophies, and all other political loyalties. The contrasting changes and consistencies in Paul’s identity within his faith community, his understanding of the Law, and his eschatological vision were clearly the result of his personal encounter with Jesus on the Road to Damascus. Paul realized a vital relationship with the One “true content” of Jewish monotheism, Jesus Christ. Paul became “known” by the God of Israel. (Gal. 4:8-11)