The Jesus Plan


It has always struck me how our culture of misinformation today is similar to the one Jesus encountered just before his trial and execution. Luke 23 says, “they began to accuse him.” The religious leaders of the time said Jesus was misleading people while they were misguiding people all along. Pilate was trying to stay out of it all. He couldn’t figure out who was misleading who. He asked Jesus. “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered. “So you say.” His answer frustrated Pilate.

As we know, Pilate finally succumbed to political, cultural and religious pressure. He ordered Jesus to be whipped and jailed. (Personal note: Pilate knew better, but the loud voices were relentless and drove him to poor decisions about Jesus’ fate.) Yet, what stands out is Jesus’ response to his verdict, “Forgive them, Father. They don’t know what they are doing.” Out of fear, misinformation and political, cultural and religious pressure, we crucified the very God of God. Sound familiar? Jesus envisioned a new way of life rather than a new religion. This vision challenged the people of first-century Judaism and has since challenged every generation’s version of religion. This Jesus Way challenges us to leave behind old religion and understanding and open our minds and hearts to something radically new, a religious ‘new deal’ if you will. This revolution takes religion from rules and beliefs to a new way of living. Jesus referred to this ‘new deal’ as “the way, the truth and the life.” 

This new way is a living covenantal relationship that began at the feet of the Cross with Jesus’ forgiveness of our sins. The ‘new deal’ started with grace and forgiveness; “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing.” Jesus didn’t speak a new set of religious rules from the cross; rather, he spoke forgiveness from the cross. The new way of living created by the cross of Jesus is about faith expressed in love towards God and one another. 

Thirty years after Jesus’ death and resurrection, the Apostle Paul, in his missionary journeys, encountered a very rigid belief system and theology of works rather than an expression of faith in love with Jesus. Paul confronted arguments among Christians over circumcision and dietary restrictions. I can hear in my head Paul’s response to these arguments. “No! That’s not what is most important. What is most important is faith expressed in love through Jesus.” 

Remember that Jesus prioritized the scriptures in Matthew 22:34. First is, “Love the Lord God with all your heart, mind and soul.” What is the second most important? “Love your neighbor as yourself,” Jesus said. That these two sum up all the scriptures. In other words, what leads to salvation is faith and love.

Today we find ourselves in a season of division, misinformation and political, cultural and religious pressures, seemingly putting our church on trial. Interestingly, again we are arguing over beliefs in our churches and are even willing to divide our churches over certain beliefs and practices when Jesus said that the main thing was to express our faith through love. Jesus died on the cross so all could be loved, not just the righteous, replacing a theology of works with one of grace. For Jesus, everything else is secondary. 

In our Methodist roots, John Wesley picked up on this understanding that the Christian life is more a way of living than an exact set of beliefs. It is a life expressed in faith through love toward God and one another. This led to Wesley’s three simple rules, “do no harm, do good and stay in love with God.”

Easter reminds us of our salvation through Jesus and that Jesus promoted a way of life through faith and love over religious works. John 15:17 “This then I command, ‘Love one another.’” The Message reads, “But remember the root command, Love one another.” Let’s follow the Jesus Way that leads to truth and abundant life.