Monday, January 21, 2013

Fully Man and Fully God

We've been going through the Apostles' Creed a few lines at a time.  We went through the concept of God, to the actual Christian view of God as Father and creator.  Then we touched on the idea of the Son as the agent of creation--through Him all things were made.  The bulk of the Apostles' Creed is about Jesus, the Son, so let's begin trying to understand who this is.

First we have "And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord."  The key word here is ONLY.  Aren't we sons and daughters of God, too?  Yes, but only in a created sense.  Jesus is something special.  He is God of God, because he is begotten, not made.  My daughters are flesh of my flesh, but Jesus is God of God, light of light, very God of very God.  The Nicene creed was needed to expand that one word in the Apostles' Creed "only," but all that meaning is there, compacted into that single word.

Jesus is fully God, but he is also fully man.  That is where the next two lines come in: "conceived by the Holy Spirit; born of the Virgin Mary."  Why are these two lines in there?  Aren't those unimportant tidbits about Jesus?  Who cares how he got here?  Why do we have to know this?  Well, these two lines reveal that Jesus was both fully God and fully man.  He was conceived by God but born out of a human.  The trouble we get into involves false ideas about Jesus.  Our minds can't get around what fully God and fully man means.  We tend to go for the "half and half" concept.  Or that Jesus interchanged from God to man and back to God again at different times, like a man possessed by a spirit who then snaps out of it and asks "what happened?"

Then there's one of the oldest heresies, called Docetism.  The idea is that God just pretended to be man, but he was always only God.  This idea comes from the mythology behind gods like Zeus, who visited people as animals, but he was never really an animal.  Jesus is not like this.  He was fully human.  He bled.  He died.  He cried.

Probably the most informative passage on the fully human and fully God nature of Christ is from John 11:

Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha met Him. Then the Jews who were with her in the house, and consoling her, when they saw that Mary got up quickly and went out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. Therefore, when Mary came where Jesus was, she saw Him, and fell at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled, and said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. So the Jews were saying, “See how He loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not this man, who opened the eyes of the blind man, have kept this man also from dying?”

So Jesus, again being deeply moved within, came to the tomb. Now it was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, “Remove the stone.” Martha, the sister of the deceased, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” So they removed the stone. Then Jesus raised His eyes, and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me.” When He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth.” The man who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” (John 11:30-44)

Why did Jesus weep?  He wept for many reasons.  He wept because he was fully human.  Although he knew he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead, he didn't just look around, see everyone weeping, and then just whip up some crocodile tears.  He was deeply moved.  Lazarus was his friend.  Death should have no power, and yet here is the victory of death--something that should not be in God's original creation--taking victory over his friend.  All humans have to suffer through this.  Jesus himself was to suffer through death.  People are emotional creatures  Yes, he was fully human, and the prospect of death and its fangs moved him to tears.

He also wept because he was fully God.  I read an article where the author described Jesus' death as horrible but not as horrible as other deaths in history.  Some linger on for years, being eaten away by cancer, and suffering is much greater.  The loved ones of those people look on helplessly and suffer, too.  The feeling is extreme nausea, protracted, lingering.  Jesus only suffered for a day and he died relatively quickly on the cross.  What we forget is that God loves us even more than we love ourselves and each other.  The nausea we feel when we see suffering--that is how God feels every day, and has felt throughout history, as he watches his children suffer and die.  Jesus may be the only begotten Son, but God cares so deeply about each of his created beings, we have no match in our own emotions. We shouldn't be lost to death.  We shouldn't suffer, but sin has let death and suffering into the world, and God watches as we hurt ourselves and each other and succumb to death.  He grieves on a divine level, as does Jesus, because the Son is fully God.

Finally, Jesus grieves because he is the solution to the problem of death.  Lazarus has died and Jesus will raise him, but Lazarus will die again.  This life that Jesus is resurrecting Lazarus into is just a repeat of what he had before.  But the solution to the problem of death is Jesus' own death.  He is to die in our place, not so that we can just have a repeat of our earthly existence.  Jesus' death ushers in a new life for everyone, imperishable and everlasting.  This is a new kind of existence, not like the first.  The demonstration here with Lazarus is only a shadow of the life that Jesus will bestow on us with his death on the cross.

But why weep over that?  Isn't that a reason for rejoicing?  Jesus' death is to give life to everyone, imperishable life.  Why would that make him sad?  Because he knows that this way to everlasting life, this only way to living forever, will be rejected, not by some, but by most, if not nearly all, human beings.  We tend to think that there was a problem of death and then Jesus came over to earth, like a plumber coming over to our house, to fix the problem, like fixing the sink.  Jesus is not Mr. Fixit. He does not come over to our homes with his little tool belt and fix our broken sinks.  He comes over and tells us to come live with him in his own home.  "My mansion has many rooms, and they all have working sinks with running waters overflowing with everlasting life."  Jesus' is the only home with working sinks.  That is the solution to the problem, not just coming over and fixing our sink and then leaving, so we can then continue on with our lives of sinful living and TV shows.  He invites us to come over to his house with a working sink.  And we smile and say, "no thanks.  I'll just hang out here with my broken sink and my booze.  Don't need water when I've got vodka.

Jesus wept.  He wept because he was conceived by the Holy Ghost.  He wept because he was born of the Virgin Mary.  He wept because he offers us life everlasting and we choose death everlasting.  How will we ever choose him?  We will discuss the Holy Spirit in a couple weeks.

Benjamin Franklin on Rev. George Whitefield

In 1739 arriv’d among us from England the Rev. Mr. Whitefield, who had made himself remarkable there as an itinerant Preacher. He was at first permitted to preach in some of our Churches; but the Clergy taking a Dislike to him, soon refus’d him their Pulpits and he was oblig’d to preach in the Fields. The Multitudes of all Sects and Denominations that attended his Sermons were enormous and it was [a] matter of Speculation to me who was one of the Number, to observe the extraordinary Influence of his Oratory on his Hearers, and how much they admir’d and respected him, notwithstanding his common Abuse of them, by assuring them they were naturally half Beasts and half Devils. It was wonderful to see the Change soon made in the Manners [behavior] of our Inhabitants; from being thoughtless or indifferent about Religion, it seem’d as if all the World were growing Religious; so that one could not walk thro’ the Town in an Evening without Hearing Psalms sung in different Families of every Street.

Monday, January 14, 2013

From Afar

Therefore He came again to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine. And there was a royal official whose son was sick at Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and was imploring Him to come down and heal his son; for he was at the point of death. So Jesus said to him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe.” The royal official said to Him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your son lives.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started off. As he was now going down, his slaves met him, saying that his son was living. So he inquired of them the hour when he began to get better. Then they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” So the father knew that it was at that hour in which Jesus said to him, “Your son lives”; and he himself believed and his whole household. This is again a second sign that Jesus performed when He had come out of Judea into Galilee. (John 4:46-54)

I've talked about how all healings in the New Testament are connected to some kind of teaching.  In the above passage, what is the teaching?  Jesus only says two things: “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe” and “Go; your son lives.”  Well, the first statement must be the teaching, and it is, so let's learn from it.  This healing is not done in the presence of the people following him.  Jesus all but says that the people are relying on the visible excitement of the miracle happening before their eyes, and it is obviously upsetting him.  Jesus heals the royal official's son from afar, so afar that it takes about 24 hours for the official to get home, or at least to the place where his slaves meet him (there may be another day's journey still).  This healing is done from afar, proving that Jesus' power is no trick.  The teaching is that Jesus is God, and he does not need to be in direct contact with a person to heal them.  The teaching associated with this miracle is so powerful that the royal official and all of his household believed in him.

The Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth

We are going through the Aposltes' Creed line by line.  Last week we discussed "I Believe" and "God."  The concept of God, by itself, is the unmade, first cause.  Now, we are going to get into the personal, Christian God.  We are narrowing down the scope now, as we read "the Father almighty."

Already we get a relationship, a parental relationship.  This is not an impersonal God, like a deist would believe, but a God that is personal and relational.  A father.  Why not a mother?  God does have motherly qualities, like when he is referred to as a hen gathering her chicks under her wings, but mostly, if we look through the Bible, we see fatherly qualities.  When the child falls off the horse, the father tells him to get back on the horse, where the mother says, "you don't have to get back on that horse again.  Come back in the house."

This doesn't mean that the Father is a God that constantly pushes his children into dangerous situations.  Let's look at our Old Testament passage:

“Give ear, O heavens, and let me speak;
And let the earth hear the words of my mouth.
“Let my teaching drop as the rain,
My speech distill as the dew,
As the droplets on the fresh grass
And as the showers on the herb.
“For I proclaim the name of the Lord;
Ascribe greatness to our God!
“The Rock! His work is perfect,
For all His ways are just;
A God of faithfulness and without injustice,
Righteous and upright is He.
“They have acted corruptly toward Him,
They are not His children, because of their defect;
But are a perverse and crooked generation.
“Do you thus repay the Lord,
O foolish and unwise people?
Is not He your Father who has bought you?
He has made you and established you. (Deuteronomy 32:1-6)

We've talked the three roles of God before.  God made us, he created everything.  He also SUSTAINS everything--keeps it alive.  We see this in verse 6: made and established.  The Hebrew word for established is more like planting a garden, caring for it, watering it, so that the garden grows.  This is sustaining.  God's third role is, when we consider that we are fallen creatures, that he SAVES us.  We see in the last part of this passage that our Father has BOUGHT us.  This is, of course, a reference to the purchase of his people out of Egypt, but we have also been bought with the blood of Christ on the cross.

Let's look a little deeper at what this Father/Child relationship means:

The Lord your God who goes before you will Himself fight on your behalf, just as He did for you in Egypt before your eyes, and in the wilderness where you saw how the Lord your God carried you, just as a man carries his son, in all the way which you have walked until you came to this place.’ (Deuteronomy 1:30-31)

See that this Father does not push us into dangerous situations.  He allows us to face dangerous situations, but he walks before us.  He fights on our behalf, and he CARRIES us, like a man carries his son.  This is what it means to be in a relationship with a Father God.

The next clause is "maker of heaven and earth."  Remember, one of the roles of the Father is maker, so we are not disconnecting the role of father from maker.  Where in the Bible does it say that God is maker of heaven and earth?  It's the easiest place to find!  Genesis 1:1: In the Beginning, God created the heavens and the earth."  We have talked extensively about God as creator, so let's transition into the next part of the creed.  Where else do we see "In the beginning" in the Bible?

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1).  Are we talking about God merely saying "Let there be light?"  No, we are taking about something much weightier.  God's Word is something through which the whole universe can be created.  God's Word has to be something as substantial as He is, and indeed the Word IS GOD, too.  We are not talking about two Gods but two persons--one God.

This is complicated stuff, but look at what Jesus tells his disciples in John 14:

If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.” Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? (John 14:7-9)

Jesus is saying here that he and the Father are one.  He also says in 14:1 for his disciples to believe in God AND himself.  He's not advocating two Gods but one.  He and the Father are one.  An author would understand this.  When we are creating a story on the page, we are not creating so much as birthing the words onto the page.  The characters seem to have a life of their own, but they are also made up of ourselves.  To know the characters in my book is to know me.  But whereas the printed words in a novel are dead, the begotten Son is alive.  He is alive and he is God.  He is heavy enough that the whole of everything was created through him.

Look at that word "through."  One of the most famous lines in the Bible is from that same passage in John: "I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except THROUGH me."  All things were created through the Word, the Son, AND all things are redeemed THROUGH the Word, the Son.  We complain that God gave us only one way to Himself, through his Son Jesus Christ, as if he could have arbitrarily come up with another way or multiple ways.  Jesus is the only way because he IS THE ONLY POSSIBLE WAY.  All things were created through him.  The only way to restore fallen creation is through that very same conduit.  Jesus Christ is the only capable conduit.

We will get into the details of Jesus next week, but have you noticed that the bulk of the Apostles' Creed is about Jesus?  This is no accident.  Look at our epistle reading:

If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater; for the testimony of God is this, that He has testified concerning His Son. The one who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself; the one who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has given concerning His Son. And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life. (1 John 5:9-12)

The testimony of God is this--the Bible, and it is all about his Son, Jesus--even the Old Testament.  The Son is the heaviest thing in the Bible, and he is the heaviest thing in existence.  So much so, that our faith depends on this.  We say we believe in the Father, and we should, but God the Father's testimony is about the Son, and so the Son is the most important thing to believe in.  When we have the Son, we have the Father, too.  When we try to have only the Father, we are grasping onto a false god, and we end up with neither.  There is no Father without the Son.  The relationship between Father, Son, and Holy Ghost (we will discuss him later!) is inseparable. To believe in the Son is to believe God the Father's testimony.  Have you ever had an obsessed friend who was interested in, say, baseball cards?  The fastest way to that friend's heart is to start liking baseball cards, too.  Well, the Father is obsessed with the Son.  Not the fastest way, but the ONLY way to the Father is to be obsessed with the Son, too.

It's all about Jesus, and we will discuss him next week.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

I Believe in God

We are starting a series today on the Apostles' Creed, the oldest rule of faith that has been recited by saints since the early church.  Today, self-professing Christians wander about without knowing this creed.  Over the next few weeks, I'm going to go through it a line or a few lines at a time and really get into the meaning.  Here is the whole creed:

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
    maker of heaven and earth;
And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord;
    who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
    born of the Virgin Mary,
    suffered under Pontius Pilate,
    was crucified, dead, and buried.
    He descended into hell.
    The third day he rose again from the dead.
    He ascended into heaven,
    and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father almighty.
    From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost,
    the holy catholic Church,
    the communion of saints,
    the forgiveness of sins,
    the resurrection of the body,
    and the life everlasting.

Notice, I'm using the Rite I creed, which will be important when we get to talking about the "quick" and the dead, among other things.  This time I'm going to talk about "I believe in God."

I had a friend, an atheist, who told me once that faith meant, "to believe in something where there is no proof that it exists."  Apparently, the no proof of existence is a pre-requirement for faith.  This is simply not true.  Faith is putting stock in something.  Trusting.  Belief in the existence of something is different from believing IN something or just believing something or someone.  I can put my trust in someone or something like a chair.  I am believing that the chair is not going to collapse on me when I sit in it.  This doesn't mean that the chair might not exist.  There's proof that the chair exists.  Just so, we have proof of God's existence.  We have external evidence, internal evidence, and eyewitness testimony.  Eyewitness testimony is scoffed at these days by modern man, and perhaps one eyewitness is unreliable.  Three eyewitnesses of the same event with the same testimony are more reliable.  Think of millions of eyewitnesses to something for over two millennia.  That's a lot of evidence.

The other aspect of faith in God is that it is not the same as faith in something else.  Faith in God is something of utmost importance.  I can't have faith in God on Sunday and then faith in the stock market on Monday.  God is not just one thing you spread your faith among.  Look at this passage in Isaiah:

In the days of Ahaz son of Jotham son of Uzziah, king of Judah, King Rezin of Aram and King Pekah son of Remaliah of Israel went up to attack Jerusalem, but could not mount an attack against it. When the house of David heard that Aram had allied itself with Ephraim, the heart of Ahaz and the heart of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind.

Then the Lord said to Isaiah, Go out to meet Ahaz, you and your son Shear-jashub, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool on the highway to the Fuller’s Field, and say to him, Take heed, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint because of these two smouldering stumps of firebrands, because of the fierce anger of Rezin and Aram and the son of Remaliah. Because Aram—with Ephraim and the son of Remaliah—has plotted evil against you, saying, Let us go up against Judah and cut off Jerusalem and conquer it for ourselves and make the son of Tabeel king in it; therefore thus says the Lord God:

It shall not stand,
   and it shall not come to pass. 
For the head of Aram is Damascus,
   and the head of Damascus is Rezin.
(Within sixty-five years Ephraim will be shattered, no longer a people.) 
The head of Ephraim is Samaria,
   and the head of Samaria is the son of Remaliah.
If you do not stand firm in faith,
   you shall not stand at all. (Isaiah 7:1-9)

Two kingdoms rise up against a third, and the first and the third are two kingdoms that used to be one.  It's like if your sibling turned against you.  The king of Judah and his people are terrified, but God, through Isaiah, tells him, "do not be afraid. This attack on you will not happen.  The two enemy kingdoms do not have faith in me.  They will fail to win against you.  You, too, must have faith in me, or you will not survive."  Faith in God is not something you just have on Sunday and then turn off.  Our very survival depends on it.  Our whole lives hinge on our belief in God.

What is God?  We're not going to even get into the Christian God at this point.  We will talk about the trinity next time, but for now, what is God?  I heard a conversation recently where someone was touting an atheist as being "so clever."  This atheist, when she was a child, asked her mother, "how did the world come to be?"  Her mother answered, "God made it."  The "clever" retort from the child was, "well, who made God?"  I wondered, what did the mother answer?  Apparently, she was stumped, and therein lies the problem with our modern Christians: they cannot answer a simplistic question like, "who made God?"  The question, "Who Made God," has been asked by children for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.  It's such a common question that there is an actual book titled Who Made God that handles the most common questions asked by children and non-Christians about the faith.  Why can't we answer that question?

Anyone know the answer?  Who made God?  NO ONE MADE HIM!  God, by definition, is unmade.  God has no beginning and no end.  He is infinite, immortal.  To ask, "who made God," is the same as asking, "what is the last number in infinity?"  There is no last number in infinity.  Infinity, by definition, has no last number.  The definition of GOD is the unmade, first cause.

That second part of the definition is important, because there are many "gods" out there that may fit the belief of the believer.  For example, if you believe the universe is God, and there are many out there who do, then you are saying that you believe the universe has always been and always will be.  The universe is the unmade, first cause.  But then you get into tricky things.  The universe being the first cause means that creation is accidental, since the universe has no consciousness.  This gets weirder when you hear people say, "the universe is trying to tell me something," as if the universe can think.

We treat people like gods, but we shouldn't, because all people are created, and no one has no beginning or end.  We may be immortal, if we believe in Christ, but we still had a beginning.  So, God means, "the unmade first cause."  As Christians we build on that to mean creator and sustainer.  As fallen people, we also build on that to mean "savior."

Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, ‘Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, “To an unknown god.” What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. For “In him we live and move and have our being”; as even some of your own poets have said, “For we too are his offspring.” (Acts 17:22-28)

In every culture there is the awareness of the creator God, put in their hearts by God himself.  Many missionaries have gone into unreached regions, where a tribe of people may worship ancestors  but when the creator God is mentioned, they respond in shushed whispers, "we don't talk about HIM."  Why?  Because he is unknowable.  The Incans, Aztecs, and Mayans all worshiped many gods, but all of them had that small untouched temple in the hills, where no one went, and that was to the creator God, who is unknowable, so don't bother.  God planted awareness of himself in the hearts of all, but he didn't plant specific knowledge of him there.  Knowledge of God comes through the revealed word.

Here is Paul in the same situation.  He is encountering the polytheistic Athenians.  Here, again, is the shrine to the unknown God, and Paul reveals to his listeners that he knows that God.  He is not tricking them.  He's not using an unknown shrine to his advantage.  That shrine IS for the creator God, and Paul is called to reveal that God to them.

Finally, remember this: God places this creed in our hearts.  We believe because God has called us to believe.  We believe in God, because God has revealed himself to us.  We do not seek God without his call. Next week, we will describe the God of the Bible, who is personal, relational, and trinitarian.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Important Sigma

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” (Luke 2:14)

The Authorized Version (KJV) has the familiar (Charlie Brown Christmas) phrasing, "and on earth peace, good will towards men."

Which is right?  Obviously there are different connotations.  Peace AND goodwill towards men implies ALL men, which implies a universal salvation.  Peace toward men OF good will, implies a limited atonement toward the elect: all those with whom God finds favor or bestows his grace upon.

So, which is it?  As it turns out, the King James translates its verse from the only Greek Codex with the word eudokia, attaching "good will" to "peace."  Many more Codexes have "eudokias" which attaches "good will" to the "men" in the sentence.  So, the phrase should read, "on earth, peace among men of good will." (the Greek word "en" should be translated "among" instead of "towards").

As you can see, the implications of the verse are different, depending on a single letter "s."  Now, one can tell if a particular Bible's translation is accurate or not based on how it words Luke 2:14!

Lord and Teacher

Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a day's journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, "Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety." He said to them, "Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" But they did not understand what he said to them. Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor. (Luke 2:41-52)

This unique glimpse into the childhood of Jesus is also a double-edged sword.  In our fallen states, we tend to want to speculate as to what the "lost" years of Jesus entailed.  Many theories abound.  Prior to this scene, we have gnostic writings that show Jesus bestowing life on clay animals and allowing them to run and fly off.  We also have a scene in which a disgruntled teacher argues with little Jesus, because our Lord is not allowing himself to be taught.  Instead, he is doing the teaching.  Disgusted with the teacher's argumentative nature, Jesus finally ends his life with a wave of his hand.  Sounds like a brat, doesn't it?

On the other side of this passage, there was a theory going around that Jesus spent the eighteen years before his ministry in India and/or studying at the feet of Buddha.  This is, of course, roundly rejected today, but it shows where our imaginations take us when we are given the ammunition.  The point is, when we don't know who Jesus is, we come up with all kinds of nonsense.

So, who is Jesus?  We know he is the savior of the world.  That was the reason for the incarnation.  But if we understand what roles he played in our world, we will learn to reject false teachings and embrace the truth.  What are the roles he played?  Jesus tells us himself in John 13, after washing the disciples' feet.  He tells them, "you call me Teacher and Lord--and you are right, for that is what I am."  In the healing of blind Bartimaeus, the blind man calls out to Jesus, "Son of David, have mercy on me!"  This appeals to Jesus' role as Lord, the only one who is able to have mercy.  When Jesus asks Bartimaeus what he wants from him, the blind man responds, "My teacher, let me see again."

We tend to think of Jesus as a miracle man, but his miracles were only the supporting proof that what he taught was true.  All of the healings and miracles in the gospels are connected with some teaching.  The miracles give the teaching strength.  Many people died in the three years of Jesus' ministry.  He didn't heal everyone.  It was not his purpose.  His reason for coming was to have mercy on us, fulfilling his role as Lord, and his purpose for coming was teaching, fulfilling his role as Teacher.  The miracles told us that he was not lying.

What does this mean for us?  Two things.  First, it puts Jesus into our minds in his rightful place.  We know that he is Lord and Teacher.  If we think of him outside those two roles, we are believing in a false god and we remain lost in our sins.  John 3:16 reads, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life."  If we are thinking that Jesus bestowed life on clay animals or learned at the feet of Buddha, we are not putting him in those two roles, and we are not believing in him.  So, by keeping Jesus in his two roles, we are believing the truth about him.

Secondly, how we treat our neighbors is affected.  Today, we get in our heads that the miracles and the healings are the important parts of Jesus' ministry, and so we try to perform our little miracles each day.  We clothe the poor and feed the hungry, and those are good things, but we forget that Jesus never did these things without the use of his primary role--teaching.  Even the Apostles continued in this vein after Jesus left earth.

In Acts 3, Peter heals the paralytic at the Beautiful gate.  The man is begging for alms, and Peter tells him, "Silver and Gold I have none, but what I do have, I give you in the name of Jesus Christ."  The man is healed, and he gets up and walks.  What we forget is that the crowd who knew that man come forward and crowd around Peter who then gives A SERMON.  The healing is associated with teaching, and the teaching is the most important part.

Today, we go to the poor who ask for gold and silver and we say, "gold and silver?  Sure!  Here you go!"  We shelter them and then allow them to watch Scarface.  We set up the cable TV ourselves!  We allow them to remain dead in the culture, lost in their sins.  We don't open the Bible and teach them from the scriptures.  Even I am afraid to do such, for that may drive them out into the cold, for I think they would rather be there than to hear the word of God.  So we let them return to their own vomit, with no change in their hearts, but at least we have given them the silver and gold.  We've given them food, shelter, and clothing.  We can feel good about ourselves.

Lord, help us keep the roles of Jesus Christ ever present in our minds, so that we can have the correct relationship with Jesus, believing in him, and the correct relationship with our neighbors, helping AND teaching them.  AMEN.