Advent 3: Offensive Jesus
‘When the John the Baptist heard in prison that of the works of Christ, he sent his disciples to Jesus who asked Him: ‘Are You the one?’ Jesus said: ‘Go and tell John what you see and hear: the blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who takes no offense in Me.’ (Matt. 11:2-5)
Advent heralds the coming of God’s wild Kingdom. One cannot read the above account without being shaken up. What? God raises the dead? Heals the sick? Honors vagrants over the perfumed middle class who pay the bills? Since when? Thank God Jesus does not offend my parish in those ways!
This Advent, I welcome the truth that Jesus came to offend and shake things up. He comes again every Advent to do just that. And if we cannot take some leveling now, just think of our surprise when He comes again in judgment! Madeline L’Engle said it best: ‘This is the irrational season, when love blooms bright and wild.’
Wildly irrational is right. Advent introduces us to angelic visits, immaculate conceptions, prophetic dreams, guiding stars, and old barren wombs bursting with new life. I marvel at my favorite Advent character Elizabeth who before Jesus is even born greets Mary as ‘the mother of my Lord’! Unfathomable faith! To punctuate her deep knowing, Elizabeth’s six-month-old fetus, John the Baptist, lept in her womb (LK 2: 43) to prophesy the coming of One ‘whose sandals he was unworthy to carry.’ (Matt. 3:11)
Advent heralds God dwelling with humanity. He grants us His Kingdom extravagantly, and He takes it away mysteriously. Did Elizabeth’s faith endure when Herod imprisoned her beloved son John then beheaded him? ‘Blessed is she who takes no offense in Me!’
Perhaps our greatest challenge as Kingdom people is to stay engaged with offensive Jesus, to live in radical expectancy that He stills prophesies through fetuses and raises the dead and allows His people to suffer for the sake of that Kingdom.
I draw courage from John Wimber who simply believed that the Jesus of the Gospels should be welcomed in the local church: he took every opportunity to honor Jesus’ desire to raise the dead and deliver lepers and provide for poor ones in the churches he oversaw. Similarly, Leanne Payne believed Jesus to extend His Kingdom rule to those suffering from gender disorders. As early as 1970, she saw the darkness seeking to take hold in the Episcopal Church and did something about it by offering profound insight and Kingdom power to heal the homosexual.
Both Wimber and Payne suffered terribly for their commitment to offensive Jesus. Yet they never ceased to be true to His reign and to extend that reign to others. Blessed are those who take no offense in Him!
Let Him provoke you this Advent! Let His new life—His Kingdom rule–stir within you so that you cannot keep from prophesying to others. Just this morning, I was so goaded by His coming that I could not help but recognize the empty eyes of a young Asian man at the gym, evidently dealing with same-sex attraction. I asked him what the coming of Jesus meant to him. He stammered that he was no longer a good Christian. I reminded him of his inheritance as one deeply, specifically loved by Jesus. In remembering Jesus, he remembered his true self.
Advent is a wild season of miracles. Blessed are we who take no offense in Him!