Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Matthew 4:18-22 - "Matching the Master"

KNU International English Church
Josh Broward
February 3, 2008

Read Matthew 4:18-22.

Are there any music lovers here today – anyone who truly loves music? Today, before we begin talking about our text from Matthew, I want us to watch a video of Master Andres Segovia, the greatest classical guitarist of the 20th century. In this video we see Master Segovia in his 1965 class of guitar students who are also studying to become master guitarists.


Students were only admitted to Segovia’s Masters Classes by an invitation from Segovia. [1] Such an invitation meant that he considered you to be (or to have the potential to be) one of the best guitarists in the world. A class usually began with students arriving early and tuning their guitars. They exchange music. A few may try to impress the others by playing some incredibly difficult piece.

Then, slowly, as the time approaches, a silence dawns, like the silence before a storm. The Master approaches. Segovia is on his way. Everyone waits. Suddenly Segovia walks through the door, with slow relaxation. Everyone stands.

Segovia sits at center. The students are now free to sit again. After some greetings and some instructions on the music of the day, Segovia calls a student to the center to perform. The Master offers comments: “Cleaner here. Would you please play that passage again? Crescendo here. Keep the tempo- don't pause at the end of each phrase. Be careful of your tone. … Well, you must work on that some more.”

One day in class, a student was amazed that Segovia could achieve such wonderful sound while his right hand hardly seemed to move. Segovia explained to the class how important it is to have absolutely perfect finger nails, to allow subtle differences in angle when touching the strings. At this point he began to demonstrate. Students came forward from around the room to get a closer look. Many sat on the floor in front of him. Some lied down at his feet looking carefully up at his hands to see the tiniest detail. The disciples were literally at the master’s feet.

However, these demonstrations of technique and the suggestions and criticism only account for a portion of Segovia’s impact on his students. In these Masters Classes, there was something that transcended the student/teacher relationship. Something more than knowledge or content or technique was being taught.

Michael Lorimer, one of Segovia’s students and now also a famous guitarist, explains it like this: “Just as important as everything he says, perhaps more important, is his presence. … The power of Segovia's teaching … is the relationship of apprentice and master, based on the idea that it is important to be in the presence of one who knows, a master.”

“Through Segovia's playing, my understanding of the guitar's potential expands. … Segovia's playing has shown me paths for transcending my limits and for reaching more feeling in my playing … Segovia has found the life force in the music and always keeps it in the center of his playing. He makes clear what is essential… Being around Segovia, I embrace more feeling in myself.”

The master and the disciple. Simply being with the master expands our universe. Giving loving, devoted attention to the master and to the master’s teaching shows us how to transcend our own limits. The master’s life “makes clear what is essential.” The master and the disciple in music.

To borrow a phrase from Brian McClaren, “Jesus was a master of making the music of life.” He didn’t use the wood and string of a guitar or a piano. He used the “skin and bone, smile and laughter, whisper and shout,” of a real body and a real life. And using this instrument, “he invited the disciples to learn to make beautiful life-music in his secret, revolutionary kingdom-of-God way. He helped each of them learn the disciplines and skill of living in the kingdom of God. They watched him play, watched him live and interact, and imitated his example until they began to have the spirit of his style, the power of his performance.”[2]

When Jesus walked along the beach on the Sea of Galilee and called out to those fishermen, “Come, follow me,” he was inviting them into this kind of apprentice/master or disciple/master relationship. He wasn’t just saying, “Hey, come on, let’s go for a walk.” He was using a very special phrase that was used for rabbis (Jewish teachers) and their disciples.

Ray Vander Laan explains how this normally worked on his website: (This is a great website, and I highly recommend it.) At age 5, boys began the study of the Torah. At age 12, if the boy succeeded in memorizing the Torah, he started learning two things: the rest of the Hebrew Bible and a trade (like fishing or building). At age 15, most people were finished.

However, a few of the most outstanding students looked for a famous rabbi to take them on as a disciple (or talmid). This was the top of the line – like getting into Harvard. Very few boys ever made it this far. Usually, the boy would find the rabbi and get up the courage to ask if he could “follow” the rabbi.

At this point, the rabbi had to “size up” the potential candidates. This was a really big deal for the rabbi because his reputation was on the line. Disciples weren’t just students. They weren’t just trying to get knowledge. Almost anyone can get almost any knowledge if they work hard enough long enough. But disciples were after something more. Disciples want to become who the rabbi is and to do what the rabbi does. So the rabbi has to decide, “Does this kid have what it takes to be like me? Does this kid have the ability, the commitment, the heart to do what I do, to live like I live?” Maybe he asked the boy some questions. Maybe he decided to just watch him for a while. But eventually, he either said, “Sorry, kid, you don’t measure up,” or “Come, follow me.”

Those words were very important. Once the rabbi said, “Follow me,” the kid became the rabbi’s disciple. Instantly, the kid’s life comes into focus. He was just admitted into the Jewish Harvard or Seoul National University. From now on, the kid has one calling, one consuming passion: to be like the rabbi. They want to be like the Rabbi more than anything else in the world. They listened to every word he spoke, every prayer he prayed. They watched everything he did. They answered his questions and asked more questions. They followed him wherever he went. They obeyed every instruction he gave. They were whole-heartedly, unreservedly committed to the rabbi, with one goal in mind: I want to be who he is.

Ray Vander Laan tells a story about a time when he saw a modern Jewish Rabbi (you know with the long beard and the little black hat) and his disciples (10-15 year old boys). They were traveling, maybe in an airport or a bus station or something, and the rabbi had to go to the bathroom. He gets up to go to the bathroom, and along behind him come the train of little disciples. They’ve got to be with him in the bathroom, maybe not in the stall, but at least in the bathroom. He might pray while he’s in there. He might say something to somebody. How does the Rabbi interact in an airport bathroom? This is an important question if you have committed your life to becoming exactly like the rabbi.[3]

Are you starting to get a sense of what it meant to be a disciple? The disciple was passionately committed to the Master, to the rabbi. More than anything else in the world, the disciple wanted to be just like the rabbi.

Now, let’s go back to that story of Jesus and Peter and Andrew and James and John.

A young rabbi has just come to town, and he has been stirring up a lot of attention with his message: “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near” (Matthew 4:17). Capernaum was a small town (1,500 people), so everyone had heard the stories of this new rabbi. The fishermen brothers may have even been to hear him preach, “The Kingdom of God is at hand, right here at our finger tips. We just have to start living it.”

These guys have apparently finished their study of the Hebrew Bible, and they have decided to settle for fishing. They aren’t out looking for a rabbi. They aren’t trying to be anyone’s disciple. Maybe they just don’t think they have what it takes to be a rabbi. They are just going to pursue their trade: fishing. Not a bad life – a little smelly maybe, but always enough food for the family.

Suddenly, while the brothers are going about their day’s work, full of sweat and smelling like fish, they see the rabbi. He has already seen them, and he has something to say to them: “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people.”

Remember, now, “follow me,” was a special phrase, used only for rabbis and disciples. Jesus was inviting them to be his talmidim, his disciples. Jesus was saying, “Come, be my disciple, and I will show you how to do what I do, how to be who I am.”

This was extremely unusual. Rabbis didn’t usually recruit their own disciples. Usually the disciples went up to the rabbi, begging to be a disciple. But this rabbi, this young rabbi who preached that the Kingdom of God is near, went up to four fishermen and said, “Follow me. You can be like me.”

We have to get a real picture of the opportunity and the cost here. The cost was everything. Peter, Andrew, James, and John were committing everything they were and ever hoped to be into Jesus’ hands. They were leaving behind everything they ever had, their family, their way of living, their security. They were committing to change anything that needed to be changed, to whatever needed to be done, to go wherever they needed to go. The cost was total and absolute.

But for these four fishermen, the opportunity outweighed the cost. This was like winning the lotto for them. They were suddenly vaulted to the top of their class. They were the elite. They were invited to be talmidim, disciples. The freshest, newest, most powerful rabbi of their time believed in them. Not only that, Jesus believed that they could be like him. Jesus believed that these four fishermen could be like him. He believed in these guys so much that he didn’t wait on them to come to him. He went out to them and specifically chose them out of the crowd to be his disciples.

This rabbi seemed to understand the ways of God like no one else. And he was inviting them to be like him, to learn his life, to also understand and live the ways of God, and to “fish” for other people to live this way.

Maybe these four brothers felt like the people in Jesus’ stories: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hit it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field. Again the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant on the lookout for choice pearls. When he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold everything he owned and bought it!” (Matthew 13:44-46).

Yes, the cost was great. The cost was everything. If they said yes, their life would never be the same. They would have to give up everything to follow Jesus. But obviously, the opportunity was even greater. They didn’t have to think twice. They were getting a bargain. They were giving up their lives to get his life! What a deal!

They said, “Yes!” Right then and there, Peter and Andrew dropped their nets on the beach and followed Jesus. James and John left their dad in the boat to figure out the nets for himself, and they followed Jesus. Of course, they would. Of course, they followed. This was the opportunity of a lifetime. Of course, they said yes.

Now, Jesus also walks down the beach beside our Sea of Galilee. He walks down SsangYong Daero or on the sidewalks of KNU. He walks down this middle aisle. And he looks into our eyes and into our hearts. He sees all that we are, all that we know, all that we have, all that we have ever been. He knows us completely, and he looks at us with a smile and says, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of people. Come, be my disciple, and I will teach you to do what I do. I will help you to become who I am. I believe in you. I believe you can be like me. Come, follow me.”

Did you catch that? Jesus actually believes we can be like him. Jesus actually believes we can do what he does. Jesus actually believes we can live like he lives. And he asks us to do it. He asks us to follow him.

Now, like Peter and Andrew, James and John, we need to face honestly the cost and the opportunity.

The cost is total, absolute. Jesus asks for everything. Jesus asks for unflinching, unlimited obedience and commitment. Those fishermen standing there beside the Sea of Galilee didn’t really know who Jesus was. They didn’t understand all about him and his message and the life he would demand from them. They hadn’t heard all of his teaching yet. They hadn’t seen him die on the cross yet. But they committed to follow him anyway. They put their old life, their old ways behind them. They made a total commitment to change whatever needed to be changed, to do whatever needed to be done, to go wherever they needed to go. The cost is great!

But for us as well, the opportunity is even greater. The greatest teacher who has ever lived has invited us to be like him. The wisest man who ever walked the face of the earth has invited us to learn his wisdom. The best life-musician who has ever played the music of life has invited us to sit as his feet for private lessons. We have the opportunity to be like Jesus, the Son of God. We have the opportunity to live in and to live out the Kingdom of Heaven in our everyday lives. We have the opportunity to change the world by fishing for people to join this movement of grace and love that will be the healing of the universe. We have the opportunity to live the very life of God in our world.

This is the great exchange. We get to trade our lives, our broken down, worn out lives, for Jesus’ Spirit-filled, love-charged, peace-giving, true Life.

The cost is great, but the opportunity is greater. The cost is great, but the opportunity is immeasurable. The cost is great, but the opportunity is infinite!

Jesus is here. Jesus is walking down these aisles, looking into your heart, and asking you a question: “Will you follow me? Will you be my disciple? Will you give up everything you have and receive everything I have? Will you give up all you are to receive all I am? Will you follow me?”

Lent begins this Wednesday, Ash Wednesday. We’ll be having an Ash Wednesday service here at 7pm. I hope you’ll come. Throughout Lent this year, we’ll be preaching from Jesus most famous sermon ever, “The Sermon on the Mount.” This is widely considered to be the summary of all Jesus’ teaching. This is Jesus’ basic view of life in the Kingdom of God. We’ll be talking about it for seven Sundays. I challenge you to read the Sermon on the Mount (in Matthew 5-7) at least once every week for the next seven weeks. If you really want to be a disciple of Jesus, if you really want to live life his way, this is a good way to start.

Jesus is looking into your heart and asking one question: “Will you follow me?” What is your answer?

[1] The following description of Segovia’s instruction is a blending of accounts from two of his students in these articles: John Mills, “The Teaching of Andres Segovia,” First published in the EGTA Guitar Journal no.4 (July 1993),; and Michael Lorimer, “Andres Segovia – The Teacher,”

[2] Brian McClaren, The Secret Message of Jesus, (W Publishing: Nashville, 2006), 77.

[3] Ray Vander Laan, “Rabbi and Talmidim,” and “To Be a Talmid,”

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Beginning the Adoption Process

Sarah and I have both wanted to adopt a child for many years. Before Sarah and I met, she had this dream of parenting an Asian or Latino child. After I went to Papua New Guinea with a Youth In Mission trip, I felt God specifically leading me to adopt a child. That was in 1998.
When Sarah and I got married, we were not sure we would ever have children the old fashioned way. Emma was a beautiful surprise, and we have been blessed to have her. After Emma, we made a permanent decision not to have any more children with our own genes, and we have been looking forward to adopting a child ever since.
We have spent the last several years trying to pay down off our student loans. We are now within striking distance of paying off our student loans, and we are beginning the adoption process.
We were afraid that it would be very difficult for us to adopt here in Korea. We have friends who have run into dead-end after dead-end trying to adopt here, and we also hit some dead-ends on our first tries. However, (interestingly, after we asked our prayer team at church to pray for us to find some openings), our friend Elena referred us to another US family who had adopted here in Korea. That opened the floodgates for us. That family sent us a list of adoption agencies recommended for US citizens living abroad.
We are now officially applying for adoption through Christian World Adoptions. We are also tackling one of the major obstacles for US citizens adopting while living abroad: the home study. This is where a social worker visits your home and makes sure you are fit parents. Another adoption agency, Adopt Abroad, has a social worker based here in Korea who is licensed in the USA. (This social worker is a graduate of Point Loma Nazarene University.) This social worker will come to our house in February. We are really excited about this because this seemed to be the impassible hurdle for us.
At this point we are thinking that we will try to adopt a child from Russia. That is exciting for us because it means we might finally be able to visit our good friends Davide and Tanya Cantarella who live in Moscow. Through a series of student exchanges I went to school with each of them for a year at MidAmerica Nazarene University and European Nazarene College.
This whole adoption process requires an amazing amount of work and money. Sarah (mostly) and I (a little) have been spending many hours gathering the required documents, doing research, and working through the required online training courses. This month, for our official application and home study fee, we will spend almost $5,000. That hits us like a Mac truck. That's $5,000 that won't go to paying off our school loans, but it also puts us one big step closer to holding a little baby boy in our arms who needs us as his Mom and Dad and big sister.
By the way, the name that currently ranks highest on our list is Noah Jetton. That would have been Emma's name if she were a boy. The Noah part works really well here in Korea, where 99% of all first names have 2 syllables. The Jetton part is in honor of my maternal grandparents, Bill and Myrtle Lee Jetton, who have been married for 67 years, and were Nazarene pastors for 30+ years.
Anyway, we're excited about beginning this process, even if we aren't exactly sure where all the money is going to come from yet. (We'll be applying for some grants once our application is officially approved.) The total cost for everything will probably be between $35,000 and $45,000! That seems like a lot, but there's a kid out there waiting for us to be his family. A few days ago, I realized that if it takes us about 12-18 months to complete this adoption process, then there is a good chance that the little boy we will adopt has already been conceived. That little boy in his mommy's womb out there somewhere in Russia is developing and growing even as I type this, even as we send out the checks to pay for this process, even as we do the almost endless paperwork. He is out there and growing and eventually waiting for us. That is exciting. That is why we're doing this. He's waiting.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Matthew 4:12-17, 23-25 - "Repenting of the Gospel"

KNU International English Church
January 27, 2008

Read Matthew 4:12-17, 23-25.

Jesus traveled around Galilee “announcing the gospel” (4:23). “From then on Jesus began to preach” (4:17). The word “preach” here means to proclaim, to deliver the message of a king, to announce the king’s “good news” or “gospel.”

“Gospel” is a very important word for us Christians. We talk about explaining the gospel, preaching the gospel, living the gospel, bringing the gospel, even giving our lives for the gospel. This “gospel” is definitely a big deal for us Christians. But maybe we have misunderstood the gospel.

I remember a time during my first year here. I was preaching about the significance of Jesus’ death on the cross. I drew the Bridge Illustration on a white board, and I talked about how our sins separate us from God and how Jesus’ cross makes a bridge for us to return to God and to experience God’s life.

After the sermon, one of the people came up to me, shook my hand with both of his hands, and said, “You preached the true, pure gospel today!” At the time, I felt like that was a great compliment. But now I’m not so sure.

One of my favorite writers is Brian McClaren. He is helping me and lots of other people better understand the gospel. Almost 20 years ago, someone did the same thing for him. McClaren was having lunch with a friend, and his friend leaned across the table and said, “You know Brian, most evangelicals don't really know what the gospel is."

Brian, an evangelical, just stared into his soup and tried to avoid the implied question. His friend pushed on, “For example, what do you think the gospel is?” No getting out of it this time. He’d have to answer.

Brian pulled out all of the heavy theological words that evangelicals like to use: “justification … by grace through faith … not by works … the atoning work of Christ on the cross.” If you didn’t get all of that, don’t worry. He was stating the standard position described in that “bridge illustration”: the gospel is that God forgives our sins through Jesus’ death on the cross.

Brian’s friend said, “Well that's exactly what most evangelicals think.”

Brian turned the question around: “Well, what do you say the gospel is?”

And this is where the change started coming for Brian McClaren. His friend replied, “Shouldn't we let Jesus define the gospel for us? For Jesus, the gospel is ‘the Kingdom of God is at hand.’”
Hmmm … that’s from our passage today: “From then on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand’” (Matthew 4:17). Jesus traveled around “announcing the Good News (the gospel) about the Kingdom” (4:23).

Brian McClaren says that he distinctly remembers thinking that his friend was “probably a heretic.” But he never could get away from that conversation. For years and years, he went back to that simple conversation. He kept thinking about it: “For Jesus, the gospel is that the kingdom of God is at hand.”[1] What does that mean?

When we read this text, we need to ask some basic questions. What did Jesus preach? What was his message? Did he preach what most Christians today preach? Did he say, “Come get your sins forgiven? My death will pay the price for your sins so that you can be forgiven and be close to God and live happily ever after in heaven?” Was that the “gospel” Jesus talked about?

Jesus actually preached very little about the forgiveness of sins. And when he did preach about forgiving sins, he was usually talking about people forgiving each other. If Jesus hardly ever talked about forgiveness of sins, then that can’t be the summary of the “gospel of Jesus Christ.” We have to look for something more, something closer to what Jesus did actually preach and teach.

What did Jesus preach? What was the focus of his message? Matthew gives us a one sentence summary of all of Jesus’ teaching: “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near” (4:17). Let’s take some time to think about each part of this basic message.

What does “repent” mean? Matthew says that in Jesus a light has shined us people who live in darkness. Brian McClaren says that repentance is a “profound rethinking … It means looking at every facet of your life again in this new light – from the way you think about God to the way you treat your spouse, from your political affiliations to your spending habits, from what makes you angry to what makes you happy. It doesn’t mean everything changes all at once, but it means you open up the possibility that everything may change over time. It involves a deep sense that you may be wrong, wrong about so much, along with the sincere desire to realign around what is good and true.”[2]

We need to repent of our old understanding of the gospel. We don’t need to abandon it or leave it behind, but we need to rethink it. We need to enlarge it. We need to admit that the way we have understood the gospel is too small. We need to put that old understanding of being “saved by grace through faith” within the larger picture of the gospel that Jesus preached: “the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”

OK, then, what does “the Kingdom of Heaven” mean? Well, for starters, “the Kingdom of Heaven” and “the Kingdom of God” are the same thing. “The Kingdom of Heaven” is just Matthew’s conservative Jewish way of saying “the Kingdom of God.”

So what is this “Kingdom of God” that is so central to Jesus’ teaching? Matthew quotes Isaiah 9 as a background for Jesus’ preaching on the Kingdom of God, so let’s read that now.

Read Isaiah 9:1-7.

I just can’t read this without thinking of Handel’s Messiah: “And He shall be call-ed: Wonderful, Counselor, Almighty God, the Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. And the government shall rest upon his shoulders!”

This passage from Isaiah 9 tells us a few things about the Kingdom of God which are important for us.

First, the Kingdom of God shines a light. This light is for people who are “walking in darkness.” The light shines and shows the right path. It shows us where and how to walk.

Second, this light shines among the “Gentiles.” In both Hebrew and Greek the word for “Gentiles” means “outsiders” or “those who are different from us.” It’s amazing to me that the light will shine among people who are living among outsiders or “others.” Maybe the Kingdom of God is seen best when we establish community with people who are different from us.

Next, there is great joy in the Kingdom of God. “They will rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest and like warriors dividing the plunder” (Isaiah 9:3). Some people say that one modern way to translate “the Kingdom of God” is “the party of God.” Jesus seems to agree. He said the Kingdom of God is like a huge wedding party, where lots of different people are invited.

Then, Isaiah explains that the people are so joyful because they are finally experiencing justice and peace. “For you will break the yoke of slavery and lift the heaven burden from their shoulders. You will break the oppressor’s rod … The boots of the warrior and the uniforms bloodstained by war will all be burned” (9:5). In the Kingdom of God, people don’t use and abuse each other. In the Kingdom of God people are set free to live in peace with each other.

Finally, this Kingdom will never end. “His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice … for all eternity” (9:6). Sometimes our experience of God seems so temporary – here one minute and gone the next. But Isaiah reminds us that the Kingdom of God lasts forever because the King will rule forever.

So what is the Kingdom of God? The Kingdom of God is basically the experience of God as King. It is a return to God’s dreams for the world. It is the reinvasion of God’s grace, peace, and justice into our world. It is a revolution of love. It is a grassroots movement of mercy.

Since I’m in the singing mood, let me summarize it like this. When Jesus says “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand,” he is basically calling out like Aladdin in the Disney classic:

I can show you the world
Shining, shimmering, splendid …
I can open your eyes
Take you wonder by wonder
Over, sideways and under …
A whole new world
A new fantastic point of view …
Unbelievable sights
Indescribable feeling …

A whole new world …[3]

OK, so maybe Jesus wasn’t that cheesy. But this is exactly what Jesus was saying, “Hey, there’s a whole new world out there, right here. It’s way different from the way you’re living. It will turn your mind upside down, sideways, under. It’s life ruled by the grace and peace of God. I know – it’s almost unbelievable, indescribable really, but I can take you there if you dare to follow me. You can have it right now if you will just live like me.”

Last question: What does “at hand” or “near” mean? The Kingdom of God is at hand. To explain this let me tell you a little story.

Last week, on Thursday night I went to bed about 3 am. The next morning I was tired and grumpy, and I had a headache. I’m not a very nice Daddy when I’m tired.

I asked Emma to get ready while I was taking a shower. She didn’t.

I went into her room and picked out some clothes for her, and I asked her to get dressed while I was getting dressed. She didn’t. I was frustrated and grumpy. I said, “Emma put on these clothes right now!”

Emma immediately started crying, “I don’t want to wear these clothes! I want to pick out my own clothes!”

“Fine! Pick out your own clothes. Just get dressed.”

“But I don’t want to wear these clothes! I want to pick out my own clothes!”

“Emma, I said you don’t have to wear these clothes. Pick out whatever you want to wear, and get dressed!”

“But I don’t want to wear these clothes! I want to pick out my own clothes!”

At that point, something in me broke and my grumpiness turned into meanness. I picked up the clothes off the bed, and I threw them in her wardrobe and slammed the door, and I said, “See, those clothes are gone! Wear whatever you want! Just get dressed!”

As I walked out of the room, Emma said, “You’re making me even more sadder!”

OK, I know, I was a big meanie! I was sleep deprived! Try to get past my meanness to see the point here. Emma’s clothes were “at hand.” She could wear whatever she wanted. She could reach in her closet and pick out anything she wanted to wear. They were “at hand.” She spent her morning crying about wanting something that was already “at hand.”

Jesus is saying, “Look people, the Kingdom of God is at hand! God’s revolutionary way of life - filled with joy, unity, peace, justice, freedom, compassion – this life that we all want is right here right now. All we have to do is reach out and take it. Start living it right here, right now. Quit complaining about the world not being good or loving or just, and make it fair and loving and just in your own actions. The Kingdom of God is here, available to all of us. We just have to start living it.”

This is the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Kingdom of God is at hand. The Kingdom of God is here at our fingertips. God’s grace, God’s love, God’s peace, God’s justice are right here for anyone who is willing to live them. This is the gospel. This is the good news. May God help us to live the gospel of Jesus Christ!

[1] Eric Hurtgen, “The Secret Message of Jesus,” Relevant Magazine,, downloaded on 1.24.08.

[2] Brian McClaren, The Secret Message of Jesus, (W Publishing: Nashville, 2006), 105.

[3] “A Whole New World,” from the 1992 Disney movie Aladdin, lyrics by Tim Rice.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Mr. and Mrs. Clause

So on Christmas Eve, Sarah and I somehow ended up playing Santa Clause and Mrs. Clause (or Santa's helper) at a neighborhood English kindergarten. It was actually pretty fun. The school had it all worked out where the parents had sent each of the kids with a secret present and a message from Santa. So I ended up telling lots of kids to eat their vegetables and study hard. I also told lots of kids that their parents loved them very much.

I'm just now catching up with my emails, so here are a few pictures of Santa (AKA: Abbominal Snowman) and crew.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Best Movie #73 - Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

In our latest installment of movies from the American Film Institute's best 100 movies of all time, Sarah and I watched Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid last night (thus making me late for pool night). This one weighed in at #73. (We're watching them on an availability basis.)
I was a little disappointed. I mean, it was a good movie, but definitely not among the best I've ever seen.
Probably the most notable point of the movie was the striking lack of dialog. The opening scene has Butch Cassidy (Paul Newman) quietly walking around looking at something. As the scene develops, the audience begins to understand that he's looking at a bank and that he's scouting it for a robbery, but he there are no words for a good minute or two. This is kind of thing is repeated several times throughout the movie.
Most of the movie is taken up with Butch and Sundance's robbing of banks or trains and subsequent escapes from the law. It ends predictably in a bloody shoot out, unpredictably in Bolivia (apparently true to life).
One one level, it's just a simple crime-doesn't-pay movie that half glorifies crime and half shows how stupid it is. On another level, it shows the personality of Butch and Sundance as real people with real relationship and real feelings. There is a pretty cool scene with Butch playing around on a bicycle, having tender moments oddly enough with Sundance's girlfriend.
I guess the beauty of it is in its simplicity. It is slow moving and straight forward. It just tells a story, or almost lets the story tell itself. The dialog is often sparse (partly because of Sundance's reticence, which reminded me often of Sarah's dad), and the humor is wry. I often had the sense that these were just two guys doing an ordinary day's work, enjoying a genuine friendship. The robbing seemed almost incidental to their friendship.
Over all, I'll give the movie the josh rating of: jjj. (I would give it 3 1/2, but that doesn't really work so well.)

Matthew 4:1-11: "Tempting God"

KNU International English Church

Josh Broward

January 20, 2008

Read Matthew 4:1-11.

This text brings up a lot of questions. Why would the Spirit lead Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted? If Jesus really was God, how could he be tempted to sin? Isn’t sin impossible for God? If Jesus could really sin, then he must not have been God? If he couldn’t really sin, then he must not have really been tempted? What was so bad about the things the devil asked Jesus to do? Making some bread isn’t that bad is it? And one of my biggest questions: if Satan was just going to leave when Jesus told him to go, why didn’t Jesus just tell Satan to get away in the first place?!

Let’s just walk through this story together and see if we find some answers or maybe even some new questions.

The Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness as a time of testing to prepare Jesus for his ministry. In fact, the Greek word used here can mean either test or tempt. The forty days are parallel with Israel’s 40 years in the wilderness: “Remember how the LORD your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey his commands” (Deuteronomy 8:2). Out in the raw, rugged desert, people learn to rely on God.

This was the case for Jesus. Out in the wilderness, all alone with the Spirit and Satan, Jesus faces the deep questions of his life and ministry. How will he use the power of God? What kind of Messiah will he be?

Jesus was very human. These were very real temptations. I believe a big part of Jesus actually wanted to say “YES!” to the devil’s suggestions.

He had not eaten for 40 days, and in classic understatement the Bible says, he was “very hungry.” Ya think!?! He was starving, literally! A little fast food probably sounded like a great idea.

He has this mission to be Israel’s Messiah. He’s got to get their attention somehow. Now, you have to understand that the Temple was on the edge of a great cliff. It was 450 feet or 140 meters to the bottom. Josephus, a Jewish historian, said it made you dizzy just to look down that far. There’s Satan and Jesus on top of the Temple, looking down, getting dizzy, and Jesus is thinking, “I can see it now. I’d get a running start and jump way out there, and I’d just free fall like a cliff diver almost to the ground. Everyone would be looking at me. Then, at the last second, I’d kick in my super-Spirit jets, and the angels would shout out, ‘Here he comes to save the day! It’s Super-Messiah! That could work! And it would be so much easier than that slow, tedious plan the Father suggested.”

And as for “the kingdoms of the world and all their glory,” well that’s a big part of why Jesus came. He was Israel’s Messiah, to be sure, but he was also the King of the Universe. The plan was to gather all peoples together under one king. Why not take a little short cut? What’s one little compromise to save all that time?”

Part of Jesus wanted to do it. Part of Jesus wanted to give in. Part of Jesus wanted to sin. It’s true. It has to be true, or it wouldn’t be temptation.

So what happened? If Jesus wanted to do it, why didn’t he? Even though part of him wanted to say “Yes” to Satan (and to himself), a bigger, deeper part of him wanted to say “Yes” to God the Father. This was the test really. Was Jesus more committed to God or to himself?

This is the beautiful thing about Jesus’ temptation. He was really tempted. Part of him actually wanted to sin. He knows how it feels to want to sin. He “understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin” (Hebrews 4:15). He held his ground. He held on to God. “Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested” (Hebrews 2:18). That’s the beautiful part of this story.

But there’s an ugly part to this story, too. I think the Jewish people would have actually encouraged Jesus to give in to Satan’s temptations.

They needed bread. They were struggling to feed their families because of the heavy Roman taxes. Turning rocks into bread would guarantee there would never be another hungry night. There were lots of rocks!

And it would have been really cool to see Jesus jump from the Temple roof, right?! I mean who wouldn’t want to see that? In fact, one would-be Messiah named Simon Magus tried this very thing. (It didn’t work out so well for him Simon, though.)[1]

The Jews were thoroughly convinced of the Messianic prophecies that promised that all of the kingdoms of the world would come and bow down before the Messiah. The glory of the world would stream to Jerusalem, and they would become the princes of the universe. Take the deal Jesus!

In fact, we know that the Jews wanted Jesus to do this kind of thing because they actually asked for it later on. After Jesus did a miracle with bread and fish to feed 5,000 people, the people said, “Hey, this is great! Give us this bread every day!” (John 6:34) At a different time, “the Pharisees and Sadducees came to test Jesus, demanding that he show them a miraculous sign from heaven to prove his authority” (Matthew 16:1). Amazing, they came to “test” or to “tempt” Jesus by asking for a miracle. And at one point the people were even ready to force Jesus to be their king (John 6:14-15).

We might think this was all easy for Jesus to deal with, but it wasn’t. Jesus seems to have been tempted all along the way. When Jesus got a clear picture of the cross that was coming for him, taking over as the powerful Messiah must have seemed better and better to him. At one point, Jesus is trying to get his disciples ready for the fact that he’s going to die on the cross. But Peter takes him aside and reminds Jesus of the powerful Messiah story: “Dude, Jesus! You forgot how this goes! One of these days, you’re going to stand up and take over the world in a blaze of glory!”

The strength of Jesus’ response shows us how strong this temptation was for him. Jesus said to Peter – to Peter, the lead disciple, the future leader of the church, one Jesus’ closest friends – “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s” (Matthew 16:23).

Throughout Jesus’ life, his own people, his own disciples, even his own family (John 7:2-5) – these people become the ones who tempt Jesus. They are the ones who try to steer Jesus away from God’s will toward selfish living. The people didn’t actually want the religion that Jesus was preaching. Who wants to love your enemies and die on a cross and all that? The people just wanted to use the Messiah religion to make their lives better. The people wanted the stuff: “Show me the bread!” The people wanted the spectacular manipulation of God’s power: “Do that cool miracle thing again.” The people wanted the power of politics and might: “Be our King and take over the world!”

Jesus’ own people take the role of Satan in his life, so much so that Jesus even says one of the best became a living embodiment of Satan. Jesus had to deal with temptation out in the wilderness when he was all alone because his people were going to bring him temptation left and right. Jesus’ people were an almost constant source of temptation for him.

Is anyone starting to feel a little uncomfortable here? We are Jesus’ disciples and Jesus’ people, too. As we read through the gospels, it’s pretty safe to picture ourselves doing whatever it is that the disciples do. We are still Jesus’ people, and we pretty much respond to Jesus like people have always responded to Jesus.

Wait a minute. If Jesus’ own people were the ones who tempted Jesus … if Jesus’ own disciples took the role of Satan in Jesus’ life … if we are Jesus’ disciples and Jesus’ people too … if we live pretty much like they did … then that means that we are in the place of Satan in this story. We are the ones who tempt Jesus today. We are the ones who don’t want the religion Jesus is preaching. We are the ones want to use the Messiah’s religion to make our lives better: “Show me the money! Give me that cool feeling again! Give us a sign! Help us take back our country for Christ! Give us a godly president (who will help the economy and won’t raise our taxes and will crush all those other people we don’t like)! Receive my 10% offering so that I won’t feel guilty for spending the other 90% on totally selfish things!”

Just like the disciples, and just like the ancient Israelites in the wilderness, we are still putting the Lord our God to the test (Matthew 4:7). We are still tempting God. We are still asking God to do things for our own selfish reasons. We are still sitting in the place of Satan, fighting for the wrong team, going in the wrong direction, working against God. We are still using the religion of the Messiah to accomplish our own ends.

We don’t actually want Jesus’ religion. We want a religion that will build us up, not one that will break us down. We want a religion that will give to us, not one that will give us. We want a religion that will give us something to be proud of, not one that will teach us to be humble.

What’s going on here? How is it that Jesus’ people still don’t want Jesus’ religion? Why are we still tempting God? Why are we still failing God’s test? After all these years, how are we still missing it?

The sad truth is that we are bent in upon ourselves. We are basically selfish. Sin has messed us up. We are like a plastic cup that got too close to the fire. We are bent and misshapen. Our basic tendency is to live for ourselves by ourselves.

When Jesus calls us to a new kind of life, we don’t know what to do. When Jesus tells us that we will gain true life by dying with him, we don’t know how to understand that. When Jesus tells us when get the most when we give the most away, that just doesn’t make sense to us. We Jesus tells us to love until it hurts, it might sound good, but most of the time we just can’t actually do it. When we read the gospel’s call to unselfishness and sacrifice, it seems so difficult that we just turn the page and read something else that sounds easier to follow.

That’s the ugly part of this story. 2,000 years later, we are still living on Satan’s team, more than we want to admit.

So what are we to do? How do we get out of this mess? Is there any hope here? Is there any hope for us and for the church?

The good news here is that Jesus really was human. -- Huh? I thought we already covered that? -- We did. When Jesus went out into the wilderness to be tested, he was 100% human, and he passed the test. He had two dynamic resources that gave him the strength to stand up against Satan’s temptations and to stand strong on God’s side with unselfish obedience.

He had two not-so-secret weapons: the Spirit and the Word. The Spirit “settled on” Jesus. God’s Holy Spirit became a permanent part of Jesus’ life. Throughout Jesus’ life, he spent time cultivating his relationship with the Spirit. He pulled away from the crowd and spent time with God. This is the only way he gained the strength to be unselfish when he was surrounded by people asking him to be selfish. Most important of all, Jesus always obeyed the Spirit. He followed the Spirit’s leading. He built a strong connection with the Spirit because he always did what God asked him to do.

Second, Jesus had the Word. If Jesus was like most Jewish boys, by the age of 12, he would have memorized the Torah (the first 5 books of the Bible) – every word by heart. Then, if he did a good job with that, he would have gone on to middle school where he would memorize the rest of the Old Testament – all 34 other books – by heart, every word, by the age of 15![2] When Jesus was tempted, he responded to that temptation by letting the Word of God guide his life. He lived by the Word. He shaped his life by the Word.

The good news for us – the wonderful news for us – is that the same two resources are available to us. God has not given up on us yet.

God’s Spirit is still at work in the world. God’s Spirit is still out here correcting our wrongs and giving us the strength to be right. God’s Spirit is still at work in the Church and in us “leading us into all truth” again and again and again (John 16:13). If we will submit ourselves to the Spirit, he will teach us how to live and give us the power to actually do it.

And “the word of God is [still] alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joints and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires” (Hebrews 4:12). If we will submit ourselves to the word, God’s Spirit will use this sword to cut deep into our hearts to cut out our cancer, to mend our broken spirits, and to purify our hearts and our churches to become like Jesus.

And we still have Jesus “who was tempted in every way just as we are” and “is able to help us when we are being tested.” He has not given up on us. He is still with us.

So then, let’s submit ourselves to the Spirit. Let’s open our hearts and lives to his correction. Let’s submit ourselves to the Word. Let’s dig into the Bible again and rediscover who Jesus really is, promising to follow the Jesus we find there. And as we do this, “let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most” (Hebrews 4:16). And that time – the time when we need help most, my friends – that time is now.

[1] William Barclay, The New Daily Study Bible: The Gospel of Matthew, vol 1. (Louisville: John Knox, 2001), 79.

Monday, January 14, 2008

100 Greatest Movies

So Sarah and I have gotten on an old movie kick. We watched Casablanca on YouTube, and we both thought it was great! That got us to thinking about other great movies, so we searched for the best movies of all time. We found this list by the American Film Institute. Unfortunately, it doesn't include international films, but we thought it would be a good start to take in some of the movies that are considered great by the "experts." We've heard of most of these, but also haven't seen about half.
I've set a goal to eventually watch all 100 of these movies. Probably by the time we're finished, there will be a new set of the new 100 best movies, but oh well, it will be a fun journey.
Here's what we've seen so far (at least recently).
3. Casablanca - great!
11. City Lights - a Charlie Chaplain silent film - I was a little sick, so I fell asleep on this one. Sarah said it was interesting, but not great.
20. It's a Wonderful Life - watched it for a Christmas event at church - still great; almost cried again!
100. Ben-Hur - very good, a bit cheesy at times, surprisingly religious, great story - really shows the tension (between Rome and God) for Jews of Jesus' day.

Nana and Grandpa Arrive

My parents arrived in Korea late Friday night, and they got into Cheonan in the wee hours of Saturday morning. I had some nice quiet reading and coffee drinking time waiting for them after Sarah konked out. (She's been getting over the flu. She always seems to be going through or getting over something this winter.)
Anyway they arrived without too much adieu. KNU practically delivered them to my doorstep, since they and another English Camp teacher were arriving late, after the buses stopped. So this time, I only had to walk across the street to pick them up instead of riding a bus for 3 hours each way. Much, much better!
They are now settled into our friends Joe and Elena Willey's apartment. (The Willeys are on vacation to the USA for almost exactly the same time frame that my parents are here in Korea.) That is a great set up for them, much better than the dorm or the single prof housing. Thanks Joe and Elena!
Saturday and Sunday we experienced the great gift deluge that always accompanies any visit to or by my Mom. She is the bargain shopper extraordinaire, and she has the gift of giving, so we always get lots of whatever it was that she could find. Of course, Emma is the main target of her shopping adventures, but Sarah and I also get in on the action some. Emma got lots of clothes, toys, shoes, and books. Sarah and I each got some nice clothes. We also got lots of desert mixes. Mom really hit the bullseye for me with her standard gifts of beef jerky and dried cranberries. I can't really get those here, and I really miss them. I ate a whole pack of beef jerky on Saturday. I've since slowed down. I've got to make all of this bounty last until the next visit or care package!
Emma was delighted to see her Nana and Grandpa, and she has pretty much remained in this euphoric state. She even went to get some of her neighbor friends to come to our house to meet them. This is probably the best Emma has ever received them. In the past, she has sometimes been unusually shy or standoffish. We aren't really sure what was going on there - maybe she felt threatened because Sarah and I were giving them our attention. Anyway, now, at the ripe old age of 4, Emma is delighted to have them, and we are delighted that she's so delighted.
Dad has graciously agreed to teach the adult Sunday School class while they are here. They have done this several times now, and some of the people are the same. Everyone looks forward to it. I'll have to talk to him about time management, though. Yesterday, he taught until 20-30 minutes into the service! He said, "Well, they just kept asking questions." They are both teachers at heart! I'm delighted to have their help. Matt and I have been filling in as the Adult Sunday School teachers ever since Stan Martin left in the summer. It's a little difficult to preach and teach in the same day, so I'm happy for the relief.
I'm really happy my parents can come. Sarah and I were talking about this a few days ago. We are really blessed to have these English camps. Thanks to them, my parents can basically live next door to us two months a year.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Matthew 3:13-17 - Different

KNU International English Church
Josh Broward

January 13, 2008

Matthew 3:13-17

Today, I want to tell you four stories of surprise.

Our first story is from the movie, Guess Who. A young woman is bringing her new boyfriend home to meet the family. Everyone is excited because he is a stock broker. There’s just one problem…. He’s white.

[You can view this clip at YouTube: Start with the time 3:40.]

I love that: “But he’s white!”

Sometimes the person we get is different from the person we expected.

Eventually, Bernie Mac gets over the shock of Ashton being white. Near the end of the movie, he learns to look past Ashton’s white-ness to see a young man who will make a great husband for his daughter.

That happens again in this story from one of the best chick-flicks ever: Anne of Green Gables. Matthew and Merilla Cuthbert are getting older, and they decide to get an orphan boy to help them do chores on their farm. There’s just one problem. He’s a she.

[You can view this clip at YouTube: Start at the beginning, and watch until 6:30 (or 7:30 if you have time).]

Sometimes the person we get is different from the person we expected.

Matthew Cuthbert quickly overcomes the fact that their “boy” was a girl. It takes Merilla a little more time, but eventually Anne (with an “E”) wins her heart, too. Near the end of the movie, Matthew and Merilla are overjoyed that someone sent them Anne.

Sometimes the person we get is different from the person we expected. That happened long ago in the story of John the Baptist. John was a fiery preacher, as I tried to show last week. (I’ve always wanted to yell like that!) John was preparing the way for God’s new King to come and redeem Israel.

Like most Israelites, John probably thought of the Messiah in terms of Psalm 2.

1-6 Why the big noise, nations? Why the mean plots, peoples?
Earth-leaders push for position,
Demagogues and delegates meet for summit talks,
The God-deniers, the Messiah-defiers:
"Let's get free of God!
Cast loose from Messiah!"
Heaven-throned God breaks out laughing.
At first he's amused at their presumption;
Then he gets good and angry.
Furiously, he shuts them up:
"Don't you know there's a King in
Zion? A coronation banquet
Is spread for him on the holy summit."

7-9 Let me tell you what God said next.
He said, "You're my son,
And today is your birthday.
What do you want? Name it:
Nations as a present? Continents as a prize?
You can command them all to dance for you,
Or throw them out with tomorrow's trash."

10-12 So, rebel-kings, use your heads;
Upstart-judges, learn your lesson:
Worship God in adoring embrace,
Celebrate in trembling awe. Kiss Messiah!
Your very lives are in danger, you know;
His anger is about to explode,
But if you make a run for God—you won't regret it!
(The Message)

Most Jews expected the Messiah to come like this: exploding with anger and crushing the rebel nations. From all we can tell, John was part of this tradition. He was calling everyone to repent to get ready for this kind of Messiah. John the Baptist didn’t care if you were a priest or a king. If you were wrong and needed to change, he’d tell you.

When the religious leaders came out to the Jordan River to see what all of this baptizing was about, John called them a bunch of snakes and fakes.

When Herod Antipas, the king of Galilee, married his brother’s ex-wife, John shouted in the streets: “The King is a sinner! God’s law says you can’t wife swap like that!”

John was trying to get the people ready for the Messiah, and no one was going to stand in his way.

Listen to the story in Matthew 3:13-17.

13-14 Jesus then appeared, arriving at the Jordan River from Galilee. He wanted John to baptize him. John objected, "I'm the one who needs to be baptized, not you!"

15 But Jesus insisted. "Do it. God's work, putting things right all these centuries, is coming together right now in this baptism." So John did it.

16-17 The moment Jesus came up out of the baptismal waters, the skies opened up and he saw God's Spirit—it looked like a dove—descending and landing on him. And along with the Spirit, a voice: "This is my Son, chosen and marked by my love, delight of my life."

Did you catch that? John even argued with the Messiah. John had spent years living in the wilderness, eating bugs and honey, wearing itchy clothes, acting like a crazy man. For what? To prepare people for the Messiah.

And when John met the Messiah, what was the first thing he said, “You’re wrong!” Well, that sounds a lot like John. Remember, he’d stand up to anyone. John wasn’t going to let anyone get in the way of the Messiah coming, not even the Messiah.

Maybe we can just imagine what was going through John’s mind:

Baptizing Jesus is pointless. It’s worse than pointless. It’s wrong. It would give people the wrong idea of who Jesus is. People would think he is a sinner! People would think he is less than me. People would think he is just another guy coming to me to get ready for the Messiah, not the Messiah himself. If I’m not good enough to wash the dirt off Jesus’ shoes, I’m certainly not good enough to baptize him! It’s just plain wrong, and I won’t do it!

So John told the Messiah, “Um, sorry Mr. Messiah, but you’re wrong. You’ve got this backwards, you need to baptize me. Then everyone will understand who you are. Then, everyone will see you’re not like all of us other losers. Come on over here, and dunk me in the water and prove that you are someone special.”

But Jesus said, “Well, John, I hate to break this to you, but for once, you’re the one who’s wrong. We need to do this because this act of humility will fulfill a major part of God’s work of making everything right again.”

John may not have understood, but he obeyed. John tipped Jesus back and dunked him under the water just like he would a sinner.

And then all heaven broke loose! The sky opened up!

The Holy Spirit came down and landed on Jesus. The Spirit didn’t come with lightening or fire or an earthquake or a blinding light – you know lightning connecting to Jesus’ fingertips or something, like on Bruce Almighty: “I’ve got the power!” No, it was nothing as powerful and dramatic as John would have liked. The Spirit came down in the form of a simple, gentle bird: a dove.

Then God spoke from heaven! For 400 years, heaven was silent. Now the skies ripped open and God spoke. I get the feeling that maybe John was disappointed in what God said. I think John would have expected God to say something like this: “Hey, you idiots! Get your act together! This guy is the Messiah King! He’ll burn you up with fire from his mouth if you don’t step in line and kiss his feet!”

But God just said two little lines that were basically quotes from the Old Testament. “This is my Son.” That’s from Psalm 2, remember with the picture of the angry, crushing Messiah King (Psalm 2:7). Good so far. John must have been happy to get that reference in.

Then God went on to quote Isaiah 42, “He is my chosen one, who pleases me.” That’s OK, but listen the rest of Isaiah 42:

1 “Look at my servant, whom I strengthen.
He is my chosen one, who pleases me.
I have put my Spirit upon him.
He will bring justice to the nations.
2 He will not shout
or raise his voice in public.
3 He will not crush the weakest reed
or put out a flickering candle.
He will bring justice to all who have been wronged.
4 He will not falter or lose heart
until justice prevails throughout the earth.
Even distant lands beyond the sea will wait for his instruction.”

He won’t shout? He won’t raise his voice? He won’t crush the weakest reed? Who is this guy? Is he strong or not? Is he King or not? How can someone like that help anyone? How can someone like that come after John?

This all gets even harder to understand when we remember Isaiah’s other descriptions of God’s “servant,” the “chosen one”.

The servant says: “I offered my back to those who beat me and my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard. I did not hide my face from mockery and spitting” (Isaiah 50:6). What kind of Messiah is that?

The servant “was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7). What kind of King is that?

So Jesus climbed out of the river and followed the Spirit out to begin his mission of being God’s Messiah.

But John was still standing there in the river wondering what just happened. One minute John was looking into the face of the King of the Universe. The next minute the King had submitted himself to John’s puny little baptism for sinners, and God said the Roaring Messiah King would also be the beaten down, suffering servant Messiah. Huh? Who is this guy? Who is Jesus? What kind of Messiah is he?

Sometimes the person we get is different from the person we expected.

The last story I want to tell you is our story. In a way, we are all standing there in the water with John. We have our own set of expectations about Jesus. We want a Messiah who will help us feel better, someone who will help us make it through another day, another week. We want someone who will teach us how to be successful in our jobs, how to have a good family, how to fulfill our dreams. We want someone who will make our churches grow so that everyone will look at us and respect us for being part of such a wonderful church.

We want that kind of Messiah. But instead, we get someone who sometimes makes us feel worse, not better. We get someone who says that maybe we’re dreaming about the wrong things or working for the wrong things. We get someone who says it’s better to be friends with sinners than to look good. We get someone who says it’s better to help the poor than to build a church building.

Who is this Jesus? Who is this Messiah? What does he want from us? What does it mean to follow him?

Sometimes the person we get is different from the person we expected.

What will you do with this Messiah?