Whose Son is He?

 

Acts 1:6-14
Psalm 68:1-10, 33-36
1 Peter 4:12-14, 5:6-11
John 17:1-11

John opens his Gospel with the power of Genesis: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was GodESV We know from Genesis that God spoke the universe into existence. I like Phillips translation of John expressing that same notion:  At the beginning God expressed himselfPhillips

But what about that all-important phrase: the Word was God? Does that mean that they are one in the same; that Jesus is God, or God is Jesus?

Today’s reading from John adds to the idea with: glorify your Son that the Son may glorify youESV Here, not for the first time, Jesus claims the title of Son of God. He took the title of Son of Man early on and used it through most of his ministry; now he is God’s Son.

The result of these kinds of statements is that too many people take away the notion that Jesus lived on earth as God, not as a human. We forget that both Son of Man and Son of God were terms used to describe the Messiah. We forget that Jesus accepted every title associated with the Messiah and that he did all the deeds ascribed to the Messiah. We think that because Jesus was without sin, he must be God.

Thinking Jesus is God makes the same mistake many of the Gnostics make. Jesus was born fully human, lived fully human, and died fully human. Jesus was a man, not God.

He accepted the title of Son of God, while at the same time, he always refused equality with God.

How then can Jesus be human, and yet, Son of God? The Old Testament applies the title to angels, Israel, and Adam. Between the Testaments, the Book of Enoch called the coming Messiah the Son of God. As we know, Jesus fulfilled all the promises of the Messiah.

Jesus referred to God as Father, especially in the Gospel of John. He also taught us to call God Father. We are joined with Jesus when we choose to follow him. Does that mean we are also part of the Sonship?

Yes and no. Jesus made it possible for us to join him in our relationship with God, but he is alone in his Messianic relationship with God. It is easier to think of the Messiah as existing before creation, giving up the Godly characteristics to be born a human, then returning to that unique pre-creation status of Godliness. As William Barclay put it, Jesus Christ is the mystery of GodJesus as They Saw Him

It is not proper to call Jesus God. It is proper to call the Messiah God. We need to separate the two in our thinking. While reading the Gospels descriptions of Jesus’ actions and words, we must think of Jesus as human. When we consider him on That Special Sunday—as well as after—Jesus is God, in as far as we can understand the mystery.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Do Not Fear the Greeks

 

The Areopagus, Mars Hill in the Bible.

Acts 17:22-31
Psalm 66:7-18
1 Peter 3:13-22
John 14:15-21

Paul made his way to the very center of civilization, at least as it was believed to be in the Roman Empire. After preaching in the markets of Athens and making a name for himself, the Areopagites invited him to discuss his ideas with them. The Areopagus was the supreme court of Athens, named after the hill on which they met. Part of their job was to decide if a particular religion was true or false.

Areopagus is a rock outcrop a few hundred yards from the higher and larger Acropolis. The photo below shows the Acropolis at night on the left, with the small bump of the Areopagus just to the right, before the scene descends into the city buildings.

Photo by Alona Azana

The scene below is the approach to the Areopagus.

The view of Athens from Areopagus.

And while we are looking, here is a photo of the Parthenon under reconstruction, having been blown up in WWI.

Back to Paul. He knew he was dealing with the most powerful men in Athens, but he also knew they always loved debates about new ideas. The court always met on Areopagus at night, a tradition from truly ancient times. Paul stood before them and praised them for their religious faithfulness. I noticed one altar (one of a number in Athens) on which were inscribed the words, TO GOD THE UNKNOWN. It is this God whom you are worshipping in ignorance that I am here to proclaim to you! Phillips

Just as Jesus did, Paul always searched for a way to speak the truth without attacking the people he was speaking with. If it could not be done—Jesus and the Pharisees—they still spoke the truth.

It worked for Paul. At least one member of the Areopagus, Dionysius, became a follower, and the council agreed to hear more from Paul at a later time.

Like Paul, we have nothing to fear by speaking the truth about God and Jesus. We may have our heads chopped off, but look at what we gain.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Signs and Wonders

 

Acts 7:55-60 

Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16
1 Peter 2:2-10
John 14:1-14

 

Turning back to Acts 6:8, we read, And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the peopleESV This is the first mention of Stephen.

What were the wonders and signs? In John 4:43-54, Jesus said, “I suppose you will never believe unless you see signs and wonders!” Phillips He responded to the plea of an official whose son was near death. There was no mention of faith, just Jesus’ response, “Go; your son will live.” ESV The man returned because he believed that Jesus could heal, not because he believed Jesus was the Messiah. But he and his whole household believed in Jesus, the man, to be a healer.

For Jesus, and Stephen as well, a wonder is an event that cannot be explained by our normal life experiences. It may be explained scientifically, but not always. A sign is different in that the event specifically points to Jesus as the Messiah. When Jesus heals a boy miles away, that fulfills Old Testament descriptions of what the Messiah could do. When Stephen heals a person in the name of Jesus, that also points to the Messiahship of Jesus, Stephen’s master.

There is more going on than just randomly healing people. All healing events were signs. They were people placed before Jesus by God. Jesus recognized the presence of God and reacted and interacted with the people brought to him. The sign happened when Jesus said, “You are healed,” “Rise up,” “Go to the Temple.”

At the most basic, Jesus did not heal people; Jesus relayed the Grace of God to people in need. God, as Jesus said, is the source of all power. While on earth, Jesus was his servant, choosing to do what God commanded him to do, and nothing else.

The first eighteen verses of the Gospel of John take us from the Word to Jesus, using both Jewish and Greek logic systems. By Word, John means that God spoke, expressed Himself, communicated, declared, whispered. We know that words we speak can have power, often unintended power. The Words of God are perfect and magnitudes more powerful than our own.

In one of those wonders, God’s Word created the universe in which we live—and perhaps many more—and went on to become a human, to walk with us and show us the way of the Word. As John puts it, Jesus was, full of grace and truthNIV

To be his disciple, his follower, his believer, his talmidim, we must become filled with grace and truth.

I just looked up the definition of grace, and it is both physically adept and beautiful. At first, I thought neither applied, but why not beautiful in the sense of perfection. But there is another important meaning of grace: to be given something we do not deserve; to be forgiven by God.

We all need to work on forgiveness, both our forgiving other people, and accepting God’s forgiveness of us.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Peculiar People

 

Acts 2:42-47 

1 Peter 2:19-25
John 10:1-10
Psalm 23

The daily readings for Thursday through Saturday serve as a preparation and build-up to the Sunday, while the Monday through Wednesday readings follow up the Sunday message. While most of the preparation readings come from several different books, the 1 Peter starts with verse 9 and runs through Sunday.

But you are God’s “chosen generation”, his “royal priesthood”, his “holy nation”, his “peculiar people”—all the old titles of God’s people now belong to youPhillips In the Greek, we learn that we are chosen…for possession.

It is not possible for any human to approach God or to choose to live with God. The divide between us is too great. But God in His absolute power can approach us. He literally says, as the famous WWI poster put it, I Want You. God wants us to be his children. He wants us to be like Jesus, to be his sons and daughters.

There is a difference between our status on earth in this life and on the New Earth in the next life. Here, we are students (talmidim) of Jesus. We belong to him. We are expected to do what he does, not what we want to do. We are his sheep, and we should respond to his voice and ignore the voices of strangers.

That also means that we should live our lives much as the Twelve led theirs. We need to form a tightknit community of believers and work in the world to provide as much of God’s live as possible. That very community can be a problem for outsiders who can see us as a threat.

Peter wants us to respond to the pressures of non-believers. Dear friends, I urge you as aliens and temporary residents not to give in to the desires of your old nature, which keep warring against you; but to live such good lives among the pagans that even though they now speak against you as evil-doers, they will, as a result of seeing your good actions, give glory to God on the Day of his comingCJB

To be good followers, we must do as the Master did, and try to understand what he would do in our modern world.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence