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The House of the Lord Church where Black Political Power was born and nurtured Part One Hundred Twenty-One

My Beloved Community Chapter Four; Part IV: JESUS, THE SURPRISING CONTEMPORARY(A) - Redeeming in Action

There is a fountain filled with blood, Drawn from Immanuel's veins,

And sinners plunged beneath that flood, Lose all their guilty stains. 

— Christian Hymn

“For as much as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you.” 

— I Peter 1:18-20

In the next several weeks I want to invite you to think with me about Jesus the Christ. The title "Jesus, the Surprising Contemporary" is not original with me. I first heard it from a Dutch theologian in Thailand. He wanted to convey the idea that Jesus was startlingly relevant, that He confronts humanity in every age with His timeless message and person.

I thought at that time, what a striking characterization - Jesus, the Surprising Contemporary. It seemed to gather up in a dramatic and concise fashion my own thinking about Jesus. He is a contemporary, and He is relevant.

Whether we like it or not, if we engage in serious thinking, eventually we will meet Him, and He forces us to do something with Him. He seems always to be there.

Who was this Jesus called the Christ? Some called Him a friend of sinners and prostitutes; demon-possessed; an impostor; a blas-phemer. Others called Him the Son of God, the Lamb of God, the Son of Man, a prophet, a Rabbi or teacher, the Messiah or Christ.

What did he call Himself? That always depended on with whom He was speaking. And when we read the Bible, we must always read it with an understanding that Jesus is always under surveillance. The establishment, the police, and the spies are always present.

Sometimes they try to trap Him with questions. Other times they try to tangle up His words so that He is made to say what is not intended. They feel threatened by Him. He is gathering masses of people around Him. All kinds of people — the poor, Zealots or revolutionaries, the dispossessed. They are not sure what His aim is. Maybe He will start an insurrection, maybe a revolution. He must be stopped! So keep in mind that when Jesus speaks, or teaches, He knows enemies are around. He knows that eventually He will be killed, but He must take care that it does not happen before He has had time to build His movement.

So, what He calls Himself, and what He allows others to call Him, depends upon who is doing the calling and who is around at the time. I will discuss the names of Jesus and titles at another time — suffice it now to say that He accepted the title "Messiah" which is Hebrew; the Greek form is "Christ." The name means the "Anointed One."

It was believed that God would send a special representative to earth to save or to liberate mankind from its sinfulness in all of its manifestations and demonstrate His will to mankind.

The nation of Israel had been chosen by God to be the channel through which the Messiah would come, and all the people eagerly prayed and waited towards this end.

Now there are some problems posed by the so-called followers of Jesus, making it difficult for people to see His relevance. Sometimes the followers lock Him up in Heaven. They make Jesus some kind of "up-there spirit," totally removed from the tension and turmoil of ordinary, everyday earth living.

It was probably in reaction to this concept of Jesus that people began to talk about the search for the historical Jesus. They wanted to find the real flesh-and-blood Jesus. They wanted to be done with spirits and myths. They wanted the real historical Jesus.

One group locked Him up in heaven, and the other group locked Him in history. In neither instance, it would seem, did Jesus the surprising contemporary appear. In each case He was either up there, or back there, but not here and now.

Then, probably reacting to both of these, some theologians began talking about the Jesus who is "out there," ahead of us, beckoning us to come ahead. They talked about the future breaking in. In this view, the followers of Jesus are pilgrims; they have no stationary place; they must be continually pulling up stakes and moving on. For it is not the will of Jesus that His followers should become comfortable, or captured in any culture, condition, or state of being. They were to follow their Lord out into the future. This Dutch theologian also said, "T had to get rid of my Western baggage that I might follow Christ through culture." He meant that he had to cast aside worn-out value systems, outdated norms, old frames of reference, to follow Jesus, who was leading him into new lifestyles and cultural expressions.

Now, I believe that Jesus as the surprising contemporary comprehends the best of those three approaches. It searches for and embraces the historical Jesus back there; it gathers to itself the spiritual Jesus located up there: and it merges the Jesus ahead of us, out there; thus, Jesus becomes contemporaneous with us—right here.

Now, what do I mean that Jesus is contemporary? The Pentecostal movement in America is an example of Jesus' relevance, or His contemporaneousness. The same Pentecostal movement is also an example of abortive development. Pentecostal, from a Greek word meaning "fiftieth," refers to a festive day which came fifty days after Passover in the calendar of the Israelites. It was the gathering of the first fruits, so there was great celebration. It was on this day that the disciples of Jesus were filled with the Holy Ghost, speaking in tongues. So, Pentecostalism has come to refer to those who believe in being filled with the spirit of God and evidencing that fact by speaking in tongues.

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