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No Way Jesus
June 1, 2003
by Tony Grant
1 In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning
2 until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen.
3 After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.
4 While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. "This," he said, "is what you have heard from me;
5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now."
6 So when they had come together, they asked him, "Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?"
7 He replied, "It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority.
8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
9 When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.
10 While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them.
11 They said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven."
No Way Rey
His name is Hans Rey, and he likes to ride bikes—on the roof of his house. Every once in a while, Rey goes down into the garage of his little hillside house in Laguna Beach, California, and looks over the twelve bikes he has stored there. Today, he picks out the gray GT Ruckus with the full suspension, takes it into his back yard, climbs on and then bunny-hops it up sixteen stairs to a deck.
From there he jumps it onto a reclining chair, then onto the deck railing, then onto the roof, where he does a front wheel-stand on the downslope, turns, rides up to the chimney, jumps three feet up and perches on the chimney top. Sports Illustrated reports that this makes him look “very much like some kind of bicycle-factory weather vane.”
He finishes with a chimney wheelie that he maintains as he jumps back onto the downslope, which he then converts into a front wheel-stand before he shoots off the gutter and ten feet into the back yard pool, where he bobs up smiling, as if to say, “Bet you haven’t seen that before.” That’s for sure.
Is he crazy? Maybe, but he’s also an extreme mountain biker. Perhaps the best in the world. Hans has jumped his bike over a car on the 405 freeway in Los Angeles and done a volcano dance in Hawaii. At the 1996 Olympic Games, Hans was part of an Extreme Sports Act and performed in front of 3.5 billion viewers in the Olympic Closing Ceremonies. [see “Hans ‘No Way’ Rey & the ‘Hans Rey Adventure Team,’” The Hans Rey Adventure Team Web site, hansrey.com.]
He calls himself “No Way Rey” because, he says, each time his friends dare him to try a seemingly impossible jump, climb, downhill or rock-hop jig, they say, “No way you can do that, dude.” Then he does it.
“No Way Rey”—the name fits. From leaping off rooftops and rock crops to riding down a 1,000-meter waterfall, this extreme mountain biker performs stunts that others have not even dreamed of.
No Way Jesus
But Hans Rey is not the first to hear the words, “No way you can do that.” The same doubts were expressed by people who gathered around Jesus throughout his ministry:
In Luke 4:33, a man in the synagogue had the spirit of an unclean demon. Jesus said, “Be silent, and come out of him!”.
People said, “No way, Jesus!”
In Luke 5:24, when several people brought a paralyzed man on a bed to Jesus, he said, “I say to you, stand up and take your bed and go to your home.”
People said, “No way, Jesus!”
He commanded his disciples, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” [6:27-28].
People said, “No way, Jesus!”
In the house of a dead girl, Jesus took the little one by the hand and called out, “Child, get up!” [8:54].
People said, “No way, Jesus!”
Then he told his disciples, “The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” [9:22].
People said, “No way, Jesus!”
And after his resurrection, he promised them, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth [Acts 1:8].
But the people said, “No way, Jesus!”
I suppose Jesus got used to it. They were always saying, “No way you can do that, Jesus. Absolutely no way.” Then he would go ahead and do it.
You could call him “No Way Jesus.”
The ministry of Jesus was full of “no way” miracles, “one way” teachings, and “new way” experiences of the power and presence of God. This extreme messiah drove out demons, healed the sick, taught love of enemies, raised the dead, predicted his own resurrection and promised the gift of the Holy Spirit to all of his followers. Then he was lifted up to heaven in the ascension, and a cloud took him totally out of sight (Acts 1:9).
Now if I told you that on my own authority, you might be tempted to say, “No way,” but the testimony of Holy Scripture (which is “given by inspiration of God, to be the rule of faith and life” WCOF 1,2) tells us, “Yes ... Way!” The jaw-dropping story of No Way Jesus gives us a new way to experience the power of God in human life, and a new opportunity to channel that divine energy into world-changing work.
John Dickson wrote an article called “God and Arnie.” He says:
One of the reasons I avoided taking Jesus seriously for so long was the impression that he was weak. As a young Aussie bloke, “strength” and “power” were important qualities for me. My hero was more likely to be someone like Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Terminator films than the Jesus of the Hollywood films. The thought that Jesus walked around in robes talking about “love” and “peace” all the time was not a strong drawing. The few things I had heard of Jesus’ teaching confirmed this impression. He apparently said things like, “If someone hits you on the right cheek, let him hit you on the left as well.” As a budding martial arts freak, this seemed ridiculous. He also said, “Blessed are the meek.” As far as I was concerned, “meek” meant weak. And then there was all that stuff about “becoming like a little child.” I had reached puberty! There was no way I was going to retreat back into childhood!
This impression was soon blown out of the water, however. The day I started reading the biographies of Jesus’ life for myself, I instantly discovered that “weak” is just about the last thing you could call Jesus.
[John Dickson, “God and Arnie,” Matthias Media, matthiasmedia.com. Retrieved December 1, 2002.]
Jesus was the very power of God and Jesus says to us that we can have that same power. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, we can become No Way Christians following a No Way Christ.
Our scripture today from Acts 1 describes the Ascension of Jesus. It begins by telling us that Luke wrote the book of Acts to a person named “Theophilus.” The name can be translated “friend of God.” Luke also addresses his other book, the gospel of Luke, to this same Theophilus. Scholars debate whether Theophilus was an individual person or any “friend of God.” Certainly Luke did write to any Friend of God, that is, to anyone who wishes to learn more about the Christian faith.
Luke tells us that forty days elapsed between the Resurrection and the Ascension. For forty days, the disciples receive instruction from their risen Lord. This echoes the forty days Moses spent on Mt. Sinai. Just as God spent forty days with Moses to create the people of the old covenant, so Jesus spent forty days with his disciples to create the people of the new covenant. In Acts, Jesus’ ascension at the end of this period does not represent a glorious ending to his life here on earth; rather, the ascension is a new beginning — the beginning of the church of Christ. In verse 5, Jesus predicts the birth of the church by saying, “you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
Acts 1:6 finds Jesus’ band of disciples back in their familiar posture of impertinent questioning. Having listened for three years to Jesus telling them that no one will know when the kingdom will come, they now boldly confront the risen Christ with the question, “Is this the time ...?”
Jesus patiently asserts once again that “It is not for you to know ... “ the particulars and details about the kingdom’s arrival (v. 7). Instead of knowledge, however, Jesus extends a different gift to his followers — empowerment. The power of the Holy Spirit is to come upon them and transform them from ignorant left-behinds and wantabees into something far greater, into Christ’s witnesses — with a testimony and conviction that will extend even “to the ends of the earth” (v. 8).
One of the remarkable things about the story of Christ’s ascension is its speed. As soon as Jesus announces the gift of Spirit, before they even have a chance to respond, Jesus is “lifted up” (v. 9). Events continue to pile on top of one another, for even “While he was going” the two “men in white robes” appear before the astonished disciples and begin chiding them for standing about staring. When the white-robed messengers foretell Jesus’ eventual return, the disciples apparently get the hint that they had best be about Jesus’ directive of “witnessing.” Since they have no way of knowing when Jesus’ return will come, they have no time to lose. But until the Holy Spirit arrives, the disciples are faced with an arduous task — waiting. Karl Barth characterized the period of time between the ascension and Pentecost as a “significant pause” during which the church was called only to wait and pray.
Waiting and praying are characteristics of faithfulness. Isaiah 40:31 proclaims and promises that those who patiently “wait for the LORD” shall “renew their strength ... mount up with wings like eagles ... run and not be weary ... walk and not faint.” When we are busy we dissipate our energy on a host of trivial tasks. Thus, we never have a chance to feel the depth of our strength. Only in sustained and watchful waiting do we build up our endurance and develop the muscles of faithfulness.
The disciples’ waiting includes one important activity — praying. Their prayers have new meaning and power because of the Ascension.
The ascension of Jesus Christ is good news for us as Christians, and through us, for our world. It means that God loves and values our fragile and broken humanity in Christ. It means that, at the ascension, Jesus took all of human life, which he cared for so deeply, and brought it “into the heavenly places,” into the very heart of God. This includes the suffering refugee, the abused child or spouse, the victim of war or terror, the lonely one in the nursing home, the one who struggles with depression or a lost sense of worth and value, those who are sick, those who are tired. All of human life, at the ascension, moves toward God, into God’s care, into God’s loving arms.
Three Kinds of BMXers
Return now to Hans Rey. Bicycle Motocross people like Hans Rey are called BMXers and they like to see other people joining their sport. But not all BMXers are the same, and there is a nomenclature to describe the different types of bikers. In fact, they say that there are three types of bikers.
First, there are the Flatlanders. These riders generally stay on the ground, and their tricks revolve around different ways of riding a bike without touching the pedals. You won’t see these particular bikers doing Hans Rey-style jumps off rooftops into swimming pools! Their stunts can be difficult and technical, but they are not terribly dangerous.
Now there is a type of Christian that we might call a Flatlander. A Flatlander Christian is down-to-earth and committed to meeting the physical needs of the church and of God’s people. Like the seven deacons appointed in Acts 6 — people who were “full of the Spirit and of wisdom” (6:3)—a Flatlander Christian commits himself/herself to meeting the needs of the most vulnerable members of the community. They collect canned goods for a food closet, cook meals for the homeless, drive someone to church, say a prayer with a sick church member in the hospital or share a passage of Scripture with a nursing home resident.
This is not a dangerous form of ministry, but it is essential to the health and growth of the Christian community. Acts tells us that when the seven servants performed their ministry stunts, “the number of the disciples increased greatly in Jerusalem” (6:7).
Next among bikers, you have the Vert Riders. As the name implies, these bikers “go vertical” — they take after their skateboarding friends, and get “big air” as they fly out of the u-shaped half-pipe ramp. Vert Riders fly as high as they can, performing crowd-pleasing stunts such as no-handed, 540-degree spins ... 900-degree spins ... back flips, front flips and flairs.
Christian Vert Riders are determined to get closer to God through creative, inspiring and heartfelt worship. They are launched toward the heavens by lively singing and passionate prayer, and they get “big air” as they enjoy the emotional charge of a great sermon, or the inspiration of a gorgeous anthem. They know what Hans Rey is talking about when he says, “Riding is almost like meditation.”
Vert Riders are always zipping back and forth in the half-pipe of a service of worship. They love the sacraments and the Word. To them worship is never boring, because the most exciting thing they can think of is to encounter God. They want to soar up to the third heaven with the apostle Paul. As far as they are concerned the worship hour on Sunday is the high point of their week.
Is Vert Riding dangerous? Of course it is. It is always dangerous to be spiritual in a world that worships the material. Try to soar to the heavens and the world will always try to bring you down.
Finally, the third type of biker is the Street-rider. These are bikers whose routines consist of jumping gaps, grinding, and various other stunts, such as close encounters with cars. These folks are not afraid of encountering and impacting the world as they hit the streets, and their bikes are generally very strong to take the stresses of landing on concrete.
Jesus speaks about Street-riding Christians right before his ascension: They are the ones who will be his witnesses “in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Street-riders are not afraid to talk about their faith and to express their belief in the love of God, the power of the Holy Spirit and the saving work of Jesus Christ. They are fully prepared for people to say, “No way,” but they don’t let rejection get them down. Like Street-riders who have taken a fall, they pick themselves up and hop right on the bike again.
So, what kind of a Christian are you? A Flatlander, a Vert Rider or a Street-rider? We should be a bit of all three.
All three are essential parts of the X-Games — the Christ-Games — that we are invited to play. Now you may have a specialty. You may be more Flatlander than Vert, or more Street-rider than Flatlander. But regardless of your particular specialty, you have been challenged by No Way Jesus to continue his work in the world. He says that you have the power, the awesome and amazing Holy-Spirit-power. All who ride in the way of Christ have that power, the power to do astounding things. All who trust in Christ can be No Way Christians. Amen.
“About BMX,” BMX for Life Web site, angelfire.com. Retrieved November 18, 2002.
Vetter, Craig. “How does he do that?” Sports Illustrated, October 14, 2002.
If you have questions or comments, email Tony Grant
Copyright 2003 York Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church
Last modified 7/23/03