This past week I have been preparing for beach season. I know for most the spring is the time to get in shape and get ready to hit the beach, but I'll be heading back to Jamaica in just under 2 months. Christmas day I'll head down and prepare to lead a small group for a week in Hopewell, just west of Montego Bay. So I've ordered new sandals (seems I blow through them pretty quickly) and I had to get a new pair of boardshorts since I've lost some weight working out over the past couple months. So I’m READY!
I really love going back to Jamaica during the winter for the obvious reasons and also because it gives me a chance to be refreshed and reminded of what it is I’m doing. Not that I ever forget, but just sitting on the phone TALKING about doing mission work is completely different than getting up and DOING it. I also start to miss the preaching in Jamaica. I love my church here and when I come home I get joy out of going to church and being challenged. I also love hearing Jamaican preachers as it is a completely different style and it’s very powerful!
As I was reading “Love Without Agenda” this week I was reminded of the preaching in Jamaica and big part of what I love about it. Jimmy is talking about the last week of Jesus’ life leading up to the cross. He’s talking about how Jesus’ lack of agenda got him killed. The Jews were looking for a Messiah. . . a savior. But they weren't looking for a spiritual savior. They were looking for someone who would overthrow the Roman government and rule over them as king like they once had. So the Jews thought Jesus was going to be a political savior, not a religious savior. How can Jesus HELP ME? What can He GIVE ME? What is He going to DO FOR ME? They had a political agenda for Jesus. Jesus didn't have an agenda. He wanted to show them love and how to love, they wanted him to rescue them from their political and social situation. Once the people found out that Jesus wasn't going to overthrow Rome and restore a king for them they were finished with Jesus.
We're done with Him. . .“Crucify Him!”
Fast forward to modern day:
Now the comparison between Jamaica and first century Israel is that both are oral cultures. That means that literacy is not high. In first century Israel the literacy rate was believed to be about 3%. Jamaica’s literacy rate is about 88%. Not really a comparison but I'm sure the rate for older generations is much lower and the culture is one that people talk to each other more and listen to the radio. much more than they read. One thing I like about Jamaican preaching is that it’s interactive. In particular, I've noticed that a preacher will start a verse with a few words and the people will speak out the rest of the verse with him. And it always amazed me that they knew so many verses and that they could do that. We don't do that (at least not in my church) here in America. They've learned by hearing these verses over and over again while growing up. The same was true for first century Jews. They knew the scriptures backwards and forwards from hearing them so many times.
Now back to the cross:
It looks to everyone like this whole Jesus thing was over. He hung on the cross and prepared to die. At the last moment, “Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?’ (Matthew 27:46) As I’ve read this so many times and know this story, it never occurred to me what was happening when Jesus said this. I thought it was just His last cry to God.
No! Jesus was quoting scripture to the people that were there! “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” is the first line of Psalm 22. Written some 1,000 years earlier, Psalm 22 it reads like it was written while Jesus hung on the cross. Read through it and you'll be amazed! When David wrote this Psalm he was pointing to the cross. All the Jews would have heard this first line, ““My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”, and just like Jamaicans finishing the verses in church, immediately their minds would have gone to Psalm 22 and they would recite that verse in their head.
The last line of Psalm 22 reads:
They will proclaim his righteousness,
declaring to a people yet unborn:
He has done it!
Jesus had proclaimed victory! Not over Rome as the people had expected, but over sin and death. Victory over all the agendas placed on him. And because of that WE too can proclaim victory!