Monday, September 26, 2016

Jesus, Son of God: What does it mean?

In the Old Testament, the nation of Israel was collectively referred to as God’s son (Exodus 4:21-23; Hosea 11:1-9).  The term son of God was also a title given to the king of Israel or Judah at his enthronement (Psalm 2).  Sometimes, the term “sons of God” referred to heavenly beings, such as in Job 38:1-7.  So in what sense do we find both continuity and discontinuity with the Old Testament usage of this phrase and the New Testament’s identification of Jesus as the “Son of God”? 
Well for one, if Israel was in a sense, God’s son, Jesus was even more so.  Israel was called to be the faithful light to the nations, but unfortunately, they mostly failed in this vocation.  Jesus however sums up the entire story of Israel in his life and ministry, but where Israel failed, Jesus was faithful and overcame (see Matt 1-7, especially 4:1-11). 
The kings of Israel and Judah were meant to represent God’s people before God and the world, but they too largely failed in this vocation.  However, Jesus as God’s true Son was the just and righteous king who came to set up a kingdom for the world, but not of the world (John 18:28-37). 
And if the heavenly beings participate and share in the glory of God through his acts of creation and redemption, how much more does Jesus (John 1:1-5)?
Jesus fully and faithfully sums up and brings to completion each of these Old Testament notions of God’s son, but he does so in ways that far transcend that limited understanding.  It was only after the resurrection that Jesus’ followers could fully comprehend who Jesus truly was and what exactly he had come to accomplish (Romans 1:1-4).  This is topic worthy of further exploration. – Shay     

Monday, September 19, 2016

His Story is Our Story

I’m a firm believer in studying the entire story of God and his people as it is recorded for us in what we call the Bible.  Not only should we read and meditate on the words of the New Testament, we need to understand the Old Testament story to fully appreciate the New.  However, we should never stray too far from the New Testament in our study of the Old as ours is a story that’s not only going somewhere,  but in a sense, has already arrived through the person of Jesus Christ.  Of all the good places to spend time in the New Testament, there’s no better place than our four gospels.  Each of the four evangelists had a specific purpose in recording the life and times of Jesus and each records these events from a unique perspective.  To fully appreciate that perspective, one is best served in reading these gospels in their entirety and in context, rather than jumping around or trying to “harmonize” them.  In fact, harmonization does more damage than good in understanding the story that each writer is trying to tell.  But regardless of how we go about studying Jesus’ life as recorded for us in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the important thing to remember is that his story is our story!  

If we are to truly be Christ’s church in the world, then the anchor of our lives and faith has to be securely rooted in the gospel of Jesus.  He is the founder of our faith and the one who will finally bring our lives to completion.  If we are to be transformed into his image, then we need to immerse ourselves in his life and teachings.  Because we are his disciples and follow in his footsteps, we need to take time to learn from this one who is meek and gentle, and yet, firm and demanding.  As we continue through the gospel portion of the story, let’s fix our eyes on this man who fixed his eyes on his Father and was obedient all the way through death and into resurrection life.  He has gone ahead of us, but he hasn’t left us behind.  He’s given us his Spirit to enable us to become citizens of his new creation.  In the meantime, may our lives reflect Jesus back into this present age.  May our lives be “little gospels”, so to speak.  May God’s will be done in our lives, both corporately and individually, as we await the renewal of all things. – Shay   

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Biggest Questions in the History of the World

I asked our Bible class yesterday morning who they believed to be the 10 most influential people to have ever lived, excluding people whose lives are recorded in the Bible.  I can't remember all of the various answers, but some of the names mentioned were Mother Theresa, George Washington, Gandhi, Confucius, Charles Darwin, Abraham Lincoln, Adolf Hitler, and Helen Keller.  I then asked the class to think of how different our world would be if Jesus of Nazareth had never been born.  This question is really too big to even get our heads around.  So much of the world that we take for granted is directly or indirectly related to the impact of a seemingly insignificant craftsman turned rabbi from a backwater region of an insignificant province on the edge of the Roman Empire.   According to an article in Time Magazine , Jesus actually is the single most influential person to have ever lived. 

How and more importantly, why did this young Jew make such an impact on the world?  Regardless of one's religious convictions (or lack-there-of), this is a question that's worth pondering.  Prior to and even after the life of Jesus, there were many would be messianic figures who arose in 1st century Palestine.  The fact that we even refer to it as the 1st century shows how much of an impact Jesus has had on history.  He's the pivot on which our entire dating system in the Western world turns.  He wasn't the only person who lived in his era who harbored messianic pretensions.  But how many others of these would be messiahs have had the impact on the world that Jesus did?  How many of these others can you name without a google search?  What's also interesting is that Jesus' vision of the Kingdom of God shared some continuity with the expectations of his fellow Jews, but in many ways, his vison not only transcended his contemporaries' hopes and dreams, it completely turned them upside down.  And yet, his impact on not only his own generation, but countless generations since is virtually incalculable. 

The historian, the philosopher, the theologian, and I would argue, the average person really has to come to grips with this amazing man, Jesus of Nazareth.  Who was he?  What was his hope for his people, the nation of Israel?  What was his vision for the world?  How did the kingdom that he hoped to establish differ from the other kinds of kingdoms of the world?  And if he ultimately failed in establishing his kingdom, as many of his contemporaries would have said, then why are we still talking about his impact on the world rather than the impact of Tiberius, who reigned in Rome at the same time?  How did a crucified criminal wind up making a bigger ripple in the subsequent centuries than did the ruler of the world's largest empire? Why are the other would be messiahs of the 1st century just a footnote and Jesus is the pendulum on which the door of history swings?  I believe these are the biggest questions in the history of the world. - Shay