Monthly Archives: February 2013

The Vibe of the Sermon on the Mount

The Sermon on the Mount is where Jesus lays down the basic vibes of Christianity. It’s pretty much a church service on a hill attended by a crowd of thousands and a perfect media opportunity to spell out some home truths to the great and the good who have come to listen.

It’s an upside down vibe – the weak will be strong, the poor rich and the persecuted will be happy. Christians are to be salt and light to the world and Jesus tells them to stick to the Ten Commandments and adds a few more vibes of his own. Anger is bad, so is lust and we should think twice before divorce. We are told to turn the other cheek if someone hits us, to love our enemies and not to be showy about giving to charity. We should pray privately and quietly and do any fasting in secret, not in public. We should store up treasure in Heaven through the good things we do rather than stockpile cash on Earth. Our eyes are the window of our souls so we should be careful what they see and we can’t worship both money and God. God will look after us if we trust him and we shouldn’t worry. We shouldn’t judge others and we should treat people how we’d like to be treated ourselves. We should be wary of people who pretend to follow God but who are fakes and we should build our lives on the rock of faith. The vibe is sensational and the impact is enormous. Jesus isn’t teaching the law; he is the law, the vibe of which is huge.

General vibe: Live like this.

Factvibe: When Jesus tells people to turn the other cheek, he is probably referring to getting whacked in the face by a Roman. Hitting back would lead to death, looking down is too submissive, turning the cheek is defiant.

Salt good. Light good. Vibe good.

Salt good. Light good. Vibe good.

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The Vibe of the Prodigal Son

The Prodigal Son is a rich kid who asks for his inheritance early then spends it all on a brief but heady life of nonstop partying. So far, so good. However, there is no welfare state to look after people when things go bad so when the money runs out, he is left with a dilemma – go back to dad with his tail between his legs or get a job. Unhappily for him, there is a famine and the only job he can find is looking after some pigs. The pig herding vibe is the most taboo job a Jew can do and to make things worse, our hero is so down and out he resorts to eating the food the pigs can’t manage.

Finally, the boy has a moment of clarity and realises that even his dad’s servants have a better lifestyle than a starving pig herder so he decides to go home, beg forgiveness and see if he can get a job on the old man’s farm. Dad sees him coming from a long way off and not only welcomes him with open arms, he arranges for the calf he’s been fattening for a special occasion to be killed for a celebration meal. The brother who stayed home is rightly livid, but dad buddies up to him and reassures him that he will still receive everything the old man owns. He reminds the boy that he thought his other son was dead and his joy is because the lad has come home. The underlying vibe of the story – and the reason Jesus tells it – is to show that God doesn’t care how bad a person has been, anyone who is genuinely sorry for their past behavior will get a warm welcome. Big, happy, champagne cork popping, bear hug vibes.

General vibe: Everyone deserves a second chance.

Factvibe: Charles Dickens called the Prodigal Son the best short story ever told.

A great vibe for the family, less good for the baby cow.

A great vibe for the family, less good for the baby cow.

The Vibe of the Good Samaritan

Jesus throws this vibe into the conversation when a lawyer asks him what ‘love your neighbour’ means. He wants to know who his neighbour is and Jesus rattles off the tale of a man who is violently assaulted, robbed and left for dead by the roadside. A couple of Jewish priests who pass by actually cross the road rather than get involved but finally, a man from Samaria comes along and saves the day. He tends to the traveller’s wounds, packs him on his own donkey and pays for his accommodation at a hotel. He even leaves a forwarding address for the hotel owner to send a bill to if the patient racks up any more expenses.

The vibe is a bold one – Jesus is not only telling us that we are all neighbours to each other, regardless of where we are from, he is suggesting that the Jewish priesthood is so rotten that they have better things to do that to save a man’s life. He is also saying that Jews don’t have the monopoly on being kind hearted – the Samaritan man not only isn’t Jewish, the Jews in Judea hated the neighbouring Samaritans. This is a clever way of saying that one day, God’s vibe will be for everyone, not just the Jews. A compassionate, practical, helpful, humane ‘I’ll sort this out’ vibe with a sting in the tail.

General vibe: There’s no monopoly on goodness.

Factvibe: The Samaritans believed in the same God as the Jews, their mutual hatred was purely racial.

"This one's on me" - the vibe of the Good Samaritan

“This one’s on me” – the vibe of the Good Samaritan


 

The Vibe of the Parables

The Parables are zappy little stories made up on the spur of the moment and delivered with the vibe of great timing by Jesus. Their purpose is to explain a vibe which what Jesus describes as ‘The Kingdom of Heaven’. Often they have a moral, such as God never gives up, or everyone is special to God. They are one-minute crowd pleasers that help Jesus make a point to his disciples or to the crowds that have gathered. A waster son is welcomed back with open arms, a widow finds a lost coin and throws a party, a hated foreigner helps a wounded man when his own people have passed him by.

The vibe is simple and clear – God loves those who love him back, he respects wisdom and his door is always open. The flipside is that if people have better things to do than love God, they won’t be able to join the party. Sharp shooting, pithy, creative vibes and lots of them.

General vibe: God is a bit like this…

Factvibe: The Parables are the only vibes in the Bible that everyone agrees are fiction.

Prize winning short story vibes a-plenty

Prize winning short story vibes a-plenty

The Vibe of Peter

Peter starts out as Simon the fisherman and has a blue collar, working class, blokey vibe about him. After Jesus helps him land a monster catch of fish, he drops what he is doing to become the first of the twelve followers who will become known as the Disciples.

Simon is the first Disciple to believe that Jesus is the Son of God and Jesus rewards his insight by calling him Peter, which roughly translates as ‘rock’. Despite following Jesus everywhere and being present when his leader heals the sick and raises the dead to life, the rock has some decidedly wobbly moments. After seeing Jesus walking on the surface of the Sea of Galilee, he has a go himself before the human vibe takes over and he has to be rescued by Jesus. Peter refuses to believe his leader is going to die and while Jesus is being questioned by the Jewish top brass, he denies even knowing him. A miserable, self-loathing low point.

After Jesus has been executed though, Peter’s vibe changes. He has returned to his day job when Jesus pays him a visit and fills his nets with fish again. There is a joyful ‘he really is back’ vibe and Jesus tells Peter to look after his people. Peter and the others roll their sleeves up and get stuck in, spreading the message of God’s love and forgiveness to anyone who will listen. Thanks to the Holy Spirit, they are able to speak numerous foreign languages and heal people too. Peter kick starts the campaign with a pretty beefy open-air sermon in Jerusalem before setting up some of the first churches with the help of Paul.

Later on, Peter writes a couple of letters warning followers of Jesus to stick to the text and not embellish it and he probably dies a horrible death at the hands of Emperor Nero in around 60AD. An honest, human, workaday vibe.

General vibe: Jesus’ right hand man.

Factvibe: Peter was also the first Pope.

Peter: workmanlike, get things done vibes

Peter: workmanlike, get things done vibes

The Vibe of the Disciples

The disciples are twelve ordinary working blokes who come across Jesus during the early days of his teaching. They’re a mixed bunch of fishermen, manual workers and the odd professional and also answer to the name ‘Apostles’. They never quite get the vibe of Jesus even though they hang out with him the whole time. They shoo children away, turn back the sick and throw constant vibes of doubt at Jesus. When the crunch comes, they pretty much fall apart. Judas actually shops Jesus to the authorities, the rest of the disciples fall asleep while Jesus is on trial, Peter denies ever knowing him and when Jesus comes back from the dead as promised, Thomas point blank refuses to believe it.

However, the vibe gets a bit more together once Jesus is dead – after he reappears, Jesus opens the Disciples’ minds to the meaning of all the Old Testament prophesies. From now on, they work more as a team and start organising the first churches. Matthew and John write their Gospels and Peter and James write letters. The Disciples start out as a bunch of nobodies but, thanks to the vibes gleaned from spending three years in close contact with Jesus, they end their days as heroes. Apart from Judas, but eleven out of twelve isn’t bad. A majority of winning vibes.

General vibe: Team Jesus.

Factvibe: Three of the Disciples have such a weak vibe they only get a name check in the Bible. The forgotten three are Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot and James the Younger.

The vibe of the Disciples in a tshirt

The vibe of the Disciples in a tshirt

The Vibe of the Miracles

There’s no way around it, the miracles are the ‘whoa what just happened?’ moments where everyone’s looking around for hidden cameras and other trickery. But with Jesus the vibe is real. He uses miracles to show people that he is who he says he is. If that means turning water into wine at a wedding, making a crazy man sane or bringing a dead child back to life, he’ll do it. People are amazed at seeing the supernatural at work and it makes it easier for them to believe in God. It’s also easier for them to have faith when they’ve seen a man turn five loaves and two fishes into a meal for a large crowd or a crippled man walk again.

The miracles also give Jesus a superstar vibe – wherever he goes he is surrounded by crowds of thousands who want to get a glimpse of his miracle healings at work. And they’re not disappointed. The vibe grows until they are convinced that Jesus is the great Messiah who will defeat their Roman overlords – one miracle Jesus doesn’t get involved with. Instead his final ‘whoa!’ comes three days after his death when he comes back to life and leaves his spirit to take care of business here on Earth. He passes on the miracle vibe to his Disciples who carry on creating a stir by healing the sick. Vibes of power.

General vibe: Did he just do that?

Factvibe: Jesus wasn’t the Bible’s only miracle worker; Moses, Elijah and Elisha all stun the crowds with some ‘surely that’s impossible?’ moments of their own.

This would have been a common sight when Jesus was in town

This would have been a common sight when Jesus was in town

The Vibe of the Temptation

Jesus has just left John the Baptist by the River Jordan and he is getting ready to present God to the world in the way people have never seen God presented. Beforehand, however, he needs time to prepare and disappears into some nearby desert without food for forty days. While he is here, the Devil shows up and, sensing that the lack of food and company might have made Jesus’ resolve weak, decides to tempt him.

Firstly he plays on the hunger vibe and suggests Jesus turn stones into bread. Because if he’s God, he can do anything, right? Jesus tells the Devil that we need more than just bread to keep us going. Next the Devil takes Jesus to a high part of the Temple and tells him to jump off because he’s the Son of God and the angels will catch him. ‘Don’t test God’ says Jesus and it’s two to God and none to the powers of darkness. Finally the Devil takes Jesus to the top of a mountain and offers him all the real estate he can see. The only catch is that Jesus has to worship the Devil, not God. Jesus knows his Ten Commandments and reminds the Devil of Commandment number one – worship God and only God. Thwarted, the Devil wanders off to find easier victims and the vibe is a triumphant three nil win for Jesus.

General vibe: Good beats evil.

Factvibe: Unsurprisingly, the vibe: ‘Get thee behind me Satan’ comes from the Temptation story.

Even the vibes of prime real estate couldn't tempt Jesus

Even the vibes of prime real estate couldn’t tempt Jesus