Sometimes I Miss the Obvious

There is an annoying advertisement on television for hotels.com which features a character called “Captain Obvious”

He has been around since 2014 and is becoming fairly famous through his somewhat obvious comments in ads for his company

Thus his name Captain Obvious

Makes you wonder about comments you hear and signs that you see when travelling…

      • You know its cold outside when you go outside and it’s cold
      • Please make sure the elevator is there before stepping in
      • Wet paint unless it dried
      • Caution: water on road during rain
      • Open the door before entering. Thank you.
      • Do not breathe under water
      • Caution: Fire is hot
      • Library is closed until opening time
      • On a bin of peanuts: This product contains peanuts
      • On a milk freezer in the grocery store: This is not an exit

Well, it made me think about some of the truths in the Scriptures which are rather obvious but which we miss because we read the Bible with religious glasses and thus miss them 

So: “Sometimes I Miss the Obvious”

We read passages that are familiar and so just keep reading and thus miss a truth or an insight because we know the verse or the story

We read Scripture without thinking through the context of the passage

    • Who is speaking?
    • To whom are they speaking?
    • What was happening to cause the comment to be spoken?
    • How would those people in that day hear what was being said?
    • Is there something in the culture or the religion of that day that brings more meaning to this passage?

We read from a place of accumulated experiences, understanding, traditions, religious teachings … all of which cloud our understanding and any new insight that might be there

We read without asking the author – the Holy Spirit – to give us insight into what we are reading

We read the Bible as part of a discipline – We were taught that every day we should start the day by reading three chapters of the Bible.

I wonder if Jesus did that – I mean woke up early, stoked the camp fire, made a pot of coffee, and then sat quietly to read His Bible

We read without any real understanding of the culture during the time it was written and the ethnicity to whom it was addressed … what was going on historically at that time

So, “Sometimes I Miss the Obvious”

Years ago I spent a lot of time studying the temples in the Bible 

Moses and the Tabernacle in the wilderness

David / Solomon and the amazing temple that they built

Herod – Roman ruler of Israel – and the temple he built for the Jews

The third major temple that some believe will be built on the Temple Mound in Jerusalem where currently there is a very large mosque functioning

It was the “in thing” at that time to discuss and argue about the potential possible third temple that would be built in Jerusalem when Jesus returns….

Recently I have been thinking about that – Thinking about Jesus – that’s a good thing

And about His attitude and approach to the temple and what He said about a possible future temple

Some general comments:

As a child Jesus was taken to the temple on several occasions

His dedication

When He was 12 and ended up staying behind when His family left and is found discussing the Scriptures with the elders several days later

He once visited the temple and cleared out all those who were, in His mind, misusing its facilities – money changes and those selling animals to offer as a sacrifice

Jesus did not invite people to attend the temple services and His own disciples apparently did not attend either

He did comment and prophesy that the temple would be destroyed which it was in 70 A.D. (C.E.)

After His resurrection He again apparently ignored the temple

Now, don’t miss the obvious…

When Jesus was talking about the Kingdom of God He was not in the temple …

The temple was:

The center focus of the Jewish religion

The place where you came to be with God and in His presence

The location where you could seek and find forgiveness through offering a sacrifice

When Jesus was talking about the Kingdom He was most often sitting at someone kitchen table sharing a meal…

In Luke’s Gospel alone there are nearly three dozen references to eating, drinking, and sitting at table

Throughout the third Gospel, Jesus is moving from meal to meal, table to table, house to house

Jesus is constantly announcing and enacting the Kingdom of God by a common meal at a shared table

The most radical aspect of Jesus and His movable feast was His fondness for sharing the table with the “wrong” people — the sinner, the outcast, the excluded

In a culture where table practice was closely associated with personal holiness, this was bound to raise eyebrows … and it did

The Scribes and Pharisees grumbled, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15:1)

And Jesus was happy to live up to their criticism

Jesus was clearly willing to share the table with anyone who would come to Him

For Jesus, a shared table was the way salvation came to sinners

When Jesus sat at table with Jericho’s chief tax collector Zacchaeus, the meal was not over before the notorious sinner had come to understand salvation

Luke 19:1-10 “He entered Jericho and was passing through. And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.’ So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, ‘He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.’ And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, ‘Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.’”

When Jesus was asked, “Will only a few be saved?” He responded by saying, “People will come from east and west, from north and south, and will eat in the Kingdom of God “ (Luke 13:23, 29)

For Jesus, salvation could be described as eating in the Kingdom of God, and He anticipated all kinds of people coming to His table

In His preaching, parables, and practice Jesus made it clear that salvation and the Kingdom of God are centered, not in a temple, but at a table — Radical, revolutionary thinking and practice

Temple                                                                    Table

Old Testament                                                      New Testament

Religion                                                                  Relationships

God kept at a distance                                         God up close and personal

Temple / altar                                                       Homes / kitchen table

Jews only                                                               Anyone and everyone

Jesus celebrated the Last Supper at a table in the Upper Room

Jesus made Himself known to the two disappointed disciples walking home to Emmaus when they stopped and had a meal together around a table — that was when the revelation of who he was came to them

Jesus appeared after His resurrection to His disciples in the Upper Room where they had gathered to eat keeping the door locked for fear of being arrested

Jesus revealed Himself to Peter and His disciples by cooking fish on a open fire on the beach and sharing a meal together

This is the obvious I had missed for so long….

Jesus relocated the holy of holies from a veiled chamber reserved for a solitary high priest, to a shared table to which all are invited

Jesus overturned money-changing tables in the temple, but set up banqueting tables in His Father’s house

Prior to Jesus — the Jewish concept of holiness was one of ever smaller and ever holier concentric circles

As one moved closer to the holy of holies, access became more stricter

          • The land of Israel was the holy land within the world
          • Within the land of Israel was the holy city of Jerusalem
          • Within Jerusalem was the holy temple
          • Within the temple were increasing levels of holiness with corresponding restrictedness
              • There was a court for Jews only where Gentiles were prohibited
              • A court for men only, where women were prohibited
              • A court for priests only, where laymen were prohibited
              • And at last, the holy of holies where only the high priest could enter, and only once a year

Holiness was something to be protected from the profane and the secular

But Jesus changed all of that

Jesus changed the concept of kosher

When the unclean touched Jesus, Jesus was not made unclean, rather the unclean were made whole

During Jesus’ ministry sinners (the unclean) were given unfettered access to the holiest of all – Himself

What could be more holy than sitting at table and dipping bread in the same bowl with God Himself?

In the hospitality of Jesus we make the unprecedented discovery of the obvious

That God is willing to share His table with anyone — even with sinners

Especially with sinners

This fundamentally changes our idea of kosher and holy and church

The apostle Peter eventually learns to say, “God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean” (Acts 10:28)

For the Christian the holiest of all is sharing a meal around a table … the height of which is The Lord’s Supper – the Communion table where we are offered the body and blood of Jesus

Instead of being restricted to a particular place (geography) and limited to a priestly elite, the Christian holy of holies can be located anywhere and everywhere there is a table

The Lord’s Table bears witness to the New Covenant truth that the holy land is the whole earth and the chosen people are the human race

During His final week of ministry in Jerusalem, Jesus did two highly significant things:

1> He overturned the tables of the money changers and thus shut down the temple – although only briefly

2> He celebrated a major meal with His disciples which has since become the example for the Lord’s Supper (Hoy Communion) if done properly

The temple is protested while the table is blessed

During Holy Week leading up to Easter Sunday Jesus prophesied the demise of the temple and the rise of the table

Jesus shifts our thinking from temple to table

As Jesus sat at the table with His disciples during the Last Supper, He told them He would not drink from the fruit of the vine until He drank it with them anew in the coming Kingdom of God

Matthew 26:29 TPT “The next time we drink this, I will be with you and we will drink it together with a new understanding in the kingdom realm of my Father.”

The new understanding was the switch from the temple to the table

This also explains why Jesus was eager to eat and drink with His disciples after His resurrection

He was celebrating with them the full exposure of the Kingdom and the new understanding of the Kingdom and the Church … 

Centered on the intimate fellowship between believers shared with Him — which comes when we sit around a table and eat together 

In the Book of Acts Peter described the apostles as those who “ate and drank with Him after He rose from the dead” (Acts 10:41)

The Risen Christ did not appear at the temple but at meal tables

 

In the Upper Room

On the road to Emmaus

Again in the Upper Room (twice – with 10 of the apostles, then with Thomas there)

On the beach 

The center of God’s activity had shifted — it was no longer the temple but the table that was the holiest of all

The Church would do well to think of itself, not so much as a kind of temple, but as a kind of table where we eat and share fellowship as they did in Acts 2:42

Religion – most churches today – still see themselves as a temple and have duplicated the Old Testament style of ministry

            • Priest – Pastors
            • The Church being a sacred place separated from the world
            • Only the priest or pastor can celebrate The Lord’s Supper
            • An altar rail  or raised platform – separating the holy of holies from the rest of the church where the people sit 
            • God kept at a distance
            • The Lord’s Supper for members only

So, there was to be a fundamental shift from the temple / church building to the table

Consider the difference between temple and table

Temple                                                                                     Table

Exclusive                                                                                         Inclusive

Hierarchical                                                                                    Eqalitarian

Authoritarian                                                                                  Affirming

Upright and status conscious                                                       Relaxed and “family-style”

Rigorous enforcement of purity codes                                        A welcome home party celebrating the return of sinner                                                                                                                                                                                                                             that prohibits the unclean

Temporal                                                                                            Eternal

God was a deity in a temple                                                            God is a Father at a table

And, we need to grasp this obvious change that took place with the ministry and resurrection of Jesus

Because “now many will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 8:11)

The exclusivity of the temple must give way to the inclusive nature of the kitchen table

The difference between the old temple and the new temple – the table – is like the difference between performing purity rites under the judgmental gaze of religious gatekeepers and sharing food and drink at table with close friends (coffee at Starbucks or Tim Horton’s)

Instead of the temple method of declaring the outside unclean and restricting their access at the Lord’s Table we need to say, “Pull up a chair and sit with us, we’ll make room for you.”

In the temple the sacred is preserved by the practice of exclusion — women, Gentiles, sinners and the unclean are kept at a proscribed distance

At the table the sacred is expressed in the practice of inclusion — receiving the outsider, the stranger, and the unclean for whom Jesus always makes room

Religion separates life into sacred and secular

Jesus – centering life around the table – see life as a whole and in itself sacred

Sometimes I miss the obvious because of the familiar 

But recently I have been asking the Holy Spirit to remove my religious glasses and to open my spiritual eyes and ears even more

I have been reading much less of the Bible each day and discovering more depth and truth in what I am reading than ever before

I have been asking to see as He sees and hear what He is saying through the Word of God, the Bible

I have been, with His help, tearing down my religious understanding of things including much of what I have been taught and taught others

I have been – for the last several years – praying Hebrews 12:25-27 MSG

So don’t turn a deaf ear to these gracious words … “One last shaking, from top to bottom, stem to stern.” The phrase “one last shaking” means a thorough housecleaning, getting rid of all the historical and religious junk so that the unshakable essentials stand clear and uncluttered.”

And, in many ways, praying that seems to be working — God has and is answering my prayer

And, I invite you to trust our heavenly Father and pray that same prayer … so that you will no longer miss so much that should be and really is rather obvious