The Subversive Act of Worship

Even before his death on the cross Jesus had chosen to be an outsider; he had already chosen disgrace.

So let us go out to him, outside the camp, and bear the disgrace he bore. For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come. Hebrews 13:13-14 (NLT)

For some reason I always read this verse, “let us go out with him,” as in “let us go with him carrying our cross.” And we are supposed to take up our cross daily (Luke 9:23). But this verse says, “let us go out to him.” And with that little change there is a different message, a different focus. Let us go out to where he is – outside the camp. He has always been outside the camp.

Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, a good distance from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the LORD would go out to the tent of meeting which was outside the camp. Exodus 33:7 (NASB)

“Our permanent home,” mentioned in the above verse, is the place we meno. The Greek word meno means to stay, abide, continue, dwell, endure, be present, remain, stand. It is not this temporary world-camp where we are to abide. Meno is the word used in John 15.

Remain (meno) in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains (meno) in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:4-5 (NIV)

This world is not our meno-home. Jesus is our meno-home, and where he is, there we are to be – plugged into the Vine. And Jesus is outside the camp because He chose the cross.

Under the old system, the high priest brought the blood of animals into the Holy Place as a sacrifice for sin, and the bodies of the animals were burned outside the camp. So also Jesus suffered and died outside the city gates to make his people holy by means of his own blood. So let’s go out to him … Hebrews 13:11-13 (NLT)

To the people of Jesus’ day death on a cross was worse than a disgrace. Cicero said that it should not even be in the thoughts of a Roman citizen; it should not even be mentioned in connection with a citizen.[i] Yet, this is where Jesus willingly chose to go. Outside the city gates. Outside the temporary camp. Outside the culture of the day. Outside the religious systems. Outside the politics and governments of the day. Outside the traditions and popular beliefs. Outside of all the hopes and dreams for this life. James V. Brownson says it better than I can:

The cross collides with the values and assumptions that shape the world around us. It shocks us out of the status quo, out of the norms and assumptions that surround us, and calls us to an alternative vision … “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” The “foolishness” Paul is writing of here is not a certain theological axiom about the cross of Jesus; it is the blatant offensiveness of the cross, both to Jews and to Gentiles. The point of the divine foolishness is simply this: If God has raised from the dead someone who was crucified, if we worship someone who was crucified, we can no longer hold on to the common values of respectability that are characteristic of normal human society. All our assumptions about what constitutes right and wrong, about what is worthwhile, about what really matters – all that has to be revised and reversed, if you engage in the subversive act of worshiping someone who was crucified. In other words, if you are going to worship someone who was crucified, you have to undergo radical conversion.[ii]

Even before his death on the cross Jesus had chosen to be an outsider; he had already chosen disgrace. He had already chosen to be identified with the lowly and meek, the poor and unclean and diseased and despised. If we engage in the subversive act of worshiping our crucified Lord, we need to identify there too. Let us go out to him. Let us meno there.

 

For more on “meno” see The Art of Remaining Present

Image: Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus to carry the Cross, by Darren Barefoot https://www.flickr.com/search/?text=jesus%20cross

[i] Hengel, Martin Hengel. Crucifixion. 1977

[ii] Brownson, James V. Holiness and Hermeneutics. 1999.

Passing Through

What joy for those who can live [abide] in your house [dwelling place],

always [still, yet (!), again, continually, persistently] singing your praises [praising, celebrating, glorying, shining, flashing forth light]. Interlude [Selah]

What joy for [blessed are] those whose strength [boldness, security] comes from [is in] the Lord,

who have set their minds [hearts] on a pilgrimage [on the journey] to Jerusalem [place of worship].

When they walk through [pass through] the Valley of Weeping,

it will become [they will consider, regard, make it] a place of refreshing springs [fountains, source of satisfaction].

The autumn rains [the archer, the shooter of arrows] will clothe [cover, fill] it with blessings [pools, gifts, praise to God].  Psalm 84:4-6

 

Remember, you are just passing through this valley of weeping. Set your heart on the journey. Keep your eyes on the destination, on Jesus. Keep, always, continually persistently shooting your arrows of praise, shine forth your light. Make this sad place a source of blessing, refreshing, life – both for yourself and for others.

“ … the highway to Your city runs through my heart.” [i]

 

[i] From How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place by Ted Sandquist

The Best Gift

I don’t think Mary’s best gift was the expensive perfume. I think, to Jesus, the most precious gift was something else. As usual, Jesus went straight for the heart.

During supper, a woman came in with a beautiful jar of expensive perfume and poured it over his head. The disciples were indignant when they saw this. “What a waste of money,” they said, “She could have sold it for a fortune and given the money to the poor.” But Jesus replied, “Why berate her for doing such a good thing to me?” Matthew 26:7-10 (NLT)

John 12:3 identifies this woman as Mary, Lazarus’ sister. I can relate to how Mary felt. I have been berated for my gifts too. I have thought for months of what I could give someone that would be the best, most appreciated, gift possible, only to have it rejected. Only to have it repulsed, given back, put aside, shoved in a drawer. And I too have been shamed. This woman brought the very best, most precious, gift she owned, and the disciples berated her for it. I can only imagine that it would have been very intimidating and crushing – these were The Disciples after all, important men, the very ones chosen by Jesus. And they were shaming her for bringing this gift of her very best.

But I don’t think her very best gift was the expensive perfume. I think, to Jesus, the most precious gift was something else. As usual, Jesus went straight for the heart.

Jesus had been warning the disciples for a while what awaited him in Jerusalem. He came right out and said plainly he would be killed several times. He even told them he would rise again (Mark 8:31), and all he got for it was a rebuke from Peter. But Mary believed Jesus when he said he was going to be crucified. She came and offered Jesus her best – her faith and her trust that Jesus had a good plan, and if Jesus said he was going to die and rise again, he would die and rise again. She was the only one who “got it” and she responded in faith, empathy, and love. Like Abraham, who believed that God could raise Isaac from the dead (Hebrews 11:19), she proved her faith by her actions. Jesus confirmed, “she did it to prepare me for burial.” That must have been comforting to Jesus.

Jesus highly honored her trust, proclaiming, “I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” Others had worshipped Jesus. Others had loved him. But only about Mary does he say this. Manford George Gutzke gives a good explanation.

Do you realize that this is the only deed done to the Lord Jesus Christ personally that He ever asked anyone to repeat? Everything He taught, He did Himself. Every illustration He gave, He gave Himself, except this one. This one He presents to us because it is an example of what anyone can do to serve the Lord. When you think about the Gospel being preached you realize there is only one thing that Christ cannot illustrate Himself: that is, how a person should act toward Him. He can illustrate obedience, faithfulness and humility, but He could not illustrate a believer’s response to the Son of God.[i]

Yes! This is something we all can do – give Him our heart, our trust. And we will not be shamed if we do. I have a suspicion that this Mary was one of the women early at the tomb on the third day. It would make sense, because there are promises for people like this woman who put their faith and trust in Jesus.

As it is written: “See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” Romans 9:33 (NIV)

As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts (to think to be true, to be persuaded of, to credit, place confidence) in him will never be put to shame.” Romans 10:11 (NIV)

And hope (expectation of good, confidence, faith) does not disappoint (dishonor, disgrace, shame) us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. Romans 5:5 (NIV)

Our hope in Him does not shame us. The NetBible translators explain that “one is said to be put to shame who suffers a repulse, or whom some hope has deceived.” Jesus looked at this woman’s true gift of her heart, love, empathy, her trust, her hope, and did not put her to shame. He did not repulse her. He did not berate her. Just the opposite.

He will never shame you either. You may be berated by others, but your hope in Him will never deceive. Give Him your best and most precious gift.

[i] Plain Talk on Matthew. Zondervan Publishing House, 1966. p. 216.

Image in the Public Domain