His divinity is kneaded in the clay of your humanity like one bread

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Paradox Number Three - Cleansing blood

All of us have cut ourselves at one time or another, and I would hazard to guess that most have had that blood stain a white shirt, a white pair of pants, or maybe a tablecloth, napkin or handkerchief. Blood washes out fairly well if you get to it quickly enough, but the longer it takes, the more it takes hold and the more impossible it is to remove without leaving some small trace.

So how can the Bible claim that Jesus' blood cleanses us? Or, as the old and new songs put it can, 'wash us white as snow'? This is exactly what the apostle claimed in 1 John 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. (NIV)

Now, wait a minute. Let's look at what it takes to get blood out of something - say, fabric for instance. If the stain has set you have to loosen the stain first with lemon, or a salt and bleach solution, and then launder it - and then launder it again and again and again until the stain is gone (which we know it hardly ever is). There are some new products for removal of protein stains, but most of us would agree that no matter how good they are, once something is stained it is never as clean or 'pure' as it was to begin with. And yet there is that scripture claiming that blood can make us 'clean'.

One of my favorite old hymns is 'Are You Washed in the Blood of the Lamb', which is based on the New Testament scripture from Revelation. Chapter 7, verse 14 says: And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. (KJV)

Made them white.

So, here is this week's paradox. Think of it. Picture it. A woman clothed, say in a pale dress, or, maybe a man wearing a white shirt and khakis. Suddenly, they are covered in crimson blood. It bathes them, soaking not only into the the cloth covering them, but into their skin - into their souls. Now, here's the real beauty of God's never-ending mysteries, this tide of blood does not cause stains - it makes them disappear so completely God does not remember them.

Wouldn't the people at Tide or Zout like to have that secret formula!

All joking aside the Holy Scriptures are quite clear that it is Jesus' blood - or his willingness to obey God and shed his blood - that cleanses us and takes away our sin. No stain remover needed - only belief that Jesus was and is who he says - the Son of God, the Savior, the One who came to reconcile sinful men and women to God. The Bible is quite clear:

Romans 3:23-25 ...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood.... (NIV)

In closing I would like to quote two songs, one old and one new. Information on both follows at the end. Read the words and meditate on them and then ask yourself -

Are you washed in the blood?

Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing pow’r?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
Are you fully trusting in His grace this hour?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

Are you washed in the blood,
In the soul-cleansing blood of the Lamb?
Are your garments spotless? Are they white as snow?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

Are you walking daily by the Savior’s side?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
Do you rest each moment in the Crucified?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

When the Bridegroom cometh will your robes be white?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
Will your soul be ready for the mansions bright,
And be washed in the blood of the Lamb?

Lay aside the garments that are stained with sin,
And be washed in the blood of the Lamb;
There’s a fountain flowing for the soul unclean,
Oh, be washed in the blood of the Lamb!

Are You Washed in the Blood?
Elisha A. Hoffman, pub.1878

What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Oh! precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

For my pardon, this I see,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
For my cleansing this my plea,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Nothing can for sin atone,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
Naught of good that I have done,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

This is all my hope and peace,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
This is all my righteousness,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Now by this I’ll overcome—
Nothing but the blood of Jesus,
Now by this I’ll reach my home—
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Words & Music:
Ro­bert Low­ry, Will­iam Doane, (New York: Big­low & Main, 1876)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Paradox Number Two - The lion and the lamb

Lion. For most people the word ‘lion’ brings an instant image to mind. For those of us who live in the United States, it most often comes from nature shows on television or visits to the zoo, but it is there nonetheless – a large, 300 to 500 pound feline with powerful legs, a strong jaw and long razor-sharp teeth; a predator, swift, skilled and merciless during the kill. When one thinks of a lion we think of power and, rightly, fear. To be ‘lionized’ is, according to Merriam Webster, to be treated as ‘an object of great interest or importance’. Many nations including Egypt, Greece and England have chosen the lion as a symbol of the power of gods or men due to the traits associated with the ‘king of the jungle’, namely power, dignity, authority, dominion, justice and ferocity.

Now, let us consider the lamb. A lamb is a young sheep, weighing 125 pounds at most, kept as livestock and therefore domesticated, important for wool and meat. They are herbivores. They are prey animals with a strong tendency to congregate close to other members of the flock. Figuratively a lamb is a person easily deceived or cheated, or in other words naive, or a sweet mild mannered person or child. One of the most common references in life and online is ‘like a lamb led to the slaughter’.

The lion’s roar. The lamb’s soft bleat. A meat eater. One that lives on plants. A predator. Prey. Power. Humility. Ferocity. Meekness.

Hmmm…there seems to be a contradiction here, doesn’t there? Scripture refers to Christ as both the lion and the lamb.

I have on my desk a beautiful stature of Christ as the Lion of Judah executed by Michael Dudash; the idea taken from the scripture in Revelation chapter 5, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed.” This is contrasted by several verses in one of the most meaningful passages of scripture, at least to me, Isaiah 53. Verse 7 says, “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.”

So how can one man be both a lion and a lamb? One man could not. Humans seem to be forced to make the choice between slaughtering and being slaughtered, but God’s perfect man – His son, God incarnate – could. Jesus Christ arrived on this earth as a helpless baby. Long ago people often referred to babies and children as ‘lambs’ due to their defenseless nature. When he became a man, Jesus started to exhibit his ‘lion’ tendencies, teaching with ‘power’ and ‘authority’, demanding justice for the poor and oppressed, showing dignity and, yes, a ferocity for His father’s house and mission. Jesus was indeed ‘King’ of this jungle called planet Earth.

But Jesus also showed his ‘lamb’ attributes daily. He was kind. He loved little children. He had compassion for others, which led him to cure the sick, heal the lame and give sight to the blind; to give of himself so much that he was often weary, and once spoke of having no place to lay his head. He catnapped in boats. He stole away to pray and ‘recharge his batteries’. And then he gave more.

And then he allowed himself to be led like that lamb to the slaughter, and died.

It’s hard for those of us who live in the 21st century in the United States to grasp how powerful that image – the lion who let himself be led, mute and unprotesting, to the slaughter – is. The people of Israel who lived in the time of Christ knew what a 500 pound feline predator could do to another animal or man. And, every week, in their lives and in their temples, they saw sweet, docile lambs being slaughtered. At the temple, it was a common sight to see a lamb waiting, meekly, for its blood to be spilled in order that the one who carried it there might offer prayers up to God to assuage His righteous anger, to ask for justice, and to implore His mercy.

The lamb has little choice.

The lion has all the choice in the world.

For those of us who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, the King we follow, there is no paradox. There is only the beauty of the lion's choice of the lamb - of the choice of King Jesus - who had every right and the ability to demand sacrifice, instead turning Himself into the sacrifice to save us and set us free.

Monday, January 11, 2010

A paradox

Merriam Webster's online dictionary describes a 'paradox' as : 1) a statement that is seemingly contradictory or opposed to common sense and yet is perhaps true, 2) a self-contradictory statement that at first seems true, and 3) an argument that apparently derives self-contradictory conclusions by valid deduction from acceptable premises.


The Court of the King is where I live - the court of Jesus Christ, that is. We are told by the writer of Hebrews, 'So 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.' (NLT)

And thus we come to the first 'paradox' of Christianity - a king who allows his subjects the same type of access he would give his closest advisors and family; 'subjects' who, in the Gospel, are described as slaves and sinners.

Not exactly the kind of person most Kings invite to supper.

Merriam-Webster describes a 'king' as: 1) a male monarch of a major territorial unit; especially one whose position is hereditary and who rules for life, 2) a chief among competitors, as well as one possessing or held to possess sovereignty. The definition that comes quickest to mind for me is that of a 'sovereign': 1) one that exercises supreme authority within a limited sphere.

Supreme authority. As far as the world is concerned that most often means power, prestige and control. The history of human kings is, unfortunately, littered with more despots and abusers than 'good' kings. Most kings and sovereigns keep all power to themselves and are protected by a cadre of advisers, security and yes-men. Kings rarely invite the rabble over for tea, let alone lay down their lives for them.

And in case you think King Jesus was not a strong king, this is the way the Holy Scriptures picture Him in Psalm 2.

I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me,
Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.
Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance,

and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.
Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron;

thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.
Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth.
Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way,

when his wrath is kindled but a little.
Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.

And yet this king - capable of and given the right by God to 'break' and 'dash' - tells his subjects or believers to come 'boldly' before his throne. This king tells us we are 'adopted' into his family. He is called our 'brother'. And - humblest and most amazing of all - He gets on his knees and washes his subjects dirty feet!

For the month of January, the Court of the King posts will deal with some of the paradoxes of the Chrisitan faith: How can a man be both a lion and a lamb? How can we be broken and yet made whole? How can laying down you life bring life? How can the least be the greatest? How can we, in poverty, be richer than Midas?

I don't have all the answers, but I have a lot of questions and here, in the Court of the King, we can explore them together.

The image above is "The Victorious Lion of Judah' by Michael Dudash. Image used courtesy of Tapestry Productions.com http://www.tapestryproductions.com/ourartists/michaeldudash.php