“Peter” in John’s Gospel

June 15, 2012

I’ll be posting some thoughts (and hopefully updating them), as I study John 21 in the coming weeks. Here’s round one: Why does Jesus never use the name that he gave to Peter in the Gospel of John?

Jesus calls Peter Simon son of John once when he meets and names him Cephas and three times at his reinstatement in John 21.  Why does Jesus never call Peter “Peter”?


Jesus the Prophet

April 3, 2011

I’ve posted this on a couple other blogs I write on, but I wanted to put it up here for your consideration and because the content fits so well within the scope of this blog.  So, here it is…

In Deuteronomy 18:18-19 the Lord said something amazing to Moses: “I will raise up a prophet like you from them, from 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.”  What grounds for expectation, right?  What if you missed his coming?  What if you fail to pay attention to what he speaks?  I mean who wouldn’t be looking for this person?

It is no surprise then that one of the first questions the Jews put to John the Baptist is “Are you the Prophet?” (John 1:21).  Thousands of years after Moses and this prophecy is still in the front of their minds.

Not long after this Philip tells Nathanael, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the law, and the prophets also wrote about” (John 1:45).  Though Nathanael is incredulous over Jesus’ origin, he goes to see him nonetheless.  Upon meeting Jesus, “the one Moses wrote about”, we find Jesus speaking prophetically about Nathanael and what the disciples will experience and see in the future (John 1:47, 50-51).  And it is not the last of his prophecies in John either (John 4:44; 13:21).

In John Jesus is clearly displayed as the one who makes the Father know, who speaks by the Father’s authority what the Father has told him (John 12:49-50) and who is himself the Truth (John 14:6)

Jesus is the Prophet who not only speaks but also fully embodies God’s truth and makes the Father fully known.  This is Good News, because it tells me that we can stop looking for truth apart from him.  He is our teacher.  He is the one who tells us what is true and what is not.  He shows us the Father, sanctifies us by his truth (John 17:17) and has sent us the Spirit to lead us in to all Truth (John 16:13).  No longer must we search asking “What is truth?” (John 18:38). Now is the time to know him and to believe the truth he shows us and to worship him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).

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?

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!

Obeying the book of Revelation

December 10, 2009

Last week as I began reading Revelation I didn’t make it far before I hit a snag.  Actually, I only made it three verses, until I landed on this:

Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy aloud, and blessed are those who hear and obey the things written in it, because the time is near!

This of course, got me to thinking, “How does one obey the book of Revelation?”  The journey that ensued and consumed the last week of my devotional time with the Lord came out something like this…

To “obey” Revelation means essentially to worship Jesus.  Revelation is “prophecy” (1:3; 22:7)–the spirit of which is “testimony about Jesus” (19:10).  Testimony about Jesus defines those who are for Him (1:2, 9; 6:9; 11:7; 12:11, 17; 15:5; 17:6; 19:10; 22:16–testimony about/for Jesus seems to be the primary designator of Christians in Revelation; 10:7; 11:10; 22:6–of prophets testifying about Jesus; 11:18; 16:6; 18:20, 24 of prophets testifying about Jesus in parallel with “saints”) and defines those who are false prophets (2:20; 16:13; 19:20; 20:10) because their testimony leads people to worship someone other than Jesus (19:20).

Twice John tries to worship the angel who speaks with him.  Twice the angels forbid him and urge him to worship God.  The first time (19:10) this urging appears to elaborate what it means to “hold to the testimony about Jesus”.  Alternately, the second exhortation to worship (22:9) appears to elaborate what it means to “obey the words of this book” (which is itself a testimony about and revelation of Jesus, 1:1).

Repeatedly (7x in the opening 3 chapters) we hear the refrained exhortation: “The one who has an ear had better hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22).  Rather than being an aside to those reading the Spirit’s words to the churches in chapters 2-3 (i.e. an aside to us), I believe it makes more sense that the Spirit’s “word” should be that which comes after chapters 2 and 3.  One reason for this is in the repeated blessing on the one who obeys the words of the prophecy (1:3; 22:7).  Essentially John says, “Blessed are you if you obey [1:3]…Now that you’ve heard, you’ll be blessed by obeying [22:7].”  Notice: the blessing at hearing is NOT repeated in chapter 22.  Instead, John curses anyone who, having haerd, chooses to add to or take away from the prophecy.

As for timing, I believe the book’s own timetable seems to make the most sense.

  • “The time is near (1:3; 22:10)
  • “…must happen very soon” (1:1; 22:6)
  • “little longer” (6:10)
  • “There will be no more delay!” (10:6)

UPDATE: I’ve been wondering lately if maybe our living in the last days has more to do with the NT idea that in Jesus’s resurrection the final restoration has already begun and than it has to do with the number of years before Jesus’ return.  More on this later perhaps?  We’ll see.  Back to Revelation…

Lastly, the imminent expectation of Revelation’s occurring is also bolstered by John apparent placement of himself in that group which would experience the persecution of Revelation “very soon” in 1:8 (“I John…who shares with you in persecution”).  If the book is something imminently to happen (which does not preclude its being future yet still, so don’t get too nervous if this messes with your chart) then I think the repeated exhortations to endurance are not idle (2:10, 24; 3:11; 13:10).

In light of all these thoughts, here is my proposed outline for the book:

I.  Introduction to the revelation and testimony to Jesus Christ (Ch. 1)

II.  Exhortations to the Churches called to live in response to the revelation/testimony about to be given (Ch 2-3)

III.  “What must happen soon” (22:6) so that the world might repent and turn from their blasphemies (9:20-21; 11:13; 16:9, 11, 21) to worship God (19:10; 22:9) with all who are His (4:1-11; 5:8-14; 7:1-12; 11:13, 15-19; 14:1-3; 15:1-4; 16:5-7; 19:1-8) (Ch 4-22:5)

IV.  Closing exhortation to obedience: worship and come to Jesus in the brief time before He comes (22:6-21)

I’ve been slow in my approach to Revelation in past years, so this is among the first of my forays into understanding this infamously difficult book.

Thoughts?  Questions?  Shared questions?

James 1 – Part IV

October 27, 2009

I remember trying to teach James 1:21-27 one time as a part of Bible study in high school having no idea what it was about.  It’s probably just as well there were only a couple people there that day.  Reading this passage again on Thursday I was stunned to catch James’ intention.  James lays it out pretty plainly.

So what does one see when they look in the perfect law that gives liberty?  Well, as he says, what else does a man see when he looks in a mirror but his own face?  James’ quarrel though is not with what a person finds in the mirror but with the passive (or willful) amnesia of those who peer in to the mirror.

James goes on to say that whatever a person sees in the mirror ought to be a sight which propels them out in to changed living, living which cares for orphans and widow and remains unstained from the world.   So again, what does a person see in the perfect law of liberty?

In James’ words, they will see “the message implanted within [them].”  In other words, the sight that propels those formed by Christ out into sacrificial life among the needy in the world–if they can remember what they have seen–is a clear vision of the identity they have been given, the inside job completed in Christ.

Each time I come to God, encountering him in Spirit and Word, I re-encounter myself in a new way which has the power to reshaped my life and call me back to faithfully living out my identity and life in Christ in a broken world.