When I was in my late teens one of the youth leaders rather than buy a fancy car bought a minibus. It meant that after youth club on a Friday night a bunch of us could pile into the minibus and head to someone’s house to hang out.

It was on these Friday nights, which often slipped into Saturday mornings, that we would wrestle with what following Jesus meant. I am especially thankful for one of the guys who was often part of these late-night conversations, for in the midst of our earnestness he would ask one of the most important questions any of us can ask, “So what …?”

So What?

We have over the past couple of Sunday mornings thought about who Jesus is, and why did he die. Two huge questions, massive subjects in terms of their profundity, but our answers to these two questions are empty if they are not accompanied by the question, “So what?”

So what difference does it make to me, to you, to those around us and our world if Jesus is who he and his first disciples claimed he is; God incarnate, God who has come to liberate and save us, God-in-flesh who came to reveal – give us the clearest picture possible – of God who is love, and perfect in all his ways.

An answer which is lived out.

The answer to the question “What does it mean”? …what does it mean that God became human, lived among us, was murdered yet resurrected three days later and ascended to his Father, is not really something which needs to be written down in a book [although plenty of people have done this] but it is something to be lived out!

To help us think about what it means for each of us to live out an answer to “What does the life, death and resurrection of Jesus mean” we are going to turn to Luke 19 and the story of probably the most famous tree climber in history, Zacchaeus and the parable which follows it.

Broad not Narrow

I want us to think about Zacchaeus “broadly” and not “narrowly”. What do I mean by that?

I doubt any of us have defrauded people the way Zacchaeus had. If we read this story “narrowly” then the temptation is to think that it speaks only to people who are wicked and steal or defraud other people. However, if we read the story “broadly” then this speaks to all of us about the truth that to encounter Jesus is to be given an opportunity to allow his grace and love to radically transform us so deeply that we change how we live.

Unintelligible lives

To follow Jesus means we live our lives in such a way that if the answer to the questions, “Who is Jesus” and “Why did he die?” are not, “He is God incarnate, he died for us and was resurrected and lives forevermore” our lives are unintelligible.

The logic, the raison d’etre for all we do hangs on this.

Stanley Hauerwas in writing to his grandson expresses this so much better than I can, so it is worth quoting him here:

Like me, your mother and father are people who have become what we call in the church “theologians.” The church calls some out to think hard about the Christian faith, but I think you’ll discover that the bearers of the virtues for sustaining the Christian faith aren’t necessarily theologians. Instead, they’re the people who, day in and day out, through small acts of tenderness and beauty, sustain the kind of life we call Christian. In short, Christians lead lives that would be unintelligible if God wasn’t present to us through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Bearers of the Christ-story

The presence of God to us calls us to become more like Jesus, which means living out the Christ-story, not in vain imitation (as if that is even possible given our contexts are so different) but empowered by the Spirit.

To live out the Christ-story means we participate in the community of Jesus we call church so that we both learn the story and practice living it out. Not that we only “act” like Christians in church, that would be preposterous. Rather in Church (which of course is not just a Sunday morning) we not only learn things, but are formed in such a way that we don’t merely, for example, be kind, forgiving, patient, but we are kind, and forgiving, and patient etc.

Church, not reduced to just Sunday worship but as life together under Jesus in his kingdom, is to borrow a phrase from Mark Scandrette, is our “Jesus Dojo”; a space in which we “practice” the way of Jesus so we are formed to live as Christian-pilgrims in our everyday contexts which are ambivalent at best and perhaps even hostile to our faith.

See you all on Sunday.