Thursday, September 11, 2014
Challenge and response
Challenge at the Roman gate
TRAVELLING in the Roman Empire was not a Cook’s Tour. When we read about Paul’s journeys in Acts, it seems remarkable that he ever managed to arrive anywhere intact. For ourselves, we know that aircraft and ships carry lifejackets and rafts, but we don’t expect them to disintegrate en route. We encounter officials but even when in the hands of US Immigration we don’t expect to be flogged.
That, of course, was the other danger – travelling in an empire ruled by Roman soldiers and magistrates who were not sympathetic to ‘other religions’ that seemed subversive. Paul was a Roman citizen, but he didn’t get away with everything, all the time.
Imagine footslogging along a rough and dusty track, hoping to make the city before the end of the day and find some food and lodging. In a suspicious society, travellers were likely to be questioned, particularly if they sounded foreign. What do you say when challenged at the gate?
It’s not the Nazi challenge, but the Roman version is like it: “Caesar is Lord!” What does the Christian traveller say to that?
Not “Caesar is Lord” but the antidote to it: “Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father!” This IS the Gospel. It demands a response, a response we know well, so well in fact we have thought it was the Gospel itself.
The lordship of Jesus in the whole of life – this has implications. This is not Jesus the means by which we can choose heaven over hell, this is Jesus who now has the right to show us His way of life in all of life, the Jesus of ‘What Would Jesus Do’. If we are setting out to minister as directed in the Great Commission, we want to be thinking in terms of the full scope of the Gospel, the sense of God the Father having put “everything under His feet” (1 Cor. 15:27).
Here it is, Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and lordship in Peter’s Pentecost sermon, Acts 2:36 –Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.
And in Paul’s words to the Roman church which encompasses Jesus who died and was raised and is declared Lord, Romans 10:9 –That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
The lordship of Jesus – that’s the point. This is what we practise, and teach others to practise.
Matt. 28:19-20 (The Message)
Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all [everything] I have commanded you.
The most clear, direct and memorable form of this lordship acclamation is that hymn quotation we have already seen, from Philippians 2:11– “Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Some of the most powerful words you will ever use. Remember them, use them, the sword of the Spirit against the enemy!
Our challenge is to live this out – to be seen to live under the lordship of Jesus, in thought and word and deed, with such joy and peace that no one out there wants to miss out!