A Surround Sound Experience
I was recently traveling with an RCA colleague, Chad Farrand, who loves music and always has multiple playlists on his cell phone. On the trip, I had the wonderful surprise of receiving an upgrade on my rental car. Among the many upgrades was a fabulous sound system—a true surround sound experience. Our enjoyment of Chad’s music was greatly enhanced by the car’s sound system.
Surround sound triumphs over stereo and stereo is much better than monaural. In a monaural system, you hear all the sound through one speaker. In a stereo system, it comes through two speakers. In surround sound there are anywhere from five to seven speakers surrounding the listener. The audio comes from different directions, blasting out highs, lows, and a spectrum of sounds in between.
Jesus doesn’t come to us in monaural or stereo. He comes to us in surround sound.
Jesus came to reveal a God who is bigger than our comprehension; beyond our understanding; far more than we could ever ask or imagine. In order to serve his mission, Jesus came to people in a myriad of ways. He is authoritative and gentle; strong and meek; somber and joyful; full of both grace and truth.
Jesus, the Christ, is Alpha and Omega, Lion and Lamb, Priest and King, Master and Servant, the Judge and the Justifier, simultaneously.
People experienced Jesus according to their history, context, need, and experience. For this reason, among others, the Jesus we meet in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John each offer us a different experience and understanding of Jesus and the God that Jesus reveals.
This Lent we are meeting Jesus through the parables that Matthew records.
The God that encounters us through the parables recorded by Matthew is different than the God we meet in the parables of Luke and is distinct from those in Mark. All parables disrupt our worlds. They also do so in different ways.
This is certainly to our advantage. If we only hear, see, or experience Christ in monaural, or even in stereo, we are not encountering the Christ of the four Gospels; let alone the Christ of Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, or Romans.
They have also accomplished the purpose of all parables. As William Willimon writes, “Parables are meant to disrupt us, not to settle us. Parable is meant to change us, not reassure us. A parable is designed to prompt the response, ‘I don’t know what Jesus means by that story, but I certainly don’t like it.’” *
It must be this way! No theological system can contain or explain Jesus. Like the first disciples, we will remain puzzled by His words and actions. Like the religious leaders, we will never fully figure Jesus out. Jesus is “Life” and “life always finds a way” out of the boxes we mere mortals construct to comprehend Him.**
Christ is simply too big, too paradoxical, and too vast to be contained in any limited theological box or doctrinal expectation or any Gospel. He could never be monaural or even stereo.
Jesus is “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” ***
For that reason, I am grateful that our pastors have invited us into the parables recorded in the Gospel of Matthew during Lent this year. Ross, Lindsay, and Nate have all stretched our minds as we have encountered parables through which Jesus disturbs and disrupts our understanding of the ways of God.
Our parable this coming Sunday, commonly known as the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25: 31-46), is designed to impact us in a similar way. I pray that our Triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—disrupts us once again this week.
Grace & Peace,
* From William Willimon, “The Intrusive Word”
** “life always finds a way” is a line from Jurassic Park
*** “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma,” is adapted from Winston Churchill when he was describing a specific country.
Parable of the Sheep and the Goats
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40 And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family,[a]you did it to me.’ 41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”