Friday, April 25, 2014
The togetherness lesson from Jesus’ appearances
A rare image of the inside of Wycombe District Council Chamber – all smiles today but procedural, adversarial debate is the usual form here.
If the root is holy, so are the branches.
If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others [you] now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root…
ANOTHER remarkable thing about Jesus’ resurrection appearances, as recorded in the four gospels, is the frequency of the word ‘together’. Jesus asks the two walking out to Emmaeus, “What are you discussing together?”. The other disciples were described as being together, behind locked doors. You could add “together” to every other instance – it is implied – apart from Mark 16:9 which is Jesus’ appearance to Mary on her own.
We will see this togetherness continuing to grow in the first two chapters of Acts. It was not just social or what we would call fellowship, but active, prayerful and expectant. They were waiting for something, an encounter with God as yet not understood, to happen.
Getting even more ahead of our story, it’s worth mentioning that togetherness was the outstanding characteristic of the church that came into being. Read Luke’s account at the end of Acts 2, and ask yourself whether he could have emphasised togetherness any more than he did!
What does that tell us? Jesus presences Himself in our togetherness. That, of course, is the promise of Matthew 18:19-20 which also outlines the teaching about agreement which is such a vital principle, yet seldom mentioned in the classic treatises on doctrine (trust me on this one – we are definitely talking ‘fat and boring’ books here).
Not being Jewish, we don’t do togetherness very well. We are much more programmed to think and act independently. However, if we start to imagine that jesus is poised to step in the moment we are together in a course of action (i.e. we agree), we will find it easy to let go of our little preferences and agendas and we will be drawn to aim for consensus in everything. My limited experience of Messianic believers is that they can seem to be argumentative – they’ll go hammer and tongs over an issue to start with – but they seem to have an inbuilt instinct to seek out where the agreement lies, and then the mood changes, suddenly and surely.
We find that where debate allows in a fractious note, the Holy Spirit backs off quickly. It’s like a cloud over the sun and the temperature drop we feel. There has to be acknowledgement that we have grieved the Spirit before He will enter back in.
There needs to be debate with openness to different points of view. We hear God partly through each other. What we do well to work on is that strong sense of family belonging, of all seeking the agreement point that God is poised to bless.
We can’t become Jewish if we’re not, but we can give heed to the ancient heritage into which we shoots have been grafted, and find there a good antidote to our proud British independence.