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Love and mercy are characteristics of followers of Jesus and are to be seen as a reflection of knowing, trusting and imaging God.
I. Preaching the gospel and bearing fruit
II. A disciple's character in the world
III. Attitude toward possessions and the world
V. Service and mission
VI. Warnings to Israel
VII. Jesus as judge
VIII. The final week
Course: Life of Christ
Lecture: Disciples Character
This is the 13th lecture in the online series of lectures on the Life of Christ by Dr. Darrell Bock. Recommended Reading includes: Jesus According to Scripture: restoring the Portrait from the Gospels by Bock, Baker, 2002 and Jesus in Context by Darrel Bock and Greg Herrick, eds., Baker, 2005 and Jesus Under Fire by Mike Wilkins and J.P. Moreland, Zondervan, 1995.
The Mission of the Church
Jesus sends people to preach the Gospel into all the World. We are supposed to be bearing fruit in such a way that when people look at our work, they praise God who is in heaven. And when the future judgement comes, that is part of what will be in it. Jesus is worshiped, yet Jewish, but distinct. He was not concerned about issues of purity and preventing certain actions of mercer from taking place. He wasn’t concerned about issues of hand washing that got in the way of fellowship. He gave a distinct community prayer and changed the liturgy at the Last Super, but there is no discussion anywhere by Jesus as to the form of worship. It was only the integrity that is supposed to come when one worships. If you have something against your brother as you go along the way, don’t come into worship; take care of your relationship with your brother first and then show up for worship. This is the integrity of worship. It is regularly seen in acts of prayer and acts of charity to the image of the community as lost sheep in need of a shepherd. Where they need to be shepherded is to this category of integrity of worship and commitment is to the mission and commitment to carry out the call of the church. The best way to carry that out is to be engaged in mission; it is where you work, with your neighbors, not just within the four walls of the church building. Instead, think in terms of the walls of the church extending around the globe. This is my Father’s world and I am called to serve the Father in it. This is done by working within the concepts of the cultural scripts of the Gospel. For example, with the Gospel and the background of purity and uncleanliness should be considered in relationship to sin; uncleanliness and sacrifice, those two things. To understand that dynamic, it opens up how to picture the Gospel. It is like introducing someone to a new culture and having them to think cross culturally, except now you are doing it theologically. The Jewish culture as with any culture is picturing things that are also pictured about what our relationship to God should be like. We are not talking about ritual baths but instead, pictures of cleansing. We are not talking about slaying goats and rams, but instead when sin takes place it comes with a price. It comes at a cost as does restoration. Repairing the damage from sin also comes at a price and a cost. It isn’t a matter of indifference and we live in a world where many think that such choices are a matter of indifference.
The Disciple’s Character in the World
Love and mercy are to be seen as a reflection of knowing, trusting and imaging God. You are a reflection of him when you live with love and mercy and forgiveness with a pursuit of righteousness. Next to love and mercy, there is a righteous integrity. There is a righteousness that is to be part of the person that comes from within. What you see is what you get and our light should be such that we shouldn’t have to worry about doing things in private. We should become comfortable with the world that sees us in terms of righteousness. Righteousness has nothing to fear and nothing to hide. So, we get the anti-theses, we get the call for the disciples to be salt and light; the picture of the light, lights up the way of darkness with people seeing what we do and praise God as a result. What really defiles is not what goes into the body or whether I wash my hands but what comes out of the mouth and heart. Illustrated negatively by not having righteousness and integrity is shown by the Scribes and Sadducees in Matthew 23. If you want to take a negative spiritual formation exam, just work your way through what Jesus criticizes in those chapters. You need to be really careful on how you few possessions and how you attach yourself to the world, especially in a society as materialistic as in the western countries in which most people spend the bulk of their time figuring out how they can get what they don’t have. This is not just surviving. Most people who live in western countries are rich compared to the rest of the world. We have food, shelter and clothing while many in the world don’t have that. Paul says that is all we need. Attachments to the world risk an independence from God and risks in its pursuit turning people and the things around me into things to be used. Discipleship requires an absolute commitment to dependence, but the world hates dependence, rather they exalt independence in regards to basic values.
I think about preachers who preach a message that basically says, come to the church and God will take care of you. You will be happy and life will be a beach and the church is the beach head. Bring your lounge chair and come worship with us. Note that if anyone doesn’t take up his cross daily is not a disciple. Suffering means to be willing to bear the cross, to bear the rejection, to lose one’s life to a life to gain the soul and Jesus preached this publicly to everybody as he was talking about the coming of the kingdom of God.
Service and Mission
This is all through the Gospels. What does Jesus send the twelve to do? They sit and hear Jesus teach and they go out and share the message of the coming kingdom. We all need to have the word ‘pastor’ added to our name; perhaps that would help the church. One of the lessons of the reformation was that we were all believer priests. That is really something. We are pastors of service and missions. By the way, a great illustration of a theologically zealous group who doesn’t quite have their act together shows up in Acts chapter 1, ‘Lord, is this the time you are going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’ I’ve got Jesus here and I’m going to figure out what is going on theologically, they think. It’s not for us to know the times and seasons. And then we get Acts 1:8, ‘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 world.’ The sad thing about this is that it’s a memory verse that has lost its context. You may want to figure this all out; that will come in God’s timing, but in the mean time you have a calling. You have received power from on high and I want you to be my witnesses, beginning in Jerusalem, then Samaria and the ends of the earth and that is what you should be concerned about.
The story ends with a vindication to come. This is eschatology. There are warnings to Israel that she risks judgement if she doesn’t believe and it’s offered again and again and an opportunity for Israel’s response comes again and again, even with miracles that mirror what Jesus did earlier after warning them that they aren’t reading the signs of the times correctly. Even John the Baptist issued a warning saying, ‘the axe lies at the root of the tree.’ Jesus told parables that emphasized the fact that God has been coming to the vineyard but nothing has been growing for a while.
Judgement of the World and the Son of Man
The one part of authority that the world does not want to see. The world loves a Jesus who is only a prophet; but don’t like the idea of a Jesus who is a judge. For this reason, there are numerous parables about Jesus as a judge; so much so that when Peter preaches the first sermon that we have recorded given to a gentile audience in Acts 10, he says that God has appointed one to be the judge of the quick and the dead (King James language). The quick are the living and the dead are the dead; Jesus is going to judge the quick and the dead. The performing of righteousness, Jesus says is recognizing who the Son of Man is. John says in chapter 5, ‘this is the work of God.’ They believe in the one who the Father has sent and the only unforgivable sin is to not embrace the one who is not just the Lord of the Sabbath or Lord of the temple, but the one who is Lord of the world. The major point of the eschatological discourse at the end of Jesus’ ministry in where this point is emphasized is on the judgement that he will bring. It even comes up as Jesus’ trial before the Jewish leadership. ‘And you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Father coming on the clouds.’ Having received the authority from the Father, he will come and judge; a total divine authority is in view, but Jesus never says when he’s going to do it. We don’t watch and wait; we watch and serve.
The Final Week
The debate from the entry into Jerusalem onward is over authority and something more than just prophetic authority. And whether we think about the humble king entering into Jerusalem or the cleansing of the temple by the Messiah or the controversies over religion and politics and even Scripture or the picture of Israel as tending a vineyard but not attending it properly or the Olivet discourse or the Last Supper or the trials, everything is about the authority of Jesus to bring the program of God. The death of Jesus is put in the frame of a claim that he will be vindicated to sit at God’s right hand and to judge in the end; even though he has died as an innocent. He was not on the cross because he was a cursed figure which would be the interpretation from Judaism. For Judaism, cursed is the one who hangs on a tree. Jesus is cursed but he is not cursed for who he is; he is cursed because of what he bears. He bears the sins of the world. He goes to the cross as an innocent bearing that sin and that is why God vindicates him within history in a death that resulted in resurrection within three days. Thus the resurrection is a divine indication of all those claims. It is God’s vote in the dispute between Jesus and the Jewish leadership which then is a window on the theology of Jesus’ claim. It is an endorsement of what it is that he has taught. Matthew 28:18 says ‘all authority has been given to me under heaven and earth’ or we think about the picture of Luke 24 where repentance is being preached for the forgiveness of sins in his name. He offers forgiveness of sins in the name of Yahweh. Or we think about the picture of Jesus being seated at the right hand where he distributes the Spirit from the side of the Father and an active executive of the kingdom of God. Or we think of Acts 10:38-42 which has the same picture and looks forward to being a judge of the living and the dead. All of this says that Jesus is the uniquely authoritative revelator of God. He is the Logos, the Logos is the truth, and truth is about a person and a world view that rotates around Jesus. It is not merely about ideas and so Jesus is the revelator of God.
The Apostles Creed
This is one of the oldest creeds in the church. I believe in God the Father almighty and in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord who was born by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, was crucified by Pontus Pilate and was buried, the third day he rose from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits on the right hand of the Father. From there he shall come to judge the quick and the dead and in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Church, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body. This is a very short, sweet, crisp explanation of what is believed. Here we see clearly the churches understanding of the events of the last week that lead Jesus to assume a position of unequal authority at God’s side, the sheer and divine prerogative of judgement and salvation. Jesus is more than a teacher, more than a prophet, more than a Messiah; he is the uniquely authoritative revelator of God. He is the unique Son of God. The thrust of Jesus’ teaching is that he brought the promise of a new era of the rule of God. Jesus both explained the divine program and embodied the divine presence and authority. His mission began with and focused on Israel, but his ultimate goal was to bring the presence and promise of God to the world, to bring shalom to his creation. The kingdom presence at the inauguration opened the way for the victory of God and the Spirit of God because forgiveness was made possible along with the hope of everlasting life. Opening up access to the grace of God, Jesus made possible a certain way of life that honored God that reflected God’s character and will. Jesus’ ministry started on the premise that here was a mission to a nation and a world that needed this message of hope. Jesus understood that the renunciation of focus for many in the world would not want to be part of God’s people and to accept God’s gift of grace to acknowledge one own need and limitation whether expressed in faith and repentance; the blessings of the kingdom comes only to those who embrace their need for life in the way God has established.
The Story, The Study and Jesus
The painting on the back of a book represents two men staring at Jesus. They represent the evangelist who having experienced Jesus tells us about him. Beyond the evangelist, two types of people tend to enquire about Jesus. One type searches for the meaning of Jesus, the other, having discovered where he can be found tries to appreciate the depth of his message even more. The premise of this story and the premise of this study has been that our glimpse of Jesus is far clearer when he is seen according to Scripture rather than viewed in the reconstruction of the pick and choose of the four portraits we have of Jesus. Our study has tried to show that from the earth up and from heaven down, which is from the synoptic Gospels and John. In the end the portraits are not as diverse as they might initially appear if one keeps 1st century Jewish context in view and allows the portraits a degree of dialogue with each other. That an ultimate unity emerges from these portraits is a burden of the book itself. Jesus’ challenge which he sets out from Scripture through his sayings and acts was that God’s long promise and long kingdom rule had broken into creation through his ministry. God’s promise of hope and life, the provision of the Spirit, forgiveness and vindicated rule had come with him. Jesus is a powerful figure according to Scripture who makes people think of him and his mission. A primary question of Jesus that one must face in life is because it asks of us only who Jesus is but also who we are as God’s creatures. If one seeks to know oneself or to find life, one must measure oneself against the creator and his plan. Jesus never is assessed alone; it is as if his identity were historical or academic curiosity or merely a matter of private opinion. But what we think of Jesus reveals of what we think of ourselves, our capabilities and our needs, given the way that Jesus presented our need for God and Jesus’ own role in that plan. Even as Jesus is the revelator of God, he is also the revelator of our hearts before God.
In Luke 2:25, this is said of Jesus as he was brought to the temple by his parents after he was born: ‘Now there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon who was righteous and devout, looking for the restoration of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been promised to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before seeing the Lord’s Christ. So Simeon, directed by the Spirit of God, came into the temple courts, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what was customary according to the Law, Simeon took him in his arms and blessed God, saying, now, according to your word, sovereign Lord, permit your servant to depart in peace, for my eyes have seen your salvation.’ When Simeon took Jesus into his arms, when he looked at Jesus, when he saw Jesus, he saw God’s salvation. ‘That you have prepared in the presence of all peoples: a light,’ that is where we started in the synoptic Gospels, a picture of the Messiah as the rising morning sun shining on a dark world, ‘a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.’ In verse 34, ‘This is destined to be the cause of the falling and rising of many in Israel and to be a sign that will be rejected. Indeed, as a result of him the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed – and a sword will pierce your own soul as well.’ What we are saying as the picture of authority that comes from thinking about Jesus from the earth up or thinking about John, heaven down. In Jesus, there is the program and salvation of God and the ultimate witness test for where the heart of a person is before the creator God. That is why we are talking about God’s kingdom. It is because his creation is ultimately what he has made and where he rules and every creator must deal with their relationship with the creator. Ultimately the life of Christ is not about figuring out who Christ is. Ultimately the life of Christ is about responding to the creator and the one that he sends. That is the message that we are to take to the world.
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