Jesus: The Revealed King

In Lord of the Rings by the Christian author JRR Tolkien, a man lives in the wild. He is an ugly man, rough around the edges from long harsh years. But we discover that this man, out of all men, is actually of the lineage of the old Kings. By the end, he is revealed as King with a crown and a flag—but before that he is revealed by action and circumstance.

Jesus declared himself to be a king in various ways, but not usually the way the people expected. For example, in Matt 25:34, he speaks of the Son of Man returning to separate the Goats and the Sheep and we see that he is speaking about a King is functioning in a kingly capacity under God.

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.

But he doesn’t only illustrate the point, he acts on it. So you’ll see him commanding the very dead to come back to life in John 11, or feeding the crowds by fiat (John 6) ,  or demanding the storm to be still (Mark 4:35-40) thus revealing a power over creation that has been lost since Adam.  You’ll see him forgiving sin and making the lame walk, and even pointing out that both occur because the Son of Man has authority (Matthew 9:4-8) to do so:

Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” Then the man got up and went home. When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to man.

The Wise Men came seeking a king and they found him (Mathew 2:2) and one day every knee in heaven and on earth will bow to him (Isa 45:23; Phil 2:10) but Jesus points out that he was a King right while he was here (John 18:37) and more so, when he conquered over the grave waiting until his enemies are made his footstool (Psalm 110; Acts 2:32-33).

God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.

Jesus was revealed as King.

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Jesus: A King by Birth

We know the stories. A Kingdom has lost all of its royalty—be it by murderous intent or by lack of birth. The whole thing is in danger of collapsing. Suddenly, a living descendant to the throne is discovered, a king by birth, and he gets to rule as king.

But it’s impossible to see Jesus as King merely by lineage. After all, it wouldn’t be surprising that David had many descendants—especially if you go through Solomon who had access to a thousand women.

Jesus, out of all David’s descendants was born of God (Matt 1:18). That is, not some matter of genetic lineage,  but born at exactly when God wanted him to be born (Gal 4:4), sent from the very throne room of heaven (John 1) and born of a woman without the aid of man. His birth was heralded by angels (Luke 1:26-38) and expected by Israel as sung by Mary (Luke 1:46-55). Even his enemies would acknowledge that he is a King, even if they’re being ironic (John 19:19) but more so when they witness his death: surely, says one of the soldiers, this was the Son of God (Matt 27:54).

So we can’t see Jesus as coincidentally filling a role because he has the right lineage: it’s not possible. God was altogether involved in his inheritance and authority.

Jesus was born to be King.

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Jesus: A Necessary King

We know that Israel received prophecies of a King. For example you have as early as Numbers 24:17 where Balaam prophesies, against his will, the coming of a King.

I see him, but not now;  I behold him, but not near; A star shall come forth from Jacob, A scepter shall rise from Israel, And shall crush through the forehead of Moab, And tear down all the sons of Sheth.

When I read it, it sounds like a King who is primarily local to that area. That’s not surprising. A prophecy given to a prophet in a specific area and situation; maybe he is given what he needs to know. Prophecy, after all, is not merely To Know Things but for building up, encouragement, comfort (1 Cor 14:3) and a call to repentance (1 Cor 14:24-25).

Therefore, you discover constant expectations of a King explicitly mentioned like in 2 Sam 7 or Psalms 2 as God laughs while his King is installed on Mount Zion or Psalms 45 where a king gets married.

This wasn’t a change in the plans of God.  It wasn’t like things had gone so bad that a King had to show up to clean house. After all, Deuteronomy 17, the very Law of God, has a built in section on how Israel is to choose their Kings and how those Kings are to act. Even if later history (as the book of Kings goes about showing) doesn’t work out according to blueprint, the fact is that the expectation of a King wasn’t a change: someone had to rule.

This goes back as far as Genesis 1. Adam was to function as a King over creation, ruling as God’s representative and with God’s prerogatives. Creation was given to him and his spouse to enjoy and to rule over (Gen 1:26). The fact Adam failed didn’t attest to the failure of The King Project, but it pointed to the expectation of a future King over all, like Adam, who would reign and, unlike Adam, not fail in the day of testing.

Therefore a King that is demarcated as glorious (Psalm 2:7-10), supreme (Psalm 89:27), who sits on the very throne of God (Rev 3:21) and reigns on the throne of David (Isaiah 9:7; Ezekiel 34) was a necessary expectation. There was no other way to put a fallen and rebellious creation back into the position it was supposed to be: under God’s righteous control.

Jesus was that expected King. He had to be king.

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Jesus: King of Righteousness

While working through the book of Hebrews I’ve noted that the writer puts forth the point not only that Jesus is Priest (Heb 5), but that Jesus is King (Heb 1 and God and Man: Heb 2). He purposefully goes about looking at a historical figure, Melchizadek, who was both a king and a priest to illustrate the point (Heb 7:1-3). I will look at five aspects of Jesus as King and what it means to us.

We don’t have many kings today in the sense we often see in Scripture. Any kings that come into power in England don’t have any real power and when we look at Presidents or Prime Ministers, we have elected officials—be it by the people, by parties or by a Parliament.

In third world countries we might find these Kings that reign in power and their word has final say, but more often than not we think “tyrant” when we consider them.

Projecting backwards to understand Christ causes problems.

This examination  of Jesus as King during Christmas week will be in six parts: (1) A Necessary King; (2) A King by Birth; (3) A King Revealed; (4) A King’s Kingdom;  (5) A King Who Conquers; and  (6) What this all  means to us.

I can probably spend weeks on these points, but I want this to be not so much exhaustive but rather sweeping so as to underscore a fundamental aspect (though not The Fundamental Aspect) of our Gospel: Jesus Christ is King.

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Increase Not Decrease: God Grants the Role

“You Yourselves bear me witness that I said ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before Him’.” (John 3:28)

Of course John’s comment is in light of his ministry. For he says that he was to announce the Christ because he is not the Christ: his role was to prepare the way. John sees that his own life isn’t purposeless but is actually tied up in the work of God by the presentation of the Lamb of God.

He was sent to preach repentance and when he saw the Lamb of God he pointed him out, openly acknowledging that this is the provision that God had made. (John 1:19-34)

To John’s mind, this probably meant something else. He probably thought as Jesus as the Lamb ruler who would forcefully take away the sins of the World. After all, it was only a short time later that he would be imprisoned, still waiting for the Christ to reboot this entire world, and wondering why it hadn’t happened yet.

In Matthew 11, John, seeing that Herod is still in power (and he’s still in jail) sends a message to Jesus via disciples: “Are you the Christ that we’re waiting for?” He spent his life pointing out this person, he could’ve sworn that this was the very thing he was called to do, but things had turned out so differently and dire: could he have been wrong?

Christ responds neither yes nor no but pointing out the work of God. The Lame walk. The blind see. The Gospel is being preached.

The next historical note we have about John is that he’s beheaded at a party for a cruel mother and her daughter. (Matthew 14:1-12; Mark 6:14-29; Luke 9:7-9).

You see, Christ explains, John wasn’t merely some spectacle in soft clothes out in the wild—some oddity to ogle. This John was God’s prophet: the very Elijah who was supposed to come (if they would have had him) before the end of the age: the one who prepared the way of the coming of the Lord Himself. This John, in prison who eventually died of beheading, was the greatest of the prophets (Matt 11:11a).

Without a miracle. Without a sign. With a backwater ministry in the Jewish outback. John functioned where he was supposed to function doing what all the prophets before him did, but better. Point to Christ.

Every single prophet in the Old Testament pointed forward to Christ via the power of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes fuzzily. Sometimes explicitly. But always predicated upon God’s revelation and looking forward to God’s distant promises. John alone, out of all the prophets, announced Him within days, inaugurated him via baptism, and witnessed the descending Holy Spirit upon Him. None of the prophets were given that position (Heb 11:39).

But John didn’t see everything. He was still an Old Testament prophet. He didn’t see  the crowds cheering around the one who comes in the name of the Lord (Mark 11:9; John 12). To him wasn’t given the horror of seeing the Messiah rejected and pinned to a tree (John 19). He would never witness the wonder of the risen Messiah (John 20). To him wasn’t given the chance of listening to the risen Lord for several days before he was taken up into heaven (Acts 1). To him wasn’t given the chance of participating in the prophesying in tongues which was a witness of the Holy Spirit being poured out in the last days (Acts 2).

None of those things were given to him; God didn’t grant John that role.

And he knew that at this point.

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Increase Not Decrease: Man Receives From God

“A person can receive nothing unless it is given to him from heaven.” (John 3:27)

John repeats a point that Christ actually makes in the discussion with Nicodemus recorded in the same chapter (John 3). The story is well known. Jesus has been doing (and saying) some pretty impressive things. He comes to Jesus by night, because he was a Pharisee of the Sanhedrin after all, and wonders how it is possible that Jesus is doing this work.

It is the similar question that John’s disciples asked him: how is it possible that Jesus is allowed to do this work?

Jesus responds that entrance into the Kingdom of God is by miraculous means: one must be born again (John 3:3). One isn’t born of their own power but they are born by the power of the Spirit (John 3:5-8). God functions how he functions and he decides how things are to be.

Nicodemus, confused and wondering then how anyone can therefore enter the Kingdom of God asks “How can these things be?” (John 3:9)

Christ’s answer is that we speak what we know and what he knows is outright heavenly things. No one has gone up to heaven to be able to explain these things but only the one who descended from heaven: the Son of Man. The Son of Man came with God’s purpose: to be lifted up so that whoever believes in Him will have eternal life (John 3:16).

He points to himself.

Christ’s response to Nicodemus is that God’s initiative is evidenced in the provision of Christ. To hammer this point home, he uses a metaphor from Numbers 21:4-9 to illustrate the point.

The Children of Israel were dying in the wilderness. They had sinned. God punished: they were to be bit by poisonous snakes. Moses interceded and God didn’t have to respond. The people had already covenanted with him that they would be a holy nation, a royal priesthood and they had repeatedly broken their pact with God. God had every right to be done with them.

But God in his mercy and sovereignty provided a solution. He told Moses to make a bronze serpent and to lift the thing up. If anyone who was bit and dying, poison coursing through their veins, turned away from their situation to look at what God had provided they would live. They wouldn’t diminish. They would be lifted up. They would be able to walk. They would be able to grab hold of the promises of God. They would live.

In that same way, says Christ, the Son of Man is lifted up as God’s provision which God points to wanting people to look. The fact that they don’t look speaks of their own sinfulness and condemnation already because this gift is actually God given.

So John, understanding Mankind’s contingency, says anything man has is actually given, not taken: it is God Given.  Breath. Life. Ministry. All God given.

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Christ-Oriented Mindset: Colossians Sermons

I had preached through the book of Colossians by focusing on how Paul reorients our thinking with a renewed focus on Christ and God’s Gospel. MP3′s after the jump.

  1. Overview of Colossians Overview of Colossians
  2. Prayers of Paul Prayers of Paul
  3. Seven Lenses to Look Through Seven Lenses to Look Through
  4. Suffering For Christ Suffering For Christ
  5. Treasures Hidden In Christ Treasures Hidden In Christ
  6. Above Thinking: Where Christ Is Above Thinking: Where Christ Is
  7. Christ: Our Motivating Factor Christ: Our Motivating Factor
  8. Altogether Involved in God’s Work Altogether Involved in God’s Work

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Infographic on 1 Corinthians 2:2

I enjoy making graphics and every now and then I have some sort of chart or graphic that makes sense to me, though rarely I share them. One of my favorites is the one on Psalm 110. Here’s one I had made on 1 Cor 2:2 but without highlighting other verse connections. I should probably go back and do that. I’ve included two: one with the intro part of the verse and one which focuses on what Paul might have meant by Jesus Christ and Him Crucified and how that really isn’t a small thing (in other words, it’s not Nothing vs. A Little Something; It’s Nothing–the Wisdom of the World–versus A Whole Lot of Something Encapsulated in Three Words).

Click on the images for biggie sized versions.

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Philosophy Fridays: Did Jesus Fear?

philosophy

Every now and then, on a Friday, I’ll step into the deep waters of Philosophy, ramble away on some idea and maybe even interact with something I might be reading. Most of the time, a real philosopher could probably read my drivel and speak into it offering a corrective—but for now I’ll speak from ignorance. After all, it is Friday; what better way to have fun than with philosophy. In this post I’ll answer the question “Did Jesus Fear?”  in under 700 words. Heh.

Based on a Biblical text (1 John 4:18) someone might suggest that since perfect love casts out fear then therefore Jesus had no fear.

Technically, this is a philosophical question because the Bible never says if Jesus feared or didn’t fear so making a dogmatic statement either way could be dangerous. So what we have to do is examine the ethics of fear and then examine the possibility of Christ fearing.

Question one: Is there anything wrong with fear?

Well, we need to define our terms. If a car is flying down the street at a toddler running out to get a ball you might rightly feel fear.  Or a child who has previously been burnt rightly feels fear when they see something hot. That being the case, a person might rightly feel fear while thinking about some impending event (fire burning or a car ready to hit a child). It winds up being a mechanism that warns people of harm before the harm actually occurs—it’s actually helpful for self-preservation and survival.

But if that’s built-in, as it were, then we might rightly expand that to include things like fearing the amount of dairy you will be eating tomorrow since you know you are lactose intolerant. Otherwise, humans would just keep doing the same things without any concern for how it affects them.

Now, the Bible also speaks about wisdom beginning with the fear of the Lord (Psalm 111:10, Proverbs 1:7; 9:10; 15:33) and that seems to be actual afraid-ness when the Lord shows up. Maybe that’s just a reverential concern when you realize your own finitude before the infinite—but doesn’t that sound like fear in general? Indeed, the Bible also mentions a right fear of the coming judgment (Hebrews 10:27) but it is a fear that is mingled with love, respect and trust (Psalms 130:3-4) so somehow there is an afraid-ful/awed expectation of what’s coming even if you’re confident in the end.

Question two: What is John talking about?

John is no dullard and would know his Bible so whatever he’s talking about stands in direct opposition to perfect love. None of the fears I’ve listed in this post stand apart from love. After all, you might fear for the child because you do love her. And you might fear the fire because you love your hand. But in 1 John 4:16 John makes a statement about knowledge (we have come to know) about trust (and believed the love) on an object (which God has for us) and even the way love is perfected (so that we may have confidence in the Day of Judgment). It’s in this light that he says fear stands in opposition to love.

Did Christ not trust God? Did he deny the future Day of Judgment? Well, in both cases the answer would be no so he didn’t “fear” in that sense but he sure seemed to be a man who was concerned about his impending death (Luke 22:39-46) and I don’t know how to describe that event other than fear even if it was coupled with confidence (Psalm 22).

So did Jesus fear?

Depends on what you mean by fear. Did he have times he was afraid? Sure seems like it. Otherwise he’d be careless. Did he have times where he didn’t trust in God and which is what 1 John might be talking about? Nope.

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