New Testament Introduction - Lesson 12
Parables (Part 1/2)
Parable comes from a word meaning figurative or metaphorical speech of any kind. They are analogies and part of wisdom literature. Jesus purposefully spoke in public in figurative ways to challenge people to think about the ideas he was presenting. He gives us insights into God’s character and the relationship between him and God the Father.
Parables (Part 1/2)
Parables (pt 1)
A. Definition of parables
B. Three parables about lostness
1. Parables vs. allegories
2. Parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin
3. Parable of the prodigal son
4. Widow and the unjust judge
5. Pharisee and the tax collector
C. Insights into the relationship between God the Father and Jesus
1. Jesus as begotten
2. Jesus' human nature
3. Uses of "father" in the New Testament
4. God is the life-giver
When reading the Bible, there is a danger of reading our own ideas into the text and assuming they are there. A text without a context is a pretext for whatever you want it to mean.
Dr. Witherington continues the discussion on the importance of using context in interpretation and walks through the different types of context.
Matthew, Mark and John are like ancient biographies. Luke-Acts is more like an ancient historical monograph.
The terms “Son of Man” and “kingdom of God” appear often in Matthew and Mark. The kingdom of God is the divine saving activity of God breaking into human history.
Luke uses Mark as a primary source. He organizes his material geographically “to” Jerusalem, while Acts is organized “from” Jerusalem. Luke emphasizes apologetics to make his case that Christianity should be considered a legal religion in the Roman Empire. The divinity of Jesus is more vividly portrayed in the gospel of John than in the synoptics.
There was great animosity between the Jews and Samaritans that went back hundreds of years. In telling the parable of the good Samaritan, Jesus was not only challenging stereotypes but shaming a man who thought he was a righteous Jew. It’s unacceptable to use your orthodoxy as a tool to justify your prejudices against other kinds of people.
Jesus teaches that there is not always a direct correlation between sickness and sin. The religious officials often thought that Jesus did not measure up to what they thought a prophet should be. All of Jesus’ miracles are acts of compassion, not primarily to prove that he is the messiah.
Salvation according to the gnostics is a self-help program for those with inside knowledge. The gnostic gospels were never on any of the canon lists of the early church. The church recognized the canon, they didn’t form the canon. God has revealed enough about the future to give us hope, but not so much that we don’t have to live by faith each day.
Apocalyptic literature arises when justice is deferred. It develops the ideas of the “other world” and the “afterlife.” God is being worshipped for what he is about to do to transform the world into his kingdom. Dispensational theology supports the teaching of a rapture.
A genuine prophecy was intended to be understood and it was spoken in known languages. Apocalyptic literature was often written during periods of exile. Worship is not about giving people what they want, it’s about giving God what he desires and requires. True worship requires that we are in the Spirit and give our whole selves to God.
In times of exile, people didn’t see God carrying out justice in their lifetime so they thought it must happen later by God raising them from the dead. Your behavior in this life affects the eternal outcome. When we die, our spirit goes to be with God, our body decays and eventually God gives us a heavenly body that will be everlasting like our spirit.
Parable comes from a word meaning figurative or metaphorical speech of any kind. They are analogies and part of wisdom literature. Jesus purposefully spoke in public in figurative ways to challenge people to think about the ideas he was presenting. He gives us insights into God’s character and the relationship between him and God the Father.
Parables are intended to tease your mind into active thought about God. You can tell the character of a person by what they do when they think nobody is watching. The parables have both justice and mercy, righteousness and compassion.
The first missionary journey started in Antioch. Paul, Barnabas and John Mark worked together. Paul shames his detractors by boasting about things that most people thought were shameful. Paul’s letters were written as conversations in context, not as theological tracts.
In the Old Testament, “hesed” refers to the love God promised to give to the people to whom he betrothed himself (i.e., Jews). The paradigm of “agape” is God in Christ. On the cross, Christ gave with no thought of return. Paul’s letters were meant to be read in a public discourse setting as an act of worship. An effective rhetorical presentation appeals to both the mind and the emotions of people.
Understanding the structure of rhetoric can help you understand scripture better and preach more effectively.
When Jesus came to earth, he accepted a slave’s position and willingly suffered a slave’s death. Jesus “emptied himself” by giving up his divine prerogatives. Jesus assumes the role of “Lord” (God) at resurrection and thereafter. Christ doesn’t reflect God’s glory, he radiates it.
This course is will help you begin to weave yourself through the maze of NT studies. During the course we will be exploring several major subject areas: 1) the history of the period in which the NT was written; 2) the social and cultural milieu in which early Christians lived; 3) the practice of the scholarly study of the NT (source, form, redaction, genre, rhetorical criticism et al.); 4) questions of introduction about the books of the NT (authorship, date, audience, structure, purpose); 5) the practice of exegesis and hermeneutics.
Dr. Ben Witherington
New Testament Introduction
Parables (Part 1/2)
I am the vine and you are the branches. One of the notable differences between the Gospel of John and the Synoptic Gospels is lots of parables in the Synoptic Gospels and almost zero in John. Now, the little segment that I've shown you shows you one of the two places where you can really say there is a sort of parabolic utterance - I am the vine and you are the branches, but it raises the question “what are parables”? What exactly are they? We have quaint little definitions - a short story with a long meaning, an earthly story with a heavenly meaning, that sort of thing. We are used to think of parables as stories, but we really need to get to the root of the issue.
So let's start with the Hebrew word, “mashal”, plural “meshalim”. That's the Hebrew. The Greek is more recognizable “parabolas” and then the plural “parabole”. Here's the terminology. Here's where I tell you that what this word means is basically figurative or metaphorical speech of any kind. It doesn't have to be a story at all. For example, in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus says, “Doubtless you will tell me the parable, you will say to me the parable physician heal thy self”, is one sentence. It's not a story. It's a metaphorical analogy.
Our task this morning is to look at the parables and understand their character. We talked previously about apocalyptic literature involving analogy, remember? Here's where I tell you that parables are also analogies. They are comparisons between one thing and another. The nature of analogy, as I said to you before, is it is a comparison of two unlike things that in some particular ways are alike. That's an analogy, that's a metaphor. “My love is like a red, red rose”, valentine's is tomorrow. This does not mean that my wife is thorny or prickly. The comparison only goes so far. The analogy is only in certain aspects. Mashal is a figurative form of speaking, it's a metaphor, it's a comparison, it's an analogy. Same with parabolas. We get two English words from this word, don't we? Parable and parabola. One mathematical term and one literary term. Interesting. Jesus is not the inventor of parables. We actually have parables in the Old Testament. Remember Nathan confronting King David and he told him the parable of the ewe lamb. The man who had only one and the wealthy owner who stole it from him and then at the punch line Nathan says to the King, “You demand. You're the one who did this”.
Parables are a form of wisdom speech. They're part of the wisdom literature and the fact that Jesus' public ministry focused on parables is immediately important because it tells us, right off the bat, that he intended to speak publicly in figurative ways. He intended to speak publicly in metaphorical ways. He was not giving them the cookies on the bottom shelf. He wanted to tease their minds into active thought. Now Jesus has something to say about why he does this in our earliest Gospel Mark this is what he says, this is Mark 4 beginning with the 10th verse, “When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables, parabole. He told them, 'The secret of the kingdom of God has already been given to you. But to those outside everything is said in parables so that, 'they may be ever seeing, but never perceiving, ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!'.” Now, that is a literal quotation, in Greek to be sure. It's a quotation from Isaiah 6.
So let's go back to Isaiah 6 just for a minute. The famous scene where Isaiah comes into the Temple and is commissioned. Let's look at the original context of this. What did God commission the Prophet Isaiah to do? Well, will start with verse 8. “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?' And I said, 'Here I am. Send me!' He said, 'Go and tell the people the following 'Be ever hearing, but never understanding; ever seeing, but never perceiving.' 'Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise, they might see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.' Then I said, ' 'How long O Lord?' And he answered, 'Until the cities lie ruined and without inhabitant, until the houses are left deserted and the fields ravaged, until the Lord has set everyone far away and the land is forsaken.'”
Now then, do you think parables are nice little stories that can warm the cockles of your heart with some moralistic message? I'm saying “no”. That's not a function of the parables in the hands of an Isaiah or a Jesus. A parable is meant to make clear to the audience that they are not in the clear. A parable is meant to make clear to the audience that they are at a distance from God and do not understand. The parable is to make clear to the audience that their hearts are hardened and if they don't repent they're not going to get it. Many modern people would say this is bad pedagogy. You want people to understand things you don't become more obscure. But you see, the problem, the problem is not simply information its transformation.
Not long ago there was a campaign in the public schools when my kids were in the public schools about drugs. It was just say no. That was the slogan and the philosophy was if our children just have more education, if they just know more, they will behave better. Now what's wrong with this? The drug problem doesn't chiefly lie at the borders of our country, it lies at the borders of our hearts. The problem is in here. As Pogo once said, “I have seen the enemy, the enemy is me”. Information without transformation - a veil it's not. And so Jesus says we're going to tell parables to them so that seeing they may not see and hearing they may not hear unless they turn and repent and give up their hard heartedness and then may, may indeed hear and see and understand.
Now, that's important in the characterization of the disciples in the Gospel of Mark because, of course, even the disciples are frequently not getting it. So what does that tell you about their spiritual condition. Well they don't yet have the Holy Spirit and they have not yet been truly transformed. They are disciples. The word means “learners”. They are in process of becoming true followers of Jesus but they're not there yet, they're not Christians yet, they're in process. They're simply followers of Jesus at this point. So what's the point of the parables? A parable is like a stone thrown through a plate glass window to shatter people's smug assumptions that they already know what they need to know and they already understand what they need to understand and don't confuse me with these stories and analogy.
And these parables really do shatter an awful lot of basic assumptions in early Judaism. Consider the parable of the Good Samaritan. We've talked about this. This is a shattering parable because it makes even an expert in the law redefine who is my neighbor, or who counts as neighbor. Mashal, meshalim, an analogy. Now, a parable is a literary fiction. Sometimes you will hear teachers say these parables are so true to life. My response to that is – not. Though they're true to the kingdom, they're not true to life. These are parables about the kingdom and we've talked about the nature of the kingdom before. What are we talking about here. We're not talking about a place, we're talking about the divine saving activity of God that breaks into human preconceptions and human fallingness and transforms human beings. That's what we're talking about. Jesus says, “To what shall I compare the kingdom. The basileia.” It is like this. Let's take a look at three parables about loss that'll help us get into this subject.
Turn with me, if you will, to Luke 15. Now I do want to make a distinction for you because, you know, under this heading comes the following things: Aphorisms, riddles, short metaphors and, yes, short stories. What Luke does for us is he presents us more of the narrative parables. Not the one liners like, “It's easier for a camel to go through the eye of needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” That's a parable. It's a riddle. Parable is a big heading, it doesn't just refer to story. Okay. It's any kind of figurative or metaphorical wisdom speech.
Luke is a master of presenting us with Jesus' longer parables than narrative parables and that's what we're going to look at in Luke 15. And here's something interesting. It appears, if you study closely the parables of Jesus, that originally he told parables in pairs. One of which would be more addressed to the males in his audience and one of which would be more addressed to the females in his audience. Now on that note, listen to the following:
“Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathered around to hear Jesus. But the Paharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, 'This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.' Then Jesus told them this parable: 'Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn't he leave the ninety-nine in open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and the neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.' 'I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who don't need to.'”
“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn't she light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.' In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Now according to my count, there are or about 35 or so different examples of wisdom speech in the Synoptic Gospels. When I say wisdom speech, I mean the general heading of parabolas. An aphorism or riddle or a short story, all of this is called parable. Now, what I want you to notice about these two is that one focuses on the task of a male herding sheep and the other thought focuses on the task of a female, keeping and sweeping the house.
What's interesting is that the analogy is drawn between those two activities and the nature of God. Jesus is saying God is like a man who goes out after his one lost sheep. God is like a woman who searches until he finds the lost coin. This is daring. He doesn't just draw an analogy between male behavior in God, he draws an analogy between female behavior in God. It's a pair of parables and frankly, they both have the same point. They make the same point, but if his audience involved both men and women disciples and men and women listeners, how much more effective is this communication when he directs it to activities that each one of them would find as stereotypically theirs. Pairing of parables.
KATHY: [inaudible 17:36]
No it's not distinctive to Luke because we do have some pairs of parables in Mark and in Que as well. So, no. I think this is distinctive of Jesus. I think this goes back to Jesus. Luke, however, likes to highlight these things. There is no question that Luke is more concerned and interested in the role of woman than say Mark. There is no question about that. And it is Luke alone who gives us Luke 8:1-3 the story of the female disciples Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna, etc. So, Luke is more sensitive to the whole issue of female disciples than Mark would be.
Now let's look at these parables just for a minute. We need a little more background, okay, so bear with me. We need a little more background here. Let me ask you a question. What the heck is an allegory? I'm sure you've heard the word. You've heard the word allegory, you've heard the word allegorical. John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress an allegory. A fictitious story, a moralizing Christian story about the Christian life the Christian walk. A classic, if you haven't read it, shame on you. You need to be better apprised of Christian classics because their “ain't” that many of them out there. You know Milton's Paradise Laws, Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, you need to read the Christian classics. They aren't that long and it's not that hard.
No question Pilgrim's Progress is an allegory. Now, the question arises, “What's the difference between a parable and an allegory?” An awful lot of interpreters of parables treat them as if they were full blown allegories. This refers to this and this refers to this and this refers to this and this refers to this. An allegory is an artificially constructed story which is dictated by something outside of the story. That is, the story is made up so that all the elements in the story suit some abstract subject that's not the story.
In an allegory, every cotton picking detail has some kind of symbolic significance. So you have the man named Christian in the Pilgrim's Progress. He's walking along the road of life [emphasis 20:04] and he falls into the slew, the swamp of despond. You see every single little element in the story. It's not about the telling of the story itself, it's about something that he wants to say is true about the Christian life outside the story. So every element of the story, every major element of the story is symbolic.
In a parable, a parable doesn't work quite like that. A parable is not a full blown allegory. So you don't sort of line up one of these narrative parables and say, this is that and this is that and this is that and this is that and this is that and this is that. However, that is exactly what medieval interpreters of the parable did. Let me give you an egregious example. Augustine's famous interpretation of the parable of the Good Samaritan. It went like this:
“A man was going down a road from Jerusalem to Jericho and he fell amongst thieves.” Whose the “man”? He represents all in humanity who has fallen and can't get up. “Priests went down the road and did not help him. Nor did Levites.” Who do they represent? They represent hardhearted clergy who are not responsive to their flocks' spiritual death. And then a good Samaritan comes down the road. Who does that represent? Oh, that's clearly Jesus. The Good Samaritan is Jesus. And what does the good Samaritan do? He takes out wine. Oh, that's clearly the sacraments, which will give you life. And oil. Oh, that's clearly anointing for healing to help the man lying on the side of the road and then he takes him to the Inn. “Oh, what is the Inn?” says Augustine. The Inn is the Church. He's led the man dead in trespasses to the Church and he pays the Innkeeper. “Oh, what's that?” That's the tithe. He's given the tithe for the dead man in advance to the Innkeeper.
Now, this is all nonsense. This is a Christian allegorizing of the parable of the Good Samaritan. This is not at all how Jesus or his immediate audience would have understood this parable. See, so what's happened is he's allegorized a basically non allegory. He's allegorized a parable. Parables are not allegories.
There is some debate in regard to how many symbolic elements there are in a parable. There are certainly some. So, let's take those two parables that we looked at. The parable of the lost sheep and the parable of the lost coin. The basic point is simple. God's seeking and saving the lost is like the extraordinary efforts of those two figures in these two parables. The point is God will go to great lengths to seek and save the lost. I mean that's the point. There's one main point, there's not ten. There's one main point.
Some parables are a little more complex so they have a little more allegorical elements to it. But here's what I would want to say, there's a sliding scale between parable and full blown allegory. Yes, parables have some symbolic elements in them, but each little picky detail of the parable is not to be interpreted allegorically. That's my point. So a parable you could say, a narrative parable, is a story that has some symbolic or allegorical elements in it.
A narrative parable is a story that will have one or maybe two or three symbolic elements in it and let me stress to you, that these parables are not true to life. What cotton picking shepherd would leave 99 perfectly good sheep to go after one scraggly lost one, unless he had five helpers and two sheep dogs? But there's nothing about five helpers and two sheep dogs in this story, it's just the shepherd and his sheep. You get the point? This is not true to life, this is true to the Kingdom. God will move heaven and earth to reach a lost one is the point. This is not true to life, it's true to the Kingdom. It's true to God's nature, God's activity.
Similarly, with the lost coin. Now what we're talking about, just so you will know, is that women in that culture wore their dowry on their headdress. You will have seen middle eastern people today that wear a Burka with coins on it. Have you ever seen this? A middle eastern headdress with coins on it? Yeah. You can see it on CNN. It's their dowry, their carrying it with them. So, this is a story about a woman who loses one of the coins of her dowry. Is it really plausible that a woman would do the molly-maid thing to the whole house looking for one tiny coin that's probably a widow's mite. Well, maybe, but the point is that however untrue it might be to average normal everyday life, it is true of God's character. God will keep searching until he finds. I don't know about you, but I get a lot of comfort out of that. God will keep searching until he finds the lost one. He seeks and saves the lost. He goes above and beyond what any normal shepherd or housekeeper would go and do.
But, there is a third parable in Luke 15, isn't there? Another parable about lostness. A much more familiar one and a lengthy one. One of the things I would encourage you to do about this parable is go online, Google it, look up Rembrandt's painting of the Prodigal Son. I love this painting. It's in the Hermitage in St. Petersburg in Russia. I've seen it twice. It's about the size of this room. It's an enormous [emphasis 26:51] painting. It takes up a gigantic wall in this museum. Ah, he must have been painting for months and months to produce this.
Now what I want you to notice about this, I mean Rembrandt is a master of light. You see where the light focus' on. The relationship between the forgiving father and the penitent son. Just look at the hands [emphasis 27:19]. Look how gentle they are, see that? And you can't really see it in this image, but in the background the mother is watching and over here we have son, the older son, he is not best pleased with this little scenario. Reflect on that when I read you the parable.
Jesus continued, “There was a man who had two sons. And the younger one said to his father, 'Father give me my share of the estate'”. Now, you need to understand the ramifications of this. You don't get your inheritance 'til your father dies. So, in essence, the son is shaming his father into saying you're as good as dead, give me my inheritance now. He's publicly shaming his father. “Father, give me my share of the estate now. So he divided his property between them. Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, he set off for a distant country.” In other words, he's going to a pagan nation. He's not only saying farewell to family, he's saying farewell to Judiasm - “and there he squandered his wealth.” In, as the King James puts it, “riotess living”. Wild living. Superbowl partying on south beach with the Hooter's girls. “After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his field to feed the pigs.” Now if you know anything about Judiasm, oink, oink, is the most unclean of all critters from a Jewish point of view. You're not ever going to go to a Jewish barbeque roast if it's pork. “He longed to fill his stomach with even the pods, the seed pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything to eat. And when he came to his senses he said, 'How many of my father's hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! Well I'll set out and go back to my father and say to him: 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I'm no longer worthy to be called your son so just treat me like one of your hired hands.''”
See, he has already planned his little speech. “So he got up and he went to his father.” Listen to this, “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and filled with compassion, the father ran out to meet his son and he threw his arms around him and he kissed him. And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. But the father said to his servant, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and a bell on his toes and a bone in his nose and bring the fatted calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For my son was dead to me and is alive again; he was lost and has been found.'” So, they began to party. “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field and hen he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and said what...” the heck is going on. Well, they replied, um, “Your brother has come home...”, yes, that brother, “and your father has killed the fatted calf because he has come home safe and sound. At this the older brother became angry, he refused to go into the feast. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father with anger, 'Look! All these years I've been slaving for you all over this property, never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even so much as a goat to celebrate with my friends. But when this other son of yours...”, this prodigal, this immoral son, “who has squandered half of your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fatted calf for him!” Please says the father, “My son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and now is found.”
Now, this is a more complex narrative parable. It's a literary fiction. We should discuss the fact that truth can be conveyed just as well by fiction as by fact. This is telling us some truths about the nature of God and the nature of redemption. We could debate the parable as to who the forgiving father represents. Does it represent the God the Father or Jesus the Son? or both? I don't think you can go wrong. It certainly represents the character of God, whether Father or Son and, of course, it's Jesus who seeks in saving the lost so, maybe especially the son, is the Father here.
The Prodigal Son. Sinners. Remember the beginning of the parable. Who was it that was criticizing Jesus? Jesus, you dine with IRS agents and the notably immoral. What's up with that Jesus? And he tells them the story. Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew sends out his disciples at one point two by two and he limits who they are to go to. Who are they told they should go to? “Go only to the lost sheep of Israel.” The most notorious sinners, the outcasts rather than the in crowd.
But what about the older brother? Who is he a characterization of? Well, he's a characterization of the long faithful Jew. The pious Jew who has never willfully broken his father's commandment and never willfully gone astray, he's not like the prodigal son. He's the unprodigal son, if you will. And there were plenty in Jesus' audience who thought they were in that category.
Remember the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. The Pharisee is not a hypocrite. In that parable, the Pharisee is generally glad he's not like this other person. He's generally glad he's a more moral person than this other person. The problem is that the man's morality is getting in the way of reality. This happens. What kind of a sinner are you? A clean decent sinner or a notorious sinner? The problem is not hypocrisy, the problem is a tunnel vision. I'm glad that I'm not like that. The next statement should be: “Nevertheless, I have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” But that's not what happens in that parable.
Now this story, this story is powerful because in fact it's not only providing a rationale for why Jesus is seeking out the ne'er-do-wells, it also is a critique of those who were critiquing his ministry, isn't it? He's critiquing those who are critiquing him spending time with sinners and tax collectors. He's saying: You know, you're just to precious to do what needs to be done to save the loss. So he is critiquing the critique of his ministry. This is all about how the Kingdom works. How God finds the lost. It's a powerful parable.
Let's look at one more before we take a break. Turn with me, still in Luke, to Luke 18. And once again, we have a pair of parables tso we'll deal with both of them and starting with Luke 18:1. “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: 'In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, 'Grant me justice against my adversary.' For sometime he refused. But finally he said to him, 'Even though I don't fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps pestering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won't eventually come and attack me.' And the Lord said, 'Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes back to earth will he find faith on earth?'”
And to some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable:
“Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other people - robbers, evil doer's, adulterer's - or even like this'” yuck “'tax collector, instead I fast twice a week and I give a tenth of all I get.' But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven but he beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.' I tell you says Jesus, this latter man rather than the other went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled and those who humbled themselves shall be exalted.”
Now, the first first parable centers on the actions of a woman and the second parable centers on the actions of a man. Here we have another pair of parables meant to reach the whole audience that Jesus spoke, male and female.
Now here's where we begin to see, in various ways, that these parables are not allegories. For example, God the Father is not like an adjust judge. So in this particular parable, we have a typical Jewish literary device called, “call wyomer [phonetic]”. No, call wyomer is not the name of a person you call. Call wyomer means how much more than. How much more than, “call wyomer”. The point is this: If even a wicked judge would vindicate this woman whose cause is just, how much more will the real God, who judges the world do right? You get the picture? This is a how much more than. The only comparison between the wicked judge, the unjust judge and the good judge is that in the end vindication happens.
Now, you need to know some details to understand this parable so let me unpack it bit. Here's the way the judicial process went in Jesus' world. A person goes to a judge and makes an accusation against someone else, and he may well bring a prosecutor with him. In this sort of justice system you have to have money to take people to court, you can't just, you know, dial 1-800-litigate. In this world, judgment favors the rich. So what has happened in this case is that somebody has already gone to the judge and got a ruling, and this woman is about to be out on her ear. She's about to lose her property, she's about to lose her home. She get's word of this after the fact. So what happens, she goes to the judge and says, “You [emphasis 42:29] have to got to vindicate me against my adversary.” It's a technical legal term. My legal adversary. And the judge says, “Why do I need to do that? I don't fear God or human beings, shoo.” Ah, but it's an honor and chain culture. The woman has one thing on her side, persistence. She says, okay, I'll see you tomorrow and the next day, and the next day, and the next day and you're back in court on Monday? I'll see you Monday and then Tuesday and then Wednesday. Now, see the thing is, she's trying to shame him even though he is not a moral person into acting. Because there is one thing that he does care about, his own reputation. He does care about keeping his job so he can keep on milking people of their money. He does care about that. So she's going to keep coming after him
Now the ironic thing about this story and it's what makes it daring, is that in the earlier Jewish wisdom literature, even in the proverbs, there are sayings like this: To what shall we compare a persistent widow. She is like a constant dripping of water. It's not a positive analogy. She's annoying [emphasis 44:08] beyond believe is the point of the proverb, right? Jesus using the persistent widow as a positive example of beseeching God in prayer. He turns a negative example from the culture into a positive example here.
Now you will also not get the full color from this parable unless you know something else. Because what the judge actually says is, “Well I had better vindicate her before she comes and blackens my eye.” Before she comes and socks me in the face. You see, there's nothing more shaming in a whole patriarchal culture to get beat up by a little old lady. That's the most shameful thing that can happen to you. And this-this parable it just exudes that whole “okay, I'm just going to keep coming and if I have to, I'm going to sock him in the face until he gives me vindication”.
But remember, we are not being told that God is like that reluctant wicked judge, this is a “call wyomer' story, a how much more than. If even that wicked judge will vindicate that widow who is defenseless and has nothing but her persistence on her side, how much more will God vindicate those who beseech you in earth. It's a powerful story, and it's a story that tells us about how the Kingdom [emphasis 45:45] works. How God's character operates.
Alright, let's look at the male parable and then we'll take a couple of minutes for questions before we break.
The Parable of the Pharisee and the IRS Agent. The King James had the Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican. I had to keep telling my children that, “No, it's not Republican, it's Publican.” Here's the thing about this story. You need to understand that this Pharisee would probably be the very best member of your church. He's faithful to the last drop, he's fasting, he's tithing, he's attending, he's praying, he is like many of us, really very glad that he's not a drug addict living on the street in an immoral way. What's wrong with that? Nothing. Except this, he's measuring himself by looking horizontally, not vertically. He's picking himself and his self image up by putting somebody else down. Compared to him, says this man, I look good. Do you think God measures us that way, not so much.
Indeed, the most essential element in this story is this: One of these men recognizes is he is far from perfect and he is in daily need of the mercy of God. The other one doesn't. So broken is this tax collector because of the sin of his life that he dares not even look up towards God, he bows his head and holds up his hands and says, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner”, and Jesus says...guess which one of these went away vindicated?
Some people have said Jesus doesn't know anything about justification by grace through faith. Ooh, yes he does. Go read this parable again, this is a parable about mercy on the basis of repentance and a faith response to a merciful God. This is about justification by grace through faith.
These parables are not nice little moralizing lessons for life, they are social dynamites. We will say more about that after the break.
RETURN FROM BREAK [48:57]
Now one of the things that happens, that tends to happen with the study of the parables is that they really, in the Protestant tradition especially, they've been used for ethical purposes and that's fine, because they certainly do have some ethical lessons to teach, there's no doubt about that. However, I would like to say to you that they are theologically rich because they're telling us a lot about the character of the father and the character of the son and it prompts a discussion of the relationship of the Father and Son.
For example, the parable of The Prodigal Son as I alluded to, raises questions, okay, whose the Father in the parable? You see. So, what I'd like to do now is we're going to take a little theological g-joggle to the left for a minute and deal with the issue of the relationship with the Father and Son because the parables raise this issue.
One of the major surprises when you examine the Old Testament is how seldom God is called anything remotely like father. He's called a lot of things, but father is like most never one of them. Deuteronomy 32:6 says, “Is he not your Father who created you?” That's from the The Song of Moses. Or, Isaiah 45:9 and 10, it's an analogy. Actually, God is not addressed as Father. God is father-like and he's also a potter that's molding the clay. The real analogy in Isaiah 45 is focusing on the father-clay thing, but the father-like character of God is alluded to.
There are some royal psalms where God is said to be the Father of the King. In particular, Psalm 2:7. By the way, that's the song that's quoted at Jesus' baptism. “This is my beloved son, today I have begotten thee.” That's part of a coronation song. That is the words the priest said to the King on behalf of God on the day he became King, because in the ancient Near East, King's were “the son” of that God. It's part of a coronation oath. When you are crowned King you are said to be the son of your deity. That's what Psalm 2 is all about. Now it's very interesting then, that when Jesus is baptized and the voice of Heaven says, “You are my beloved Son, I am well pleased with you”, we are not just being told that he's the son of the Father, we are being told he's the King of the World. That's what we're being told at the baptism.
Another good example would be 2nd Samuel 7:14. “God will be the father of David and Solomon and his descendent's. A special relationship between God and his Kingdom. And the king is called son.” Walt Brueggeman, a famous Old Testament scholar says this, “Father is a rare or minor image for God in the Old Testament far less frequent than the image of God as a King or a warrior or a creator or a judge or even a redeemer, and it's not a prevalent image for God in the Old Testament. It just isn't. And so far as I can tell, there is not once in the Old Testament that God is addressed in prayer as father, not once.
Now I'm going to let that soak in for a minute because of the contrast between that and what you find in the New Testament. There are a few places in the Old Testament where the metaphor of father is used for God - Like a father he does “x” and “y”. Jeremias 3:19, Jeremias 31:9. Ah, Hosea 11 is one of my favorite ones. “When Israel was a child, I took him up in my arms. How can I forsake you O Israel, how can I turn my back on you?” You hear that parental compassion in this wonderful passage in Hosea 11.
But, again, God is not addressed as father, he's not prayed to as father and what's especially interesting is that when you compare Old Testament literature to Babylonian literature and Hittite and the Syrian literature, Egyptian literature, guess what? The language of father addressing God as father, even in prayer, is fairly regular in other ancient Near Eastern literature, but not in the Old Testament. Why not? Why not indeed? Could it be because God was seen to be such a Holy other being? That a Holy God could not be drawn close to? You couldn't have an intimate personal relationship from the human side of the equation because who were you? The Psalmist says, “In sin was I conceived in the womb.” There was a sin problem that distanced people from God.
To what do we attribute then the dearth of father language used of God in the Old Testament? Not only in comparison to other ancient Near Eastern literature, but even more when you compare the Old Testament to the New Testament on this particular subject. Let me say, right off the bat, that the reason for the paucity of references to God as father in the Old Testament cannot have anything to do with whether the culture was patriarchal or not, because what we know about the Old Testament culture is that it was profoundly patriarchal, remember, patriarchal. Remember the patriarchs? This is the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, we don't hear about him being the God of Sarah and Rebecca and so on. It's a profoundly patriarchal culture. That cannot be the reason why there is a paucity of references to God as father in the Old Testament. So it cannot be because the dominant culture of Old Testament times was not patriarchal, because it definitely was.
Christopher Seitz says this, he's a wonderful Old Testament scholar, by the way I would recommend if you're interested in prophecy, any book by Christopher Seitz on Isaiah or Old Testament prophecy, Sell the Dog, buy it. It's just, it's great [emphasis 56:15]. It's so helpful. He says this, “There is a perspectival difference between the way the father language is used in the Old Testament and in the New Testament. In the Old Testament things are seen from Yahweh's, or the Father's point of view. But in the New Testament, things are now viewed through the limbs of the Son, or a chrystalogical point of view and there is a big difference.” Did you catch that?
In the Old Testament God's people are seen from a God the Father point of view. But in the New Testament, both God and his people are viewed through a chrystalogical lense, and that changes everything 'cause Christ changed the nature of our relationship with God.
Here's what Chris Seitz goes on to say, “This change in view point has less to to do with the matter of culture – Is it patriarchal or not? Or even less to do with”, ah, “or even something more personal and psychological. It has more to do with the appearance of the man Jesus and a change in perspective from the Son to Yahweh, who is referred to from that [inaudible 57:35] point of standing as Heavenly Father. In other words,” catch this, “the father language in the New Testament, which is so plentiful, has to with the emphasis Jesus himself placed on the matter saying that we could enter into the same relationship He had with the Heavenly Father, and before that point in time, you couldn't have that relationship. Hence, God is not prayed to as Abba before then.” It's powerful, there's a sea change in the whole way we address God because of Jesus.
Now if you do a study of the further development of Jewish literature and father language, you can go to Wisdom of Solomon in your Testamental Book, Chapter 14. You can go to Sirach, Chapter 23 or 51 and go to the third Maccabees [sigh 58:35]. What you begin to see is that there is a little more frequency of thinking of God as Father but even there, God is still not addressed as father in prayer. What God is called in this literature is Abbee, not Abba and there's a difference. Abba is Aramaic meaning father dearest, it doesn't mean daddy by the way. No more sermons about Abba means daddy. It's not a nickname, it's not casual speak. Abba is the language of a child, a term of endearment addressing father. It would be like our word “papa”. It's not a casual term, it's a respectful term. it's not “daddy”, you know the “big daddy” in the sky. It's more like father dearest. That's what Abba means. Abbee simply means “father”, not father dearest. And what's interesting about that Sirach reference, Sirach 51:10, God is called Abbee, Father. Here we have God being said to be the father of particular individuals, not just a group.
Now, this is very interesting, because in the Old Testament the other thing I should have said to you is that wherever the father language shows up, it's in relationship to a group of people, God's people. It's not about an individual personal relationship with the father, it's not about that in the Old Testament. This changes when you get to the New Testament. If [inaudible 1:00:12] in Christ, he's a new creature and he can call God Abba, Father. In fact, the Spirit prompts him to do so.
Well what about Kumran. We have some text in Qumran where God is called Father. Just a few, 4Q371 and 4Q372, what that refers to is a piece of papyrus that came out of the fourth cave at Qumran. God is addressed as Abbee, Father, but not Abba, Father dearest. So what we can say is there seems to be a growing prayer practice during the very time of Jesus to begin to bear to address God as Father, and you see that at the Qumran.
Community. A contemporary of Jesus who was a famous sage, his name was Honi the Circle Drawer, he was called Honi the Circle Drawer because there is this famous story about how they were in a drought and Honi says to God's people, “If you were only pious enough, God would make it rain” and he said “I'll prove it”. He draws a circle around himself and it rains on him and no where else. Hence he was called Honi the Circle Drawer.
Now, the thing that's also interesting about Honi the Circle Drawer is that he draws an analogy between his own son's relationship with him and his relationship with God. He says this, “If you knew how to address God like my son calls me Abba, the Heavenly Abba would do something for you.” That's what he says in Babylonian Talmud Ta'anit 23(b).
So, again, what looks like is happening in Jesus' own era, which is not in the Old Testament, is that people are beginning to think about addressing God as Father and so Jesus may be plugging in to a little bit of that preparatory way of thinking. But nevertheless, it is right to conclude that there is no precedent before Jesus for addressing God directly in prayer as Abba. Jesus is the first person to do that so far as we know. And that's not all, he instructs us to do it. The first word in the Lord's Prayer in Aramaic is “Abba”. Just Abba. You will see this in Luke 6. See, most of us have memorized the Lord's Prayer in which version, the Methian version or the Lutheran version. The Methian version, and the Methian version says, “Our Father who art in Heaven”, are you with me? This is not the Luthern version. The first word of the Luthern version is simply, “Father”. Simply “Abba”, in fact.
We know that Jesus addressed God himself as Abba. We see this in Mark 14. Remember the Garden of Gethsemane? Jesus prays, “Abba, if it be possible let this cup pass from me, nevertheless not my will, but thine be done.” You remember this occasion? A very intimate, passionate beseeching prayer. He submits to the will of the Father but his preference would be to avoid the cross. For which human being would that not be the preference, you see. But he addresses God as Abba. It's right there in Mark 14 and he's taught his disciples to do likewise.
Now sometimes it's wrongly said that the use of father language by Jesus of God simply reflects cultural assumptions. No. It reflects the special indeed unique relationship that Jesus, the only begotten Son has with the Father. A relationship which is characterized as being unique. He is the only begotten Son of God. See John, Chapter 1. The language of begetting in John 1 implies an inherent and integral relationship. It implies that he shares a nature with the Father. We are the adopted sons and daughters of God. And, by the way here's a little footnote. When somebody says to you well, we're all sons and daughters of God, this is exactly not what John 1 says. John 1 says for you to become children of God you must have a personal relationship with God. You are the creatures of God created in God's image, but you are not the children of God except through a born again relationship with God. That's what John 1 says. He says that there's the only begotten Son and then there are the adopted sons and daughters who become sons and daughters how? Not by blood, not by the will of a parent but by being born again. This is how you become a son or daughter of God. So loose talk about us all being the sons and daughters of God, not so much says the author of John 1.
Can you speak to the difference between the begotten Son of God vs. the created Son of God in terms of the word begotten.
DR. WORTHINGTON: Yeah, uh, Dan's question has to do with Jesus as the only begotten Son as opposed to being the created Son. Well, this is a debate that you would have with Jehovah's Witnesses for example. Sure. The word that we're dealing with is monogenes in the Greek. It was debated [chuckle 1:06:28] in early Church history, ad infinitum, ad nauseam. The normal literal meaning of this word is just what it means in the genealogies in the Old Testament, an x begat y and y begat z. You get the picture? It's talking about a literal, systemic connection between a parent and a child. Having said that, that got the Nicene Fathers' knickers all in a knot because they wanted to argue that the Son had always existed just as the Father had always existed and the term “begotten” suggested there might have been a time when he was not. Do you see the theological problem here?
The proper answer to that problem is not to deny the Son's begotteness, but to point out that time is part of the time-space continuum and before creation there was properly speaking neither space nor time. So you cannot say there was a time when the Son was not. So then you have to press the theological question back one more step.
You know, obviously these Church Fathers had way too much time on their hands. But some of the things they debated were just quite incredible. But here's the point, the next question is was there a point in eternity when the Son was not? Or is the Trinity eternally there? Equally Orthodox Christians will come to different conclusions on that question depending on how literally they want to press the word “monogenes”. The Nicene Fathers, in their wisdom, didn't like the idea of change happening to the God head. They advocated a concept of the immunibility of God that change could not happen to God. Now, of course, that got them in big pickle with the incarnation because what is the incarnation if it doesn't involve change to God. Not a change in character, but some kind of change.
You have these Greek philosophical notions of the immunibility of a God or the impassibility of God that not only that God cannot change but God cannot feel emotions cause, etc., because he doesn't have a body. I mean this is some of the highfalutin philosophical debate that was going on amongst the Church Fathers.
If you're asking me personally what I think a Jewish person writing the Gospel of John meant, I think he meant what he said, which is “That Christ is the only begotten Son of the Father. Begotten, not made and therefore not a creature. But this isn't the end of the debate because then the next question is could monogenes be a reference not to something that happened in eternity, but something that happened by means of the virginal conception. Is the Son the only begotten of the Father because of what happened to him in the virginal conception. The problem with that is it would suggest that he wasn't the son before the virginal conception and you don't want to go there because elsewhere in the New Testament, the Son pre-exists with the Father and helps in the act of creation.
So, bottom line, whatever only begotten means it has to have something to do with something that happened to him in eternity before the creation of the Universe. And whatever that was, he was already the Son before the Universe was created and, therefore, there is never a time [inaudible 1:10:50] time, tick-tock time, space continuum time, there was never a time the Son was not. I don't know all of the particulars about what happened back there in eternity before the creation of the Universe and frankly, I'm ready to take a pass on that [chuckle 1:11:08] okay?
What I know is he's not a creature like other “made” beings. Adam is a made being, he's fashioned out of the earth. He's the only begotten. He is the only person that, if you will, has a literal son-ship relationship with God. The rest of us are only adopted sons and daughter of God.
It's a great question though.
But here's a question for you. We're going to get to this when we get this afternoon to the chrystalogical hymns. We're going to get to this. Here's a question for you: Was there a point in time before which Jesus was not or, put another way, is it appropriate to call the pre-existent Son of God, Jesus? And do you see where I'm going with this? Was there a point in time before which the Son of God did not have a human nature? Answer: Yes. And, therefore, there's a point in time before which he did not deserve a human name, didn't have a human name. When did he get his human name? Survey says: After he became a human being. Before that, he's just a pre-existent Son of God.
So there's a point in time where Jesus shows up by means of the virginal conception and is born and his human name is, Jesus. That's the name of a human being. If you agree there's a point in time before which he was not a human being, then there is a point in time before which he's not Jesus and it's theologically inappropriate to call him Jesus, you call him the Son of God. That's an interesting one and we'll get to that this afternoon with the chrystalogical hymns.
As I was saying, the language of begetting implies an inherent and integral relationship, a sharing of nature. This is exactly what Philippians 2 says, Philippians 2 says that, “The Son was equal with God and shared in the very nature of God.” This is exactly what Philippians says and that's exactly right.
Notice that in the Gospels, Jesus alone is depicted as addressing God as “my Father”. In fact, hear this, even outside the Gospels the phrase “my Father” only occurs on the lips of Jesus. That's different from “our father”. Can you see that Jesus had a very unique relationship with God? He's in a special way my Father, in a way that is not true of any of the rest of us. Jesus, in the Temple, at age 12 in Luke 2:41-52 says to his own mother, Mary, and to his step-father, if you will, Joseph, “Did I not have to be about my Father's business.” He's got a relationship with God that we just don't have. My Father.
The evidence of Galatians 4:6 and Romans 8:15-16 implies that Christians only began to call God “Abba” after and because Jesus taught them to do that, and the Spirit prompted them to do that. I want to read to you these two texts because they are very important. As you know, Paul's letters are chronologically the earliest documents we have in the New Testament and so they tell us a lot about the early prayer life of the earliest Christians. Let's hear first Galatians 4:6, Paul says: “Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, it is the Spirit who calls out, 'Abba, Father'. So you are no longer slaves, but God’s children; and since you are his children, he's has made you heirs.” You hear all that family language there? What changed us into being a part of the family of God? It was the internal work of the Holy Spirit changing who we are, we are new creatures in Christ and the Spirit prompts us to pray “Abba”, Father.
Let's look at another. Romans 8:15 and 16. Again, the word “Abba” comes into our prayer language. Here's what Paul says, “For those who are led by the Spirit of God or the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves so that you live in fear again, rather the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to son-ship.” Did you hear that? Christ is the only begotten Son, we are the adopted sons and daughters. “The Spirit brought about your adoption to son-ship and by that Spirit we cry “Abba”, Father. The Spirit testifying with our spirit that we are children of God.” And if we are children, dear friends, we are co-heirs with Christ, Alleluia! We are in the Kingdom. We've got the inheritance. We've been given the promise, it's power.
So, why do Christians pray to God just as Jesus did in Aramaic “Abba”? Because Christ has sent forth his Spirit into our hearts prompting us to relate to God in an intimate way like the intimacy that Son had with the Father when he walked this earth. Now that's powerful. And if we contrast it with the way God was addressed in that time, it becomes more powerful. Do you realize that most pious Jews of Jesus' day went out of their way not to pronounce any of the names of God? Instead of saying, “Blessed be God” they would say, “Blessed be He” or instead of saying, “Blessed be God”, they'd say, “Blessed be the Heavens”. This is why, for example, in the Gospel of Matthew you have the phrase, “The Kingdom of Heaven” instead of the “Kingdom of God”. They're trying to avoid saying “God”. What a stark contrast that is to calling God directly “Abba” implying intimacy with the Father. This is powerful.
In early Judaism so had did they work not to mispronounce the sacred name of God, that they combined two Hebrew names for God into one so that they wouldn't mispronounce either one. They took the consonants of Yahweh, they took the vowels of Adonai and what you get from that is Yhwhaoai [phonetic 1:18], which is not a name for God in the Bible at all. You will find it in the King James Version, Jehovah, but in fact that is a combination of two names for God and no single verse of Hebrew has this name for God. It's a way of avoiding mispronouncing either Yahweh or Adonai. It's a circumlocution. We don't need [emphasis 1:19:15] any more circumlocutions, we can call God “Abba” because of Jesus. We go to the Father, through Jesus the Son who addressed him as “Abba”.
This'll preach brothers and sisters. You have an intimate relationship with God, claim it. What all this suggests rightly, and there's a scholar that I would recommend to you on the parables of Jesus and on this matter of Abba, he's a very famous German scholar, all his books are in English, how nice. They're somewhat dated now, so you'll have to go to a good library to find them. His name is Joachim Jeremias [phonetic 1:19:57]. It looks like Jeremiah with an “s” on the end. Joachim Jeremias [phonetic 1:20:01]. He has a book simply entitled “Abba”, which talks all about this and it's powerful. He has a wonderful book on the parables of Jesus as well.
Here's what Jeremias says about the “Abba” language. This is eschatological language. It's language given to those for whom God was acting in a final way as savior. “In Jesus' eyes, being a child of God was not a gift of creation, but an eschatological gift of salvation.” Hallejuh! Did you catch that? If you're not saved, you don't have the relationship. Being a child of God is not a gift of creation, especially if you're a fallen creature. It's a gift of salvation, which gives you the right to call God “Abba”.
As Jeremiah 31:9 suggested, the relationship between God and his people had been broken and they could no longer address God as Father. I'm going to read you that verse from Jeremiah because it's important because just shortly thereafter, Jeremiah's the one who sees that it's necessary for us to have a new covenant written on the heart. Where's this prayer language coming from? Where's the Holy Spirit working? In the heart [emphasis 1:21] The covenant is written on the heart. It's inscribed by the Holy Spirit and it allows us to use the covenant name of God, “Abba”.
Jeremiah 31. Let's just look at it just for a second. Jeremiah is one of those big old prophetical books. Chapter 31, verse 9. This is some of the poetry of the prophet. Listen to this: “Israel will come weeping; they will pray as I bring them back”, he's talking about the coming of the New Covenant. “I will lead them beside streams of water on a level path where they will not stumble.” What does this sound like? Psalm 23, absolutely. Jeremiah is reciting Psalm 23 talking about how God will bring his people back, his lost people back. “They will come with weeping; they will pray as I bring them back. I will lead them beside streams of water on a level path where they will not stumble, because I am Israel's father, and Ephraim is my firstborn son. Hear the word of the Lord, you nations; proclaiming them in distant coastlands: 'He who scattered Israel will gather them and he will watch over his flock like a shepherd.' For the Lord will deliver Jacob and redeem them from the hand of those stronger than they and they will come and shout for joy on the heights of Zion and they they will rejoice in the bounty of the Lord.”
And it's only two chapters after that, that we hear this, Chapter 33. I'm starting with verse 14 of Jeremiah. “'The days are coming', declares the Lord, 'when I will fulfill the good promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch”, a natzer as in Natzereth [phonetic 1:23], Nazareth. “I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David's line and he will do what is just and right in the land. And in those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. This is the name by which it will be called: 'The Lord Our Righteous Savior.'” Then he goes on to talk about the New Covenant written on the heart that supersedes the old one.
The point of Jeremiah is that unless God starts the New Covenant, unless God goes in and rescue's God's people, they will not be in an intimate relationship with God any more and cannot call him as father, and that's precisely what Jesus came to do.
Let's turn the page to the New Testament. So much for the context and the background, let's press on. There are some 40, 40 references to God as Father in the Paul line letters. There are some 500 uses of Phaos, the word God, to refer to God in these same letters. In the letter openings of all Paul's letters we have the father language, and listen to how he is called. He is always called the Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ, because it's that relationship that let's us into the father relationship. He is called the Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ and therefore in a derivative sense, our father through Jesus. Look at 2 Corinthians 1-3, look at Ephesians 1:3, look at Colossians 1:3. This is the language of the beginning of the letters. It's the language of Benedictions, it's the language of worship. You see, Paul almost never allows the language of Father to stand alone. It's always coupled with “Our” or with the name of “Jesus”. Notice that Paul himself never calls God “My Father”. Instead he stands with his follow Christians and speaks of “Our Father” because God relates to us as the Body of Christ. God
relates to us as a group. Paul speaks of our Father, we pray to our Father, Abba.
Have you noticed then, that even what seems to be private prayer is actually corporate prayer? If you address God as our Father, you are not only standing before the Almighty, you are standing with your brothers and sisters, “Our Father who art in Heaven hallowed be his name”.
Paul does not see his relationship with God the Father is categorically different from ours and, in fact, even Jesus suggests the same. You remember when he rose from the dead and spoke to Mary Magdalene. What did he tell her to go tell the disciples? “Go tell the brothers I am ascending to our Father and our God”, says John 20. You tell them that. He's ascending to our Father and our God. By the death and resurrection of Jesus we are now ushered into the intimate relationship with Abba and can say “Our Father”.
Notice that Paul also uses the phrase “the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”. He does not go around introducing his letters with “the God of Abraham”. No. He says, “the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” [chuckle 1:27:38]. There is a dramatic shift from the way he would have prayed as a Pharisee and the way he prays as a Christian. And, of course, the reason for the difference is his relationship with Christ.
In short, the father language is both chrystalogically and eschatologically focused in Paul. It's not ecclesiastically focused, ecclesiologically focused except maybe in Ephesians. Another words, the father language comes into the discussion because of the change of relationship with God through Christ.
When we reach the fourth Gospel, we have reached the apex of father language in the New Testament for God. Get this - How many chapters in John's Gospel? 21. There are 121 times God is called Father in 21 chapters in the fourth Gospel. Two that we can add, there are 108 times he is simply called God. There's a lot of God language in the fourth Gospel. Bottom line, referenced to the first person in the Trinity. So, there is an enormously strong stress in this Gospel on the Son being the one sent by the Father, dependent on the Father and on the oneness of the Son and the Father, such that the one who has seen the Son and seen the Father, 'cause he's the spitting image of the Father. He does what the Father does, he has what the Father has, he is what the Father is, he is the agent of the Father. “He who has seen me, has seen the Father.” I am the spitting image of the Father. “He who has rejected me, has rejected the Father”.
As with so many other theological notions, the Gospel of John develops earlier notal [inaudible 1:29:41] ideas amongst Jesus' followers about God his Father and Jesus his Son. And, what happens in the fourth Gospel is those deep theological implications are teased out. You can see more clearly the nature of the relationship of Father and Son and the nature of our relationship with the Father and the Son.
In the fourth Gospel Jesus is the Word, he's the agent, he's the apostle of the Father. He's the one that Father has sent. Just as Jesus sends us, so the Father has sent Jesus. And who is it that Jesus sends when he goes back to Heaven? The Spirit. The Son is the apostle of the Father, and the Spirit is the agent or apostle of the Son, and we are the agents of the three in one. All God's children's [unclear 1:30:37] is agents. Secret agents for the Father.
Matthew 11:27 makes the same thing clear. Jesus says, “No one knows the Son but the Father, and no one knows the Father but the Son and whoever to whom he reveals him.” You can't get into that intimate relationship with Abba except through the Son, because he's the only one who knows him. Matthew 11:27.
So what are the revolutionary implications of this language? Well, John 5, spits it all out.
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[background music] John 8:42. “If God were your Father, you would love me [end of music 1:31:37] as I came from him.” And when we hear about the fatherhood of God and when you couple that with the language about the Son being the only begotten, it's hard not to see one of the components of the fatherhood of God having to do with the fact that God is the life giver. If he begat the Son [chuckle 1:31:59], he is the life giver, which brings us to the point about what Jesus says he gives us. Life. Everlasting life. A life that makes us the sons and daughters of God. A real spiritual life welling up within us which allows us to naturally, frequently, spontaneously, from the heart, pray to God as Abba, our Father.
It is not hard to see why the Church fathers tended to focus on the more exalted discussion of father and son in Paul and in the fourth Gospel. But it needs to be remembered once more that that discussion was set in motion originally by Jesus' own distinctive Abba language. A language which he passed on to us as he did the possibility of an intimate relationship with God.
Let's sum up. When we study the relationship of the Father and the Son, if you don't understand this relationship, you will not understand your relationship with either the Father or the Son, because your relationship with Father and Son depends on the Son. He is the one who gave you this relationship, he is the one who sent you the Spirit so you could be in this relationship, he is the one who enables you to pray without hypocrisy. Abba, Father. We come to the Father through Jesus the Son.
Listen one more time to how Paul describes this in First Timothy, He says this, First Timothy 2, verse 3. I will stop with verse 3. Listen closely. “This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved.” Halleluja! And to come to a knowledge of the truth. Not the favorite verse of Calvinist to preach from. “For there is one God and one mediator between God and human beings, Christ Jesus, himself human who gave himself as a ransom for everyone.” Did you hear that? “Who is the only mediator between God and human beings.” It's not old Buddha, it's not Vishnu, it's not Deepak Chopra, it's not Muhammad, it's not Joseph Smith, it's Jesus.
If there is a mediator who has provided us with the one necessary and sufficient sacrifice to atone for the sins of the world, we should not look for another and we do not need another. God, in his wisdom made it one stop shopping in Jesus. He is the one mediator between God and human kind who can usher us into that relationship. [music starting 1:35] so that we may call the Father, “Abba”.