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The Jesus Code (video sermon and manuscript)

Below you will find the manuscript and video for the sermon from May 3, 2015, preached at the Patterson Avenue Baptist Church, Richmond, VA.   You can also find an audio of this sermon by visiting the church website and subscribing to our podcast.

NOTE:  Much of this message was inspired by a sermon I read authored by William Willimon.  I can’t find the original document in my notes, but he does deserve credit for the basic thoughts and interpretation of the scripture.

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You can watch the video and/or read the manuscript below.

The Jesus Code – John 15:1-8

 

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

 

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

 

 

Have you heard the news?  Jesus fathered a love child.   At least that’s the rumor that’s been going around for the last several years.  I saw it first several years ago in a supermarket tabloid.  It was around the time that the movie adaptation of  Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code opened up on the big screen.

 

I didn’t see the movie in the theater.  When it came out on television, I tried to watch it.  I really TRIED.  Frankly, it was an incredibly boring movie.  I think I am better suited to movies starring Captain America, Thor, the Hulk, and Ironman.

 

Anyways, The Da Vinci Code was called:

 

A brainy thriller!

Exceedingly clever!

A gripping mix of murder and myth.

A spellbinding re-examination of 2,000 years of religious history.

 

The media was all abuzz by this adaptation to Dan Brown’s popular  New York Times best-selling novel.  It became a heated topic of conversations in book clubs and Bible studies around the world.  Brown’s book inspired a army of authors who cranked up their word processors and fired back with rebuttal books such as:

 

Da Vinci Code Decoded

The Truth Behind the Da Vinci Code

Secrets of the Code

Truth and Fiction in the Da Vinci Code Breaking the Da Vinci Code

Exploring the Da Vinci Code, and

Cracking Da Vinci’s Code.

 

Entire forests were cut down and milled into paper to satisfy our craving for books about the Code.

 

The movie version of The Da Vinci Code, starred Tom Hanks as a religious symbology expert name Robert Langdon.  The story begins with the murder of a historian at the Louvre in Paris, and the discovery of a chain of cryptic codes and puzzles.  At the heart of the mystery is a secret that goes back to Leonardo Da Vinci, and even earlier — to the days of Jesus Christ.

 

Langdon becomes a suspect in the murder of the historian, and is chased through the Louvre, across the city of Paris, and finally into England.  As he runs from the law, he searches for the true killer, as well as for the ancient secret that the historian was trying to protect.
The secret, which ignited a controversy across our country and around the world is this: Jesus was not the single, celibate man that most Christians assume he was.  Oh no, Jesus and Mary Magdalene had a child, and they began a bloodline that continues to the present day.

 

From time to time somebody digs up some artifact that mentions the name.  Christ’s given name, commonly Romanized as Yeshua, was quite common in first-century Galilee. Archaeologists have unearthed the tombs of 71 Yeshuas (or Jesus) from the period of Jesus’ death. Some of these tombs suggest that Yeshuas (or Jesus) Left behind a wife named Mary – also a common woman’s name in first-century Galille.

 

But that information is set aside so that Brown and his supporters can suggest the salacious and scandalous rumor of Jesus the Christ actually being married to Mary from the region of Magdala.  No wonder so many people were anxious to Crack, Break, Explore and Decode the Code!

 

The most fascinating suggestion in The Da Vinci Code involves the identity of the disciple seated at the right hand of Jesus in Da Vinci’s painting of the Last Supper.  Is the feminine-looking figure in this picture the disciple John — a youthful, clean-shaven man?  Or, as Dan Brown suggests, is this figure really Mary Magdalene, the follower of Jesus who would go on to be the first person to see the risen Christ?  The Da Vinci Code wants you to believe that the figure is Mary, and it encourages you to embrace the idea that she was not only a follower of Jesus, but also his wife.

 

If Jesus were married, it would not impact my faith or understanding of him as Messiah one little bit.  Most Rabbi’s of Jesus day were, in fact, married.  Still, there is no case for it in scripture.  I think that would have been biblical news, if true.  So I seriously doubt Jesus and Mary were married.   Since Brown can’t justify that claim with scripture, he turns to Medieval art, specifically Da Vinci’s Last Supper.  That person in the picture is not John, but Mary.  To add further to the scandal, notice that in the picture there is no chalice or Holy Grail on the table.  According to Brown’s Da Vinci Code, the Holy Grail was not the wine-filled cup that Jesus used at the Last Supper.  Rather the Grail is actually Mary Magdalene herself, because she was the vessel that carried the child of Jesus.

 

So John is not John — he’s Mary.  And Mary is in fact the Holy Grail.

 

This sort of has the feeling of Entertainment Tonight.  Just sharing this with you makes me feel a bit like the guy from  Ripley’s:  “Believe it … or not.”

 

The Da Vinci Code raises a number of provocative questions about a number of subjects, but it fails to make a convincing case for most of its answers.  Take, for example, the claim that the disciple John certainly does look feminine in Da Vinci’s Last Supper.  Brown ignores the fact that such representations were typical for the time.  In addition, the absence of the Holy Grail does not make a case for Mary Magdalene as a human vessel.  Da Vinci based his painting on the gospel of John, and John’s story of the Last Supper does not include a cup.  In John story, the focus is on washing feet, not drinking wine.

 

So, did Jesus have a love child.  No in the sense that Brown wants us to believe.  But when you look at the scripture, there is some suggestion that we share in the life and lineage of Jesus himself.  In today’s reading of Scripture, we learn that Jesus is the True Vine, and that every one of us is a sign of his fruitfulness.

 

To be connected and a descendant of the life of Jesus the Christ has nothing to do with any sort of scandalous relationship between Jesus and Mary.  Rather it has everything to do with being a productive branch on the Jesus Vine.

 

Jesus did have a love child.  No doubt.  Love children, actually.  In fact, all of us gathered today in this hall for worship are descendants of Jesus very life.

Jesus has man love children.

 

She is sitting in the choir.

 

He is sitting in the back corner, slouching in his seat.

 

She’s over in the corner, worried about paying her bills.

 

He’s sitting over her, unable to hear what I am saying.

 

The fact is that each of us who have confessed faith in Jesus Christ are love children of Jesus.  We have direct link to the True Vine.  This is an ancient and awesome secret, one that has been hidden by the church for far too long.

 

This is “the Jesus Code.”

 

So what is it like to be part of this family tree?

 

If you are a branch on the Jesus Vine, you are productive because you are rooted in Jesus.  Just as a tree cannot thrive without a root system that extends deep into the soil, none of us can reach our potential without a strong connection to the Son of God.

 

Jesus is the one who keeps us from being blown away by the storms of job loss and personal failure and family conflict.

Jesus is the one who becomes for us a solid rock when we are hurting with grief and bold over with sorrow.

 

Jesus is the one who offers us “living water” when we are feeling dried out and lifeless.

 

Jesus is the one who nourishes us with his teachings when we are wandering aimlessly along a dangerous path.

 

Jesus is the one whose presence is our power, whose energy is our strength, who becomes for the resurrection, way, truth, and life.

 

Jesus is the one who supports us when we fall, forgives us when we sin, and who gives us his life when we feel dead on the inside.

 

Our rootedness in Jesus is what gives us the ability to be truly productive, because no good can come from a branch that is broken, dried out, fallen or dead.

 

Jesus teaches us to stay aware of this connection, “because apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

 

At the same time, branches on the Jesus Vine know that it is better to bunch together than to stand alone.  The Vine is always healthiest when its branches grow together instead of shooting off in a thousand different directions.

 

Brilliant loners like Robert Langdon may serve as dashing heroes in novels like The Da Vinci Code, but they don’t make much of a contribution to a community that is trying to bring good news to the poor, release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind (Luke 4:18).

 

To do the work of Christ requires commitment and coordination, not occasional flashes of brilliance and daring individual efforts.  To be true disciples, we are learning daily the art and passion of loving one another, just as Jesus has loved us (John 15:12).

 

As we stick together, reminded daily that we are connected to Christ by the Father’s love and grace, Jesus says we will “bear much fruit and become (his) disciples” (John 15:8).  Discipleship is always a team sport, not individual activity.

 

As our lives are life out of this connection, from God not for God, the end result is that we will be productive.  That’s one of the challenges for us, isn’t it?  We spend a great deal of time trying to live for God out of our strength and resource.  But what we do never seems to be enough.  So we rededicate our lives, redouble our efforts, try harder and work more, yet it never seems to be enough.  We only end up more and more frustrated and discouraged.  The scripture tells us why this is so.  John writes that apart from Jesus, we can do NOTHING.

The branch of Jesus that we call “The Patterson Avenue Baptist Church” is united not by our efforts, not by our commitments, not by our devotion, not by our rituals…not by anything we say or do.  We are united by God’s love.  We are united in the life that flows from Jesus.  When we forget that, we forget our resource and strength.

 

We are mistaken if we think that what gets us where we need to be is our personal effort and the use of our gifts (be they spiritual gifts or otherwise). Yes, the Bible speak about the truly wondrous variety of gifts that we are given by God.  But keep in mind that this diversity of talents are given by God to us, not by us to God.  And they are given that we might be fruitful.

 

If we fail to realize that we are called to bear fruit.  If we fail to remember that we live from God’s resource of grace, then we get in the way of what God is doing.  John has a not so subtle warning about that in our text as well.  John writes that  God removes every branch “that bears no fruit” (John 15:2).  So again, the reminder comes that life flows as we abide in him.  Failing to abide means that we are set aside “like a branch (that) withers” (v. 6).

 

Jesus says that our focus should be on fruitfulness.  We are here to produce a return.  Jesus said:  “I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last” (v. 16).

 

Jesus has a love child!

 

That’s an amazing claim – and it is absolutely true.  Not in the way that Dan Brown asserts in his fictional novel.

 

Jesus has a love child.

 

Actually, He has MANY love children.  All of those who trust in His grace to redeem them from sin have become loved children of Jesus.  We are the branches.

 

So here are the lessons for us today.

 

Remember that you are connected to Jesus.  He is the vine – the source of our very lives.

 

Stick together in the community of faith.  Don’t take off on an isolated, individualistic mission from God.

 

Stay focused on being productive.  Center on fruitfulness.

 

That’s the Jesus Code.  Nothing secret about it.

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