Growing up I spent my summers in Mexico. Well, on the Texas/Mexico boarder to be more specific. My dad would take mission trips down each summer that would last a week. But since I was with him, I would be down there for most of the summer. Each Saturday we would spend the morning saying church camp good-bye's and spend each afternoon getting people settled into their rooms. Maybe that's why I expect relationships to be temporal and why I have become good and saying goodbye? But that's a question I should take to the Owen Center and leave out of my blog. This was back before the boarder wars really got national attention, and so we would have around 100 people each week. Every summer we would see around 1,000 pass through. Damn, I miss those summers.
Each Friday we would go to the beach to allow the teams to have some fun after working their asses off the days that came before. And each Friday night we would gather around as a team for worship, then my father would lead us in a short sermon/devotional. Each week what he said was different. Each time he would seemly have a word that was hand delivered by Jesus for the team that was there. And maybe it was just mission trip emotion and the nostalgia of a son. But it seemed as if each time he spoke the Holy Spirit was there, and each person came to hang on each word he said. But no matter, because each Friday would end the same way. He would grab a loaf of bread, break it, and declare it to be the body of Jesus. And since he is Baptist, he would produce a glass of grape juice and call it blood.
After a week of sweating, bleeding, and working with each other he would direct us to take. And after we took, to serve. To keep the meeting as short as possible he would tell us to say one word. How do you see Jesus? In a single word what, who, is Jesus to you? "Savior?" "Healer?" "Friend?" "Substitute?" "Lord?"
Those meeting have long been etched in my mind. Many people answered honestly. Some with humor. Some refused to answer at all.
But that question still remains. For me, and now for you. How do you see Jesus. For we have a book full of Him. And a world that clams He is something found elsewhere. But at what point does He become real? At what point is He more than just a story? In a single word, who is He?
For me one of my favorite pictures of Jesus comes from a place that many fail to see Him.
In the Old Testament there are many places where an angle of the Lord comes. And there are places where an angle comes in the New Testament as well. But there are also places where we see 'the' angel of the Lord. Something is different when this happens. This angel allows Himself to be worshiped, He is called God and does not say that the person speaking is wrong. And this is because most biblical scholars would say that 'the angel of the Lord' is Jesus. Maybe you disagree. I don't. Feel free to reach out if you do. I'd love to talk it out over a glass of wine, glass of beer, or a cup of coffee.
If I am right, and I think I am, then we see a beautiful picture of who Jesus is in Zechariah 3. If you are unfamiliar with the text I'll give you a brief rundown.
Zechariah is the LORD's prophet at the time. And he is taken up to see a scene at the throne of Heaven. What he is shown is the the high priest of the time. The most holy man on the planet. And he is standing before Jesus. But next to Joshua, the high priest, is Satan*. And Satan is standing there to accuse him (Joshua). The LORD rebukes Satan. It is pointed out that Joshua, the most holy man on earth, is wearing filthy clothes. So he is given clean clothes under the order of Jesus. And then by the suggestion of Zechariah he is given a turban, which signifies righteousness.
I would recommend going back and reading this. But that is the 'Cliff Notes' version of chapter three. But what is interesting to me is the way that Jesus acts in this chapter. He never once speaks to Joshua until He has already made him righteous. And yet Joshua is the one who is stripped of filth and clothed with the righteousness that he never deserved or earned.
Often we read ourselves into the wrong places in the bible. If there is a hero we want if to be us. But I think that when we read a better way to understand is this: hero=Jesus, anyone who is filthy, naked, wretched, poor, lonely, sinful, dead, dying, sinful, ect...=us.
So let Jesus be Jesus, and let us be Joshua. If that is the case we can see us before God as someone who should be righteous, but remains filthy. We should be people who know the voice of God, yet Satan stands next to us to truthfully speak all that we have done wrong. And in this moment we want to act. We want to justify ourselves. But that is not the story.
In comes Jesus, never even speaking to us. He has made the choice to cloth us with the righteous robes of heaven. The robes that belong to Him. He gives us a turban of righteousness. He takes away all that we have brought and gives us all that He has to offer. And though it all we never even speak. We are simply bystanders to grace.
I wish I would have known this all those years ago on the Mexico boarder. I wish I could have used this story as the one which shaped my word. I wonder if I would have run so far from Jesus if I would have had this story etched in my heart. What if I would have seen myself as one who only needed to stand by as Jesus did it all? What if I believed then that I brought nothing to my salvation but the filth that needed to be removed? And what if I really understood that Jesus was the one to take my filth and give me what was His, knowing that this was the transaction that was expected?
But now I know. And, now, so do you.
So the next time that you take the cup, what will your word be..?
*It is interesting to me that Satan often appears before the throne of God before the death of Christ. Which makes the old Sunday School argument that sin cannot be in the presence of God be thrown out the window. It is also interesting that he never appears before the throe after the death/resurrection of Jesus. Which is one of the things which led me down a path which has made me an amillennialist.