The Transfiguration

February 1, 2011

Sufjan Stevens serenaded me as I was doing the dishes this evening.  His take on the Transfiguration in the synonymously named song got me to thinking.  Some years ago I got to making parallels between the transfiguration and the book of Exodus.  Moses attends both events.  Both take place on a mountain.  A departure/exodus is imminently related to both.  And both mountains become shrouded in cloud.  Tonight though, two more things struck me.

Near the end of the scene God shows up and has his say, “This is my Son, my Chosen One.  Listen to him!” (Luke 9:35)  Two things came out of this for me tonight:

  1. Another notable time someone was told to listen to someone was in Deuteronomy 18:15 when Moses had this to say: “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your brothers–from your fellow Israelites; you must listen to him.”  And of course, God confirms this by saying, “I will raise up a prophet like you for them from among their fellow Israelites. I will put my words in his mouth and he will speak to them whatever I command.  I will personally hold responsible anyone who then pays no attention to the words that prophet speaks in my name.” (Dt 18:18-19).
  2. Secondly, it struck me that, when Moses ascends the mountain he returns with the words of God written on stone tablet.  When Jesus ascends the mountain he returns utterly confirmed as the one through whom God would express his words.

What do you guys think of this?


Chronicles to Luke/Matthew

December 22, 2009

We were discussing in Old Testament History and Poetry class the other day the genealogy of Chronicles and how the chronicler sets up the genealogy to help clarify his view of history: the chronicles genealogy starts at Adam and rushes to David, gets to David and slows down, and then continues on. The chronicler’s genealogy emphasizes the importance of David in all of history, that the genealogy of Israel is rushing towards that one man, and from him all history revolves itself. It is not Moses, or Abraham, or Israel(Jacob) but David. Which got me to thinking about genealogies.

In Matthew and Luke are two different genealogies, and scholars have commented on how they prove Jesus right to the Davidic throne and legitimizes Jesus family line. But what if, like Chronicles does, it also points out Jesus importance in all of history. In Matthew especially we see the book beginning with genealogy (a genealogy following the genealogies of Chronicles if the OT is taken in TaNaK order), rushing from Abraham, stopping at David, picking up again to Exile, then up to Jesus. And after that, the book slows down and tells us the story of Jesus, what he has done, who he is, his death and resurrection. And Luke begins with Jesus, and traces itself backwards to Adam, not even bothering to stop, as Matthew did, at David or Abraham, but continues to Adam, as if laying out that from Adam all history has been moving to the time when Jesus would come, which when he does the book of Luke slows down, explaining Christ, and then after his death, much like Chronicles does, goes on to further explain the acts of the apostles in Acts, sort of like a 2 Chronicles in the NT.

So what do you think? Could the genealogies not only legitimize Jesus but also act as an explanation of what all of history has been moving towards, the focal point on which everything was coming to, and is now moving from? Could Luke and Matthew use the genealogy to rearrange history?

Cameron


Journeys to the Darkest Places on Earth

January 7, 2009
Even though its just going to be a quick note today, as time is limited, I couldn’t help sharing something I saw in Luke-Acts as I was preparing for a recent message over here.  
First of all, thank you Paul Jones for the sweet N.T. Wright article on Acts, which first tipped me off to the Jesus-Paul parallel in Luke’s two volumes.  The basic idea Wright introduces is that Jesus and Paul’s journey’s, which dominate the latter part of both works, are related and parallel each other.  
While I only have time to add some references, here at least are some of the similarities I’m seeing (as I listen to Sufjan Stevens thanks to Cam).  
Both Jesus and Paul, resolved to go (Lk 9:51; Ac 19:21), sent messengers ahead (Lk 9:52; Ac. 19:22), were rejected (Lk 9:53-56; Ac. 19:23-41) warned of plots on their lives (Lk. 13:31; Ac. 20:3), warned of coming difficulties (Lk 9:57-62; Ac. 20:22), taught and encouraged people (Lk 9-22 throughout; Ac. 20:7, etc.), were plotted against by the Jews, healed people through the laying on of hands (Lk 13:13; Ac. 28:8), were provided for with supplies (Jesus w/Donkey, Paul with a ship, etc.), faced trails before the Sanhedrin and Gentile courts, were to be killed by soldiers, were covered in darkness. 
Finally arriving in Rome, Paul meets up with the local Jews and recounts the suspiciously Christlike situation he finds himself in.  Compare Paul’s words to those of Pilate.
Paul: Acts 28:17-18
“After three days Paul called the local Jewish leaders together.  When they had assembled, he said to them, “Brothers, although I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our ancestors, from Jerusalem I was handed over as a prisoner to the Romans.  When they had heard my case, they wanted to release me, because there was no basis for a death sentence against me.”
Pilate: Lk 23:13
“Then Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers, and the people, and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was misleading the people.  When examined him before youI did not find this man guilty of anything you accused him of doing…”
Strangely similar.  Now, enter the “last day” of Luke and Acts both.  Even though we know the time between Jesus’ resurrection and ascension to be 40 days (Ac. 1:3), Luke seems interested in not giving us any definite temporal markers that would indicate the events of Luke 24 took place over a time period longer than one day. 
Why would he do that?  Here is my thought: Luke is drawing together the two ends of his two volume work through the parallel journeys of Jesus and Paul, which both end in a single day (Lk. 24 and Ac. 28).  Here are the similarities I see between the two days: 
Both take place from morning to evening, are filled with testimony about Jesus, have people leaving in disagreement, allude to the Fall and its power to keep people from encountering Jesus, have the Scriptures opened to show how Jesus fulfills prophecy and declare that Gospel is going out to the Gentiles, finally ending with an exalted view of the King whose Kingdom cannot be stopped as it marches out to reach the ends of the earth!

Luke’s John (toilet)

September 5, 2008
Pardon the long quote here, but it’ll make sense.
Birth Announcement of John the Baptist

During the reign of Herod king of Judea, there lived a priest named Zechariah who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah, and he had a wife named Elizabeth, who was a descendant of Aaron. They were both righteous in the sight of God, following all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly. But they did not have a child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both very old.

Now while Zechariah was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the holy place of the Lord and burn incense. Now the whole crowd of people were praying outside at the hour of the incense offering. An angel of the Lord, standing on the right side of the altar of incense, appeared to him. And Zechariah, visibly shaken when he saw the angel, was seized with fear. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son; you will name him John. Joy and gladness will come to you, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth. He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go as forerunner before the Lord in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared for him.”

Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I be sure of this? For I am an old man, and my wife is old as well.” The angel answered him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. And now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will be silent, unable to speak, until the day these things take place.”

Now the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they began to wonder why he was delayed in the holy place. When he came out, he was not able to speak to them. They realized that he had seen a vision in the holy place, because he was making signs to them and remained unable to speak. When his time of service was over, he went to his home.

After some time his wife Elizabeth became pregnant, and for five months she kept herself in seclusion. She said, “This is what the Lord has done for me at the time when he has been gracious to me, to take away my disgrace among people.”

Alright, so huge text quoted there and you might need to read it? Or maybe I’ll talk enough about it that you don’t, but it’ll be good for you to just see the context of it all. Now the thing that catches me about this story is that it is about John the Baptist’s birth, how it all happened, the miracle behind it. Now I was just thinking though, if I were a Jew reading this little narrative back in the day, certain things would start to jump out at me right away, and I think they did when I read this just recently because I had also just read Genesis. First it is noted that there is Zechariah and Elizabeth, both very old and Elizabeth is barren. Abraham and Sara? And in the story Zechariah goes before the Lord and an angel tells him not to fear and that his wife will bear a child. Kind of like Abraham again. And like Abraham, Zechariah asks how this can be since he and his wife are old; but unlike Abraham, Zechariah gets silenced until the child is born. But the angel also says “until the day these things take place” or as the NIV puts it “And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time.” I like the part about “come true at their proper time.” Like the promise to Abraham about Isaac. God promises a child to be born to an older couple but it will come true at His proper timing.

And to end it all, Elizabeth says, “This is what the Lord has done for me at the time when he has been gracious to me, to take away my disgrace among people.”

 Okay, so I just stumbled on something really interesting here. I’m excited. Check it, Genesis style:

Then God took note of Rachel. He paid attention to her and enabled her to become pregnant. She became pregnant and gave birth to a son. Then she said, “God has taken away my shame.” She named him Joseph, saying, “May the Lord give me yet another son.”

NIV: She became pregnant and gave birth to a son and said, “God has taken away my disgrace.”

So Elizabeth says, in the NIV translation, an almost verbatim quote of Rachel when Rachel became pregnant with Joseph. But she doesn’t say the part about “May the Lord give me yet another son.” But Joseph, whom we all know, and John have this connection going on. So interesting! This whole beginning part with the births of Jesus and John are so interesting, so loaded with connections to Old Testament things. It seems the Jews would have picked up on this. Or at least the rabbis.

Hmmmmmmmmm.


Luke 9 Part 3: Son

August 22, 2008

And lastly, Son.

Now on the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a large crowd met him. Then a man from the crowd cried out, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son – he is my only child! A spirit seizes him, and he suddenly screams; it throws him into convulsions and causes him to foam at the mouth. It hardly ever leaves him alone, torturing him severely. I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not do so.” Jesus answered, “You unbelieving and perverse generation! How much longer must I be with you and endure you? Bring your son here.” As the boy was approaching, the demon threw him to the ground and shook him with convulsions. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. Then they were all astonished at the mighty power of God. But while the entire crowd was amazed at everything Jesus was doing, he said to his disciples, “Take these words to heart, for the Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men.” But they did not understand this statement; its meaning had been concealed from them, so that they could not grasp it. Yet they were afraid to ask him about this statement.

I have referenced this story in each of my last two points as a sort of central story to revolve around. I’m sure others have noticed this and it isn’t anything new, but this is probably the central point in Luke’s gospel. We gather that after this chapter, with the transfiguration, the feeding of the five thousand, the sending of the disciples, Jesus suddenly changes everything He does.

Now when the days drew near for him to be taken up, Jesus set out resolutely to go to Jerusalem.

Jesus now sets out for Jerusalem where He will die. His modus operandi changes. From this chapter on everything takes a new turn. This is Luke’s turning point, and in this central chapter Luke tells the story of the boy who is possessed by an unclean spirit and is thrown to the ground. But what is so interesting about the story is that a father comes to Jesus and says, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son – he is my only child!” The man brings to Jesus his only child. Being good readers we would remember that just before this God said of Jesus, “This is my Son, my Chosen One.” So a man’s only son is brought to Jesus and as he is coming towards Jesus the unclean spirit throws the only child to the ground. “But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father.” This is pretty much the story of the gospel acted out in physical manifestation. An only son/Jesus is thrown to the ground and Jesus/God rebukes the spirit and raises him back up and gives him to his father/the Father. What is so cool about this too is that this story is surrounded by two important narratives. First is the transfiguration where God tells the disciples “This is my Son,” the only son is brought to Jesus, and then Jesus says, “Take these words to heart, for the Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men.” And the disciples don’t get what Jesus means. But we get to see this manifestation of what is going to happen, a foreshadow of how the book will end. And from this point on Jesus goes towards this end. These events are the central point in Luke.

Son.


Luke 9 Part 2: Listen

August 20, 2008

And here we go again. Listen!

Now about eight days after these sayings, Jesus took with him Peter, John, and James, and went up the mountain to pray. As he was praying, the appearance of his face was transformed, and his clothes became very bright, a brilliant white. Then two men, Moses and Elijah, began talking with him. They appeared in glorious splendor and spoke about his departure that he was about to carry out at Jerusalem. Now Peter and those with him were quite sleepy, but as they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. Then as the men were starting to leave, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us make three shelters, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah” – not knowing what he was saying. As he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. Then a voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One. Listen to him!” After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. So they kept silent and told no one at that time anything of what they had seen.

The disciples, once again, and Jesus, once again, are sitting around doing things like… talking with Moses and Elijah. You know, simple things. So I was reading that and thinking about how Moses and Elijah were sitting there talking with Jesus “about his departure that he was about to cary out at Jerusalem” and as they are talking about this the disciples are… being sleepy. Kind of dozing off while they talk about Jesus death.

“This is how you’re going to die,” says Elijah.

“Yeah, pretty terrible,” says Moses.

“Hey, we’re napping over here.” “John smells like potatoes.” “Thomas doubts that I’m Peter.” and other things of the such say the disciples. At least at one point they become fully awake and realize Jesus’ glory. But, the disciples really aren’t listening, they are kind of just dozing off and not paying attention to what is going on. And then Peter says some stuff and a cloud descends and from the cloud comes, “This is my Son, my Chosen One. Listen to him!” Sounds like maybe the disciples should listen to him. I wouldn’t mess with a voice like that.

And just after that we have once again the healing of the boy with the unclean spirit.

Now on the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a large crowd met him. Then a man from the crowd cried out, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son – he is my only child! A spirit seizes him, and he suddenly screams; it throws him into convulsions and causes him to foam at the mouth. It hardly ever leaves him alone, torturing him severely. I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not do so.” Jesus answered, “You unbelieving and perverse generation! How much longer must I be with you and endure you? Bring your son here.” As the boy was approaching, the demon threw him to the ground and shook him with convulsions. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. Then they were all astonished at the mighty power of God.

Now I love this little bit because it is almost like the central point of all of this. So much happens in this story. Now as I stated in my previous post we discussed (yes, we) how the disciples were sent in the authority of Jesus to cast out demons and heal the sick. And of course they can’t cast out the demon in this boy because of their disbelief? It seems so. But once again they fail to do something as well; they fail to listen. This is what I mean; Jesus tells them to go out in his authority, and yet they don’t really believe, they don’t really listen to what Jesus says. And then to almost clarify for the disciples that Jesus really can send them out in his authority God speaks on the mountain and says, “This is my Son, my Chosen One. Listen to him!” In other words, when he speaks, listen to him. Believe what he says. And then we have this great part.

 But while the entire crowd was amazed at everything Jesus was doing, he said to his disciples, “Take these words to heart, for the Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men.” But they did not understand this statement; its meaning had been concealed from them, so that they could not grasp it. Yet they were afraid to ask him about this statement.

Now you might catch what Luke has here, but it is said better in the NIV version: “Listen carefully to what I am about to tell you: The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men.” Listen, Jesus tells them. Right after having been told to listen to Jesus, he tells them to listen to him. Now we, being able to see the story in such a way, should catch that what he is about to say is important. And like what was said on the mountain top, Jesus tells his disciples about his death. He is going to be betrayed, killed. And yet the disciples “did not understand.” They didn’t listen to him.

Listen.


Luke 9 Part 1: Go

August 13, 2008

So Luke 9 is just full of all sorts of interesting connections between each different little part, and if you don’t read it all in one sitting you might just miss it. And even now as I sit here and look over it, I might not be able to get them all down in one sitting. This might be a two or three part set.

Executive decision: this will be a multi-post.

So we begin with verse 1 as a great beginning must always begin with verse 1. I’m sure Socrates, or Plato, or Abraham Lincoln, or Moses, or someone wise said that once.

9:1 After Jesus called the twelve together, he gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, 9:2 and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. 9:3 He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey – no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, and do not take an extra tunic. 9:4 Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave the area. 9:5 Wherever they do not receive you, as you leave that town, shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” 9:6 Then they departed and went throughout the villages, proclaiming the good news and healing people everywhere.

So the twelve are sent out and the interesting thing that Jesus tells them to do is to take “no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, and do not take an extra tunic.” Normally bread isn’t in bold, but I think you might catch what I’m about to talk about. So the disciples go out and heal people with the power and authority that Jesus gives them. That too will come up again. And Jesus sends them out with nothing, that those who welcome them will provide them with food and these things. So how does it go? Let’s see what Luke 9 says a few verses ahead.

9:10When the apostles returned, they told Jesus everything they had done. Then he took them with him and they withdrew privately to a town called Bethsaida.

So they come back at least successful enough to not have been killed and they were probably provided for too since none of them seem to come back starving or beat up. So they were welcomed and given food. Then a bunch of people, maybe ones who had heard the twelve’s preaching, come to where Jesus and the disciples are.

9:11 But when the crowds found out, they followed him. He welcomed them, spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and cured those who needed healing. 9:12 Now the day began to draw to a close, so the twelve came and said to Jesus, “Send the crowd away, so they can go into the surrounding villages and countryside and find lodging and food, because we are in an isolated place.” 9:13 But he said to them, “You give them something to eat.” They replied, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish – unless we go and buy food for all these people.” 9:14 (Now about five thousand men were there.) Then he said to his disciples, “Have them sit down in groups of about fifty each.” 9:15 So they did as Jesus directed, and the people all sat down.

9:16 Then he took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven he gave thanks and broke them. He gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. 9:17 They all ate and were satisfied, and what was left over was picked up – twelve baskets of broken pieces.

So Jesus welcomes them and teaches them about the Kingdom and heals those among them. What is so interesting is that the disciples tell Jesus, who welcomed all these people, to send them away so that everyone can go eat. This is ironic in that Jesus had just sent them out and told them to be provided by those who welcomed them; they weren’t allowed to take bread with them. And Jesus says, “You give them something to eat.”

I see it as sort of this, “I sent you out and you mooched off of them, now let them mooch off of you,” kind of thing. The twelve are sent out and provided by those in the town who welcome them, and then Jesus welcomes all of these people and the disciples tell him to send them away to get food? I think Jesus is maybe using a bit of irony in there. The disciples, given all authority and power by Jesus, doubt they can do anything and so Jesus shows them what can be done and feeds 5000 people with some bread and fish. Ironic.

But we’re not done!

A few more verses ahead we have Luke 9:37-43:

9:37 Now on the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a large crowd met him. 9:38 Then a man from the crowd cried out, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son – he is my only child! 9:39 A spirit seizes him, and he suddenly screams; it throws him into convulsions and causes him to foam at the mouth. It hardly ever leaves him alone, torturing him severely. 9:40 I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not do so.” 9:41 Jesus answered, “You unbelieving and perverse generation! How much longer must I be with you and endure you? Bring your son here.” 9:42 As the boy was approaching, the demon threw him to the ground and shook him with convulsions. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. 9:43 Then they were all astonished at the mighty power of God.

The interesting thing to point out is that Jesus says in this section, “You unbelieving and perverse generation! How much longer must I be with you and endure you?” (I like the NIV version better because its says, “O unbelieving” and I’m a huge fan of O.) When I was reading this part I suddenly thought, “who is Jesus talking to?” Because it obviously can’t be the man who brought Jesus to him because he brought his son to Jesus believing Jesus could heal the boy. And was Jesus talking to the people around him who didn’t believe he was the Messiah? I believe he was actually talking to the generation surrounding him, his very own twelve disciples. Why? Look what is says just before Jesus says that: “9:40 I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not do so.” These disciples who were sent out with power and authority by Jesus were not able to drive out the demon. And these same disciples just earlier, with the power and authority of Jesus, did not think they could feed 5000 people with just some bread and fish. With these examples just building up on each other it is no surprise that Jesus exclaimed in frustration (paraphrased), “I gave you power and authority in my name and yet you didn’t believe! How much longer will I put up with you!”

While this might sound ironic, I do not want to paint the disciples in a bad picture; I’m sure I would have disbelieved just as well. But you see the irony that Luke has just set up, and you get to see who Jesus is talking to when you read this whole chapter in one sitting. And these themes just keep reccurring in this chapter and probably the whole book.

Part 2: Listen (coming soon)