Who is Jesus? That is the all-important question. That is the hinge on which history hangs.
That question has been a question for centuries. John the baptizer even said, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Matt. 11:3). Islam says Jesus is a prophet. Jehovah’s Witnesses say Jesus is a mighty being, even a god. But not God. They do not believe in the Trinity.
So, who is Jesus?
For us to answer that question, it’s important that we consider what Jesus Himself said. So, who did Jesus Himself say He was? Jesus is asked about His identity in the Gospel of John. People asked Jesus, “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?” (John 8:48).
It is when we weep and howl in the agonies of distress that our rescue is all the more rejoiced in. When we see the contrast of our mourning turned into dancing and our ashes replaced with a crown, it gives us a picture of where we came from and what we deserve and what we get through the free salvation of Christ Jesus.
Ash Wednesday is a day of penitence but it leads to a party—new life in Jesus! We see our dire state and we see our sweet salvation!
Ash Wednesday is a type of looking down. Looking at ourselves, the state that we’re in. But we look down so we can have the right perspective as we look up and out to Jesus.
Ash Wednesday is a tangible and powerful symbol of our need. And when we know our need we rejoice in the One that comes for the poor and needy.
I’ve been studying about Jesus’ crucifixion and what led up to His crucifixion in preparation for a devotional blog series called “Psalms of our Suffering Savior.” And I’ve been reminded that Jesus was a rebel, but not like James Dean in “Rebel Without a Cause.”
Jesus had a cause. Actually, we might say He had a lot of causes. Of course, if we left off thinking Jesus was merely a rebel with a cause we’d be gravely mistaken. He’s much more than that. It is, however, still important that we not forget that He was indeed a rebel.
How was Jesus a Rebel?
This is an important question to ask, in part, because “People didn’t get crucified for being gentile or spiritual or for saying their prayers. They got crucified for being understood to be rebels.”
Jesus was a rebel because…
1. “Diametrically opposed to the characteristics of mobility, and a spiritual numbness and apathy arising from mobility, are the characteristics of the body of Christ. Instead of upward mobility, there is the doctrine of the incarnation. Instead of a seeking of comfort through geographic and technological mobility, there is Jesus’ willingness to suffer and die on the cross. Mobility may be a high value in our contemporary culture, but the value of the kingdom of God and the example of Jesus Christ is the incarnation. The doctrine of the incarnation stands in opposition to our obsession with mobility” (Soong-Chan Rah, The Next Evangelicalism, 151)
2. “The American church needs to face the inevitable and prepare for the next stage of her history—we are looking at a nonwhite majority, multiethnic American Christianity in the immediate future” (p.The Next Evangelicalism, 12).
This is not an ecclesiology. But it does tell you a lot about the church. As the church we are…
Welcomed and Welcoming
We remember that Jesus Himself was criticized by religious leaders because of the type of people that He hung out with and helped (cf. Matt. 9:9-13; 11:19; 21:31-32; Mk. 2:15-17; Lk. 3:12-14; 5:29-32; 7:36-50; 15; 19:1-10). So, we’re not like the hypocritical religious leaders. Instead, we’re like our Leader, the One who reaches out to heal our brokenness.
Research shows that the “evangelical church” lost around 10 percent of her people in the last decade. There are many factors that are involved that have resulted in this decline. Further, most churches that are growing are just taking people from other churches, not converting people. The Great Evangelical Recession explores the factors involved in the decline of the church and offers suggestions for the future. I found the book helpful and thought-provoking.