Crazy Stuff

Now everything’s a little upside down
As a matter of fact the wheels have stopped
What’s good is bad, what’s bad is good
You’ll find out when you reach the top
You’re on the bottom

-Bob Dylan, Idiot Wind


I’ve been listening to a 36 part lecture series on the Emperors of Rome.

Man! It’s been an eye opener.

To become the Emperor of Rome was to reach the top of the ancient world’s social structure. And it was almost certain to guarantee what I can only describe as a miserable life of paranoia corrupted by decadence with an excellent chance of being murdered.

If anyone ever offers you the job of Emperor of Rome, my advice is to pass it up.

But as Tears for Fears sang in the 80’s, Everybody Wants To Rule The World.

Everybody Wants To Rule The World
Tears for Fears

Welcome to your life
There’s no turning back
Even while we sleep
We will find you
Acting on your best behavior
Turn your back on mother nature
Everybody wants to rule the world

It’s my own design
It’s my own remorse
Help me to decide
Help me make the most
Of freedom and of pleasure
Nothing ever lasts forever
Everybody wants to rule the world

There’s a room where the light won’t find you
Holding hands while the walls come tumbling down
When they do I’ll be right behind you

So glad we’ve almost made it
So sad they had to fake it
Everybody wants to rule the world
I can’t stand this indecision
Married with a lack of vision
Everybody wants to rule the world

Say that you’ll never never never need it
One headline why believe it?
Everybody wants to rule the world

All for freedom and for pleasure
Nothing ever lasts forever
Everybody wants to rule the world

So glad we’ve almost made it / So sad we have to fake it / Everybody wants to rule the world.

True, ain’t it!

Everybody wants to rule the world.

They want to claw their way to the top and be king of the hill.

But it’s king of a dung hill…and in the end it’s not worth it.

But it’s hard for us to believe that.

Because we’ve been told in 10,000 ways this is what life is about…

Climb to the top…no matter the cost.

But Jesus said something else.

He said it will cost you your soul and that to gain the whole world and lose your soul is not worth it.

Instead, Jesus said, lose your life for his sake and for the gospel’s sake and then you will find your life and save your soul.

Crazy stuff!

(You’ll find this crazy stuff in Matthew 16:24-26, Mark 8:34-37, Luke 9:23-25)

The only way this stuff doesn’t seem like crazy stuff is if you view it through religious glasses. But if you take off your religious glasses and read like it is, you will hear Jesus say crazy stuff. Crazy stuff like…

Die and you will live.
Lose and you will win.
Forsake it and you will find it.
The way up is down.
The top is the bottom.
The bottom is the top.

Read it like that and you’ll see that it really is crazy stuff.

Crazy enough to dismiss it as just a bunch of esoteric mumbo-jumbo and forget about it.


Jesus has a track record.
He’s never been wrong.
He even rose from the dead.

So here’s a crazy idea…

Maybe it’s not The Jesus Way that is the crazy stuff…

Maybe it’s The Emperor’s Way that is crazy and The Jesus Way that is sane.

(That will turn the Empire on its head!)

I guess it comes down to who you trust…

Nero or Jesus?

When Paul wrote his letter to the Romans, Nero was Lord, Son of God, Savior of the World…

Or so said the coinage of the day.

And even if you didn’t believe that, at least you acknowledged that Caesar was top dog, king of the hill and what everyone else wanted to be.

But Paul said something else…something crazy.

(So crazy that a few years later Nero would have Paul put to death for it.)

Paul said that Jesus is Lord, Son of God, Savior of the world…

And that Jesus came to this exalted position, not by clawing his way to the top, but by DYING AN IGNOBLE DEATH UPON A SHAMEFUL CROSS and trusting God to raise him from the dead.

Crazy stuff.

Crazy stuff that eventually turned the Roman Empire upside down…or shall we say right-side up?!

To the Roman Christians living in the middle of the first century with Caesar Nero on the throne (whose name had the numerical value of 666), Paul writes:

“A day of anger is coming when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. He will judge everyone according to what they have done. He will give eternal life to those who keep on doing good, seeking after the glory and honor and immortality that God offers. But he will pour out anger and wrath on those who live for themselves.” (Romans 2:5-8, NLT)

The expression “live for yourself” (the philosophy of Caesar and the world turned upside down by Jesus) is ek eritheia. We find this expression originally in the writings of Aristotle where it means, “electioneering or intriguing for office; to put one’s self forward.”

Ek eritheia
Live for yourself.

This is the way of Nero.
The way of the Roman Emperors.
The way of the high and mighty.
The Way of empire.
The way of the world.
The way of 666.
Then and now.

And it is this scheming and plotting and manipulating to advance our own interests that Paul says brings the anger of God in judgment.

It’s in laying down our life, abandoning our own interests and serving others that the resurrection reality of divine promotion, true happiness and eternal honor are found.

Crazy stuff.

But I choose to believe it.
I’m casting my lot with Jesus and not Nero.
The crazy way that Jesus brought and Paul taught.
Jesus, help me not only to believe it, but to live it!



There’s a lone soldier on the cross
Smoke pourin’ out of a boxcar door
You didn’t know it, you didn’t think it could be done
But in the final end he won the war
After losin’ every battle

-Bob Dylan, Idiot Wind