Seed from stone

slidingstonesThere’s a crazy man out by a river on the edge of the wilderness. He’s dressed in old rags. He’s eating insects. He’s putting people in the water and pulling them out again and telling them that they’re reborn naked newborn babies. He’s foretelling someone greater. The appearance of the expected Messiah.

What he says surprises the living daylights out of the covenant people.

You’d better prove your repentance by bearing the proper fruit! Don’t start saying to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father’; let me tell you, God can raise up children for Abraham from these stones!“(Luke 3:8)1

There’s a local boy—now a man—returned home from wandering the countryside with a group of questionable associates. There have been rumors of him working miracles, healings. But he seems wise and faithful, so the people of Nazareth allow him to perform the scripture reading in the synagogue.

The spirit of the Lord is upon me
Because he has anointed me
To tell the poor the good news.
He has sent me to announce release to the prisoners
And sight to the blind,
To set the wounded victims free,
To announce the year of God’s special favor.” (Luke 4:18-32)2

The people are impressed and touched until the man starts talking about outcasts and enemies as though they’re somehow preferred by God over the covenant people. The living daylights are, again, surprised right out of the people.

John the Baptist warned them that God could raise up Abraham’s seed from stone. Jesus suggests that the outcasts could find blessings where some of them might miss out. As a member of the church who has made covenants with God, and without diminishing or denying the efficacy of those covenants, I should be just as alarmed by these challenging observations now as they were then.

Make me seed from stone.

 

 

 

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NOTES

1. Translation from N. T. Wright, The Kingdom New Testament: A Contemporary Translation (New York: HarperOne, 2011), 113.

2. Ibid., 115-116. By the way—if you enjoy my weak attempts here at paraphrasing New Testament accounts you will certainly appreciate James Goldberg’s The Five Books of Jesus. His recasting of the gospels is outstanding. I interviewed James on the Maxwell Institute Podcast here.

Comments

  1. I appreciate the view as an individual, and it’s fair that we each question ourselves this way. But if you apply your reasoning as though speaking to the church you’ve made the same mistake that disaffected members make, which is to equate modern day authoritative prophets and apostle with ancient leaders who lacked authority and by some definition were in apostasy.

    One of these things is clearly not like the other. The modern day church and its members equate more closely to an authorized John the Baptist who is occasionally respected but also rejected by modern day Christianity.

  2. DQ: “I appreciate the view as an individual, and it’s fair that we each question ourselves this way.”

    Thanks, DQ. You understood the post in the spirit it was intended.

  3. Far from a condemnation of church leaders past or present, your last sentence is a beautiful prayer for God to come and miraculously transform you. As I see it, that hope for transformation is at the heart of the gospel. Thanks for a beautiful post.

  4. I sometimes wish I could read the New Testament now for the first time, with the ability to be shocked by it, rather than having 2,000-ish years of familiarity and comfort. Because, like you say, much of what Jesus preached was—and is—shocking, but it no longer feels that way.

    Which is a long way of saying, thanks for emphasizing the alarm inherent in the gospel, and the potentiality it offers each of us.

  5. DQ, this “disaffected member” loved this post without resorting to “equat(ing) modern day authoritative prophets and apostle with ancient leaders who lacked authority and by some definition were in apostasy.” I felt humbled, challenged and inspired to follow Him.

    BHodges, thanks for the beautiful post. Truly a message for all of us.

  6. This really resonated. Strong work, Blair. Many thanks for your faith and perspective.

  7. This is a good tilt-shift, Blair. Jesus was shocking, and we need to remember than more often, and apply it to ourselves.The last line is a beautiful prayer.

  8. Thanks for helping me read those passages afresh, and – of even greater value – seeing how I might liken them to myself.

  9. Thanks for the comments all of you.

  10. I want to thank you for the post. It has brought an answer to several months of prayers.

  11. I really liked this Blair. I think there is power in being upsetting. And really, the New Testament is profoundly upsetting in a lot of ways. Thanks for this interesting post.

  12. Man. Thanks juliathepoet and Karen.

  13. Enjoyed the post. He’s a stumbling block, a rock of offense.