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Virtuous Ambiguity

• Greg Boyd

God can be ambiguous at times. We seek clarity during those times; however, it may not be readily given to us. In this sermon, Greg talks about how to respond to God’s ambiguity by going up to God, out to others, and in for fellowship.

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In the story of the road to Emmaus, Jesus is a little ambiguous to his two disciples. His disciples had just left Jerusalem, and they were distraught about the events that had happened. They knew Jesus had died and that his body was missing. However, when Jesus appeared and started walking with them, he kept his identity hidden. It was until they broke bread with Jesus that they understood who he was. And then he vanished!

Ambiguity is defined as something that is doubtful or uncertain, or capable of being understood in two or more possible ways. God uses ambiguity throughout history. Whenever there is ambiguity in the Bible, it is usually used by God to draw his people closer. Whenever his people can’t figure something out, God wants them to seek out God. He doesn’t usually hand them the answer, but rather brings them to a journey of discovering God.

There are several things that this passage in Luke tells us about ambiguity and how to respond to it. The first is that whether the ambiguity was caused by God or by themselves, the disciples were asked to reach up and seek out God. The second is that we find clarity by reaching out to others in service. The final lesson we see in this passage is to reach inwards and have fellowship.

The ambiguity in this passage is asking the disciples to reach up and seek God. Some of the ambiguity was the disciple’s faults, as they didn’t understand Jesus’ teachings. They thought that Jesus would redeem Israel, but they didn’t understand that would be done through his life, death, and resurrection. They also didn’t understand how Jesus’ body had disappeared, even though the women had told them what the angels said. This was due to their own stereotype about women not being reliable witnesses. However, some of the ambiguity was caused by Jesus not revealing who he was. All of the ambiguity was calling for the disciples to reach up and seek out God. God and Jesus wanted them to seek out the truth of the situation, instead of handing them the answers. Once the disciple’s saw Jesus breaking the bread, then they understood who he was and went back to Jerusalem.

We find clarity by reaching out and serving others. In this passage, the disciples invited Jesus to come eat with them. They understood that evening was coming on, and it would be unwise to let the traveler with them continue on. They decided to serve him by inviting him in to dine with them and stay the night. By inviting in and serving Jesus, they created an opportunity to see God revealed and become less ambiguous. We have that same opportunity today. In Matthew 25, Jesus states that his followers will be judged on whether they served the hungry, thirsty, and outcast people. When we serve others in our world, the ambiguous God reveals himself to us, and we begin to see more clearly how Jesus loved this world and what he would have us do in this world.

Finally, we respond to ambiguity by reaching in and inviting fellowship into our lives. The disciples invited Jesus into their home to eat with them and stay the night. In so doing, they invited in the opportunity for Jesus to reveal himself. If they had not invited Jesus in, they would have never broken bread with him and recognized Jesus. We also have the opportunity to invite others into our lives in order to gain clarity. Fellowship is inviting a few people into your life in order to help each grow and serve others. God uses others to grant clarity in ambiguous situations. When we gather together with others and have fellowship, whether it’s a bible study or a meal, we invite others to help reduce the ambiguity of how God is working in this world. We gain clarity from each other through God. By God’s design, spiritual growth comes through community with other followers of Jesus.

There is a lot of ambiguity in this world, whether it’s by divine design or human failure to understand and comprehend. We should react to this ambiguity by reaching up to God, out to others, and inwards in fellowship. In this way, we can gain clarity for the ambiguity in life.

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Topics: Blessings, God's Will, Presence of God, Role of Women


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Focus Scripture:

  • Luke 24:13-35

    Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles[a] from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.

    He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”

    They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?”

    “What things?” he asked.

    “About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.”

    He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ[b] have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

    As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

    When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

    They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

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7 thoughts on “Virtuous Ambiguity

    Ian says: Wednesday May 11, 2011 at 7:56 am

    This was really profound! Thanks, Greg!

    Reply
    Brother Kevin says: Friday May 13, 2011 at 10:46 pm

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! Of all that this message spoke, the one thing i appreciate Greg the most for sharing, was the truth that our present “act” of taking communion is little more than a symbol. Frankly, I am sickened by religious ritual. “Taking communion”, every 3rd sunday or whenever, has been solidified in the minds of church-goers as one of THE most spiritual things to do, when in fact the partakers are missing out completely on the revelation of the covenant aspect of sharing a meal together. “Do this…” in the verses means that every time we come together and eat we should use the time to reflect on what it means to be a follower of Christ and to be in covenant with Him and with each other. Seriously, I feel that we do the Kingdom of God injustice by reducing the true meaning to a religious practice. God help us.

    Reply
    Michelle says: Friday May 13, 2011 at 10:51 pm

    Thank you for teaching simplistic reality.

    Reply
    Valerie Gipe says: Sunday May 15, 2011 at 7:26 am

    God is so cool; how he aligns the issues I am learning about through various teachers at the same time in my life. I am reading a book called “Evolving in Monkey Town”, and it brings up issues like the ones Greg does in this sermon. Thank you Greg for always bringing clarity and truth to the hard questions in life! I was struggling for these exact answers, and I believe you’re so right….Jesus is so right!

    Reply
    Bill says: Sunday May 15, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    This message gave me heartburn, the good kind.

    Reply
    Brother Kevin says: Monday May 16, 2011 at 6:59 pm

    “They knew him in breaking of bread”. For at least three years Jesus’ followers had watched him as he TOOK bread, BLESSED it, BROKE it and then as He GAVE it. This act is a Kingdom principle; God TOOK Jesus, as He takes us for His purposes; then God BLESSED Jesus and us, He BROKE Jesus and He breaks us. These necessary steps are done IN ORDER so God can then GIVE Jesus to the world as well as give us to the world.
    This came to me as a truth and i do a flimsy job of conveying it. As this sermon began I so was hoping that Greg had preached this.

    Reply
    Ann says: Monday May 23, 2011 at 10:52 am

    Dear Greg! Thank you for talking about what I’ve been thinking about for such a long time. I’m struggling with the “why can’t I understand the word of God when it’s supposed to be simple?” question, and I’ve never heard anyone asking the same. I appreciate your honesty. I’m also grateful for the answer you gave. On one hand, it encouraged me to seek for more. But I still don’t see something: why are essential(!) questions so confused? I mean who cares eg whether the 6day creation is literal or not? But I do care whether I’m saved or will go to hell. Yet, nobody could gave me a straight answer concerning the conditions of being saved so far. I would love to hear another sermon on that! God bless you!

    Reply

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