Humans are really quite interesting and often very predictable. I’ve always been a people watcher. One of my observations is how people interact by finding common ground. Sometimes it is like a race to see where stories overlap so a deeper probing can happen. Two people who don’t know each other often begin a conversation on common ground like the weather or their situation. As an example most opening remarks in an airport have to do with destinations or delays or their purpose for travel. You know the scene.
Curious Kate says “where are you going? Stranger Sue says “Baltimore.” (They are both sitting at the gate waiting for a flight to Baltimore) Kate says “what’s in Baltimore?” Sue says “work.” Then the inquisition begins. What kind of work? How often do you travel? That is interesting, what does that have to do with the price of tea in China? And so forth until…”no way, I have a son named Peter too.” Bam! There it is…common ground. Now the deeper conversation begins. Intimacy is being birthed. You will see the two women change their seats to be closer and lean in as their volume decreases. They will meander down this path of discovery until time is up or they reach a crossroads. The crossroads are our exclusion or inclusion criteria we have running around in our heads. Kate discovers Sue is a Republican and the conversation halts since Kate really hates George Bush or something like that. Or Sue finds out Kate cleans with chemicals and Sue is an all-natural gal. Or it goes the other way and Sue and Kate both lost a loved one recently and share in various stages of grief. They become even more vulnerable and transparent. Now maybe they have made a new intimate friend right there in the airport watching it rain in San Francisco. You know that behavior. It is our nature to find our clan and huddle around the night fire.
God knows that about us since He made us that way. We are made for relationship. We were made for relationships that reject any thought of separation to find complete absorption without losing individuality. It is the trinity and our family and our calling. Want to know God’s will in every situation? Relationship. He is a perfect relationship. They (Father Son and Spirit) are a perfect union. They are uniquely three and individually unique. They are one with another but not lost in each other. This is what we all want. This is our common ground whether we are conscious of it or not.
Our reluctance to engage in relationship is mostly born out of fear. Our past, our experiences, our circumstance and all the lies of “I am not” keep us from the very life substance that we crave. Instead of feasts and banquets of familial interaction, we chose selfish, dead distractions. Only in our divine acceptance will we dare to stand naked and exposed. Only because of unearthly assurance will we stand in front of another for inspection while probing for common ground. In Jesus we have common ground with our Father through our Family. We have the Holy Spirit, the life of the party and persistent probing partner. He shows us the bare truth about Jesus. In him we find our eyes to perceive our loving Father who changed our diapers (so to speak). He knows our nakedness even with our clothes on. We have access to perfect love as expressed in total inclusion and unconditional acceptance. In the triune circle dance we are living the expression that is the origin of all our common ground. Our family conversation is happening even now in ways that exceed our capability to perceive. That is why the incarnation. That is why Jesus joins humanity. That is why God is relentlessly pursuing each of us. He wants to meet us where we are. He wants us to find our common ground in this reality to begin a conversation with Him, right?
So in the last post I left us in the outer darkness. The unwilling wedding party participant was escorted out with his hands and feet bound. Remember Jesus is telling the parable. Jesus is very aware of His upcoming crucifixion. He is versed on all Jewish tradition and teaching and religion. He knows the Torah. He knows the Psalms. As a matter of fact He often quotes scripture to connect the dots for the audience. On the cross He makes a profound connection with Psalm 22. When He cries out “why have you forsaken me” He has quoted the first line of Psalm 22. Go and check it out. Jesus, on the cross, is revealing what is happening in that moment. To all the observers it appears that God has forsaken Him but in fact the Psalm clearly points out the God does not leave Him at all. The conclusion of the Psalm is victory!
In that Psalm is this verse:
Psalm 22:16 For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet (ESV)
Apparently there is some long-running debate about the translation of this verse. Here is that verse in a few other translation:
The Jewish Publication Society translates the phrase a “Like a lion, they are at my hands and my feet”.
Aquila of Sinope, a 2nd-century CE Greek convert to Christianity and later to Judaism, undertook two translations of the Psalms from Hebrew to Greek. In the first, he renders the verse “they disfigured my hands and feet”; in the second he revised this to “they have bound my hands and feet“.
I’m not sure which “translation” was in Jesus’ head when He told this parable but let’s say His concept was “binding” more than “piercing.” Let’s say He was making a reference to the cross since the crucifixion process included binding (either with nails or rope). Either way His hands and feet were bound on the cross. It just happened to be nails.
That said I want you to use your mind of Christ for a moment. They took this wedding “guest” and bound his hands and feet and put him in the outer darkness. Jesus had His hands and feet bound to the cross and He went into the ultimate outer darkness, namely death. Can you see it? Jesus meets us where we are. Our path to resurrection is death. We can agree to participate in our “death” now as it happened 2000 years ago in Jesus or we can meet Him in our actual death in this body. Jesus meets this man in his outer darkness just like the Father in the prodigal parable. The Father is outside the party with the older brother. In Revelation John tells us the gates of Heaven are always open. Jesus said that He stands at the door and knocks. C.S. Lewis says that the gates of Hell are locked from the inside.
Are you stretched too far? Are you beginning to see the symbology?
To experience life we must die. Jesus has been to the outer darkness to meet us. For all of us we are learning what it means to be dead in this life to live His life. We meet Him in His (and our) death to know our resurrection and born-from-above new creation. For me it was giving up my right to be right. I quit trying to understand and impress and work my way into His good graces. Instead I gave up and let God reveal Himself to me. I met the Holy Spirit and began a journey. It has been fun and sometimes painful to let go of old ways of thinking. It is hard to step out of the bushes and completely trust a God that you don’t really see face to face. You grow in the faith (that He gives us) that He is in you in. It is hard to be vulnerable and let Jesus into our darkness. It is hard to let Him root around in there and pull out lies about Him and His Father and ourselves. It is hard to trust His loving touch to heal our broken self-image. You really have to die so you can stop trying to be in control of everything all the time. I had to die to debate. I had to die to my knowledge. I had to die to my fear. I had to die to uncertainty. I had to die to selfishness. I had to die to human wisdom. I really had to die and plunge into the outer darkness of my thinking to find Jesus ready to catch me. I got to live in trust and faith and assurance and acceptance and inclusion and mercy and grace and Love. I’m still learning what it looks like to be dead. Dead people aren’t depressed. Dead people don’t have offenses. Dead people don’t complain all the time. Dead people don’t need to be first but enjoy being last.
This may tweak you a bit and stretch your brain but I would encourage you to find Jesus on your common ground. My journey and my death and my experience may not be your common ground. We may not both have a son named Peter or have lost a loved one recently. My encounter is not meant to be yours. Still He meets us exactly where we are and never stops loving us into the Kingdom reality of our inclusion in Him. So take a risk and look for Jesus right where you are. He is not afraid of anything that you are hiding from Him. His common ground IS you.