Christianity 201

February 15, 2018

Seeing Jesus: Time to Clean Our Glasses?

The effect of seeing Jesus clearly makes a dramatic difference and clears up partial misunderstandings or complete misunderstandings as to who he is and why he came.

by Clarke Dixon

Reading through the Gospel of Mark you may notice a reticence on the part of Jesus to fully reveal his identity. For example:

27 Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” 28 And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” 29 He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” 30 And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him. Mark 8:27-30 (emphasis added)

Peter gets it right, Jesus is the Messiah! But the disciples are to keep that fact to themselves. We also see the reticence of Jesus to reveal his identity at his “transfiguration” on the mountain. There Jesus’ identity is made even more clear:

2 Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, 3 and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. 4 And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. . . 7 Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” 8 Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus. Mark 9:2-4;7,8

Jesus here is confirmed as being more than just the promised Messiah. He is also in some way superior to the law, as represented by Moses, and the prophets, as represented by Elijah. You can imagine the excitement of Peter, James, and John who I’m sure couldn’t wait to tell the others about what they had just seen! But then . . .

9 As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead could mean. Mark 9:9-10 (emphasis added)

Why the secrecy? Why didn’t Jesus just tell everyone who he really was on the first day of his ministry? The reason is quite straightforward. Jesus kept his identity quiet because partial understanding can lead to misunderstanding. People had a partial understanding of what to expect from the coming Messiah. Such a partial understanding of the Messiah could quickly turn into misunderstandings about Jesus.

It may have escaped our notice, but is surprising nonetheless, that “Messiah” was not at the top of the list for the identity of Jesus in the mind of the public. Let us read again:

27 [Jesus] asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” 28 And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” Mark 8:27,28

While Peter gets it correct, “the Messiah” was not even on the list for people generally, never mind at the top. Why? Because in expecting the Messiah, the people were expecting something different than Jesus. They were expecting a focus on the Kingdom of Israel along with a message of doom for the Romans. Jesus was instead teaching about the Kingdom of God along with a message of repentance for Israel.

Even Peter, immediately following his confession of Jesus as the Messiah, displays this partial understanding:

Mark 8:31-33 (NRSV) 31 Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

Peter is thinking on human things, like the Kingdom of Israel and taking back the land from the Romans. A suffering then dead Messiah is not going to help with that! If Peter is going to misunderstand Jesus’ role as Messiah, everyone else is too.  Jesus immediately tells the people to “deny themselves and take up their cross and follow” (v.34) The Messiah was expected to tell them to “pick up the sword and follow”.  A cross meant death by Romans rather than death to Romans. What kind of Messiah would lead us toward our deaths?! Only following the resurrection of Jesus would it all start to make sense.

Since a partial understanding of the Messiah would lead to terrible misunderstandings about Jesus, he keeps quiet publicly about his identity until less than a week before his death.

So what does this have to do with us today? Most people you rub shoulders with know something about Jesus. However, it may be a partial understanding, which can lead to a misunderstanding. Let us consider a few examples:

Partial understanding: Jesus was a great teacher. True!
Misunderstanding: We should only go to Jesus for wisdom.
Full understanding: Jesus is also God the Son, the Saviour. We go to him not just for wisdom, but for salvation.

Partial understanding: Jesus was a prophet. True!
Misunderstanding: Jesus was just one prophet among many.
Full understanding: Jesus is also God the Son, unique in his teaching, his miracles, his claims. He is the only one who could reconcile us to God, and the only one who did.

Partial understanding: Jesus was a man. True!
Misunderstanding: Jesus was only a man.
Full understanding: Jesus is fully man, but also fully God.

Partial understanding: Through Jesus we are saved from hell, from separation from God. True!
Misunderstanding: Salvation from hell is all we need to think about, care about, or sing about.
Full understanding: We are not just saved from the consequence of sin; separation from God, we are also saved from its power as we walk in the Spirit.

This last one is an insight from John Stonestreet and Brett Kunckle in their book A Practical Guide to Culture.
Partial understanding: In Jesus we are “saved from . . . “ True!
Misunderstanding: Now that we have been saved from something, there is nothing for us to do.
Full understanding: We are also “saved for”. We are saved for for relationship with God, and for good works in our relationship with the world and everyone in it.

Do we allow a partial understanding of Jesus lead to misunderstanding? Do we see clearly who Jesus is? Perhaps it is time to clean our glasses.

(All Scripture references are taken from the NRSV)

The full sermon can be heard here.

See other sermons in this series at Clarke’s blog; look for entries in January and February, 2018

February 8, 2018

Who Then is This Jesus?

by Clarke Dixon

And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” Mark 4:41

When Jesus stills the storm, the first question of the disciples was not “could this be the a prophet?” or “could this be the promised Messiah?” What had just happened was completely beyond what was expected from either a prophet or the Messiah. It was not just that the wind suddenly died down, which could be chalked up to coincidence, but that the sea went into a “dead calm” (Mark 4:39). The sea does not respond to a drop in wind in that way. Who simply speaks and nature responds? Well there is Genesis 1 which is our first clue.

The question “who then is this?” is one that reverberates throughout the Gospel of Mark, including the passages that follow in Mark chapters 5 and 6.

Who then is this in 5:1-20 when Jesus casts out a legion of demons?

2 And when he had stepped out of the boat, immediately a man out of the tombs with an unclean spirit met him. 3 He lived among the tombs; and no one could restrain him any more, even with a chain; 4 for he had often been restrained with shackles and chains, but the chains he wrenched apart, and the shackles he broke in pieces; and no one had the strength to subdue him. Mark 5:2-4 (emphasis added)

No one could ever subdue this man, and no chain could ever restrain him. Jesus does something far better than just subdue him. He frees the man. Who then is this who can do far beyond what anyone else only hoped to do?

Who then is this in 5:21-43 when a girl is raised from the dead?

41 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” 42 And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. Mark 5:41-42

Who can restore to life except the One who gives life in the first place?

Who then is this in 6:7-13 when Jesus sends out the disciples?

He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. Mark 6:7

It is amazing enough that Jesus has authority over unclean spirits. It is even more amazing that Jesus can give authority to others also. Who then is this who has even the authority to grant authority?

Who then is this in 6:30-44 when Jesus feeds five thousand people with five loaves and two fish?

32 And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. 33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. Mark 6:32-33 (emphasis added)

The fact that Jesus will provide for such a great people in the wilderness takes us back to God’s provision of manna in the wilderness following the Exodus from Egypt. Who then is this who is acting out a scene from Israel’s story of being rescued by God?

As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. Mark 6:34 (emphasis added)

This brings to mind another chapter from the history of God’s people. In Ezekiel 34 God points out the failure of Israel’s leaders to shepherd the people. He has a plan to correct this:

14 I will feed them with good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel shall be their pasture; there they shall lie down in good grazing land, and they shall feed on rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. 15 I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord God. Ezekiel 34:14-15 (emphasis added)

Who then is this who shows himself to be the good shepherd?

38 And he said to them, “How many loaves have you? Go and see.” When they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” 39 Then he ordered them to get all the people to sit down in groups on the green grass. Mark 6:38-39 (emphasis added)

Here we have another reference to the Old Testament:

1 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures . . . Psalm 23:1,2 (emphasis added)

Not only can the 5,000 relate to “I shall not be lacking” thanks to Jesus, but we should not miss the reference to being made to sit down on green grass. Who then is this who reflects Psalm 23?

Who then is this in 6:45-52 when Jesus walks on water? There is a rather odd moment with this miracle:

When he saw that they were straining at the oars against an adverse wind, he came towards them early in the morning, walking on the sea. He intended to pass them by. Mark 6:48 (emphasis added)

Though Jesus sees the disciples struggling, he intends to “pass them by”. That may seem quite un-Jesus like. However, I recently heard an insight from a Jewish scholar who saw the connection with the Old Testament. Moses had asked to see God’s glory but because of the holiness of God and the sinfulness of Moses, God protected Moses, then

The Lord passed before him, and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness . . . Exodus 34:6 (emphasis mine)

Who then is this who recalls how God passed by Moses at Mount Sinai in Exodus chapters 33 and 34? There is another point of contact with Moses:

49 But when they saw him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and cried out; 50 for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” Mark 6:49-50

While it is difficult to see in the English, in the Greek is as plain as day. Jesus in calling out to the disciples says more literally, “Take heart. I am. Do not be afraid”. The “I am” reflects the identity of God:

God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I am has sent me to you.’ ” Exodus 3:14

“I Am” sent Moses. “I Am” is present in Jesus. Who then is this who reflects the identity of God?

Mark answers the question “who is Jesus” all the way through his Gospel. Jesus himself is the answer to the question “Who is God?”. He is the One Who calms the storms, Who destroys the demons, Who raises the dead, Who shepherds and provides, Who comes to us by the cross and says “Take heart, I Am, be not afraid”.

(All Scripture references are taken from the NRSV)

Read more in the Gospel of Mark series at Clarke’s blog

February 17, 2016

Who is Jesus?

The Gospel of Mark and the Essential Question

•••by Clarke Dixon

(click the above title to read at source)

Who is Jesus? Your answer to that has huge implications for how you will live your life, and all the decisions, both big and little, you make along the way. It will also have an effect on what comes next after this life, but more on that later. For now as we dig into the Gospels of the New Testament we want to recognize the central question of the gospel of Mark. Who is Jesus? This question of identity is fundamental to Mark’s Gospel. In a Facebook challenge last year I was asked to list my favorite scriptures over the space of ten days. On one day I listed the entire Gospel of Mark as a favorite scripture passage, for while we tend to read the Bible in small chunks, the whole of Mark belongs together. It is the shortest of the Gospels and as such gives us “the Essential Jesus.”

The Essential JesusBut how does Mark even know who Jesus is? Why should we listen? The Christian believers among us will appeal to his writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. But there are reasons even the unbeliever should pay attention to what Mark has to say. From the writings of early church fathers we have good reason to recognize Mark as John Mark mentioned in the New Testament, and as a companion to Peter the disciple. Mark is said to have brought together his Gospel based on the preaching of Peter. Therefore what we have in Mark is not something cooked up a century after the facts, but an account based on eyewitness testimony. So the question is therefore not even, “who is Jesus according to Mark,” it is “who is Jesus according to people who were there and knew him?”

So who is Jesus according to the eyewitnesses? What are the earliest conclusions drawn about the identity of Jesus? Let’s look and see some examples of how the Gospel of Mark spells this out:

1 The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
2 As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;
3 the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’” (Mark 1:1-3)

Straight off we are made aware of Jesus being the Son of God, but even more profound is the reference to a prophecy from Isaiah 40:3. John the Baptist in just a few verses says “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals.” (Mark 1:7) The inference from Isaiah 40 is that Jesus is not merely a prophet, nor merely even the Messiah, but rather God Himself. Isaiah 40:3 explicitly refers to God by name. Furthermore, who can baptize with the Holy Spirit but God Himself? “I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” (Mark 1:8)

Next is a voice at the baptism of Jesus: “And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:11)

Next is an unclean Spirit: “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God” (Mark 1:24)

Next is the questioning of the religious leaders: “Why does this fellow speak in this way? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone” (Mark 2:7) And then a miracle by Jesus to show that he can back up his authority to forgive with authority to heal.

Next are the reports of what people are concluding about Jesus:

When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” 22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons. (Mark 3:21-22)

Next is the questioning of the disciples at the stilling of a storm: “And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’”(Mark 4:41 NRSV)

Next is the confession of a man possessed by a legion of demons: “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” (Mark 5:7 NRSV)

By now I am sure you are getting the point of how Mark time and again brings us back to consider the identity of Jesus. Next up is an important confession right in the middle of the Gospel:

27 Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” 28 And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” 29 He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” 30 And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him. (Mark 8:27-30)

There are other examples from the following chapters but let us skip forward to what happens following Jesus’ arrest:

Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”
62 Jesus said, “I am; and
‘you will see the Son of Man
seated at the right hand of the Power,’
and ‘coming with the clouds of heaven. ’”
63 Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “Why do we still need witnesses? 64 You have heard his blasphemy
(Mark 14:61-64 NRSV)

Here Jesus is speaking of his own identity and is pointing to himself as the fulfillment of the prophecy of Daniel 7 where the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of God’s Messiah who will reign forever.

And finally, we have the identity of Jesus spoken of by the Roman centurion: “Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, ‘Truly this man was God’s Son!’” (Mark 15:39) The fact should not be lost on us that the centurion stood for the authority of Rome and that he ultimately took his orders from the emperor. But here he witnesses the death of One greater than the emperor.

So why does it all matter? Why does Mark have us wrestle with the question “who is Jesus?” Let us go back to the beginning: “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” (Mark 1:1) Jesus was good news to all who met him. You could see that among those who experienced the wisdom of his teaching, and of course the benefits of his miracles. But that good news points us to an even Better News. Early in the book Mark gives us a summary statement of what Jesus was doing:

14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” (Mark 1:14-15)

While being healed is good news, being offered a vital connection with God is Good News. God has come to us, which normally should be a terrifying event for sinners like us. But instead of coming to condemn, He has come to forgive and offer salvation. The Kingdom is coming and the Good News is that though we deserve to be rounded up as enemies of the Kingdom, we are welcome instead to be a part of it. Repentance is the way of accepting this offer.

Having considered the first verse, let us now look to the last. According to most Bible scholars Mark has an unusual ending at Mark 16:8 where we find the response of the women to the empty tomb: “So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” (Mark 16:8 NRSV) Yes, there are other verses following this one in most Bibles, but if you follow the footnotes you will see that they are probably added later. Many a snake handler in certain churches would have been been wise to check the footnotes and have some respect for Biblical scholarship.

So why does Mark end his account with fear? Actually it is better to say that he does not end his account at all, but rather leaves the ending quite open. Will the women be filled with terror so that they will never speak up about Jesus? Or will they recognize that the death and resurrection is evidence of really good news? The point is, once you grasp the identity of Jesus, and the gravity of that identification, then it is up to you whether the Gospel ends with fear or rejoicing. If Jesus were to return tonight would that be good news to you? Your answer to that will depend on your response to Mark’s question: “who is Jesus?”

August 3, 2014

Testimonies to Christ’s Sinlessness

Today we want to introduce you to, and give you a sample of another website just discovered: WayOfLife.org and the ministry of Way of Life Literature.  More information is shown at the bottom of today’s devotional.  Click the title to read at source, and then take a few minutes from there to look around the rest of the site. (Note: Scripture references are KJV, but if you are struggling with them, copy/paste the references into BibleHub, BibleStudyTools, or BibleGateway.)

Testimonies of Christ’s Sinlessness

Two thousand years ago a man walked this earth who was like no other man who. His birthplace was a stable in the tiny town of Bethlehem in Israel. He lived on this earth for about 33 years and was crucified by the Roman government as a criminal. He life was under the microscope of human observation. He did not live in secret. His ministry was public, and his every word and deed was examined by those who lived at that time. And the record of His life has been examined by the world ever since. No man has been as intensely examined as Jesus of Nazareth.

Before His death Jesus issued an amazing challenge that has never been answered, a challenge that only an insane or a sinless man could offer. He said, “Which of you convinceth me of sin” (John 8:46). The word “convince” means to bring an accusation that can be proven, a charge that can stand.

Though He was accused of wrongdoing by those who hated him, the accusations were blatant and obvious lies. The Roman governor himself said that Jesus was innocent of all charges. He wasn’t crucified because of any sin He had committed. He was crucified because of the jealously of false Jewish teachers and the idolatry of the Roman Empire with its Caesar worship. But far more than that, He was crucified because He came to “seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). He came as the Son of God to make atonement for man’s sins so that men might be reconciled to God.

The fact of Jesus’ sinlessness proves that He was the Son of God. Every man since Adam has been a sinner by nature, by thought, and by deed. Children don’t have to be taught how to sin. We don’t need schools to educate children in how to lie and cheat and dishonor their parents and disobey authority.

I believe that the Bible is the Word of God for many reasons, and one of those is that what it says rings true to what can be observed in life. The Bible says, for example, that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). I can observe that in my own life, and I can see it everywhere in the world today and everywhere in human history.

Everywhere except in Jesus.

Following are some of the testimonies to Jesus’ sinlessness:

The testimony of PilatePilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all. (Joh 18:38). See also John 19:4, 6.When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it. (Mt 27:24)

The testimony of Pilate’s wife

When he was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him. (Mt 27:19)

The testimony of the thief on the cross

But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. (Lu 23:40-41)

The testimony of the centurion

Now when the centurion saw what was done, he glorified God, saying, Certainly this was a righteous man (Lu 23:47)

And when the centurion, which stood over against him, saw that he so cried out, and gave up the ghost, he said, Truly this man was the Son of God. (Mr 15:39)

The testimony of the apostle Paul

For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. (2Co 5:21)

The testimony of the apostle Peter

Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: (1Pe 2:22)

The testimony of the apostle John

And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. (1Jo 3:5)

The testimony of God the Father

While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him. (Mt 17:5)

_____

About Way of Life – The name “Way of Life” is from Proverbs 6:23: “For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life.” The biblical instruction that molds men to God’s will requires reproof. It is not strictly positive. It does not focus on man’s “self-esteem.” It does not avoid controversial or unpopular subjects. It warns as well as comforts. It deals with sin and false teaching in a plain manner. It is reproves, rebukes, exhorts with all longsuffering and doctrine (2 Tim. 4:2). This is what we seek to do through Way of Life Literature. The Way of Life preaching and publishing ministry based in Bethel Baptist Church, London, Ontario, of which Wilbert Unger is the founding Pastor. A mail stop is maintained in Port Huron, Michigan.

March 28, 2014

Did Jesus Experience Spiritual Formation?

Nearly two weeks ago, we asked the question, Was Jesus Ever The Recipient of Grace? The purpose of that question, and the one today is not to go off on tangents or formulate some weird doctrine, but simply to get us thinking about the implications of certain scriptures.

Spiritual formation is a term that some find particularly upsetting; probably because the term went into widespread use with a particular movement they object to, The Emergent Church. But the term spiritual growth — or it’s aim, spiritual maturity — has been around much longer and means the same thing. In a familiar passage we learn that,

Luke 2:52 …Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. (NIV)

The purpose of this sentence is to provide narrative structure linking a passage showing Jesus in the temple at age twelve — Luke is the only gospel writer to include this — and the beginning of his ministry in chapter 3.

But in Hebrews, the King James introduces the idea of Christ being ‘perfected by his sufferings.’

Hebrews 2:10 For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.

I can hear some of you asking, “Wait a minute! He was already perfect wasn’t he?”

Yesterday, someone suggested to me that this is analogous to the rest of us being formed and shaped through testing, trials and tribulations. But was this true of Jesus? If so, is this referring to unwritten things that happened between age twelve and age thirty; the period Luke sums up in a single phrase? Or is it saying that Jesus experienced ‘sufferings’ even as he pursued his earthly ministry; trained disciples; healed the sick; taught in parables; and challenged the Pharisees?

The answer is probably neither.

Rather the ‘sufferings’ of Jesus almost always refer to his suffering in the humiliation and pain of his death on Calvary.  The NLT renders the same verse,

Hebrews 2:10 God, for whom and through whom everything was made, chose to bring many children into glory. And it was only right that he should make Jesus, through his suffering, a perfect leader, fit to bring them into their salvation.

The last phrase doesn’t occur at all in the KJV but introduces the idea that the perfection of Christ is in the atonement; that Christ becomes our perfect sacrifice, but this can only take place after (i.e. through) his suffering and death.

The NIV blends the two. In this he becomes perfect through completing God’s ultimate plan and purpose:

Hebrews 2:10 In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered.

So how do we resolve this? Was Jesus spiritually formed by the hard times in his life?

Yes and no. Yes, in the sense that this was part of the whole humility of Christ, to be found in the human condition (i.e. “found in like manner as we”) and coming as carpenter and an itinerant rabbi and not a king (i.e. “taking on the form of a servant.”)(Both ref.’s Phil. 2)

But no in the sense of what is happening here is that we’re confusing two different ideas and we think the text is talking about something that more often applies to us not Him, namely that we are perfected by our sufferings.  We get that from:

Romans 5:3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;

II Cor. 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

James 1:12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

I Peter 1:7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

I Peter 5:10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.

For the Christ-follower, this is simply the way it is; these are life principles.  But while the language is the same, I don’t believe the Hebrews passage fits the same pattern, and therefore I don’t believe that Christ was being shaped or formed by his circumstances or challenges the way we are. This seems to rob him of the divinity he possessed, at the very, very least, at the outset of his public ministry. (I phrase it that way only because some do not ascribe to Jesus an awareness of his divinity at earlier stages. I’m only making a concession here, I personally believe the Luke 2 passage is included to give us an insight into his full knowledge of his unity with God the Father.)

Some of the less common translations flesh this out to various degrees.  The Amplified Bible:

Hebrews 2:10 For it was an act worthy [of God] and fitting [to the divine nature] that He, for Whose sake and by Whom all things have their existence, in bringing many sons into glory, should make the Pioneer of their salvation perfect [should bring to maturity the human experience necessary to be perfectly equipped for His office as High Priest] through suffering.

This ties in well with Hebrews 4:15

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin.

The Voice Bible seems to suggest a perfecting taking place,

10 It only makes sense that God, by whom and for whom everything exists, would choose to bring many of us to His side by using suffering to perfect Jesus, the founder of our faith, the pioneer of our salvation.

But in a narrative section that precedes it, states,

Here is God’s Son: Creator, Sustainer, Great High Priest. Jesus has to take on our feeble flesh and suffer a violent death. He suffers for what we need.

So again, he is our perfect sacrifice; he is not being shaped by things taking place in his earthly ministry, but he is becoming — as the writer will say in the verse from chapter four above — our perfect High Priest in death.

Jesus was the perfect man already. He didn’t need to be refined the way we do. His earthly existence did not shape him but it did make him perfectly able to identify with our condition. His submission to death made him the perfect sacrifice and thereby he is the perfect completion of God’s plan.

 

October 19, 2013

Why Did Jesus…? Part Two

Tody we continue where left off yesterday. There are no specific scriptures for this one, you’ll need to refer back to the verses posted here the day before.  Louisiana pastor Waylon Bailey has treated this subject well at the article titled Why Did Jesus Tell His Followers Not To Tell About Him?

We all know and understand that Jesus told His disciples to go into all the world, making disciples, baptizing, and teaching. That part makes sense. Everyone needs to know Christ. We all also understand that we have been given the responsibility to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth.

That makes the question even more difficult to comprehend. What did Jesus mean when he repeatedly told the people around him not to tell anyone what they had seen and heard? And, why did He tell them this? Mark 1:40-45 is one of my favorite passages of Scripture. It shows Jesus as He truly is. Having encountered a man with leprosy, Jesus had great compassion on the man. His heart went out to Him. Jesus healed the man of his leprosy. After the healing Jesus “sternly warned” the man to tell no one. He simply was to go to the priest as prescribed by the law of Moses. Instead, the man told everyone what had happened. This story is fairly representative of all those who were told to tell no one.

Why did Jesus tell him not to tell anyone?

The issue primarily seems to be one of timing and proximity.

After the resurrection, Jesus repeatedly and consistently told His disciples to go into all the world and preach the Gospel. Each of the Gospels has its own commission to take the message to the world. We commonly call this the Great Commission.

It was in the time before the resurrection that Jesus counseled His disciples and others not to publish widely what they had seen and heard.

Why was this the case?

First, Jesus did not want people to only associate Him with the miraculous. He was the bringer of good tidings not simply a miracle worker.

Second, Jesus did not want people to make Him an earthly king. We know that many Jews looked for the kind of Messiah who could overthrow Rome. It would be an easy step for all of the people to miss the significance of what Jesus came to do. As long as Jesus turned water into wine and a few loaves and fish into abundance, the people wanted to follow Him.

Third, Jesus wanted the freedom to move about Israel unhindered. When the man cleansed of his leprosy disobeyed Jesus and began to publish the matter “Jesus could not enter any town openly but stayed outside in lonely places” (Mark 1:45). Many other towns were deprived of the Lord’s presence. Jesus had not wanted that to happen.

Interestingly, Jesus told those outside Israel to proclaim the message. The fifth chapter of Mark is quite interesting. Jesus healed the demoniac from the Decapolis (largely Gentile area). He told him to go back home and tell what the Lord had done for him (Mark 5:19). In the same chapter he healed the daughter of the leader of the Synagogue and told them to tell no one (Mark 5:43). It was a matter of proximity. Inside Israel, the messianic fervor might lead to a premature confrontation with Rome or the Jewish leaders. Jesus “hour” had not yet come.

We live in this wonderful new age when all must hear the message of Good News.

Considering this subject for the past two days has reminded me of this quotation from Walter Wink that Philip Yancey uses:

“The more I studied Jesus, the more difficult it became to pigeonhole him. He said little about the Roman occupation, the main topic of conversation among his countrymen; and yet he took up a whip to drive petty profiteers from the Jewish temple. He urged obedience to the Mosaic law while acquiring the reputation of a lawbreaker. He could be stabbed by sympathy for a stranger, yet turn on his best friend with the flinty rebuke, “Get behind me, Satan!” He had compromising views on rich men and loose women, yet both types enjoyed his company.

“One day miracles seem to flow out of Jesus the next day his power was blocked by people’s lack of faith. One day he talked in detail of the Second Coming; another, he knew neither the day nor hour. He fled from arrest at one point and marched inexorably toward it at another. He spoke eloquently about peacemaking, then told his disciples to procure swords. His extravagant claims about himself kept him at the center of controversy, but when he he did something truly miraculous he tended to hush it up. As Walter Wink has said, if Jesus had never lived, we would not have been able to invent him.” 

~ Philip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew (Zondervan 1995) p.23

October 18, 2013

Why Did Jesus Sometimes Ask Miracle Witnesses to Tell No One?

Jesus - Don't tell anyone

Doug Wolter posted this several months ago as Why did Jesus say, “Don’t tell others?”:

Yesterday I preached on four incredible stories from Mark 4:35-5:43 where Jesus calms the storm, heals the demoniac and the hemorrhaging woman, and raises Jairus’ daughter from the dead.  Afterwards, a member of my church asked me a great question: Why did Jesus tell the demon possessed man to go and tell others but told the ones who saw Jairus’ daughter being raised to strictly tell no one?  What a great question!  Here’s my response:

The demon-possessed man was in a Gentile region where not many knew about Jesus or cared about the coming Messiah. In Mark 5:17, after Jesus had healed the man, they begged him to leave the area.  Jesus left, but told the demoniac to go and tell what had happened to him since he would now be the only real witness in this region (Mark 5:19).

Now Jairus and his daughter lived in Galilee. This region would’ve been Jewish and therefore anticipating a coming Messiah and so Jesus wanted to keep this a secret because he didn’t want to stir up a big crowd.  The concern on Jesus’ part was that people’s attention would be distracted from what he really came to do, namely, the ministry of the word (Mark 1:38).  His essential aim was to preach repentance and faith (the message of the kingdom) and then die on a cross. After he died and rose again, that’s when he told his disciples to go and tell everyone who he was because that was the real message he came to bring as the Messiah.

Of course there are many of these passages:

Healing of Many:

Matthew 12:15 …A large crowd followed him, and he healed all who were ill. 16 He warned them not to tell others about him.

Peter’s Confession of Christ’s Lordship and Divinity:

Matthew 16:13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter,[b] and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades[c] will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be[d] bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be[e] loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

(also found in Mark 8 and Luke 9)

Returning from the Mountain of the Transfiguration:

Mark 9:2 After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus….

…8 Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.

As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant.

Casting Out Demons:

Mark 3:11 Whenever the impure spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” 12 But he gave them strict orders not to tell others about him.

The Healing of a Deaf Man:

Mark 7:35 At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly.

36 Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it. 37 People were overwhelmed with amazement. “He has done everything well,” they said. “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

The Healing of Jarius’ Daughter:

Luke 8:51 When he arrived at the house of Jairus, he did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John and James, and the child’s father and mother… 

…54 But he took her by the hand and said, “My child, get up!” 55 Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. 56 Her parents were astonished, but he ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened.

Are Jesus’ reasons the same in each case, or do you think that there were different motivations for asking people not to tell what they had seen?

Jesus - Don't tell anyone 2

May 22, 2013

Son of God, Son of Man

Crosswalk.com is running a series of excerpts from the book Praying the Names of God by Ann Spangler.  You might want to dive in and cover the entire study, or better yet, pick up a copy of the book.  Here’s the link to today’s reading.

The Name

Like the Father, Jesus is God. He always was, always is, and always will be. But unlike the Father, Jesus is also a human being. Though  charged with blasphemy and crucified for claiming to be one with the Father, Jesus’ resurrection validates his claim to be God’s Son in a unique way. When we confess our belief that Jesus is the Son of God, we share in the love the Father has for the Son, becoming adopted children of God.

Though Jesus was the Son of God, he was also the Son of Man, a title that emphasizes both his lowliness and his eventual dominion. Near the end of his life, when the high priest asked him whether he was the Son of God, Jesus no longer avoided the title but said that he would one day “see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matthew 26:64).

When you pray to Jesus as Son of God and Son of Man, you are praying to the One who is your Brother and your Lord.

Key Scripture

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.” Matthew 16:15 – 17

Praying the Name

In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God. . . .’ ” And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!” Matthew 27:41 – 43, 50 – 54

The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. Deuteronomy 33:27

Reflect On: Matthew 27:41 – 54 and Deuteronomy 33:27.

Praise God: For sending his beloved Son.

Offer Thanks: Because God considers you his child.

Confess: Your faith in Jesus as the Son of God.

Ask God: To deepen your sense of being his son or his daughter.

Have you ever played a game in which you let yourself fall backward into someone else’s arms? It’s difficult not to hedge your bets, not to sneak a look around to see whether the other person stands ready to catch you. Now imagine a more difficult challenge. This time you stand with your back toward an open grave and your task is to fall backwards into it. Your friend has assured you he will be there to catch you as you fall. The success of this venture depends on two things: your trust and your friend’s ability to keep his promise.

I imagine that Jesus’ death must have been something like that. Though he was God, he had to fall back helplessly into a human grave, trusting that the Father who loved him would raise him up. To do this, Jesus had to have been absolutely secure in his identity as God’s Son. In fact, Jesus never called God by any other name than Father, except once, when quoting directly from a psalm. Over and over, it was always “Father”:

* Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?
* Father, protect them by the power of your name.
* Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am.
* Abba, Father, everything is possible for you.
* Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.
* Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.

Jesus was crucified for one thing — for claiming to be God’s Son. So it is interesting to note that when the earth shook at the moment of his death — the exact moment when the Son, falling into the grave, had need of his Abba’s all-powerful arms to raise him up — the centurion and those with him guarding Jesus exclaimed in terror: “Surely he was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:54).

Abba, a word derived from baby language to describe Almighty God! A word that would have sounded shocking to pious Jews! This is how Jesus expressed his relationship with Yahweh — as my Daddy, my Dear Father. It is the way he wants all of his followers to think of God.

Listen to what Paul says to the Galatian Christians:

“Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father’ ” (Galatians 4:6).

Your Father knows what you need before you ask him. This, then, is how you should pray: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” How much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! If you forgive others when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Because of what Jesus our Brother has done for us, we too have become children of God. As his sons and daughters, we can be absolutely confident that underneath our deepest griefs will always be the everlasting, ever-loving arms of God our heavenly Father.

Related article on the Humanity of Christ.

November 19, 2012

The First Recorded Words of Jesus

One of the books in my possession is an early copy of what would later become The Message of Luke in “The Bible Speaks Today” series from IVP. My copy has a larger title, Savior of the World.

In the section dealing with chapter two — appropriate to the season of the year we are approaching — author Michael Wilcock notes that there are three stories presented revolving around three key characters:

  • the angel
  • the prophet
  • the child himself

and also three sayings from each of them:

  • “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
  • 29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
    you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
    30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
    31     which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
    32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and the glory of your people Israel.” …
    34 …“This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
  • 49 “Why were you searching for me? … Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”

On the latter, Wilcock writes:

…So the first recorded words of Jesus are a statement about himself, and a claim to a relationship between himself and God different from, and deeper than, anything that has been known before. Furthermore, it is a relationship into which he is going to bring all others who are prepared to put their faith in God through him. He will teach them to address their prayers regularly to their ‘Father’ (11:2), and they will learn to use the affection, intimate name of ‘Abba’ (‘Daddy’) which he himself uses. Thus early in his Gospel, Luke introduces the great object of the divine plan of salvation, just as John does, in his own way, at the beginning of his story of Jesus: “To all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become the children of God.”

Both these truths, that he is the son of God, and that he has come into the world so that others might become sons of God are implied in his words in 2:49. For to be “in my Father’s house” really amounts to the same thing as to be “about my Father’s business”: where  my father is, where he centers his activity, there I am always to be found as well. (Again, this is Luke’s equivalent of some of the great sayings in John: “I and the Father are one…” “The Son can do nothing of his own accord but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever he does that the son does likewise… I always do what is pleasing to him.”) But the Father’s work, as we have seen, is the work of salvation; so this is the work in which the Son also “must” be engaged. Thus, early in his career, does Jesus express the compulsion that is upon him to be at one with his Father in the saving of men.

So we have Luke essentially including this passage as to offer a parallel to what we normally refer to as John’s prologue.


Yesterday at Thinking Out Loud, I reviewed a Bible study resource that I believe will be especially useful for people engaged in student ministry, Christian education or who just want to be focused when leading small groups through some of the narrative OT and NT stories. You can read that review here.

 

August 18, 2011

Indescribable King

This is post number 500 here at Christianity 201, and it seems fitting that it includes a video clip which is so familiar to so many people through its widespread use as a church video a few years ago, but may be new to many others as well.  It’s S. M. Lockridge’s sermon excerpt, That’s My King.  (If you’ve seen it before, maybe it’s time to view it again!)

Usually, if there’s a video clip here, it’s a worship song.  I am convinced that if you are involved in worship planning, there are three worship themes with which you can’t ever go wrong:

  • communion, Lord’s supper, Christ’s death, Christ’s sacrifice, atonement
  • personal surrender to God
  • God’s attributes, particularly his greatness and majesty

The last category is where we land today.  All the most popular worship songs in the last decade — Majesty, Shout to the Lord, How Great is our God — are songs which speak to the indescribable greatness of God.

S. M. Lockridge (born Shadrach Meshach Lockridge!) pastored in Texas and California and was active in the civil rights movement.   You can read more about him at Wikipedia.

His words are most fitting for a blog which has as its aim being Christ-centered, and so well-suit being the 500th post here.

Here is the full text (click the ‘more’ button if it’s all not visible):

My King was born King.
The Bible says He’s a Seven Way King.
He’s the King of the Jews – that’s a racial King.
He’s the King of Israel – that’s a National King.
He’s the King of righteousness.
He’s the King of the ages.
He’s the King of Heaven.
He’s the King of glory.
He’s the King of kings and He is the Lord of lords.
Now that’s my King. (more…)