The Son Of Man and the Way of the Cross

 

Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16
Psalm 22:22-30
Romans 4:13-25
Mark 8:31-38

The reading of Mark shows Jesus preparing his Apostles for the upcoming crucifixion. Mark writes, He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things. NIV Son of Man was by far the most common way Jesus referred to himself.

Psalm 80:17 uses the phrase. But let your hand be on the man of your right hand, the son of man whom you have made strong for yourself! ESV Grant Your help to the man at Your right hand, the one You have taken as Your ownJSB Notice what happened to the wording in the Jewish JSB version. Generally, the JSB is the most accurate translation of the Hebrew, but here and in other places, they have chosen to slightly alter the phrase because it has become so closely associated with the First Century teacher, Yeshua.

Be sure that the JSB is just as accurate as the ESV on this verse. Both Hebrew and Christian scholars believe the verse to be about King David, or perhaps Saul. The Psalmist is asking God to protect Judah as He did in the times of the great kings.

The next time the phrase, son of man, is used, God called Ezekiel. He said to me, “Son of man, stand up on your feet and I will speak to you.” As he spoke, the Spirit came into me and raised me to my feet, and I heard him speaking to meNIV God calls Ezekiel son of man ninety times. Notice the lower-case form in English. Hebrew has only one case, so it is hard to know if they intended to set the title apart as we do for Jesus.

Despite the constant use of the title as a name for the prophet, it is still not historically associated with the Messiah. The real change came in one mention in Daniel. Chapter 7:13-14: “I kept watching the night visions, when I saw, coming with the clouds of heaven, someone like a son of man. He approached the Ancient One and was led into his presence. To him was given rulership, glory and a kingdom, so that all peoples, nations and languages should serve him. His rulership is an eternal rulership that will not pass away; and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. CJB  Again, the JSB reads: One like a human being. In a footnote, the JSB says that the phrase is literally son of man.

The footnote goes on to give a quick history of the phrase, so I will include part of it here.

Human being, lit. “son of man,” which in the Bible is idiomatic for human being. Here, however, the celestial being is like a human being, i.e., has a human countenance. For the author it most likely represents a heavenly figure who will exercise judgment, perhaps Michael. Christian tradition, especially in the Gospels, saw this as a prediction of Jesus as a heavenly “son of man.” A messianic use of this title is also found in postbiblical Jewish literature (1 Enoch,, Ezra Sanh).

There was a second use of the phrase in Chapter 8 where the angel Gabriel started to explain a vision. As he came near the place where I was standing, I was terrified and fell prostrate. “Son of man,” he said to me, “understand that the vision concerns the time of the end.” NIV Here it clearly referees to Daniel.

The most important point is that by the time Jesus began his ministry, Son of Man was widely accepted as a title for the Messiah. While Jesus never said he was the Messiah, he intended for people to make the simple leap from Son of Man to Messiah in their thinking.

Why did Jesus not call himself the Messiah?

In Jesus’ day, the general thinking was heavily political regarding the expected Messiah. Jesus did not come to earth to do battle with the Roman Legions, which is what people expected.

Jesus had to slap Peter in front of the other Apostles. You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concernsNIV I am not here to lead a military revolt as Enoch would have it. I am here to give peace to all people.

If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow meESV Jesus is not our General leading us into battle. He is our Shepherd leading us a new world, a new life, a new way of relating to others.

To follow him requires that we sacrifice ourselves the way he did. Jesus made his choice to follow the Word of God. In his case, as for many others, it meant physical death. For most of us, it means death to this world, to this way of life.

 

Read my earlier comments on this theme here.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Christ the Just

Photo by scott1346 on Foter.com / CC BY

 

Genesis 9:8-17
Psalm 25:1-9
1 Peter 3:18-22
Mark 1:9-15

 

Rabbi Tovia Singer has become very popular on YouTube as a debunker of the faults of Christianity. One such attack was on the very essence of the faith. In verse 18 of First Peter, we read: Remember that Christ the just suffered for us the unjust, to bring us to GodPhillips

Singer responds that Jesus did not sacrifice anything. If he knew that he only had a few hours of suffering to go through and that with his death he would put an end to sin, that is not a sacrifice, that is like winning the power ball. A real sacrifice is giving up your life to save another person with no expectation of any reward.

You can listen to his much longer explanation here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=51PcjmeG0hA

On the surface, R. Singer seems to have made a solid case. Most of us would be willing to do what Jesus did if we knew we would end up saving all humanity.

The problem is that the Rabbi has left out important information. He did so because he does not accept Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of Man, or the Son of God. He rejects any notion that Jesus was without sin. He even rejects the importance of animal sacrifice in the First Century Temple.

By the Rabbi’s account, Jesus willingly went to the cross in the mistaken impression that his death would eliminate sin. By Peter’s account, Jesus was the Once and Only Pure Lamb, put to death for the sins of the world. He chose to enter Hell to preach to the people there. God took him from the grave and raised him up to sit at His right hand in Heaven.

As we know, Jesus had many disagreements with the Pharisees. One of them was their insistence that they could stand in God’s presence as perfect humans because they observed the Law and all its supplements, amendments, codicils, and refinements. Jesus wanted them to worry more about the people they met every day instead of avoiding them for fear of contamination.

The Gospel message is that we do not have to worry about our sins. What the Pharisees did not understand was that they were sinning every day, throughout the day, without knowing it. We all do. To stop every time I sin and ask for forgiveness would eliminate most of the time I have to help other people.

After Peter describes the salvation of the Ark, he adds this: And I cannot help pointing out what a perfect illustration this is of the way you have been admitted to the safety of the Christian “ark” by baptism, which means, of course, far more than the mere washing of a dirty body: it means the ability to face God with a clear conscience. For there is in every true baptism the virtue of Christ’s rising from the deadPhillips

 

Read my earlier comments on this theme here.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

The Veil of Death

 

2 Kings 2:1-12
Psalm 50:1-6
2 Corinthians 4:3-6
Mark 9:2-9 

 

Paul’s letter gives us a new understanding of Moses’ problem with reflected glory. Today’s reading begins with:  If our Gospel is “veiled,” the veil must be in the minds of those who are spiritually dyingPhillips But, to fully understand his meaning we need to read 3:7-4:6.

Paul takes us back to Moses and his efforts to be the emissary between God and God’s Chosen People. The problems were numerous because the people did not understand what Moses was telling them. They, like us, could not see God. Even Moses never saw God.

He spent weeks on the mountain listening to God. In Exodus 34:29-35 we have the description of Moses adopting the veil after being in God’s presence. The text does not tell us why he did that, except that he did it for the people. Moses’ face was in full view as he repeated the words of God. He veiled his face after God’s words so that the people would know that he was just Moses again. (Another understanding of why Moses veiled his face is that he did not want the people to see the radiance disappear from his face. That way, the people would understand that Moses was always available as the go-between.)

For Paul, the veil is all about hiding the Word. For all those who accept Jesus as the Word of God, they will understand what Paul is saying. For those who reject Jesus and God, it’s as though there is a veil blocking the words or at least the meaning of the words.

One of the early church leaders (Ambrosiaster, c. 370 AD) put it this way: Unbelief casts darkness over the splendor of the power of God. ACCS

Why does the Bible talk about hiding the Word? Why did Jesus preach in parables instead of saying straight out what he meant?

  1. Campbell Morgan wrote in The Corinthian Letters of Paul published in 1946 (a year after his death): It is said that our Lord adopted the parabolic method in order to hide the truth. He did nothing of the kind. He adopted it because of their blindness, and as a lure. He told them stories and gave them illustrations, by means of which to awaken their interest, if possible. But they were blinded, as men are blinded still.

God reaches out to the lost. He never gives up. He says with Elisha:  I will not leave youNIV

The Psalmist has God saying: Gather to me my faithful, those who made a covenant with me by sacrifice. CJB

Again, the message in Mark, This is my beloved Son; listen to himESV is the ultimate statement on the veil. We may give up on God, but He never gives up on us.

 

Read my earlier comments on this theme here.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Have You Not Heard?

 

Isaiah 40:21-31
Psalm 147:1-12, 21c
1 Corinthians 9:16-23 
Mark 1:29-39

 

Sadly, there has been a disconnect between science and Christianity for several centuries. There should not be. Scientists seek facts. A fact can be proven to be true or false. The proof comes with physical observations and measurements.

No scientist would disagree that a person named Jesus bar Joseph lived in the first century. The evidence is substantial. But, no scientist has proven that Jesus is the Son of God, nor that God exists.

I believe both but cannot prove either. Faith is required. Faith takes us beyond the science.

The Big Bang and Evolution are both theories. They were presented as possible explanations for how the universe works. Over the decades since, evidence has been collected which help to prove the theories to be correct. Neither is yet considered to be a Law, as in the Law of Gravity. But there is little evidence to prove them false.

On the existence of God, many scientists reject Him for lack of facts; many allow that he may exist because nothing proves the theory to be false; and many believe in God. In fact, the study of the stars has shown us that the whole system exists almost despite what is possible. It is easy to believe that a power we can neither see nor measure is holding it together.

Likewise, while there are millions of fossils and millions of live observations to suggest evolution as Darwin described is true, they also suggest that changes occur when God steps in to make them.

Consider that humans have kept wolves around for thousands of years and that now we see them in the form of St. Bernard’s and teacup poodles. Despite that tinkering, they are all dogs.

I believe that evolution occurs when God changes DNA.

Who has plumbed the mind of the Lord,

What man could tell Him His plan?

Whom did He consult, and who taught Him,

Guided Him in the way of right? JSB

 

Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
Have you not understood since the earth was founded?
He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth,
and its people are like grasshoppers.
He stretches out the heavens like a canopy,
and spreads them out like a tent to live in.
 NIV

God has created an amazing universe, and he has placed us on a small pebble near a sun that is a weak flashlight next to the biggest stars above us.

He placed us here because we are in timeout for our misbehavior. If this is our timeout corner, think what our real universe will be like.

Have faith.

 

Read my earlier comments on this theme here.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence