Prophets

Jesus is God in the Flesh: The Unity

The Reflection Series for this month is adapted from Reasoning the Rest, which you can read or download from the main menu. This month, we’re reflecting on the divinity of Jesus Christ. 

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If you profess faith in the Christian message, yet lack this belief about Jesus’ identity, you expose a complete lack of understanding of the very Bible wherein you find the figure of Jesus in the first place. The Gospel narratives leave no possibility to reject the deity of Jesus. Rather, they appreciate, rely on,  and believe in the message that he spoke.

We can better understand this vital truth about Jesus with these four points concerning Jesus and his teaching.

  1. The man of “The Name”
  2. The man of Authority
  3. The man of Unity
  4. The man of Forgiveness

For the next several weeks, we’re going to reflect on these indicators that support the divinity of Christ Jesus.

The Man of Unity

While many cling to the belief that Jesus was not one with God in personal identity, some will profess that Jesus was one with God in a way that emphasizes the “with” while excluding the “one.” To do this is to completely reject the words of Jesus since he himself spoke of his nature as being, “one with the Father.”

Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’
“But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word.
“Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.”
So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?”
Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”
So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple. John 8:54-59

Despite this testimony, many persist in the viewpoint that Jesus was simply a gifted teacher endowed with Godly abilities to teach and to heal, but only to the extent that his teaching ultimately lead those to God and not to himself. This opinion places Jesus in the realm of Prophet and not Messiah. However, Jesus did possess qualities resembling those of the Old Testament Prophets. Jesus healed; so did Elisha. Jesus spoke the words of God connecting past, present and future seamlessly, directed by the Father himself; so did all the prophets.

Yet at a certain point, the unique qualities of Jesus separate him from the line of Prophets. His characteristics become the characteristics only seen in the Father himself, which not only aligns Jesus with the Father but makes them one. Most famously in the Gospel of John, Jesus openly declares to his disciples that he is “one with” the Father in Heaven.

“I and the Father are one.” John 10:30

“Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves.” John 14:11

This oneness was not only on display throughout the ministry of Jesus in miraculous healings and resurrections, things only God could do. This oneness was not only on display in the form of his claims about himself, directly professing things that only God could profess. This oneness was not only on display by the way that Jesus fulfilled every prophecy about the coming Messiah as truly “Emmanuel” or “God with us.” This oneness was most powerfully on display when Jesus conquered death through the victory of the cross. That display of Godhead set in motion the transformation of the entire world, one person and one country at a time, through the dwelling of his heavenly Spirit in all those professing faith in the oneness of Jesus Christ and the Father as God in the Flesh, sacrificed for sin on the cross, resurrected on the third day and presently alive and awaiting the day of Judgment when all things will be made new, just as they were when he created in the beginning.

Thursday Reflection: Oreo Perspectives

oreos source

During a Bible study on Matthew 5:17-20, we read about Jesus discussing the importance of the law and regulations that preceded him and how they related to his Gospel ministry. 

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.
18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.
Matthew 5:17-20

After we read the passage, the question was posed as to how one would explain this passage to someone with little to no background on Jesus, or the Law and prophets he talks about.  The answer we found was unconventional, but effective: the Oreo.

First, I am a lover and devotee of all things snacks. In all honesty, I would be totally content to entirely replace all large meals with unending and continuous snacking. Of course the problem is that doing so is a slippery slope, a diet with no boundaries or limitations and no cap as to when enough is enough. Because, although our stomachs can correctly inform us of our physical satisfaction, one glance at a bag containing what, in that particular moment, is all that is good in this world, “what’s just one more handful?” Oreos can be your best friend and worse enemy.

Oreos are unique cookies. The two chocolate cookies are separated, yet united, by a thin, or sometimes if you’re lucky, double-layered, cream filling. The Oreo is unity in contrast. The cookies, while delicious if eaten on their own, leave something to be desired apart from the filling. They are quite dry and the richness and crunchiness of the chocolate can be somewhat overwhelming. On the other hand, the filling in the middle, while sweet and easy on the palette, is simple and one dimensional without a contrasting texture or flavor.

The only way to fully appreciate an Oreo, the Oreo that everyone knows and loves, is to eat the cookie in its entirety with both the cookies and filling contributing equally to the experience.

What does any of this have to do with Matthew 5? In the Bible we see two contrasting sides. On one side we find the Old Testament, beginning with Genesis and ending in the prophet Malachi.  On the other, we find the New Testament, beginning with the Gospel of Matthew and ending in Revelation. One’s approach to the Bible and how these two sides interact or contrast with one another can radically determine on’s approach to God and his son Jesus.

Compare the Old Testament to the chocolate cookies. For some people, the experience of the Old Testament is less than positive. The Old Testament can be difficult to understand, difficult to relate to and difficult to find any use for in the present day. One might say that the “texture” of the Old Testament is too “crunchy” and the flavor is too rich and overwhelming in too large of quantities.

If the Old Testament is the cookie layers, the New Testament is the cream filling. The New Testament is seen as a welcome departure from the Old Testament: the language seems easier to understand, the stories seem more heart-warming, and Jesus seems quite loving and gentle as opposed to the God of hell, fire and damnation of the Old Testament. The stories of Jesus often concern healing, grace and redemption. One might say that, like the Oreo Cookie filling, the New Testament is sweet and enjoyable and a welcome respite from the crunchy rich chocolate cookies.

This brings us finally back to the scripture in Matthew. In the passage Jesus stressed the importance of the Old Testament scriptures and how necessary they are to fully understand his Gospel ministry. One can view his mission as a circle. Prior to Jesus, the circle was forming but not complete. Jesus did not come to create a new circle but to complete the circle already being made. Without a strong understanding of the prophets and the history preceding Jesus, nothing about his Gospel ministry in Israel makes sense or matters.

In fact, it is because of the entire Old Testament that Jesus did the things he did and say the things he said. The more we read the Gospels, the more we realize that everything Jesus did was motivated by the desire to connect the listener to the past, where God spoke in the same words and acted in the same ways. His entire ministry was overflowing with a consciousness that he is the great “I am” from Exodus, completely unchanged.

For the purposes of our Oreo analogy, Jesus is saying that the filling of his Gospel ministry is sweet but without the cookies of the Law and prophets, the product is incomplete. Filling without the cookies is not an Oreo, it’s simply filling. The writer of Hebrews expounds on this point by saying:

39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised,
40 since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect. 
Hebrews 11:39-40

With cookies and no filling, or filling but no cookies, you don’t have an Oreo.

Many of us spend 90 percent of Bible-reading time swimming in the New Testament. While I do this myself from time to time, we cannot disregard the Old Testament as disconnected from the New. The Old Testament is the foundation of the New, and the New is the revelation and completion of the Old. The Bible is two sides that cannot exist independent of each other. Jesus came to connect and reveal the two. To focus only on one is to misunderstand the teaching of Jesus himself and to misunderstand the relationship of God to us.

In my Bible studies we spend a lot of time with people who are new to Jesus and the Bible. With this being the case, we often spend more time in the New Testament introducing people to the Gospel and Jesus. However, once these individuals witness Jesus’ Gospel ministry, we see them diving head first into the previously offensive and at one time overwhelming Old Testament, where they begin to see the pearls that the Spirit begins to reveal.

While one side of the Bible might be more appealing to you, never neglect the other. It is in the marriage of the two that you see the truest picture of God and how he relates to us. Once someone asked me how I could say that, by reading the Bible, I can gain a better and more complete picture of who God is and what he is like. My response was that reading the Bible is like building a jigsaw puzzle. By reading the Old with the New Testament together, we are given the pieces to the puzzle. While we will never possess all of the pieces to the puzzle and the picture will always have missing sections for our faith ponder, the pieces provided by both the Old and New Testaments reveal enough to us to see God and understand him, as he desires us to.