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Intuitively, people who have had any kind of real experience with God often have a deep inner knowing (or at least deep suspicion) that God may turn out to be more beautiful than they thought. But they don’t have a head construct for what the heart knows.
When your life is finally blown open to see the trajectory of grace in all things, it can come as a happy surprise! Except of course—when it doesn’t.⁣⁣
Jonah saw the whole thing coming off the rails, long before Jesus of Nazareth got here.
He read it in the glory Hallelujah unalterable unchanging He-said-it-I-believe-it-that-settles-it Word of the Living God:”The Lord, the Lord, merciful & gracious, slow to anger, & abounding in steadfast love & faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation...”
“...forgiving iniquity & transgression & sin, yet by no means clearing the guilty, but visiting the iniquity of the parents upon the children & the children’s children, to the third & the fourth generation.” (Exodus 34.6-7) AMEN! ! He especially liked that last part.
Because while Jonah was not an unkind man, he was no snowflake when it came to judgement! Oh, but when Jonah saw it starting to unravel—that God was going to go soft on those blasted Ninevites, whom he knew from THE WORD were under divine judgment—the prophet seethed.
And he started quoting this favorite Bible verse back to the Maker, but with accusation in his voice. It’s why he fled from God to begin with, he said, “for I knew that you are a gracious God & merciful, slow to anger, & abounding in steadfast love…”
Do you hear this? He’s quoting Exodus 34, verbatim. And RIGHT when he gets to the part when it’s supposed to say, “not clearing the guilty, but visiting the iniquities of parents on their children,” instead he spits out, “AND READY TO RELENT FROM PUNISHING.”⁣⁣
In other words, “I ALWAYS KNEW it was the mercy you were really about, not the punishment. I ALWAYS KNEW this was where the story was going.” As it is for some of you now, this was not a happy revelation, but a bitter one.
Because you were told for a long time that God was equally into mercy AND punishment, yeah? The god some of you were taught to believe in was assigned Christian names, but was actually more like the greek god Zeus, or the ancient Moloch, who demanded child sacrifice.
But you didn’t just get all of this out of NOWHERE—you READ IT IN THE WORD, right? I’m talking to you, who has always said under your breath, “the trouble with these grace preachers, is they are always leaving something OUT.”
Yeah I’m talking to you, sir, who like all of us elder sons, harbors the feeling that if you and God are in fact on good terms, it’s because you’ve at least tried to keep the rules.⁣
I’m talking to you, Bible belt ma’am, always decent & in order, a little outraged, clutching your pearls (nod to @sarahbessey!) at the way kids behave these days. ⁣ You know it—YOU KNOW THE WORD, rightly divided.
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, b/c the Lord has anointed me; sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to the captives, release to the prisoners, to proclaim the year of God’s favor, & THE DAY OF VENGEANCE OF OUR GOD.”
Who doesn’t love that classic riff from Isaiah? Not ONE WORD will pass away, amen? ⁣

So then in Luke 4, young whipper snapper Jesus sits down in the synagogue, & begins to read your favorite text, as if he wrote it. And you were loving, all that stuff about good news...
But oh—right there in the middle of the verse, when your adrenaline had already started pumping, & you were ready for the upstart to Messiah to get to the good part about the day of vengeance coming…⁣ He abruptly rolls up the scroll and sits down.
It’s like when you saw one of those comedians on tv drop the mic at the end of their set, acting like he owns the place. He acts as if the Word that is himself is more authoritative than the words on the page.
Apparently he made the executive decision that God’s word over us was only freedom, not retribution. That’s the trouble with grace preachers, you know—they are always leaving stuff out!

And can we just tell the truth for a minute?
When you’ve been ready for a god in a white robe to storm down from glory & come settle all of your scores—finally vindicate us against them, show them all how wrong they’ve been all along, make all the God-haters feel the wrath they have justly stored up for themselves…
Jesus is…well…quite frankly, a disappointment.

You thought you would get an accountant who’d make sure all the bookkeeping worked out right, ensuring that everybody gets exactly what they deserve. Instead, the full revelation of God is...just a bleeding lamb?
And he’s won the victory over all the forces of terror not by slaughtering his enemies—but being slaughtered?

Sometimes, the good news really does feels like bad news first.

And yet, what sweet disappointment!
Because every judgment we ever rendered on anyone else tore into our own skin, too. We judged “them,” because we judged ourselves; we couldn’t love the ambiguity in our neighbor, because we couldn’t love the ambiguity in us. We projected all of our violence onto them.
We cleansed ourselves at someone else’s expenses, became insiders by making someone else an outsider—& did it, over & over again.

The tender black eyes of the lamb has seen all of this, without judgement, & now taken all the judgment onto himself.
He was never God’s scapegoat, he was ours.

The maker didn’t kill him, we did.

Yet all we got in response to this, was mercy.

Look into the eyes of the Lamb again. They do not flicker back & forth, between mercy & murder.
Behold the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.

He is God’s final word to us.
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