Power without shame (Romans 1:16)

A crucified king introduces a different kind of power to the world.

“I am not ashamed of the gospel,” Paul told the Romans. Was he struggling as a Christian? Did he fear they’d find his faith embarrassing? Let me take you back to their world.

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An unexpected gift (Matthew 26:6-13)

Sometimes people honour Jesus in ways we don’t expect.

Jesus was a king, but he didn’t ask for the luxuries that usually attend royalty. With his inversion of power where the king served everyone in his kingdom, his servants actually thought it was crazy to give the king an extravagant gift:

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Why did Jesus shame Jerusalem’s leaders? (Matthew 23:13-32)

Hypocrisy: the shame of acting as if you’re in charge when that honour is reserved for God’s Son. That’s how Jesus used the word in Matthew 23.

Asked to describe his music career, James Morrison began, “Well, I don’t want to blow my own trumpet.” Tall poppies promoting their own honour don’t go down well in Australia. We honour those whose actions speak, like the 500+ firefighters fighting a blaze just a few kilometres from my home (Feb, 2021). 86 homes have been lost, but no lives. You guys are our heroes.

We react instinctively to honour or shame people. Check your social media account to see who you’ve honoured or shamed. Honour/shame is a big deal in our culture, and an even bigger deal in many others.

But when it comes to the gospel, Christians often think in terms of guilt/innocence rather than honour/shame. We’re guilty (sinners), yet God declares us innocent (justification), so that’s good news for us. That is a part of what’s going on, but the gospel addresses so much more than individual guilt. It’s good news for the world that’s being restored to God’s sovereign authority (the gospel of the kingdom), through his anointed (the gospel of the Christ) who is Lord of all (the gospel of the Lord). Ultimately, the gospel is about honour (the glory of God). The gospel brings God’s honour to the realm that has not always honoured him.

Try reading Scripture from that angle and you’ll see fresh things. When Jesus called the Pharisees hypocrites, was he assigning them personal guilt, or was he undermining their honour in the eyes of the community? There may be some of both, but what was Jesus’ primary intention? Guilting them, or shaming them?

Continue reading “Why did Jesus shame Jerusalem’s leaders? (Matthew 23:13-32)”

In honour and shame (Ephesians 3:13)

Is Chapter 3 interrupting the main message of Ephesians? Lynn Cohick calls it “a digression from his argument in 2:22 which he then picks up again in 3:14” (Ephesians, NCCS, Cascade, 2010, 81). Markus Barth calls it “an excursus on the commission given to Paul by God” (Ephesians 1–3, AYB, Yale, 2008, 350).

As indicated by the dash at the end, verse 1 is an incomplete sentence:

Ephesians 3 1 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles—
2 Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you. (NIV)

It sounds like Paul starts a thought, and breaks off. But there may be a better way to understand these verses than to treat them as a mere tangent where the writer got distracted from his gospel message.

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When the king is dishonoured (Matthew 11:7-11)

How does King Jesus respond when publicly dishonoured?

Open Matthew 11:7-11.

I never knew what a fink was, but the Wizard of Id cartoons were clear enough: call the king a fink and you’re strung up in shackles.

Last year, I visited a kingdom, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. I asked the guide what would happen if someone spoke against one of the Hashemite family. Apparently it would not be a good move if you valued your freedom.

You can understand why Jesus avoided direct criticism of Herod. John the Baptist had proclaimed the arrival of an alternative kingdom. John publicly critiqued Herod’s morals, implying he was unfit to rule God’s people. Predictably, Herod arrested John.

Jesus also preached the restoration of God’s kingdom, but he carefully avoided Herod. When Jesus said anything about Herod, his message was coded. In Matthew 11, he expressed the same cryptic message in three ways, adding the hint that they’d need to listen well to get it: “If you have ears, hear” (11:15):

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Stressed about your social standing? (Matthew 6:25-34)

Feel like your worth comes from how people see you? This will help you break free.

Open Matthew 6:25-34.

Our heavenly Father values us more than the birds and flowers, and he will provide for us. These are some of our favourite verses, especially when we face hard times. Without taking anything away from those sentiments, what Jesus said meant so much more. Continue reading “Stressed about your social standing? (Matthew 6:25-34)”

Whose honour? (Matthew 5–6)

There’s an amazing logic to the Sermon on the Mount when you hear how Jesus addressed his honour/shame culture.

Open Matthew 5–6.

In leading people towards the kingdom of God, Jesus turned our entire social structure on its head. You need to appreciate the depth of that subversion to see how Matthew 6 flows out of Matthew 5. Continue reading “Whose honour? (Matthew 5–6)”