It was so bad it couldn't be real
Throughout the year, the Southern New England Conference of the United Church of Christ produces the Daily Lectionary for use by churches. These are the suggested readings for Monday, March 16th: Genesis 24:1-27; Psalm 81; and 2 John 1-13. I would encourage you to read these short selections as part of your Lenten practice.
Did you read all of the suggested Bible passages for today? If you did, then you only have to read 26 more New Testament books and you will have read the entire New Testament! The 2 John passage for today is an entire New Testament book. Raymond E. Brown was a world-renowned biblical scholar. When the Roman Catholic Church held Vatican Council II in the 1960’s, Brown was one of the Pope’s hand-selected New Testament scholars. He knew his stuff.
Brown has written extensively on the Johannine books in the Bible. He opens a window into an ancient Christian community that did not survive, except for the beautiful writings that we find in the New Testament. John’s was a community that was guided by the Paraclete, the Spirit. It emphasized the authority of the Spirit’s charism, the Spirit’s power. It avoided hierarchy. You will not find even the word apostle or its derivatives anywhere in the texts.
In the Gospel, there is but one good shepherd and that is Jesus Himself. The Beloved Disciple is the epitome of Christian devotion. Sadly, however, this church model did not survive the stress of time and the trials of leadership. Brown points to the cracks in this church’s foundation by drawing an unbelievable amount of information out of such small books as 2 and 3 John.
When we read today the advice of “the elder” to a sister church, the “elect lady and her children,” we overhear the warning that they should not “receive into the house or welcome anyone who comes to you and does not bring this teaching,” and “this teaching” will be described below. There are others who are preaching Christ, but who are denying Jesus, and cracks form in the foundation.
The “deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh; any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist!” The deceivers are so scandalized by Jesus’ suffering, crucifixion and death that they simply deny its reality. They claim that the cross was nothing more than a divine hoax, that Jesus laughed invisibly through it all. These deceivers eventually became docetists, from the Greek word to seem. Jesus’ actual physical body, His actual human nature, only seemed to be real. This was the only way that they could process the divinity of Jesus and the horrible spectacle that is crucifixion.
This deception speaks in a convoluted way about the reality of what we ponder during Lent. The reality of the cross was so stark, unexpected and unexplainable that many simply denied it, which in a weird sense is honest testimony to the cross’ reality and Jesus’ love. Jesus did not “seem” to suffer through a prolonged dying. He suffered. He died. And Jesus as the Son of God suffered and died for you and for me. Let us never deceive ourselves about how much we are loved by this unique Saviour. Let us use this Lenten season to grow closer to Him and to let Jesus know that we know and that we believe and that we are forever thankful.
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