Presented on The Lutheran Hour on August 12, 2018
By Rev. Dr. Ken Klaus, Speaker Emeritus of The Lutheran Hour
Copyright 2020 Lutheran Hour Ministries
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Text: John 6:42
Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! That single truth changes the world. Because Christ is risen, the forces of evil remain dedicated to pigeonholing Him as being false and fake. Because Christ is risen, we pray the Lord will send His Spirit so the world may see the Savior and the salvation He has won. Amen.
The year was 1927 and director Cecile B. DeMille, that era's version of Steven Spielberg, decided he was going to pull out all the stops for his Bible-based production on the life of Jesus; a movie entitled The King of Kings. A cast of thousands? Check! Animals of all kinds and sorts? No problem! The best actors and actresses money can buy? Consider it done! No expense would be spared; no detail would be overlooked in the making of the biblical epic.
And the star of the show, the role of Jesus of Nazareth, was to be brought to the silver screen by none other than the English star, H. B. Warner. Warner, the son and grandson of famous British actors, had become quite the heartthrob on the British stage. Later, having moved to Hollywood, he did quite well for himself in the newly born movie industry. Did I say Warner did "quite well"? That is a serious understatement. Having DeMille ask you to play the part of Jesus was just about as good as an actor could ever expect.
After Warner had signed a contract which stipulated he wouldn't smoke or drink in public for a year after the film's release, DeMille felt comfortable and began shooting. It took some time, but when the film was finally released, the critics were in agreement: "King of Kings had exceeded expectations and H.B. Warner had been born to play the part of Jesus." The reviews of the film were outstanding, and everyone involved with the project made a bundle of money... and that was in the days before income taxes.
Now you might think that life would be good for those people who had been connected with the film. And you would, for the most part, be right in that thinking. There was only one person who seemed to be having difficulties: that's right, you guessed it, I'm speaking about H. B. Warner. The problem was this: Warner had done such a good job portraying Jesus in the movie that, for many people, he had become Jesus. When people thought of the Savior, Jesus looked like H. B. Warner. And that was not a good thing for the actor's career. You see, no director wants to hire Jesus for a Western where Jesus is going to gun down the bad guy in a main-street shootout. No director wants Jesus in a war movie, or a romance, or a comedy... especially not a comedy.
And so it was, the career of H. B. Warner slowed down. It slowed down a lot. In fact, over the years Warner was often overheard complaining that playing Jesus ruined his career. Which is not entirely accurate. True, Warner never again played leading roles in movies, but he did make a living in all kinds of supporting roles. Supporting roles like the part of Mr. Gower, the pharmacist in It's A Wonderful Life or the part of himself in Sunset Boulevard. These were good jobs, but H. B. Warner never again was a star. He had been typecast; he had been pigeonholed.
He wasn't the first; he wouldn't be the last. Pigeonholing other people is as old as time and as prevalent as prejudice. I come from a German heritage and, in a less politically correct time, I would have been pigeonholed as a "Kraut." There are other pigeonholes, some very unacceptable pigeonholes, for other nationalities, other races. If you or your child or grandchild goes to a large high school today, you will know about pigeonholing. In high school you will be labeled a "jock," a "nerd," a "geek," a "tomboy," a "cheerleader," a "mean girl," a "foreigner," a "gamer," "hipster," "hippy," "troublemaker," "peacemaker," "class clown," "cool kid," "gangster," "stoner," "slacker," "punk" or "preppy." Understand, I don't know what all of those pigeonholes are, but your high-schooler can translate them for you.
Now, don't think for a moment that pigeonholing is only for the young. It isn't. Sociologists and marketers have pigeonholed you. Depending on your birth year, you have been pigeonholed as being part of a "generation." For example, those born from 1901 to 1924 are part of the GI Generation. After that there is the Silent Generation, the Baby Boomers (that's me); the Generation Xers; the Millennials and Generation Z, also known as the iGeneration.
With all this pigeonholing going on, you probably won't be surprised if I tell you that Jesus, God's Son and our Savior, has also been pigeonholed. Already in His lifetime, He was being pigeonholed. If you need some examples, all you need do is turn in your Bible to the sixth chapter of John. The chapter opens with Jesus feeding thousands of people with a few loaves of bread and some fish. The crowd was elated. Before this, they had already heard Him speak as no man had ever spoken; they had watched Him heal the sick and deliver those who were possessed. They had waited to see what He would do next, and Jesus hadn't let them down. Immediately they decided, and who wouldn't, that Jesus shouldn't get away. They pigeonholed Him as the Prophet Moses had promised would come. In Deuteronomy 18, Moses had said, "The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers-it is to him you shall listen."
Well, they had been listening to this new pigeonholed prophet and they wanted to make Him king. "He must be our King," they said. "We will demand He lead us as our King," they cried out. And why not? If you or I ever encountered an individual who could wipe out hunger by blessing a few loaves and fish, we would make him president for life. If we ever met someone who, without costly medicine or risky surgery could heal every illness known to humankind and bring back to life our loved ones who had already died, well, that person could ask whatever he wanted of us, and we would give it to him. Gladly, willingly, without any kind of coercion on his part, we would give him whatever he asked. The only thing we wouldn't do is let him leave us.
Yes, the crowd went nuts. They loved what they had seen Jesus do, and they were eagerly looking forward to what they hoped He would do. Who knows, maybe He would set things up so none of them would ever have to work again, or wash dirty dishes again, or do laundry, or have a funeral. Maybe, without shedding a drop of their blood, Jesus might make the occupying Romans disappear from their borders and send them back to their families. That would be so cool! And maybe, just maybe, some of them may have admitted to themselves, "We can't even imagine all the good stuff, the great stuff, the unbelievable stuff Jesus can do for us!"
Well, the possibilities were downright boggling. Of course, all these plans depended on Jesus permanently staying. And that was a problem. You see, Jesus refused to stay put in that pigeonhole. The crowd couldn't have known it, but the truth of the matter is, Jesus can never be confined by humankind's boxes. They are too small, too confining and, most of the time, just plain wrong. You see, Jesus did not come into this world to be a political or a military leader. He had not been born so He could provide every physical convenience people could imagine and deliver every time-saving device they could dream up.
It's no different in our own day and age. All around us are people who, like that ancient crowd, believe they can pigeonhole the Savior and force Him to provide an on-demand miracle, unlimited financial bail-outs, and a bottomless barrel of stuff. They will someday find that the Lord, not their desires, is in control, and they will be disappointed. Not because Jesus has let them down, but because they tried to pigeonhole the Savior and put Him in a very small box.
That's what the ancient crowd discovered when they went to crown Jesus as their king. They knew the Lord had sent His disciples away. What they didn't know is that Jesus was not going to embrace what they considered to be an incredibly generous offer. Nor did they know that during the night Jesus had walked on the water to calm the fears of His frightened sea-fairing disciples. They could not have known that Jesus was already with His students at another spot on the Sea of Galilee.
They didn't know these things and, frankly, they didn't care. They were going to find Jesus, and they were going to make Him King. So they began to look. They got in their boats and they searched. Now, it's a wonderful thing when people look for Jesus, but sometimes the reasons people search for Him are not the best. In this case, the people wanted to usurp the role of God, and they wanted Jesus to be their ancient version of Amazon. They call in a request and He delivers. Only, in Jesus' case, He doesn't send them a bill, and He doesn't put the price of His blessings on their credit cards.
Eventually, the crowd located the Savior and they asked, "Rabbi, when did You come here?" It was a question Jesus ignored. Instead, He cut to the heart of the matter: the wrong reason why they had been searching for Him. Paraphrasing the Savior, He said this: "I know why you're here. You've tracked Me down because you want an instant replay of the free food from yesterday." And although Scripture doesn't say so, I think a lot of folks put their heads down and mumbled something like, "Yeah, but what's so wrong about that?"
Jesus told them. He said, in effect, "My friends, you've missed the point here. You've pigeonholed Me into being a fast-food restaurant. That's not what yesterday's miracle was all about. That miracle which fed your bodies was designed so you could see that I am the Bread of Life who can nourish your souls." And It was right about then that the eyes of the crowd clouded over in confusion and they said, "Huh? Say that again. What are you talking about?"
So Jesus tried to explain. He tried to explain that the Lord gives us bread for our bodies and God's Son had been sent to be living bread for their souls. He explained how a person who is eating earthly bread needs to eat again and again and again, but Jesus is a spiritual bread who would continue to provide spiritual nourishment and sustenance. To which the crowd said, "Huh? What do you mean?" And Jesus tried to explain that if they ate His body, if He became part of them, they would receive blessings they could never have imagined. And that really confused the crowd.
Now, my friends, I would not have Jesus' words confuse You. The Savior was saying that when He lives in someone, that person will be changed. With Holy Spirit-given faith in Him as the Redeemer, all that individual's sins are forgiven. You see, as God's sinless Son, and Mary's Child, Jesus had come into this world to carry our sins and destroy them. Faith in Christ provides forgiveness, and that forgiveness means we are part of the Lord's family of faith. No longer are we outsiders looking in at heaven's never-ending feast; no longer are we destined for damnation. With Jesus as our Savior, we are delivered. With Jesus as Savior, we can be at peace; we can be filled with hope; we can live in happiness.
That is what the Lord Jesus was trying to say to the crowd. But this time they didn't say, "Huh! What's that again?" No, they didn't say that at all. Instead, they thought, "Hold on here! Just a minute! We can't deny that You can do some pretty incredible things. After all, we've seen thousands fed with a few loaves and fish. But what You're talking about here. Well, that's something pretty hard to understand. As near as we can see, Jesus, You're making some pretty big claims for Yourself, claims that we can't check out. What we do know is You are the Son of a carpenter from Nazareth. You're Mary's boy. You maybe can do some super cool stuff, but we don't see You as the Savior of the world."
Do you see what just happened? Jesus refused to be put in the box of being a slave to the crowd's desires. He had broken out of that box and let them know He was their Savior. And they, they without missing a beat, they immediately built another box for Him. Rather than rejoicing, they had met the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, they stuffed Him into a new box which might have been labeled, "Guys who come from Nazareth who think they are somebody special."
And when they saw Jesus in that new box, they no longer wanted Him as their King. They looked at Jesus in that box and said, "Jesus, You are pretty boring. You don't do what we say; You don't behave the way we want; we just don't feel like making an investment in You. We don't think we are going to follow You anymore." And they didn't. I wish I could tell you they were the last people who tried to put Jesus in a box, the last to try and pigeonhole Him. I wish I could, but I can't.
The truth is Jesus spent most of His ministry being written off. When He refused to provide miraculous food for the masses, they wrote Him off. So many of the masses wrote Jesus off that, finally, He turned to His disciples and asked them, "You don't want to leave, too, do you?" The Pharisees tried to pigeonhole Jesus by portraying Him as a Man empowered by the devil. The priests tried to pigeonhole Jesus by saying He was a radical firebrand who would bring destruction to the nation. At His trial, Pontius Pilate tried to pigeonhole Jesus as a Person of no account, a person whom He could ignore and wash His hands.
Even today, people are still trying to do their very best to pigeonhole Jesus and box Him out. History books are, even as we speak, being rewritten so the Name of the Savior no longer appears. Yes, they will still point out those times when the church has been mistaken, or ignorant. Those stories are told in living color and with crystal clarity. But you will have to look hard to find any mention of the fact that it was the power of Christian pulpits which, in different centuries and different lands, have struck the first blows for freedom in the Name of Jesus. In the Name of Jesus hospitals have been built, medicines discovered, colleges constructed. Those things are forgotten.
Individuals, armed with misinformation and a minimum of doctrine, have pigeonholed Jesus as being unimportant, inconsequential, trite, and trivial. Parents who would never miss their child's soccer game, who never flinch at chauffeuring their kids from one activity to another, pigeonhole the hour of worship and label it, "Maybe, someday." The average Joe or Jane will spend hours searching for the right restaurant, the perfect automobile, a good butcher, a gentle dentist, an understanding doctor, a high-powered lawyer, but that same person will never spend a moment considering the Savior whom they have pigeonholed as being so desperate that He is willing to receive any crumb which falls from their table.
Let me tell you a secret, which should be no secret: you can't pigeonhole God. Oh, maybe for a little while you can. Maybe for a few years you can lock Him away and pretend He's not important. But the time will come--it comes for everyone--when He will no longer be confined. My friends, you can't pigeonhole God. You will either acknowledge Jesus as Savior now, or Jesus as your Judge, later on.
And that is what this message is all about. God wants you to be saved. God sent His Son so you might have life. It costs you nothing. It is absolutely free to you. Believe in the Son of God who takes away the sins of the world.
At the beginning of this message, I spoke about H. B. Warner, and how he felt Jesus had pigeonholed him and ruined the professional part of his life. Right now, I want to tell you, following Jesus will not ruin your life. He will make your life better than you ever thought possible. And if you need or would like to know more Him, please call us at The Lutheran Hour. Amen.
Reflections for August 12, 2018
Mark Eischer: Next we're going to hear about a new online course that can help you find peace in the midst of conflict. Here to tell us about it is our colleague Ashley Bayless. Ashley, thanks for joining us.
Ashley Bayless: Thank you for having me.
Mark: Finding Peace in Conflict is the newest online course from Lutheran Hour Ministries. And, first question, why choose conflict as a topic?
Ashley: Well, I would love to say that there's no conflict in my life whatsoever, but I think it's pretty safe to say for most conflict is a part of life, and it comes, and it goes. And so we actually were presented with an opportunity to partner with Ambassadors of Reconciliation. It's a Lutheran non-profit based out of Montana, I believe. And they presented an opportunity for us to work with them. And they create curriculum about reconciliation, but they also do consultations and they teach courses. It was a really neat opportunity for us to connect with them and think about what information would be really helpful to the church about reconciliation and handling conflicts in everyday life.
Mark: Now you're using the word "reconciliation." Is that the same as "conflict resolution"?
Ashley: Good question. Before I got involved with this course, I would have said, "Sure, those are the same things." But as I've learned from the Ambassadors of Reconciliation and their curriculum, it is really two different things. Conflict resolution: we're just looking to solve the problem. It could end amiably, but there's so much to it, as we think about the biblical approach to reconciliation and the way that God encourages us to seek that peace with not just Him but with others. There's a restoration of that relationship, and that's really the goal. Not just you get what you need, and I get what I need, and the problem's solved, but there's actually that rebuilding of trust; the relationship is mended maybe with time. Those things don't happen overnight. But that's the end goal-is that restoration.
Mark: What is the goal of this course?
Ashley: Sure, well first we start by exploring the biblical approach to handling conflict and the peace, really, that comes from reconciliation. We hope that folks will be able to pursue reconciliation with another person with those conflicts that come up in everyday life, but we also look at sometimes reconciliation isn't always possible with someone. Maybe someone's past or you're not able to communicate with someone for whatever reason, and so there are ways that we talk about that you can really kind of be at peace and experience that reconciliation just with God and, hopefully, that will bring about that peace in your life.
Mark: Okay. Who would benefit from taking this course?
Ashley: I'd like to say anyone, because we all experience conflict. There's some really good nuggets of things that we can learn about reconciliation. We walk you through a process. I mean, you have to kind of be ready to have that open mind of "I really have a conflict in mind that I want to work through." I mean, that really helps. I think you could look through the course and just kind of, "Oh sure, that might be great someday." But I think if there's really an issue or some unresolved conflict, that you go in with that specific situation in mind, it's really geared toward kind of helping someone process through that.
Mark: This is an online course. For someone who may not be familiar with how something like that works-what's it like? What's the process?
Ashley: LHM Learn is our online learning platform, so we have lots of courses that we can talk about, but everything is self-paced. It's geared toward the adult learner. You can come and go as you please, so most of our sessions, it takes, if you were to sit down and do a session, right now, it should take you about 20 minutes. If you read all the text, you watch all the videos, you click around, you explore the information. Some of us read faster, slower, and that's okay. That's the really nice piece about LHM Learn is that if you want stop, you only have ten minutes, you can just read or watch for ten minutes, and then come back to it later. It remembers where you left off. This course specifically is five sessions. This is a little bit longer; we have a lot of information to go over. But again, total time maybe 20 or 30 minutes for a session, five sessions, and you're going to have a much better understanding for reconciliation.
Mark: And how does the learner receive feedback on how they're doing?
Ashley: It is all self-paced. There might be some knowledge checks where, you know, here's a little question at the end-did you comprehend what we're talking about? A lot of what we do is in self-reflection journaling as you learn about a new concept. Then, at the end, it might say, "Okay, now think about the situation that you're going through. Here are some questions." Or "What might you say to the other person, or how would you handle that?" Or "You just watched this video and you heard an example of a conflict, can you point out the pieces and how does that relate to your specific conflict?" So, we try to do a variety of things that help you engage with it, even though there's no teacher that's going to send you back a grade or anything like that.
Mark: No term papers to write and no papers to grade.
Ashley: No, no, no.
Mark: How long does it take to work through the course, on the average, would you say?
Ashley: We hope that it takes a person about 20 or 30 minutes to get through a session. So, if you can sit down and give yourself that amount of time, we feel like that's a pretty good chunk of time to get through all the videos or the reading or the listening. I think I mentioned earlier this specific course is five sessions long so, you can if you want to, but you don't actually have to sit down and do the entire course all in one sitting. We'd actually prefer that you would do one session, kind of think about it. We also write them in a way so you can gather with other people, so if you had like a small group from your church, you might want to say, "Okay, we're all going to do session one on our own time this week, and when we get together on Wednesday night, let's go through our journal questions or our self-reflection questions, and we can talk about those as a group. So, we give you the resources to do it on your own, but then to also gather with others and to process the learning.
Mark: That's great, so this could really augment a small group Bible study or something like that.
Ashley: Sure, or a Bible class, yeah.
Mark: How do listeners enroll?
Ashley: So, if you go to https://www.lhm.org/learn. So, that's where you can learn all about our program LHM Learn, and that's also where users can sign up for the first time. So, this is an absolutely free resource to the church that LHM is putting out there for anyone and everyone to use. All you gotta do is give us your name, give us your email address, and sign up on the form, and that'll let you create a free account with LHM Learn. Then once you're in there, the learning library has assorted courses. You can find Finding Peace in Conflict or maybe there's another course that interests you as well. And that'll all be there.
Mark: Finding Peace in Conflict-the newest online course from Lutheran Hour Ministries. We've been talking with Ashley Bayless. Ashley, thank you.
Ashley: Thank you so much.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
"Lord, Enthroned in Heavenly Splendor" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)