Maundy Thursday, Jesus’ Overlooked Mandate

Too close to see. This morning I couldn’t find my glasses until my wife laughed and pointed at my head. I reached up and laughed myself. I had become my Grannie who had often overlooked the obvious.

Maundy Thursday. Truths in God’s Word can be like that. For example, many traditions will celebrate Maundy Thursday this Easter, but fail to grasp the meaning and significance of “maundy.” My dictionary defines it as “command” or ”mandate.” We celebrate the Lord’s Supper or Eucharist Jesus instituted that first Thursday, but overlook His vital mandate, “Love one another, as I have loved you that the world may know you are my disciples.” It’s a command he modeled when that same night he washed the disciples feet.

Not the Golden Rule. This command is so different from the old covenant command to “love your neighbor as yourself.” He ordered us to love each other in the church, the body of Christ, even more than the neighbor. For the Jew, the neighbor was a fellow Jew, but in his story of the Good Samaritan,Jesus re-defined “neighbor” as a stranger, not our brethren. The apostle understood the difference, “let us do good to all men, but especially to those believers who belong to the family of God with you.” (Gal 6:10 AMP)

No, it’s not the old rule, but a new rule, one with a wonderful promise—the world will take notice of us and recognize us if we lay our divisive traditions on the altar of His love and unity. For example we might make our unity a higher priority than those pet doctrines that have fractured the body of Christ and weakened our witness.

Our neglected message. Today neighbors without Christ pass by our buildings, hardly glancing at our church billboards to read our good news advertisements. Is it their neglect or ours? Is their lack of interest in our message because we avoid and ignore our fellow believers who worship next door? Is this why folks who join our church are recycled believers, not new disciples?

A world turned right-side up. Those believers described in Acts had something better than an evangelism program. They had a great reputation with their neighbors and they changed their world. One bystander put it this way: “Look at those Christians, how they love one another?” Unlike modern churches, Jesus never taught witnessing or witnessing techniques. He said, ”be my witnesses.” His program of winning others was for his church to model a New Covenant lifestyle which St. Luke called koinonia—a “love one another” community.

Let God be the Evangelist. Those early disciples discovered Jesus’ method worked, for they “had the good will of the people and God added to their number daily.” (Acts 2:47). They diligently practiced what Jesus commanded and won their neighbors.” See the connection?

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This Little Light of Mine

I am the Light of the World. (John 9:5)   You are the Light of the World. (Mt. 5:14)

When I was a child I thought as a child, I sang like a child, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.” Strange the things a child believes. Now that I’m grown I wonder how I, or anyone could believe our lone lights. even a million scattered lights, could make a difference to the darkness.  And yet, the one true light did, and still can make a huge impact.

Who Is this Light? Is It Jesus? Well, yes and no. While he was in the world, He was the light of the world. He shone brightly. Even death did not extinguish the one true Light. But, limited by his humanity, Jesus was still only one light. He sits in heaven, praying for his church, us who believe in Him,  who trust Him and love Him. We, are the world-wide body of Christ,  the Light of the world. We are not just a scattered collection of individuals, each doing his and her thing. When we unite in faith and love, miracles can happen. I know. I’ve seen it three times in my life.

I am not the light.  You are not the light. We are the light together but we must find ways of joining up  together for prayer and common cause in his name. That’s when Christians shine and do wonderful things. When we seek to love one another, as he commanded…when we are in accord, putting aside differences, and squabbles over belief or practice, we can shine like a powerful lighthouse beacon. That light says to our neighbors, “Here we are folks, the Jesus people–come together to announce good news. We are God’s team come to put the darkness in your life to flight and give you the freedom of the Lord.

Our love and unity makes a powerful witness to the world, which is why Jesus prayed fervently, “Father, may they be one, as we are one. That the world might believe.”  Our lack of love, squabbles over beliefs, and sectarianism are also a witness—a very  negative one.

His agape love is the glue that holds His body together; controversy is like dynamite that blows us apart.

No single man put a man on the moon or won a Super Bowl. It takes a team. That’s true of the church. When we bring our lone lights together with other lone lights, we make an impact far greater than even a billion scattered lights shining away on their own.

So, consider adding a grown-up verse to that children’s’ song, “This great light of ours, We’re gonna let it shine.”

Common Error in Bible Translation

Greater is he that’s inside me…” These were lyrics I heard yesterday on Christian radio. They were John the Apostle’s words, “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them because greater is He who is in you, than he that is in the world. (1 John 4:4). We read the words, we sing them, we say them, but do we understand them?
It’s we, not me. When we read the word “you,” in this verse, we automatically think “me,” despite seeing the words, “little children.” John is not writing to a single person, but to a group—plural. He isn’t speaking to “me” but to to “us.” Except for a few letters from Paul, the New Testament writers wrote to the church. Jesus also wrote to the church—seven of them in Revelation—not to me, but to us.

The error comes from our language. Why the confusion? One reason is English lacks a word for the plural or collective “you.” Sadly, translators neglect to distinguish between the singular or plural “you.” The one blessed exception is the ESV, which uses “you all.” Fact: New Testament writers use the plural “you” four and a half times more than the singular. Our language hides this from us, so we willy-nilly apply them all to ME!
The error comes from our culture. We may be the most individualistic culture in history. The USA was born fighting for the values of independence and individual rights. While this is a blessing, the pendulum has swung far the other way. Our motto is E Plurabis Unum—“the one out of many. Today it is far more the many, not the one. We are less united as a people under God than a collection of individuals.
The error comes from our technology. We drive alone in cars with brand new passenger seats, but rarely any passengers. We watch programs alone on our TV sets, spend hours behind computers or texting on cell phones. Often we don’t know our neighbors or the person next to us in worship. We are sadly disconnected from each other both in society and church.

Why is all this so important? Jesus prayed that we would “Father, may they be one that the world will believe.” (John 17:21) Yet, when we read “You are the light of the world,” we think of the Sunday school song, “This little light of mine.” But can my single light dim this world’s darkness? A million scattered lights cannot. Jesus was saying, “You, all together, my church, my people, are this world’s light.”
Today we suffer from a “Jesus and me” theology, neglecting the greater truth that it is the church alone that overcomes and lights up the world. Not even the apostles believed it was their lone lights.
We are called to be a team not a bunch of loners. Often the early church’s great deeds were due to their obedience to Jesus’ command “to love one another,” a command repeated five time in John’s gospel. They worked and prayed together as a united body of believers, not, a collection of individuals. Luke often used the Greek word homothumadon, “of one mind and heart.” Soon after, he recorded great events that shook the world.
Peter preached at the great Pentecost in-gathering, but he did not stand alone. Luke writes, “He stood up with the apostles.” They were a team. Paul nearly always travelled with a group. He realized the power in Jesus’ words, “Where two or three of you are in harmony (Gr: symphanos) there am I in the midst of you.”
Let’s Do it Again. If we are to be a church that impacts our world, we can do no less. Let us love one another that the world may believe. Let us practice our solidarity in Christ that we may fulfill His commission to reach the world He loves and died to save.
Categories one in the Spirit.

PRAYER: O Lord Jesus, are you still praying for your church to be one? If so, intercede with us and through us by your Spirit.  We ask, we believe and we receive the answer in our local congregations and among our local congregations. Start a miracle work of revelation to our leaders that they may see the church alone  can be this world’s light. Thank you. Amen.