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It's opposite day

Opposite Day is an unofficial holiday that can be defined as a day when every action is modified so that its meaning is negated. In other words, someone says the opposite of what they mean. It can also mean just doing things backwards – or opposite. Have breakfast for dinner, for example. I like eggs and bacon and cinnamon toasts often for dinner – and not just on opposite day! I think that opposite day can also mean doing the exact opposite of what the world expects.

Going opposite of what the world expects is the norm with Jesus. With Jesus, it’s opposite day every day. Why is that? The world wants one thing and Jesus wants the opposite. The world often values success, comfort, entertainment and sports, and getting ahead. Jesus values getting behind, humility, putting others first, and not having worldly success. So it’s opposite day. Jesus has mysterious yet opposite sayings like these:

“Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it.” Luke 17:33.

“For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Luke 18:14.

“…whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:43-45

In the last saying in Mark’s gospel, Jesus is responding to James and John – two of his best friends and two of his disciples. They ask for the best places to sit in paradise with Jesus, on his right and his left. Basically they want to be exalted. Maybe they just want to be close to Jesus, which is a good thing. But they also want special treatment by Jesus over their fellow disciples – not a good thing. They want the best spots to sit. Jesus doesn’t say yes to them but tells them instead in order to be great they must be servants, and whoever wants to be first must be a slave - or last. Opposite day.

To save your life you must lose it. Jesus is saying if you want to keep things nice and cozy for yourself so be it. But to follow Jesus means to carry your own cross – each person has to give up or sacrifice something in order to truly follow Jesus. Opposite day.

Jesus criticizes the religious leaders. Jesus touches lepers and heals the hurting and wants a rich young man to sell his possessions to give to the poor. Opposite day.

Instead of coming as a king or military leader, Jesus comes as a humble baby born to poor teenagers. Instead of obeying all of the laws of the Pharisees, Jesus comes to fulfill the law. He fulfills the law and highlights loving God and loving neighbor over legalistic minutiae. Instead of overthrowing the Roman government, he allows himself to die – even die on a cross. Opposite day.

So as we end our Lenten season and draw near to Good Friday and Resurrection day, what will do with Jesus? We can be opposite like him. Sometimes I think we make our faith too complicated. The Bible can be hard to understand in places and faithful Christians differ on some of the non-essentials of our faith. Yet, we can agree we need to follow Jesus – and be opposite like him. So in that way, we can make it simple. As we remember and celebrate Jesus, we can be thankful for his grace for us. And in our thanks, we can live for him. We can put others before self; care for the poor and hurting; be humble instead of prideful; and pray to Jesus to ask him what crosses we should be carrying to be like him. We can be last instead of first, and serve instead of being served. I know I am far from perfect in my desire and my actions to be like Jesus. But the inspiration of Easter and the act of learning more about Jesus in the gospels can move me forward in my effort of being like Jesus. At Easter and all year, I want be opposite with Jesus. With Jesus, it’s opposite day every day. 

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Luke’s Gospel: Luke was a lot like you and me

If you are doing the Lenten Reading Plan to read all four gospels between Ash Wednesday and Easter, you are halfway done! Congratulations! If you are behind, set aside 30-60 minutes and catch up! Just yesterday, I started in Luke’s gospel. It turns out Luke is a Gentile, the only known Gentile author in the New Testament. A Gentile is a non-Jew. Luke doesn’t come at the Jesus story from so much of a Jewish perspective, but from a human, detailed account. Luke is a doctor – he likes accuracy and detail. Luke also did not know Jesus personally, but was a close companion of Paul. As a companion of Paul, Luke also writes the Acts of the Apostle. I suggest when you finish Luke 24, skip over to Acts 1 and see how Acts picks up right where Luke leaves off. Acts 1 happens immediately after the resurrection, and Acts 2 happens at Pentecost, a Jewish celebration just 7 weeks after Passover – when Jesus was crucified. Luke is a historian in a sense, giving us the inside scoop of the early church in its infancy.

So Luke is a Gentile Christian, like us, and wasn’t an original disciples of Jesus – like us. He is fascinated by the story – the real, historical, accurate story of Jesus and then Peter and Paul. I’m fascinated by the story, too. What really happened? Why did Jesus say what he said – and why did he say it then? Why was he so angry at some religious leaders and so gracious to those who were sick or poor? And when Luke writes Acts, he is a historian chronicling the early church. I like history too – and wonder as I read: How did the members of the early church have such bold faith? Were they afraid for their safety when they were being persecuted for their faith in Jesus? What would it be like for them to interact with their friends who didn’t believe Jesus was the Messiah? What would it have been like to know Paul, who wrote so much of the New Testament?

We can’t get all our questions answered. But reading Luke in his gospel account and in the Acts of the Apostles can answer some of our questions. These two short books give us a glimpse into Jesus motives, his humanity, his grace, and into the lives of the early Christians – their faith and fears. Because they struggled, I am encouraged to try again when I struggle. When I fail, I know that they failed, too. Jesus was tempted like us as a human, but didn’t fail. I can trust in him. He is the great giver of second chances. I love that!

Since Luke didn’t know Jesus personally he probably had to base some of his writings on what Mark had written earlier. He also probably personally knew some of the living disciples and interviewed them for their stories. And he was one of the Paul’s closest friends and traveling companions – which gave him a front row seat to history and the early church. Reading the gospels can help answer our questions about Jesus and how to follow Him. Luke is a lot like us – a person who probably asked a lot of questions, took notes, wrote down his story and the story of the early church, so by reading him we too can step out in faith like him.

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