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We love our stuff, and that makes God less-real to us. We want our relationship with God to be completely under our control the way all our stuff — everything from cars to boxes of paper — is under our control. And because Jesus is not in your face the way this blog is in your face, he’s just not that real. Because Jesus doesn’t actually sit in the car with you on the way to work, he’s not real. Because, unlike your boss at work, or your spouse, Jesus will not call to check up on you and give you the angry eyebrows when you are doing something other than you’re supposed to be doing, he’s just not that real. We are exactly like Oprah. And in that respect, we are exactly like Peter — the Peter whom Jesus called “Satan”. We want the relationship with God which we want, and we don’t want to see it from His perspective because He’s not actually completely real to us.

This is why wrapping your brain around the statement “this Jesus who was crucified” is so important. The kind of God we want, if we are honest with ourselves, is the one who gives us all kinds of things. For Oprah, it’s freedom and self-esteem; for Peter, it was a king he could trust (and who would maybe make him a dignitary of some kind, rather than a fisherman); for me, it’s a God who doesn’t care if I can’t park my car in the garage because I’m hoarding trash.

You know what kind of God you want. He might be a God who lets you mate all the socks in the dryer; it might be a God who will make you skinny and sexy (sic); it might be a God who tells great jokes; it might be a God who wants you to have your best life right now, whatever that might mean; It might be a God who hates alcohol, or who loves alcohol; it might be a God who would make every day Sunday so there would be sports on all the time — and that’s an interesting one, because that God would make a kind of local assembly you could really wrap your arms around. You’d wear that God’s Cheesehead, right? That’s a God who would be real. But if we look at Jesus, and we say he has something to do with God, we have to see that the God to whom Jesus points wanted Jesus to be crucified and therefore wants something which we cannot imagine on our own. What God sees are real, and necessary, we somehow can’t grasp on our own.

Which brings us back to what Peter was talking about 40 days after Jesus was crucified. “You killed him, and that’s what God wanted,” Peter said, “But God raised him up from the dead, and we are all witnesses to that fact. So you should know for certain that Jesus, whom you crucified, is both Lord and Christ!”

Whenever I say this to people, I know it sounds like crazy talk. I know it sounds like I’m saying something like, “Lex Luthor for President!” But the first reason it sounds that crazy is plain: the only way the demand to “know for certain” makes any sense at all is if Jesus is real the same way Barack Obama is real, or Oprah Winfrey is real, or that you are real. If Jesus is real, then we can talk about what He has done or what He requires. But that is actually the appeal Peter was making in the first place: Real Jesus was crucified, and now his tomb is really empty — and that changes everything! King David is dead, but Jesus is alive — and if Jesus is alive, ...

Peter is saying that this empty tomb changes the way we have to see the world.

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