Christianity 201

April 4, 2018

Disrupting the Disruption

John 2 (The Passion Translation)

12 After this, Jesus, his mother and brothers and his disciples went to Capernaum and stayed there for a few days. 13 But the time was close for the Jewish Passover to begin, so Jesus walked to Jerusalem.  14 As he went into the temple courtyard, he noticed it was filled with merchants selling oxen, lambs, and doves for exorbitant prices, while others were overcharging as they exchanged currency behind their counters. 15 So Jesus found some rope and made it into a whip. Then he drove out every one of them and their animals from the courtyard of the temple, and he kicked over their tables filled with money, scattering it everywhere! 16 And he shouted at the merchants, “Get these things out of here! Don’t you dare make my Father’s house into a center for merchandise!” 17 That’s when his disciples remembered the Scripture: “I am consumed with a fiery passion to keep your house pure!”

18 But the Jewish religious leaders challenged Jesus, “What authorization do you have to do this sort of thing? If God gave you this kind of authority, what supernatural sign will you show us to prove it?”

19 Jesus answered, “After you’ve destroyed this temple,  I will raise it up again in three days.”

20 Then the Jewish leaders sneered, “This temple took forty-six years to build, and you mean to tell us that you will raise it up in three days?” 21 But they didn’t understand that Jesus was speaking of the “temple” of his body.  22 But the disciples remembered his prophecy after Jesus rose from the dead, and believed both the Scripture and what Jesus had said.

Today we’re again back with Jon Swanson at the website 300 Words a Day. Click the title to read at source, and also check out the link at the end to another post on the same scripture passage.

Three days later

One day at the temple, during the celebration of Passover, Jesus disrupted the disruption. In the space of the temple where gentiles could visit and worship, people were selling animals and exchanging money. It was work that had a right to be done, but it was disrupting the purpose of that space.

God had said, “My house shall be a house of prayer for all nations.” Jesus looked at what was happening and said, “That’s what my Father said this was supposed to be, but you are making it a den of thieves.”

And he turned the tables over. And he grabbed what he could and whipped at the people.

And he stopped for a moment when his work was done, when the disruption was fully disrupted. And some people approached him, with a mixture of hesitation, like you show to an angry person, and of anger of their own.

Like a teacher who calls you Mr: “Mr. Swanson. What do you have to say for yourself?”

They asked Jesus, “What gave you the right to do this?”

Jesus says, “Destroy this temple and I will raise it up in three days.” I think they laughed. What else are you going to do?

Everyone walked away shaking their heads.

The people in the temple. AND the disciples.

The people in the temple resolved to keep their eyes on this passionately irrational young man. He went on the watch list. The temple security kept a picture of him.

But it’s worth noting that the people who knew him best didn’t know what he was doing or why he was doing it.

The people who had followed him to Jerusalem from Galilee resolving to stick close. They didn’t know why he was up to all this, but he had known their names back home. He had turned water into wine. He had come to Jerusalem and acted on behalf of the underdogs.

They wanted a part of whatever this was. But they didn’t understand. Yet.

Why do I say that?

Because of the way John writes this. “When he was raised from the dead, the disciples remembered what he had said.”

In the middle of our despair, we want a sign. In the middle of our frustration, we want something that makes sense, that is reasonable.

If we are going to trust him, we think we need to know why we should.

And Jesus looks at us quietly, gently, without judgment, and says, “Because they destroyed this temple,” and he holds out his hands, “And it was raised in three days.”

And the hands that knew excruciating pain reach out to hold ours. And the voice that was ignored still speaks.


► Related article by Jon Swanson based on a parallel passage in Mark 11.

March 28, 2013

Playing With Time

As some of you read this, it’s already Good Friday. This particular blog is set up to post articles between 5:00 and 6:00 PM EST (New York time) but with readers all over the world, I realize that many readers are already “in” a particular day when this gets seen.

But in many respects, we’re all guilty of a greater measure of playing with time when it comes to Good Friday. The reason is simple. We already know how the story ends. It’s entirely impossible for us to approach Good Friday not knowing that Resurrection Sunday is just around the corner. We don’t have to read ahead because we’ve previously read the whole story.

But it wasn’t like that on that overcast day at the foot of the cross. In play-script form, The Voice Bible reads:

John 19:29-30 The Voice

29 A jar of sour wine had been left there, so they took a hyssop branch with a sponge soaked in the vinegar and put it to His mouth. 30 When Jesus drank, He spoke:

Jesus: It is finished!

In that moment, His head fell; and He gave up the spirit.

It’s so easy to miss what those standing around the cross at that moment must have felt.

The second way we play with time — going backwards instead —  is in the way we’re able to trace back all the prophecies Jesus gave concerning himself. The disciples are dejected and grieving His death, and we read this in the 21st century and we want to scream at the pages, “Look, go back to page ___ and read what he says about how The Messiah must suffer and die! It’s all there!”

You get a sense of this in Luke 24; and again, we’re going to defer to The Voice translation:

Luke 24 – The Voice

13 Picture this:

That same day, two other disciples (not of the eleven) are traveling the seven miles from Jerusalem to Emmaus. 14 As they walk along, they talk back and forth about all that has transpired during recent days. 15 While they’re talking, discussing, and conversing, Jesus catches up to them and begins walking with them, 16 but for some reason they don’t recognize Him.

Jesus: 17 You two seem deeply engrossed in conversation. What are you talking about as you walk along this road?

They stop walking and just stand there, looking sad. 18 One of them—Cleopas is his name—speaks up.

Cleopas: You must be the only visitor in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about what’s been going on over the last few days.

Jesus: 19 What are you talking about?

Two Disciples: It’s all about the man named Jesus of Nazareth. He was a mighty prophet who did amazing miracles and preached powerful messages in the sight of God and everyone around. 20 Our chief priests and authorities handed Him over to be executed—crucified, in fact.

21 We had been hoping that He was the One—you know, the One who would liberate all Israel and bring God’s promises. Anyway, on top of all this, just this morning—the third day after the execution— 22 some women in our group really shocked us. They went to the tomb early this morning, 23 but they didn’t see His body anywhere. Then they came back and told us they did see something—a vision of heavenly messengers—and these messengers said that Jesus was alive. 24 Some people in our group went to the tomb to check it out, and just as the women had said, it was empty. But they didn’t see Jesus.

Jesus: 25 Come on, men! Why are you being so foolish? Why are your hearts so sluggish when it comes to believing what the prophets have been saying all along? 26 Didn’t it have to be this way? Didn’t the Anointed One have to experience these sufferings in order to come into His glory?

Clearly, Jesus’ later teachings about his impending sufferings weren’t registering. Or perhaps it was a case of serious denial. Verse 21 is translated more commonly in a form like “we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.” (NIV)  The verse captures most accurately the sadness felt by those two followers.

If you continue reading The Voice, you find at this point an embedded commentary suggesting the writer Luke is doing his own version of playing with time; using this story a set up for something he knows is coming just a little bit past the point where this chapter resolves itself and this book ends: The Book of Acts. Acts is this gospel’s sequel. The commentators seem to feel that Luke is preparing his audience for something which, while it does not in any way diminish the resurrection — which is after all, the centerpiece of the entire Bible — is going to astound them, namely the birth of The Church.

However, it’s Good Friday, and as we place ourselves back in that particular part of the story through this Holy Day and its various church gatherings, we can’t help but know what happens next.  So with a glimpse into Easter Sunday, let’s see how The Voice ends Luke 24:

27 Then He begins with Moses and continues, prophet by prophet, explaining the meaning of the Hebrew Scriptures, showing how they were talking about the very things that had happened to Jesus.

28 About this time, they are nearing their destination. Jesus keeps walking ahead as if He has no plans to stop there, 29 but they convince Him to join them.

Two Disciples: Please, be our guest. It’s getting late, and soon it will be too dark to walk.

So He accompanies them to their home. 30 When they sit down at the table for dinner, He takes the bread in His hands, He gives thanks for it, and then He breaks it and hands it to them. 31 At that instant, two things happen simultaneously: their eyes are suddenly opened so they recognize Him, and He instantly vanishes—just disappears before their eyes.

Two Disciples (to each other): 32 Amazing! Weren’t our hearts on fire within us while He was talking to us on the road? Didn’t you feel it all coming clear as He explained the meaning of the Hebrew Scriptures?

33 So they get up immediately and rush back to Jerusalem—all seven miles—where they find the eleven gathered together—the eleven plus a number of others.

December 21, 2012

It’s The End of the World as We Know It

blank calendarAccording to some people, nobody will be reading this.

This is the day the Mayan calendar runs out, or, to be more precise, completes its present cycle and resets. But some people prefer to believe it simply marks the end of the world.

Personally, I don’t believe this end of the world scenario simply because there are prophetic markers that have yet to transpire. However, I want to qualify that by saying that I do believe in the possibility of prophetic markers being stacked up like dominoes, with an apparent chain reaction of events happening in quick succession, much like the 60s board game Mousetrap, or to use a more contemporary example a Rube Goldberg machine.

In The Church, much has been made of this verse in Matthew:

24:36 (NLT) “However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows.

and its parallel in Mark

13:32 (NASB) But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.

but I am always quick to remind people that not knowing the day and the hour, does not mean we cannot know the times and the seasons.

Luke 21:8 (NCV) Jesus said, “Be careful so you are not fooled. Many people will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the One’ and, ‘The time has come!’ But don’t follow them. When you hear about wars and riots, don’t be afraid, because these things must happen first, but the end will come later.”

10 Then he said to them, “Nations will fight against other nations, and kingdoms against other kingdoms. 11 In various places there will be great earthquakes, sicknesses, and a lack of food. Fearful events and great signs will come from heaven…

…25 “There will be signs in the sun, moon, and stars. On earth, nations will be afraid and confused because of the roar and fury of the sea. 26 People will be so afraid they will faint, wondering what is happening to the world, because the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 Then people will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 When these things begin to happen, look up and hold your heads high, because the time when God will free you is near!”

Now I hear you saying, “Wait a minute! This passage is referencing the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem and was fulfilled in AD 70.”

skipping stonesThat’s true, Jesus says,

32 “I tell you the truth, all these things will happen while the people of this time are still living.”

I asked an old friend of mine and former seminary student about this, because it happens in the prophetic writings and also in the Psalms. He shared with me how the prophets see across a line of time, with the vision of someone following stones skipping across the water. So we find prophecies having fulfillment at various junctures in history; and while the the Luke text here would seem to have its primary fulfillment in the destruction of the temple, it could also be argued that this is actually a secondary fulfillment because it is a mere foreshadowing of the main events to come.

…For most of you, by the time you read this, we will be safely on the other side of the Mayan controversy.  But we’re also on the other side of the shocking news event of one week ago today, a reminder that while the entire world may not end today, your world might. Life is short.

We need to live each day in the expectancy and immanence of Christ’s return.

 

December 14, 2012

Why The Incarnation

While I know a large number of readers here probably use BibleGateway.com for their online searches of Bible passages, I often recommend BlueLetterBible.org when your knowledge of particular Bible phrase is close, but not close enough. This particular search tool will tell you of cases where, for example, you’ve got five out of the six words you typed located in selected verses.

Blue Letter Bible also has a daily Bible study blog and yesterday kicked off a Christmas series with part one of Why Did God Become a Man? And yes, I know it’s rather strange to be giving them the green letter treatment we give scripture verses here, so I saved you leaving that comment!

by Dave Jenkins

The doctrine of the Incarnation is important to Christianity. It reminds us that Jesus is both God and man. And this is important because it’s impossible to talk meaningfully about who Jesus is without talking about who He was and what He did. Around the turn of the century, James Denney, a professor at the United Free Church College in Glasgow, Scotland, discussed this matter:

Christ is the only person who can do this work for us. This is the deepest and most decisive thing we can know about him, and in answering the questions which it prompts we are starting from a basis in experience. There is a sense in which Christ confronts us as the reconciler. He is doing the will of God on our behalf, and we can only look on. We see him in judgment and the mercy of God in relation to our sins. His presence and work on earth are a divine gift, a divine visitation. He is the gift of God to men, not the offering of men to God, and God gives himself to us in and with him. We owe to him all that we call divine life. On the other hand, this divine visitation si made, and this divine life is imparted, through a life and work which are truly human. The presence and work of Jesus in the world, even the work of bearing sin, does not prompt us to define human and divine by contrast with each other: there is no suggestion of incongruity between them. Nevertheless, they are both there, ad the fact that they are both there justifies us in raising the question as to Jesus’ relation to god on the one hand, and to men on the other. 1

The Reason for the Incarnation
What is the function of the Incarnation in Christianity? A classic statement on why Jesus became man and its answer is found in Anslem of Canterbury (died 1109). Anslem’s theological masterpiece, Cur Deus Homo? (Why Did God Become Man?”) deals with the question of the Incarnation. Anslem answered this question that God became man in Christ because only one who was both God and man could achieve our salvation. The Incarnation—coming in the midst of a history of human sin—indicates that God has not abandoned us but rather loves and values us even in our fallen state.
Why Did God Put on Flesh?
The atonement is the reason God came as man. Consider these verses:

“For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, ‘Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book..”
(Hebrews 10:4-7)

“And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”
(Hebrews 10:10)

“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
(Matthew 1:21)

Jesus spoke of his coming suffering.

“And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.
(Mark 8:31)

“for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.”
(Mark 9:31)

He linked the success of his mission to the crucifixion:

“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.
(John 12:32)

Also, at several places in John’s Gospel the crucifixion is spoken of as that vital “hour” for which Christ came (John 2:4; 7:30; 8:20; 12:23, 27; 13:1; 17:1).

The death of Jesus is also a major theme throughout the Old Testament: first, in regard to the meaning of the sacrifices (the meaning at the heart of the law); then in regard to the prophecies, which focused increasingly on the promise of a Coming Redeemer.

Isaiah 53 and other Old Testament texts speak of the suffering of the deliverer to come. Isaiah 53 and other Old Testament passages speak of the suffering of the deliver to come. In Galatians the apostle Paul teaches that even Abraham, who lived before both the law and prophets was saved by faith in Jesus (Gal. 3:8, 16). Furthermore, Jesus told the downcast disciples on the Emmaus Road that the Old Testament foretold His death and resurrection. Luke 24:25-27, “And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” In light of these texts and many others we can say that the atonement of Christ is a primary reason for the Incarnation. It is the explanation of the twofold nature and the focal point of the world and biblical history.

(In the next post, we will look further into the Incarnation-Atonement connection. Stay tuned!)

——-

Footnotes:

1 Denney, James, The Death of Christ, ed. R.V.G. Tasker (Chicago: Intervarsity Press, 1964).