Where Jesus Leads
In Jesus’ own time he became an engaging figure in a very short span. He quickly ascended to celebrity status. He was seen to be “larger than life,” and the question became: Just how much larger than life is he? Just a great humanist with great charisma? Was it more: did he have a touch of divine intervention about him (the biblical term is “prophet”)? Was it still more yet: was Jesus the divine incarnated, was Jesus fully human and fully God? The many people who lived with Jesus for three years, and who wrote reports on what they saw that were collected and bundled together to form the Bible, were convinced that Jesus is the fullness of God.
However, these Bible writers didn’t start with that conviction. It was a gift after having spent meaningful time watching and learning form Jesus. Every single person that was following Jesus had one particular day when they dedicated themselves to start following Jesus. When they decided it would be worth the cost, to enter into a community seeking to learn and practice the way of Jesus, life changed for each of them.
Truth was heard, truth was lived. What you are to believe, what you are to do; what you are to understand, how you are to live; how you are to spend the time in your life, and if there is more to it than what you see; How are you to responsibly approach the theme of religion, spirituality, the divine?
Fellow humans have offered their opinions on these questions of life, that they have been written in books, articles, blogs, podcasts, etc… different perspectives that you could spend the rest of your days ingesting. Some of them are silly and outlandish, some of them are dark and frightening, some of them are cute and cuddly. Amidst the overflow of this human project to understand our lives, has Jesus not stood out? Against the backdrops of the world’s different cultures, over the course of millennium, the aura of Jesus radiates–ever brightening.
Humanity is drawn to him, to his teachings, to following his way. Everyone that might seek out Jesus has a first step. As such, this community of people is all about facilitating a first step, and then journeying together in each next step.
One way you can think of me is as a guide, to help navigate the journey wherever Jesus may lead. To navigate us all to what Jesus said and did. And so I begin:
Matthew 5:1-2 Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.
And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
I’ll guide you to three elements, related as they are, in order: beginning now with our first interest.
I. Jesus responds when you seek him
“Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain…”
Seeing the crowds, Matthew writes, Jesus responds: by taking a short hike. I say “short” based on personal experience of having walked myself from the lake’s shore to where we believe Jesus sat to teach that day. There are hills that line the banks of the lake, and there is one particular place that the early church marked as the location of what transpired this day.
When Jesus saw the crowds, he responds by taking a short hike. He heads up the mountain, and perhaps with the logic that doing so he positioned himself in a natural amphitheater conducive to speak to the great multitude of people that had gathered to him that day.
Yet let not what may seem like a simple point, that Jesus relocates himself after the crowds came to him, pass you by. For in this moment we learn of great hope: Jesus responds when you seek him. You may not only seek him, what is more, you may cause a response. This is what I mean whenever I say that we are created for relationship with the living God.
In your small groups, in your faith-building conversations, in your spiritual journal, here is a question for you to all consider (ready to write it down?):
Q. How do you seek Jesus? How will you seek Jesus in the coming week?
II.You need to go where Jesus goes
“and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.”
He went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. What would have happened for anyone that came to see and hear Jesus that day, who stayed at the lake’s shore when Jesus walked up the hill? Nothing. They would have got nothing from their original decision and action to come to him. They would have made an initial effort, but then have nothing to show for it.
Many people talk a step towards God, or towards a church, or towards Jesus; they come to the lake shore where they have heard that Jesus would be; they arrive and then sit with their arms folded waiting for something to happen for them. “I have done my part,” they think, “I came here didn’t I? And not what? Just as I suspected, nothing happening.”
Well ya! Because you came to see and hear Jesus, and he responded when you came, he is moving up into a position from where you CAN hear him, he is moving to give you the blessing of hearing his own voice, and you are too slow to be moved. Each of us have at times sat with our arms folded, unwilling to be moved when the Lord is calling us into a new experience of his presence.
But check it: Following Jesus, without actually following Jesus, is logically broken. Arriving at the Lake, with your own terms, perhaps even with a self-righteous posture that you’ve already done your part by showing up, won’t work if you actually want to hear what Jesus has to say. You see, Jesus has a larger plan for you. He wants to take you out of the life-rhythms you would create for yourself, and invite you into the best rhythms by practicing His Way.
Here is what we need to be thinking whenever we a seeking Jesus, whenever we set out to find him at the lake:
Where he goes I’ll go.
Q. How has going to Jesus been a challenge to you? What keeps you from joining the group of followers?
III. Jesus speaks when we gather to him
“He opened his mouth and taught them, saying:“
What follows are Jesus’ own words, but not without first this dramatic introductory statement that he “opened his mouth.”
It is as if Matthew is trying to say that we are about to get a State of the Union Address. Except instead of every president giving one every year, It would be like if in the entire course of United States history, only one was ever given, and by the way, it is about to happen. “And he opened his mouth.”
Remember that this witness to Jesus’ words is also one who came to understand Jesus as God Himself incarnate. So what we are about to hear is a State of the Creation Address, by the Creator, Sustainer and Reedemer. So this isn’t dramatized for a shallow fluffing-up effect. This is dramatic–because it is.
And God opened his mouth. And out came teaching that you can understand.
To hear and understand what Jesus now says is the reason we’ll gather over the next weeks leading to Easter. Each Sunday, 10:00 in English, 12:00 in Spanish, all on the same journey together. While the rest of today we’ll celebrate being on this journey together, may we first take advantage of this moment, for all who are willing, to commit to gather to Jesus together. To commit to learning, and trying to put into practice what we will hear.
If you already are a disciple of Jesus, this is still your opportunity to commit to a first step in a new chapter of Jesus-following. If you have never claimed to be yourself a Jesus-follower, here is your on-ramp. Here is your practicing-community. I am going to guide us in a prayer time. Prayer is simply thinking and talking with the active recognition that God is listening, and even responding. I’ll guide us into this moment of prayer now, where I’ll give you the spaces to appropriately commit yourself.