Category Archives: Jesus

Sense and Subjectivity

by Marv

This is the story of two sisters–and the man who loved them.

“Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.” (John 11:5)

Mary, and Martha, and Lazarus–Jesus was their particular friend. There’s not a friend like Jesus–the soul of kindness, and if anyone had a just claim on that kindness, it is a particular friend.

But one day He disappointed them. Lazarus fell ill, and though they dispatched word to Jesus, they sat at their brother’s side, day after day, and watched him–anxious, frustrated, dumbfounded–as he sickened, dwindled and died. And where was Jesus? Where was their particular friend?

Now you know these ladies, daughters of the same mother and father, but so very different in their characters.

Martha is the one who, left to roll the canapés all on her own, dropped the “Don’t you care?” bomb on Jesus. (Luke 10:38-42)

Jesus? Care? You mean the one who left Glory for our sqalid hovel of a planet to come to our miserable kitchen, wipe up the spilled milk we cried over, scrape our burned toast, with His own hands–and at great personal cost–whip up a feast so nourishing that it endures for eternal life? That Jesus?

He told her, basically, that with Him there, a woman’s place was not in the kitchen.

And Mary, the other sister, she was the one who, shortly afterward will engage in–let’s face it–some pretty blatant emotional excess (John 12:1-7). It’s one thing to raise your hands while worshipping, but where’s the sense of decorum?

Still, Jesus doesn’t seem to mind. In fact, He quite approves. The congregation objects, however, particularly Judas (v. 4) who seems to have been working on commission (not the “great” one). Maybe Judas is the patron saint of the anti-emotionalists… Oh, wait, he can’t be anybody’s saint. Silly me.

So here we are, dearest brother Lazarus now dead and buried–for four days no less (V. 17)–before particular friend Jesus makes it to town. He even missed the funeral.

Martha, the sensible one, did the right thing and went to talk with Jesus. Mary, who couldn’t be separated from Him before, doesn’t go. She sits at home.

“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died,” she says (v. 21). Makes sense. Perfectly theological. She was right. Worse than that, He could have healed Lazarus with a word from anywhere.

She does hint. Gives another very sensible proposition: “But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you” (v. 22). A statement of indubitable truth.

In return, Jesus gives her some of the most magnificent red letters in all the Bible.

“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” (25, 26)

Now, I love me some propositional truth–I really do. Objective statements of Scripture that we can ground our lives on, as Jesus Himself said. The gospel is about Jesus Christ, what He did, and does, outside us. Martha understood this. She knows: “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day” (v. 24). She believes: “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world” (v. 27).

Jesus gave Martha a great gift, showed her great kindness. Oh, that His very words to me might be written down forever in Scripture. Unimaginably gracious.

Then He asked to see Mary.

How was Mary feeling? Yes, feeling. Do you suppose John tells us for nothing that she stayed sitting in the house, while Martha went to see Jesus? Grieved over Lazarus, her heart was broken regarding Jesus. Yet, when He called for her, she hurried to Him (29, 31), and fell at His feet, crying. Not just “weeping,” crying (klaiousan).

And she said the same words as her sister: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

And they were the same words, exactly the same words–and yet what she said was not the same.

Now bringing up the Greek, directly, need only be an occasional thing. But here it is necessary. I would not begin to know how adequately to render the difference in the two sisters’ statements to Jesus. So I will show you. Understand, you may have heard that word order is not important in Greek. This is perfectly untrue. It functions rather differently from English, but there are regular patterns and variations, and these signal meaning. One device is known as “fronting,” moving a word or phrase toward the front of a sentence or clause from where it usually would stand. This gives it something called increased “prominence,” which does any number of things, depending on the context.

This is what happens in this passage. The ladies no doubt were speaking in Aramaic, though John represents their speech in Greek. And he is an excellent and thoughtful writer, the difference, subtle perhaps, is non-accidental. Non-incidental.

Martha:
Κύριε, εἰ ἦς ὧδε οὐκ ἂν ἀπέθανεν ὁ ἀδελφός μου
Kurie, ei es hode ouk an apethanen ho adelphos mou
Lord, if you-were here not – died the brother of-me.

Mary:>
Κύριε, εἰ ἦς ὧδε οὐκ ἄν μου ἀπέθανεν ὁ ἀδελφός.
Kurie, ei es hode ouk an mou apethanen ho aldephos
Lord, if you-were here not – of-me died the brother.

Syntactically, the genitive pronoun which belongs with the noun it modifies, belongs at the end of the clause, is moved up in Mary’s speech about as far as it can go in it’s clause. Semantically, this alters the focus of the statement.

Martha is stating the objective reality about Lazarus. Just the facts, ma’am.

Mary, however, is saying something about herself. Very much personal. Very subjective. It’s something like “if you had been here I wouldn’t have lost my brother,” though that is too forceful, I think.

So what was Jesus’ response to her? What was the gift He gave Mary? Some precious objectivity?

Jesus wept. (v. 35)

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. (v. 33)

He was moved, troubled, emotional. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses” (Heb. 4:15). This was His answer to her prayer. That she should “receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).

A subjective cry received a subjective response from our Lord, who cannot be unmoved by the tears, the cries, the pain of His particular friends.

He therefore felt with her, wept with her.

And raised her brother from the dead.

Remember, He knew all along that Lazarus was sick and dying, would die, and yet would not be left dead (4, 11, 13-15). He was acting on instructions (John 5:19), though it had to pain Him. And was He not acting in answer to prayer? The prayer, however, came later in time, or prayers, two at least, Martha’s and Mary’s.

There is great mystery here. Does it matter how we pray what we pray? “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matt. 6:8). It’s not a matter of information. Is there something about mingling the subjective with the objective–as we were created for both?

Seeing, Eating, Working like Jesus

By Marv

Jesus’ prophetic conversation with the “woman at the well” (John 4) served as the proximate means, or at least the occasion, of the unveiling of the eyes of her heart (2 Cor. 3:15). The late John Wimber made frequent use of this account in calling Christians to understand and practice “power evangelism.” During my seminary days—pre-Continuationist, to be sure—such usage of the text was heavily criticized as misuse.

Down the hallway, at the same time John 4:35 was extolled as an important missions verse:

Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.

At the time I didn’t make the connection, that Christ Himself is here calling us to what Wimber called “Power Evangelism”—otherwise known as the ordinary procedure of God working through the Body of Christ to effect His works.

Jesus’ words here show us clearly that Wimber’s use of the passage was entirely correct, since He is calling us to see as He saw, eat as He ate, and work, as He worked, the works the Father had given Him to accomplish.

When Jesus told his nonplussed disciples: “lift up your eyes,” he was hardly telling them to pay more attention to their physical surroundings, lest they miss an opportunity to witness. Jesus was calling them to follow His example in how He operated. Now the second Person of the Godhead has omniscience in Himself. But Jesus was not asking His disciples to exercise their own omniscience. He constantly operated according to resources available (or that would become available) to his disciples, and to us his disciples, since He was anointed with the Holy Spirit.

His intention, the Father’s Plan, was for the church to carry on Jesus’ operating ministry after His departure from the earth. This is crystal clear from John 14:12:

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.

Why this is true is because of Christ’s sending the Holy Spirit to anoint His Body as He Himself was anointed. The Holy Spirit has a speaking, communicational function from Christ, and ultimately the Father, toward us:

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. (John 16:13)

Jesus, anointed as He was, perceived information through the Holy Spirit, so as to possess and employ knowledge beyond what his physical senses could tell Him:

And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide disputes by what his ears hear,
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; (Isaiah 11:2-4)

He saw what the disciples could not, that the woman bringing her jar to the well was elect of God and that her moment of conversion had come, that Jesus would be the messenger, and that the method would be prophetic exposure of her sinful life.

This is not alien to the expected experience of the church. Far from it. The apostle Paul urged the Corinthians to prophesy, with expectation of similar results:

But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all,the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you. (1 Cor. 14:24-25)

It was lunch time and the disciples brought back food from the village, but Jesus enigmatically said to them: “I have food to eat that you do not know about” (v. 32). They didn’t get it, of course.  He explained: “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work” (v. 34).

He had been down this road before:

“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). Not just every word of Scripture (since when Jesus quoted that verse, He was constrained by a direct instruction through the Holy Spirit and not by a written Bible verse), but every word communicated by the Father to His anointed worker. Just as He is calling His disciples to see as He saw, He called them to hear as He heard—and so do the work of the Father.

And this is how we work as he worked. “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12). It calls for us to be in that ongoing state of open communication with Christ and the Father through the Holy Spirit by which He works through us those “good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).

 

Jesus the Apostle

by Scott

So I have set out to spend quite a good while looking at the equipping ministry gifts of Ephesians 4:11, which fall in the larger context of vs7-16. Specifically, vs11-13 say:

11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

As I noted in my first article, Paul makes it quite clear as to the purpose of these five (or four) ministry gifts:

  • To prepare and equip God’s people for works of service, or ministry, since the Greek word could be translated either way (vs12).
  • So that the body of Christ might be built up (vs12).
  • To help Christ’s body reach unity in the faith and knowledge of Christ, becoming mature and grown up into the fullness of Christ (vs13).

Yet, I also noted some practical reasons as to why these giftings are needed in the church today, though these are not specifically found in the Ephesians text:

  • Jesus, Himself, functioned in all five of these ministries.
  • The Holy Spirit also functions in all five of these ministries
  • The body of Christ, empowered by the Spirit of Christ, is now called to be all of Christ in all of the earth.
  • Therefore, Christ’s desire is to continue to gift people in such ministry roles.

I know that is a loaded statement, of which many will want me to give more explanation. But suffice to say now, those three points above are my conclusion from reading the New Testament text. But the next weeks (and maybe a little longer) will be spent laying out a further understanding of how I have come to such a conclusion.

But moving on…Here is one of the most important things to remember before jumping into Paul’s words in Ephesians 4:11-13 – Jesus was the greatest apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher that has ever existed. That is where we have to start. When considering anything in Scripture, our starting points as new covenant believers is how did Christ fulfil such.

And, though, I plan to look at how Jesus functioned in all five of these ministries, in this post I particularly want to consider how Jesus was the great apostle. Again, one might have never thought of Jesus as an apostle. Most think of Paul in regards to an apostolic ministry. But Jesus was truly an apostle and, again, He was the greatest apostle that ever walked the earth.

Consider these words from the writer to the Hebrews:

Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession. (Hebrews 3:1)

Here we see the writer to the Hebrews identifying Jesus as an apostle. But, for many, this passage will not necessarily mean much. It might simply point out that Jesus had some ‘office’ or ‘position’ as apostle.

But what we really want to know is what practically made Jesus an apostle? He did not just walk around with a business card with the title, ‘apostle’, written on it. So what is an apostle?

The word apostle (Greek apostolos) simply means ‘sent one’. Though so many people have so many conceptions of what an apostle is (of which I hope to address at least most ideas), in its essence, the word simply means ‘sent one’. And the verb for sent, in the Greek, is apostello.

Yet, what is also interesting to note is that the Greek word, apostolos, and the Latin word, missum (where we get our word missionary), mean exactly the same thing. They both mean ‘sent one’. In a most simple understanding, apostle = missionary and missionary = apostle. That doesn’t mean every missionary functions in an apostolic ministry. Of course not. Still, in their essence, they are synonyms. But I am probably getting a little ahead of myself.

Therefore, knowing what the word apostle means (sent one), we can definitely concur that Jesus was an apostle. Remember? He was sent by the Father with a specific mission to accomplish. I mean, I really don’t need to quote Scripture to show this, but let’s consider a few passages.

In Nazareth, Jesus announced He had be sent with this mission:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent [apostello] me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” (Luke 4:18-19)

We see other Scriptures pointing to the fact that Christ had been sent by the Father:

Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent [apostello] me. (Mark 9:37)

But he said to them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent [apostello] for this purpose.” (Luke 4:43)

For he whom God has sent [apostello] utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. (John 3:34)

Again, I cannot emphasise enough that Paul or Peter were not the greatest apostles to ever live. That’s one mistake we regularly make. Jesus and Jesus alone stands as the great apostle, for He completely fulfilled the mission for which He was sent by the Father.

Therefore, it must be duly noted that an apostle, any apostle, is only able to function as an apostle because Jesus was the first and greatest apostle. This will have important ramifications later on as we consider the ministry of an apostle.

Still, I must say that I am truly glad that Christ is the great and faithful apostle of our confession (Hebrews 3:1). I think you would all agree as well.

Video Teaching – Jesus, the Apostle

by Scott

One thing this blog is definitely devoted to is presenting a positive case for the continuation of all gifts of the Spirit from Pentecost to the present (and beyond). While that might usually seem wrapped up in a defense of the gifts in 1 Corinthians 12, for me personally, I also believe in the continuation of all 5 ministry gifts in Ephesians 4:11-13 (or 4 giftings if one would like to argue such).

So, yes, though Marv (my partner in crime) and I would probably disagree on this subject, I do believe the ministry gift of apostle is still active and needed even today. I’ll post a rather detailed series in the near future on why I hold to such. But I at least wanted to share 2 teaching videos as a kind of taster.

The first video below is entitled Jesus, the Apostle and the teaching comes from a close friend and ministry partner of mine, Alan Scotland. He specifically looks at what it means to be an apostle and does this by considering specific aspects in the life of Jesus. Christ is the great apostle, so it’s best to look at His life and apostolic ministry.

Though the video is about 10 years old, the teaching remains extremely relevant to the topic at hand. I hope the video stirs you.

Healing and the Atonement

by Scott

One of the big questions centred around the discussion on healing is whether or not healing is based in the atonement. Those who affirm that the atonement provides for our healing will usually refer to three passages of Scripture:

4 Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was wounded for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his stripes we are healed. (Isa 53:4-5)

14 And when Jesus entered Peter’s house, he saw his mother-in-law lying sick with a fever. 15 He touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she rose and began to serve him. 16 That evening they brought to him many who were oppressed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “He took our illnesses and bore our diseases.” (Matt 8:14-17)

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. (1 Pet 2:24)

There are really two questions to answer here:

  1. Is Christ’s suffering on the cross the provision for physical healing, spiritual healing, or both?
  2. Is it the cross, and the cross alone, that provides this healing?

In regards to the first question, the Isaiah context looks as if it speaks of ‘spiritual’ healing, i.e., we read about transgressions and iniquities (vs5). It might also be argued that the passage in 1 Peter is probably more in reference to ‘spiritual’ healing, since it speaks of Christ bearing our sins in his body on the tree (cross).

Yet, when we turn to Matthew’s passage, which actually quotes Isaiah 53:4, we see that Matthew uses these words in reference to physical healing. But, interesting to consider is that Matthew quotes these words in regards to Jesus’ earthly ministry rather than in reference to the atonement. Still, before we conclude anything, let’s move on to the second question.

In regards to the second question proposed, Isaiah’s context seems to be referring to Christ’s suffering for us, in the sense of His suffering on the cross – ‘with his stripes we are healed’ (vs5). Peter is definitely referring to the cross as well.

But, when we turn to Matthew’s words, he quotes the words of Isaiah before the cross-event ever took place. Also, when we read the pages of the Old Testament, as well as the Gospels, there are no doubt many healings that take place prior to Christ’s atoning death on the cross.

Therefore, I believe a balanced conclusion would be this: The cross is not the sole provision of God’s healing. As mentioned, God had been healing people well before the cross. But, what I would suggest is that the cross-event (along with Christ’s resurrection, ascension and seating next to the Father) stands as the great and foundational redemptive act of God on behalf of humanity and the cosmos. Not only that, but, as the great provision of God’s redemption, the purpose of the cross-event was to make available in Christ the fullness of salvation. Though more dualistic thinking tends to separate the ‘spiritual’ and the ‘physical’, this is not truly grounded in biblical theology. So we must note that salvation is not solely about having our sins forgiven and going to heaven. God’s redemptive salvation is for the whole self, including the body.

Thus, I believe that this holistic salvation provided for and centred in the cross-event would definitely include not only our ‘spiritual’ healing and forgiveness, but also our physical healing. And, just as with our spiritual healing, it is in this age that we are able to receive tastes of physical healing. But it is in the age to come that we shall receive the full benefits of our salvation, both spiritual and physical.