Sunday, November 28, 2010

Confonting the god-phantasm

Says Peter to Cornelius:
And we saw it, saw it all, everything he did in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem where they killed him, hung him from a cross.  But in three days God had him up, alive and out where he could be seen. Not everyone saw him-- he wasn't put on public display.  Witnesses had been carefully handpicked by God beforehand-- us!  We were the ones, there to eat and drink with him after he came back from the dead.  He commissioned us to announce this to the public, to bear solemn witness that he is in fact the One whom God destined as Judge of the living and the dead.  Acts 10:39-43, The Message
This is part of a message that Peter brings to Cornelius and his family, the first Gentile believers. A shocker to Peter and the Jews present, who had assumed up to this point that the Gospel was for Israel exclusively.

But the question is, why did Jesus choose a certain few, the apostles, to eat and drink with, to do the things of everyday life with, having risen from the dead?   The risen Jesus obviously desires that the message of his Kingship, his conquering of sin and death, go throughout Galilee and Samaria and Judea and to all the nations, so why not appear intentionally to as many people as possible? Why just the few "apostles?"

It occurs to me that the "ends of the earth" to which his disciples are to take the Gospel includes the far reaches of time- the future.  So we're dealing with a message that is passed on, person to person, for thousands of years.  Long after Jesus has ascended and awaits his return, long after the apostles's bodies have turned into dust.  These future disciples (us) are going to be prone to a certain type of false thinking.  It goes something like this: people of Jesus' day were special because they had him walking and talking right in front of them. So of course their faith was stronger, better, different, more effective.  In fact, maybe we shouldn't really be that interested in Jesus at all, because he's so far in the past. Maybe we're supposed to look for a newer, more current version of God to worship, to follow.

Cornelius and the gentiles would've been faced with a similar issue: we're not "chosen." We're not God's special people, so we need to go get circumcised, start observing a bunch of dietary rules...or maybe we're outside the circle altogether and the Gospel isn't for us.

We seem to struggle with this. We seem to think that our faith is somehow different than those folks because Jesus was right around the corner from them. They actually saw Jesus. We don't, so we have to follow some invisible god-phantasm that we're left to imagine, since he's not visible.  And of course he ends up looking like whatever we want him to.

By including this point in Peter's message to the first Gentile disciples, Luke(the writer) is letting us know that we're no different than the people of Jesus' day, even people who saw him.  That Jesus is just as "present" with us, and in the exact same way, that he was in the world of the 1st century.  Meaning he's alive and reigning.  No need to invent a new faith, or recast it in the image of some other man, like the local god-guy who makes a lot of noise about visions and voices.  Jesus' life is still as relevant and relatable as...your children's lives, your spouse's, you're best friend's. He's here, he's alive, he's destroyed the power of sin and death, and he's knowable. Still.  Look nowhere else. Lord, one faith, one baptism...

1 comment:

Erin Hope said...

I had a feeling you might go home and blog.

I think following Jesus is always going to be hard, for various reasons, and they probably differ according to circumstance, but I think you're right, I don't think it's easier for anyone, and thinking that it is can be a really destructive scapegoat.