Summary: The imperative of relational evangelism is before us.
Moving On Out
February 26, 2005
“In his book Mortal Lessons, Richard Selzer, M.D., writes: “I stand by the bed where a young woman lies, her face postoperative, her mouth twisted in palsy, clownish. A tiny twig of the facial nerve, the one to the muscles of her mouth, has been severed. She will be thus from now on. The surgeon had followed with religious fervor the curve of her flesh; I promise you that. Nevertheless, to remove the tumor in her cheek, I had to cut the little nerve.
“Her young husband is in the room. He stands on the opposite side of the bed and together they seem to swell in the evening lamplight, isolated from me, private. Who are they, I ask myself, he and this wry mouth I have made, who gaze at and touch each other so generously, greedily? The young woman speaks.
“Will my mouth always belie this?” she asks.
“Yes, “ I say, “it will. It is because the nerve was cut.”
“She nods and is silent. But the young man smiles.
“I like it,” he says, “It is kind of cute.”
“All at once I know who he is. I understand and I lower my gaze. One is not bold in an encounter with a god. Unmindful, he bends to kiss her crooked mouth and I am so close I can see how he twists his own lips to accommodate to hers, to show her that their kiss still works.”
We are the young wife. Jesus is the young husband who, on a lonely hill beside Jerusalem, 2000 years ago twisted his mouth around ours to show that our kiss still works. On that hill, Jesus endured the end of his dying process that had extended through the previous night and into the morning. He had been mangled and ripped. He had been flayed and beaten- all to more fully identify with us- mangled, ripped, flayed, and beaten. He lost blood. His mouth was contorted and His lips twisted simply by hoisting Him up on the crossbeam. His tissue began to unravel as gangrene spread, and he suffered a raging thirst. He did this for a reason:
2 Cor.5.21- “For our sake God made the sinless one into sin, so that in him we might become the goodness of God.”
“In other words, God in Christ was reconciling the world to himself, not holding men’s faults against them, and he has entrusted to us the good news that they are reconciled” (2 Cor.5.19).
Jesus traveled to the far reaches of loneliness. He carried your sins and mine, every separation and loss, every heart break, every wound of the spirit that refuses to close, all experiences of man, women, and children across the bands of time. Jesus is God, and you and I were fashioned from the clay of the earth and the kiss of His mouth. What can we say to such an outpouring of love? How shall we respond?
His disciples faced this question, too.
Acts 1.4-11- they were left and had to figure out what to do next. They faced the ‘now what?’ questions after an incredible 3 ½ years of being with the Master. We face this question constantly. Jesus led them to understand, and He leads us to understand, as well.
Before he ascended, he instructed, one more time:
Matt.28.18-20- here’s what the Master wanted to happen, in the lives of people filled with gratitude for his twisting his mouth around ours to show that our kiss still works- twisting his perfect mouth around the contorted and distorted face of his beloved world.
Earlier, before he came to crucifixion, he instructed and showed.
John 31-35- ‘love one another ‘as I have loved you.’’ This didn’t carry as much meaning, yet, when it was spoken, but time-and-again, after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, this would have incredible meaning to those first disciples- ‘as I have loved you’- there was an extreme to that- there was a prodigalness to this- beyond anything ever seen.
Again, after his resurrection, He instructed the church leader, Peter. Oh, he didn’t know that he was a church leader, yet. In fact, he felt so very low because of what he had done in denying His Master. But, notice what Jesus said to him.
John 21.15- this happened after Jesus graciously provided breakfast for some hard-working friends.
v.16-17- what an honour bestowed. Peter was to go out and to tend Jesus’ flock- to take care of Jesus’ little ones. Out of his own prodigal response to Jesus, Peter was to act toward others- followers of Jesus.
The message to Peter extends to all, like Peter, who walk in and out among the precious people of Jesus. Though Christ no longer visibly moves among us, we minister to Him in the people within reach. Each encounter with a brother or sister is a mysterious encounter with Jesus. I the upper room, as we’ve seen, this Man like us in all things, except complaining and ungratefulness, spelled out the game plan for our gratefulness: “Love one another as I have loved you.” And, to Peter, He declared that if he loved Jesus, he would tend Jesus’ sheep. Very simply, our deep gratitude to Jesus Christ is shown not in being chaste, hones, sober and respectable, not in church-going, Bible-toting and song singing, but in our deep and delicate respect for one another.