Accomplishing the Great Commission

March 17, 2011

At the end of Matthew’s Gospel Jesus speaks what has come to be known as the Great Commission to his disciples:

The Jesus came up and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And remember I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

So how does this get accomplished?  How is it that the disciples will be made to be disciples of Jesus, baptized in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit?  A couple of things to keep as distinctives in answering that question:

  1. It will be accomplished by the one who has all authority showing up.  Who is the one to whom all authority has been given?  Let me quote Daniel:
    “I was watching in the night visions,
    And with the clouds of the sky
    one like a son of man was approaching.
    He went up to the Ancient of Days
    and was escorted before him.
    To him was given ruling authority, honor, and sovereignty
    All peoples, nations and language groups were serving him
    His authority is eternal and will not pass away
    His kingdom will not be destroyed”
    This is the one on whose behalf we speak!  His authority is at work in and through us!
  2. It will be accomplished through Jesus presence.  His power is eternal and his presence is continual.  There’s something to rest in!

Okay, so again, how do we make disciples of the nations that they would be baptized into the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit?  Tell me if this is overly simplistic, but I think the answer is in the question: We make disciples of the nations by immersing them in trinitarian community. Together our life and words throughout the city serve as a canvas displaying God’s character, community and invitation to reconciliation to the nations.

What do you guys think?


“As I sent you, I now send my Son”

February 8, 2011

Not a long post today, but hopefully a helpful one.

It seems pretty clear: Jesus’ mission is our mission, right?  “Just as the Father has sent me, I also send you” (John 20:21).  He came to glorify the father through multiplying who would rightly reflect him.  As his people, sent by him, we live for the same things he did.  It’s hardly rocket science.

The funny thing about Jesus’ mission, is that it has always been our mission!  We might surmise that the Father’s sending of Jesus went something like this: “Just as I sent them, I also send you.”

If this seems strange to you, look again at God’s original commandments to man in the garden: #1 “Be fruitful and multiply! Fill the earth and subdue it!” (Genesis 1:28) and later, #2 the command about what trees Adam and Eve could eat from.  Why did God command Adam and Eve to multiply and fill the earth?  Because, as we read in the verse just prior, they bear his image!  God is saying essentially, “Fill the earth with my image!”

Not surprisingly, this is not the last time this command will be given:

“Go out from your country, your relatives and your father’s household to the land that I will show you
Then I will make you a great nation and I will bless you
And I will make your name great” (Genesis 12:12)

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the farthest parts of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

So, “Just as the Father has sent me, I also send you”  Go multiply and glorify through the same kind of life-on-life Jesus practiced!

They Saw the Star

January 20, 2011

Why did the wise men follow a star?

“Where is the one who is born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” (Matthew 2:2)

Certainly their vision was beyond so many of their contemporaries (i.e. Herod, the Pharisees, etc.), but must it be beyond ours as well?  Should their pursuit of the star come as a surprise?  Possibly not–and I want your thoughts on this:

‘I see him, but not now;
I behold him, but not close at hand.
A star will march forth out of Jacob,
and a scepter will rise out of Israel.
He will crush the skulls of Moab,
and the heads of all the sons of Sheth.
Edom will be a possession,
Seir, his enemies, will also be a possession;
but Israel will act valiantly.
A ruler will be established from Jacob;
he will destroy the remains of the city.’” (Numbers 24:17-19)

Are the wise men merely good readers of Numbers when they make their long journey or is Balaam’s prophecy meant to be taken more symbolically than perhaps they’ve taken it?

Either way, Jesus seems to have no qualms about his identity:

“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star!” (Revelation 22:16)

Oh that is good!

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?


The Sign of Jonah

March 29, 2009

Sorry for the long radio silence. I’ve been busy.

So I was browsing around in Matthew today, partially because I have to for my gospels class, but also because Bill was discussing it today in his sermon, and I came upon another instance of the Sign of Jonah that Jesus mentions a couple of times.

 Now when the Pharisees and Sadducees came to test Jesus, they asked him to show them a sign from heaven.  He said, “When evening comes you say, ‘It will be fair weather, because the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, because the sky is red and darkening.’ You know how to judge correctly the appearance of the sky, but you cannot evaluate the signs of the times.  A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” Then he left them and went away.

And just previously in Matthew:

12:38 Then some of the experts in the law along with some Pharisees answered him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.” 12:39 But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah12:40 For just as Jonah was in the belly of the huge fish for three days and three nights, so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. 12:41 The people of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented when Jonah preached to them – and now, something greater than Jonah is here!12:42 The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon – and now, something greater than Solomon is here!

In both instances there are Jews asking Jesus for a sign and in response Jesus calls them an adulterous nation and tells them about the sign of Jonah, and in chapter 12 Jesus talks about himself, calling himself the Son of Man. So I was looking at that today and kept reading in chapter 16 and thought this was pretty curious. It’s right after the quoted section above:

16:13 When Jesus came to the area of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 16:14 They answered, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 16:15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16:16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 16:17 And Jesus answered him, “You are blessed, Simon son of Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father in heaven!

What I was interested in was that a sign of Jonah is brought up twice, and usually involving the Son of Man, and when Jesus asks the disciples who they think he is, Simon, son of Jonah, properly reveals who Jesus is, a fact not revealed by any person but from God. What do you guys think? Coincidence that both names happen to be Jonah? Seems pretty particular that the title son of Jonah is stated here. Could the author be trying to show us that the sign they are looking for doesn’t come from the sky, from a miraculous act, but from Simon, a fisherman, not a teacher of the Law.

Why a virgin birth?

February 16, 2009

So I was reading Matthew’s genealogy the other day–I know, exciting stuff right?–with some Dutch people and one of them asked, “How can Jesus be Joseph’s son, since he wasn’t physically his father?”  (As I think about it now, I wonder if that isn’t a very Western thinking sort of question, but that’s not what I’m here to write about).  Anyway, that got me to thinking.  I don’t think I’ve ever really heard a satisfying explanation of the virgin birth.  

As I recall, the dialogue generally goes something like this: “So why was Jesus born of a virgin?” “Because it was prophesied in Isaiah” “Oh.  Great…Why did God go through the trouble of prophesying that he would come in the flesh through a virgin birth?” “Cause it makes Jesus birth even more special…I guess…”  Yeah, I’m not satisfied either.  So here’s what I’m thinking: 

The early chapters of Genesis tell us that eating from the forbidden tree would result in death for God’s specially appointed vice-regent stewards of the earth, Mankind.  Through the story (and Paul’s restatement in Romans) it becomes pretty clear that in Adam, all died, because no one seems to display the marks of life within themselves, and so Man’s role as vice-regent/stewards of the earth is somewhat called in to question.  How will humanity fulfill the task and potential to which God has called them (in relation to both Creation and God)? 

As the story moves along, in the precarious story of Judah and Tamar (Gen. 38) there arises a provision called the Leverite Marriage, which served to continue the line of families who no longer had a fitting heir (Another great example is found in the book of Ruth).  As Judah’s sons deny their duty to their brother, the narrative pronounces them “evil” and God kills them–(which I’ve always found to be a bit of an overreaction–but then again, the Leverite marriage has never seemed that important or meaningful to me either).

I’m sure you’re already putting the puzzle together, but here’s how I see this shaking out: 

#1  The mother of the savior must be a virgin, because, without the intervention of the next of kin (in whose image we have been made), mankind is “dead” and cannot possibly produce a rightful heir.

#2  If God, in Christ, is providing a rightful heir for humanity through the Leverite  marriage, then it must also make beautiful sense of the family terminology which permeates the rest of the NT.  Why are we a family?  Why are we “brothers and sisters”?  Why is Paul so fond of adoption language?  Because Jesus was born of a virgin, thus reestablishing our true humanity.  

Not to belabor the point, do you guys have any more thoughts on this?