I definitely do not like it when people put me into a box. Since I preach at a conservative church I often get labeled as "legalistic". I like to call it "obedience". There is a huge difference between being a legalist & standing strong for God's truth but I digress. The ones who throw this label at me are generally those who say, "I don't want to divide over doctrine I just want to love people." That's a beautifully constructed false dichotomy. How about we preach the truth in love as Paul says in Ephesians 4:15?!? Novel I idea...I know! Boxes are great for holding stuff but not for explaining people.
Let's take a look at a time when the disciples put Jesus into a box & Jesus showed them how claustrophobic he was. In Matthew 17 we get the story of the Transfiguration. It starts off with, "Six days later..." (17:1). What was the setting of this event?
- Jesus had left Galilee to travel to Tyre which is far North West on the coast. He was trying to escape from the reaches of his opponents. There he met the Syro-Phonecian woman (Mt 16:21-28).
- Later he comes back to Galilee only to be hunted down by the crowds. There he heals many & performs the miracle of feeding the 4000 (16:29-39).
- Afterwards to departs to the other side of the Sea of Galilee in an attempt for some alone time.
- But news gets reported to Jerusalem & they send a delegation of Pharisees to go harass Jesus (16:1-12).
- So he escapes to the extreme northern area called Caesarea Philippi (16:13).
Matthew 17:1 says, "Six days later...". This was busy week for them.
- They were traveling a lot
- They were interrogated by Jesus as to who they though he was (16:13-16)
- Jesus told them about the Kingdom/Church (16:18-19)
- Jesus ceased to be cryptic about his plans (16:21).
So Jesus takes them to a high mountain for three reasons:
- They need some seclusion. It is hard to train people when you are constantly interrupted. Jesus need to get these guys away from the crowds & away from the people stirring up contention so that he could change the way they viewed him.
- For some perspective. It is amazing what a good view can do to you psyche. It helps you to step back from the fast paced life to view things from a heavenly perspective.
- For a time of Renewal & Refreshment. They were busy but the disciples were about to experience something that would shake them to their core in the next few months; the death, burial, & resurrection. They need to be prepared mentally, physically, & spiritually.
The Crowds called Jesus a revolutionary but he paid taxes. They said he was a simple carpenter's son but he confounded scholars. They accused him of being demon-possessed but he cast out demons & taught people to love one another. Some said he was a great teacher but he claimed to be God. Peter said he was the Christ but then rebuked Jesus for saying he needed to suffer & die. We constantly try to put Jesus into a box but it never works. Look at the ways we try to define Jesus:
- Genie-in-a-bottle-Jesus---We carry him around & whip him out when we need an answered prayer. Outside of that he isn't much use. But isn't that what God is here for? To give us what we want.
- Show-me-the-money-Jesus---AKA the Jerry Maguire Jesus. He is the one who is supposed to give us health & wealth. Bless me with a new job, new car, new house, etc...
- College-Elective-Jesus---In this box Jesus is simply a set of doctrines to be learned & memorized. He is removed from being a person to have a relationship with into an elective to pass.
- Right-Winged-Conservative-Jesus---You can find him at the Republican National Convention or maybe being interviewed on the Rush Limbaugh radio show. If you don't vote Republican you might not be able to be saved.
- Hymn-Signing-Tie-Wearing-Jesus---If he was walking this earth today he would be a model for Men's Warehouse.
- Goatee Rocking-Skinny Jean Wearing-Jesus---Good thing he doesn't meet the Hymn Signing Jesus because he might have a mistaken identity or get into a fight with himself. This Jesus is only after those who "don't like church". Because of course Jesus could care less about those who actually love his bride!!!
We need to spend some alone time with Jesus, away from the crowds & the noise of life, so that we can see him in a completely new & dynamic way. We often want a lapdog God; one we can call, tell to sit, & then when we are tired of him we can put him in his crate. A problem we run into is when we think the Bible defines God. It doesn't, it can only describe him. It is impossible for a book to define an infinite being to a finite mind. We simply cannot grasp all there is to know about God. Thus, He has given us enough descriptions about Himself so that we can function in this reality. Therefore, no matter how long you have been a Christian there is always another mountain top experience for you to see Jesus transfigured in a whole new way.
In what ways has Jesus destroyed the box you have put him in?