Saturday, April 27, 2013

“Some Standing Here Will Not Taste Death Until…”

Taken from:

Beyond Creation Science


Chapter 1 – What Did Jesus Say?

“Some Standing Here Will Not Taste Death Until…” 

The problem is not in what the Bible teaches. The problem is the assumptions and expectations modern Christians bring to the Bible. Everyone has opinions about what biblical prophecy and biblical creation should be about, and those opinions have a lot to do with what Christians “see” in prophecy and creation.
We recognize the critical role these assumptions play in our understanding of various portions of the Bible. But prophecy, understood on its own terms, is often surprisingly direct and simple. Here is an example. Imagine yourself standing among the disciples nearly 2,000 years ago. Jesus said:
For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done. I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom. (Matt. 16:27-28 NIV)
If you were there, how would you have taken Jesus’ remarkable claim? You heard Jesus say that he would come in his kingdom with angels and rewards. When? Before everyone present at the time died? Isn’t that what Jesus said? Think of how exciting that would be! If you were one of those standing there, you would understand that perhaps 20, 30, 40, at most maybe 50 years would pass before the coming of the Son of Man; enough time would pass for some to die (since Jesus does not say all standing here shall not taste death till…), but not so much time that everyone present would die. That is the natural reading of the passage.

Peter Was Martyred, but John Lived On!

Do we have another example in the gospels where Jesus made a similar claim? The apostle John recorded a conversation between Jesus and Peter which took place after the resurrection. John’s account of this conversation contains both a prediction by Jesus and another statement about his coming. Jesus told Peter,
"Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go." Now this He said, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, "Follow Me!" Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; the one who also had leaned back on His bosom at the supper and said, "Lord, who is the one who betrays You?" So Peter seeing him said to Jesus, "Lord, and what about this man?" Jesus said to him, "If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!" (John 21:18-22 NASB)
Is this coming of Jesus the same coming of the “Son of Man” in Matthew 16:28? Again, Jesus said that someone present at that time would live until his coming! Notice Jesus predicted Peter’s death as a martyr. He also suggested that John (the disciple whom Jesus loved) would live to see the coming of Christ.
John’s account of Jesus’ prediction after the resurrection in John 21 agrees with Matthew’s account of what Jesus promised before the crucifixion in Matthew 16. Both Peter and John were present when Jesus said “Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom” (Matt. 16:28 NKJV) Here in John 21 we find that Jesus said Peter would die as a result of persecution, but John would live until the coming of Christ. John would be one of those standing there who would not taste death before the coming of Christ!
Did Jesus’ prediction about Peter’s death come true? Yes, it did. Did John live longer than Peter as Jesus implied? Yes, he did. So where does that put the coming of Christ?
The Bible gives us a general idea on the timing of the coming of Christ. Not the exact day or the exact hour, but there is a window of time between the martyrdom of Peter and the death of John in which we should expect the coming of Christ to have taken place. Unless the apostle John is 2000 years old and still living somewhere, the Bible teaches the coming of Christ is in our past, not in our future.
That initial thought creates problems for modern debates over prophecy. Most prophetic views assume the Bible teaches the coming of Christ lies in our future. What if that expectation is false? Would not a mistake like that cause much of the confusion, irresolvable debates, and failed predictions we witness among Christians today? In light of the clear predictions Jesus made, we think it makes sense to cautiously investigate the notion that the coming of Christ has already occurred. After all, the prediction Jesus gave regarding Peter’s martyrdom and John’s long life came true exactly as he said. Could it be that his coming also took place exactly as he said – in the lifetime of some of those who listened to his teaching in person?

“This Generation Will Not Pass Away Until All …”

The coming of Christ has already happened? We realize this might strike you as an odd way to look at prophecy. Surely, there must be some mistake. Did Jesus really mean to say that his coming would take place in the lifetime of some of his disciples? If he did intend to mean that, then it should be clear in the Olivet Discourse, the main prophetic text in the gospels.
Before we look at Jesus’ sermon on the Mount of Olives, we need to establish the context. What we know as the Olivet Discourse is the last two-thirds of a long speech by Jesus. Jesus delivered the Olivet Discourse just two days before he went to his death on the cross. The first part of the speech began in Matthew 23 with Jesus teaching the crowds in the temple area
The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. Therefore, whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, “Rabbi, Rabbi.” But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ. But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. (Matt. 23:2-12 NKJV)
Jesus then cursed the leaders of Jerusalem with the seven woes:
But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men;… (v. 13)
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses… (v. 14)
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!…you make [your disciple] twice as much a son of hell as yourselves. (v. 15)
Woe to you, blind guides, who [swear falsely]. (v. 16)
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you … have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith… (v. 23)
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For… inside [you] are full of extortion and self-indulgence… (v. 25)
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs… [Y]ou outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. (vv. 27-28)
Jesus then “summed up” these woes and delivered a powerful warning:
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.’ Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt. Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation. (vv. 29-36)
Notice that Jesus condemned specific sins of a specific group of religious leaders: the scribes and Pharisees of his day. He closed his admonition with a promise to send more prophets, wise men, and scribes, which they would scourge, persecute, kill, and crucify, just as their fathers had done. Jesus then promised to punish them, after which he lamented Jerusalem’s fate:
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ (vv. 37-39)
Remember, this speech took place two days before the crucifixion. No wonder the religious leaders were so intent on killing Jesus! This was too much for the religious leaders to allow. Matthew 26:1-5 tells us these religious leaders immediately started their plot to crucify him.
After pronouncing judgment on Jerusalem and its leaders, Jesus and his disciples left the temple courts to go sit in the shade of the nearby olive trees. On the way, Jesus’ disciples remarked about the beauty and magnificence of the temple and its courts. Jesus responded with these words,
Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” (24:2)
When they were finally alone, the disciples approached Jesus and asked,
Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age? (v. 3)
Jesus answered them,
Take heed that no one deceives you. (v. 4)
Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name's sake. (v. 9)
Therefore when you see the “abomination of desolation,” spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (whoever reads, let him understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. (v. 15-16)
For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. (v. 21)
Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call… (v. 30-31)
Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will by no means pass away. (v. 34-35)
Notice the parenthetical comment in v. 15. When Matthew wrote this passage he understood that it was a warning to his readers. Notice also that Jesus (1) references the great tribulation in vv. 9 and 21, (2) references the Son of Man coming “on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” in v. 30, and (3) tells them when all these things would happen in v. 34: “This generation will by no means pass away until all these things take place.” That is, these things would all take place during the generation Jesus referenced in Matthew 23:36.
That must have sent the disciples reeling. Put yourselves in their sandals again. The temple was the pride of Israel . It was the place where sacrifices and all the regulations of the Mosaic code were carried out day after day. It was the place at the center of life for devout Jews, the sign of God’s presence rested in the Holy of Holies. Yet here was Jesus claiming that everything he had just predicted would take place before that generation passed away!
Jesus reiterated the timing of his coming as found in Matthew 16:28 in Matthew 24:34. “This generation will not pass away until all these things take place” is essentially the same as “some of those standing here will not die before they see the Son of Man coming with his kingdom.” Both statements demand fulfillment a few decades into the future, but within a future limited to the lifetimes of those who heard Jesus speak.
Continuing the same speech, Jesus said,
But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. (vv. 37-39)
In Matthew 25, Jesus concluded the Olivet Discourse:
When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him… and He will separate them one from another…. And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matt. 25:31-32, 46 NKJV)
Yet all of this echoed what was said just a few verses back
Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven… and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. (Matt. 24:30 NKJV)
Notice the similarity between Matthew 16:27, the passage we examined at the opening of this chapter, and Matthew 25:31-32, 46:
For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. (Matthew 16:27 NKJV)
This similarity gives strong contextual evidence that all of these texts speak to the same “coming of the Son of Man.” Author Gary DeMar emphasizes the resemblance and shows the problem with how many Christians read the Olivet Discourse today:
[T]here is little evidence that the “coming of the Son of Man” in Mathew 24:27, 30, 39, and 42 is different from the “coming of the Son of Man” in 25:31. Compare 25:31 with 16:27, a certain reference to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70… These verses are almost identical.1
To miss the identification of the time when an event is said to occur will mean that the discourse can be made to fit any generation. This, of course, would lead to tremendous confusion. There is no doubt that this error is the chief problem for those who maintain that the events of Matthew 24-25 and other prophetic passages are yet to be fulfilled, either in our generation or in some future generation.2
Jesus spoke of things related to the life and experience of the disciples throughout the entire Olivet Discourse.

The Great Tribulation has Already Happened

Our first claim is bold: We believe biblical prophecy can be understood by Christians. We don’t believe the Bible’s teachings on the matter are incomprehensible – that the details are so complex they are beyond the reach of Christians in our day.
The Olivet Discourse makes it absolutely clear that the coming of Christ is connected intimately to what happened to the city of Jerusalem and the temple. Not only does that mean the coming of Christ is related to 1st century events, it also means that what we now call “the great tribulation” took place in localized, historical events. Jesus mourned over Jerusalem , not the world. Jesus pronounced judgment on the leaders of Israel , not modern-day world leaders. Gary DeMar offers this explanation:
Keep in mind that the tribulation described by Jesus in Matthew 24 was local, confined to the land of Israel . The people were still living in houses with flat roofs (Matthew 24:17). The setting was agricultural (24:18). The Sabbath was still in force with its rigid travel restrictions (24:20)… The tribulation had reference to the Jews, the people of Judea (Matthew 24:16; Luke 21:20-24); it was not a worldwide tribulation.3
Here is where a proper understanding of the great tribulation holds implications for the Genesis debate. Jesus drew a comparison in the Olivet Discourse that few stop to consider. He compared Noah’s flood which “swept them all away” with the great tribulation and his coming. Consider the words of Jesus once again:
But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. (Matt. 24:37 NKJV)
Jesus explicitly compared his coming to the days of Noah. If the great tribulation happened in the local events of the first century, then how should we understand the historical events of Noah’s flood? Prophetic views have tremendous implications for the Genesis debate among Christians.

Two Debates in One Book

Few subjects in the Church today generate more controversy than end-times prophecy and Genesis creation. Any book that begins with a discussion of New Testament prophecy should be suspect. Even worse is a book that dives into the origins debate at the same time. This book combines these two explosive debates – on purpose.
It may seem ambitious to tackle both ends of the Bible at once. We think that is exactly what needs to be done. We want to investigate how these two enormous issues, Bible prophecy and Genesis creation, relate to one another across our Bible. We will begin with New Testament prophecy. Then we will show how differing views of prophecy naturally match a complementary understanding of Genesis creation.

X-millennialism vs. Pan-millennialism

Prophecy alone is a vast subject. There are so many different views that many Christians are confused by the topic. Eyes glaze over whenever someone starts sprinkling conversation with such big words as eschatology or premillennialism, postmillennialism, and amillennialism. It gets worse when we find out that each of these common views possess their own internal debates and nuances over which people make great fuss. Is there any hope at all that we can really understand the full picture of what the Bible teaches in prophecy?
Many have lost hope. The seeming futility of the whole exercise has given rise to a new view that seems appropriate, given the state of the debate. Many call it “pan-millennialism” – it all “pans” out in the end. In other words, don’t get caught up in the details, just focus on the victory at the end. We can all agree on the victory at the end, right?
That is good enough for some Christians. It is certainly the easiest view to understand. It may even be better than some of the other big-name views mentioned above. We sympathize with the pan-millennialist who, when in the presence of someone expounding upon the finer points of some x-millennialist view of prophecy, shrugs his shoulders and wonders if we will ever know in this life.
The problem with the pan-millennialist viewpoint is that much of the Bible, especially the New Testament, talks about prophecy in great detail. If you ignore what the New Testament says about prophecy, you are going to miss a lot of what Jesus said. Did Jesus think the details of his coming were unimportant to understand?
The only way to honor Jesus is to pay close attention to everything he taught. His disciples certainly did. After Jesus ascended into heaven, the apostles had a lot to say about prophecy. They thought it was very important to get it right. Why was it so important for them to get it right and to teach others to get it right? What if their lives depended on it, literally?
There is no doubt that confusion about biblical prophecy reigns among Christians today. That does not mean our situation is hopeless; it may simply mean the study of God’s Word, like anything valuable in life, will take considerable work. Why would the Bible have so much prophecy in it if Christians were not meant to understand it?
Another problem with the pan-millennial approach is that our understanding of prophecy inevitably impacts what Christians believe about a great number of things in our world. Christians generally act in terms of their beliefs. Should Christians believe the latest prophecy book about a coming “rapture”? Should American Christians commit themselves to unquestioning political support for the nation of Israel? Should we plan for the distant future if the end of the world is so near? What goals should the Church make to impact modern culture for Christ? There is no possible neutrality about these questions. All of them relate one way or another to how Christians understand prophecy. Prophetic views drive Christian culture. That is precisely why they are so controversial.
As we have already hinted, New Testament prophecy relates to other things in the Bible as well. In the following pages, we will explore in depth the many biblical links between prophecy and Genesis creation. We will present a case that the Genesis debate among Christians has been and will continue to be impacted profoundly by prophetic views. What about creation and Noah’s flood? Is evolution compatible with the Bible? Is it biblically possible that our universe could be millions or even billions of years old? We’ll get to all that, but first we need to lay some more groundwork for a proper understanding of prophetic teaching in the Bible.
Is it worth considering the possibility that every detail Jesus gave within the Olivet Discourse was fulfilled in the 1st century events leading up to ad 70? In ad 30, Jesus promised that every stone of the temple would be thrown down before that generation passed away. It is a powerful vindication of his prophetic word that we know Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed in ad 70, 40 years later. What Jesus said would happen in the lifetime of some of his disciples came to pass exactly as he predicted it would. The Olivet Discourse is fulfilled prophecy.

2 Ibid., p. 43.
3 Gary DeMar, Last Days Madness: Obsession of the Modern Church, 3rd ed, (Atlanta: American Vision, 1997), p. 117.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

" ... true peace, profound peace, comes from the experience of God's mercy".

Pope Francis on Divine Mercy Sunday

By David Came (Apr 7, 2013)

In the first Divine Mercy Sunday message of his pontificate, on April 7 in St. Peter's Square, Pope Francis gave a powerful teaching on God's mercy based on the Gospel of the day, John 20:19-31. He spoke of how "true peace ... comes from the experience of God's mercy," of Jesus Christ revealing Himself to us as "Mercy Incarnate," and of our call to boldly "proclaim Christ the Risen Lord" by "trusting in the mercy of the Lord forever."

Pope Francis also emphasized how Blessed John Paul II established Divine Mercy Sunday as a universal feast day and then died on its vigil.

"Today," Pope Francis said, "is Divine Mercy Sunday, by the will of Blessed John Paul II, who closed his eyes to the world on the vigil of this [feast day]."

He delivered his message in the Square before an estimated crowd of 50,000 people after praying the Regina Caeli, according to the online news service AsiaNews.

Of the Risen Lord's Easter gift of peace to His disciples and its connection with Divine Mercy, Pope Francis said:

I renew to everyone the Easter greetings with the words of the Risen Jesus: "Peace be with you!" It is not a greeting, or even a simple wish: it is a gift, indeed, the precious gift that Christ gives to his disciples after passing through death and the underworld. He gives peace, as he had promised, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you." This peace is the fruit of the victory of God over evil, it is the fruit of forgiveness. And so it is: true peace, profound peace, comes from the experience of God's mercy.

Notice here how Pope Francis teaches us that this Easter gift of peace, which "comes from the experience of God's mercy," is "the fruit of the victory of God over evil" and "the fruit of forgiveness." Thus, our Holy Father shows us the great power of Divine Mercy that is revealed in the Paschal mystery, as God has victory over evil and offers us forgiveness for our sins.

In describing Jesus Christ as "Mercy Incarnate," Pope Francis stresses our need to believe in Him and His love and mercy for us even though — unlike the Apostle Thomas in the day's Gospel — we have not had the opportunity to see the Risen Lord and examine His wounds:

The second time, eight days later, Thomas was also there. And Jesus said to him, invited him to look at the wounds, to touch them, and Thomas exclaimed, "My Lord, my God." Jesus said: "Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed." And who were those who believed without seeing? The other disciples, the men and women of Jerusalem who, despite not having met the risen Jesus, believed the testimony of the Apostles and the women. This is a very important word on faith, we can call it the beatitude of faith. Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed. At all times
and in all places blessed are those who, through the Word of God proclaimed in the Church and witnessed by Christians believe that Jesus Christ is the incarnate love of God, Mercy Incarnate. And that goes for all of us.

Here, Pope Francis is saying that the key to our personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ is our faith and trust in Him, as we are called to live by faith and not by sight. Through the eyes of faith, we are invited to a personal encounter with Him as Mercy Incarnate. In this light, it makes perfect sense Jesus told St. Faustina that we are asked to personally sign the Divine Mercy image with the words, "Jesus, I trust in You" (Diary of St. Faustina, 47).

Finally, Pope Francis connects the dots. It's almost as if he has the Divine Mercy image in view as he encourages us to boldly witness to our faith in the Risen Lord by "trusting in the mercy of the Lord":

... the Spirit of the Risen Christ casts out fear from the hearts of the apostles and pushes them out of the Upper Room, to bring the Gospel. We also must have more courage to witness to faith in the Risen Christ! Let us not be afraid to be Christian and live as Christians! We must have the courage to go out and proclaim Christ the Risen Lord, for he is our peace. "Trusting in the mercy of the Lord forever, because he is waiting for us, he loves us."

So, be encouraged by Pope Francis to boldly proclaim and live your faith in the Risen Christ. As you do, join me in praying, "Jesus, I trust in You!" And give thanks to the Merciful Savior for Pope Francis, who is our new Mercy Pope.


Taken from:

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Jesus Christ as the "New Moses"


Synopsis of Pope's Book

"Jesus of Nazareth"

April 15, 2007  ....

ROME, APRIL 15, 2007 ( Here is the synopsis of Benedict XVI's book "Jesus of Nazareth," released by the Italian publisher Rizzoli, which has handled worldwide sale of the rights to the work.


* * *

The Pope's Path to Jesus
A personal meditation, not an exercise of the magisterium
This book is the first part of a work, the writing of which, as its author states, was preceded by a "long gestation" (Page xi). It reflects Joseph Ratzinger's personal search for the "face of the Lord" and is not intended to be a document forming part of the magisterium (Page xxiii).
"Everyone is free, then, to contradict me," the Pontiff stresses in the foreword (Page xxiv). The main purpose of the work is "to help foster [in the reader] the growth of a living relationship" with Jesus Christ (Page xxiv). In an expected second volume the Pope hopes "also to be able to include the chapter on the [infancy] narratives" concerning the birth of Jesus and to consider the mystery of his passion, death and resurrection.
It is primarily, therefore, a pastoral book. But it is also the work of a rigorous theologian, who justifies his assertions based on exhaustive knowledge of sacred texts and critical literature. He underlines the indispen¬sability of a historical-critical method for serious exegesis, but also highlights its limits: "Admittedly, to believe that, as man, he [Jesus] truly was God exceeds the scope of the historical method" (Page xxiii).
And yet, "Without anchoring in God, the person of Jesus remains shadowy, unreal, and unexplainable" (Schnackenburg, "Freundschaft mit Jesus," Page 322). In confirming this conclusion of a notable Roman Catholic representative of historical-critical exegesis, the Pope states that his book "sees Jesus in light of his communion with the Father" (Page xiv).
In addition, based on "reading the individual texts of the Bible in the context of the whole" -- a reading that "does not contradict historical-critical interpretation, but carries it forward in an organic way toward becoming theology in the proper sense" (Page xix) -- the author presents "the Jesus of the Gospels as the real, 'historical' Jesus," underlining "that this figure is much more logical and, historically speaking, much more intelligible than the reconstructions we have been presented with in the last decades" (Page xxii).
For Benedict XVI, one finds in the Scriptures the compelling elements to be able to assert that the historical personage, Jesus Christ, is also the Son of God who came to Earth to save humanity. In page after page, he examines these one by one, guiding and challenging the reader -- the believer but also the nonbeliever -- by way of an enthralling intellectual adventure.
Grounding his core premise on the fact of the intimate unity between the Old and the New Testament, and drawing on the Christological hermeneutics that see in Jesus Christ the key to the entire Bible, Benedict XVI presents the Jesus of the Gospels as the "new Moses" who fulfills Israel's ancient expectations (Page 1). This new Moses must lead the people of God to true and definitive freedom. He does so in a sequence of actions that, however, always allow God's plan to be anticipated in its entirety.
The Baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan is "an acceptance of death for the sins of humanity, and the voice that calls out, 'This is my beloved Son,' over the baptismal waters is an anticipatory reference to the Resurrection" (Page 18). Jesus' immersion in the waters of the River Jordan is a symbol of his death and of his descent into hell -- a reality present, however, throughout his life.
To save humanity "He must recapitulate the whole of history from its beginnings" (Page 26), he must conquer the principal temptations that, in various forms, threaten men in all ages and, transforming them into obedience, reopen the road toward God (Chapter 2), toward the true Promised Land, which is the "Kingdom of God" (Page 44). This term, which can be interpreted in its Christological, mystical or even ecclesiastical dimension, ultimately means "the divine lordship, God's dominion over the world and over history, [which] transcends the moment, indeed transcends and reaches beyond the whole of history. And yet it is at the same time something belonging absolutely to the present" (Page 57). Indeed, through Jesus' presence and activity "God has here and now entered actively into history in a wholly new way." In Jesus "God ... draws near to us ... rules in a divine way, without worldly power, rules through the love that reaches 'to the end'" (Pages 60-61; John 13:1).
The theme of the "Kingdom of God" (Chapter 3), which pervades the whole of Jesus' preaching, is developed in further depth in the reflection on the "Sermon on the Mount" (Chapter 4). In the Sermon Jesus clearly appears as the "new Moses" who brings the new Torah or, rather, returns to Moses' Torah and, activating the intrinsic rhythms of its structure, fulfills it (Page 65).
The Sermon on the Mount, in which the beatitudes are the cardinal points of the law and, at one and the same time, a self-portrait of Jesus, demonstrates that this law is not just the result of a "face-to-face" talk with God but embodies the plenitude that comes from the intimate union of Jesus with the Father (Page 66). Jesus is the Son of God, the Word of God in person. "Jesus understands himself as the Torah" (Page 110). "This is the point that demands a decision [...] and consequently this is the point that leads to the Cross and the Resurrection" (Page 63).
The exodus toward the true "Promised Land," toward true freedom, requires the sequel of Christ. The believer has to enter the same communion of the Son with the Father. Only in this way can Man "fulfill" himself, because his innermost nature is oriented toward the relationship with God. This means that a fundamental element of his life is talking to God and listening to God. Because of this, Benedict XVI dedicates an entire chapter to prayer, explaining the Lord's Prayer, which Jesus himself taught us (Chapter 5).
Man's profound contact with God the Father through Jesus in the Holy Spirit gathers them together in the "we and us" of a new family that, via the choice of the Twelve Disciples, recalls the origins of Israel (the twelve Patriarchs) and, at the same time, opens the vision toward the new Jerusalem (Revelation 21:9-14) -- the ultimate destination of the whole story -- of the new Exodus under the guidance of the "new Moses."
With Jesus, the Twelve Disciples "have to pass from outward to inward communion with Jesus," so as then to be able to testify to his oneness with the Father and "become Jesus' envoys -- 'apostles,' no less -- who bring his message to the world" (Page 172). Albeit in its extremely variegated composition, the new family of Jesus, the Church of all ages, finds in him its unifying core and the will to live the universal character of his teaching (Chapter 6).
To make his message easier to understand and indeed to incorporate that message into daily living, Jesus uses the form of the parable. He comports the substance of what he intends to communicate -- ultimately he is always talking about his mystery -- attuned to the listener's comprehension using the bridge of imagery grounded in realities very familiar and accessible to that listener. Alongside this human aspect, however, there is an exquisitely theological explanation of the parables' sense, which Joseph Ratzinger highlights in an analysis of rare depth. He then comments more specifically on three parables, via which he illustrates the endless resources of Jesus' message and its perennial actuality (Chapter 7).
The next chapter also centers round the images used by Jesus to explain his mystery: They are the great images of John's Gospel. Before analyzing them, the Pope presents a very interesting summary of the various results of scientific research into who the apostle John was. With this, as also in his explanation of the images, he opens up new horizons for the reader that reveal Jesus with ever-increasing clarity as the "Word of God" (Page 317), who became man for our salvation as the "Son of God" (Page 304), coming to redirect humanity toward unity with the Father -- the reality personified by Moses (Chapter 8).
This vision is further expanded in the last two chapters. "The account of the Transfiguration of Jesus [...] interprets Peter's confession and takes it deeper, while at the same time connecting it with the mystery of Jesus' death and resurrection" (Pages 287-288). Both events -- the transfiguration and the confession -- are decisive moments for the earthly Jesus as they are for his disciples.
The true mission of the Messiah of God and the destiny of those who want to follow him are now definitively established. Both events become comprehensible to their full extent only if based on an organic view of the Old and New Testament. Jesus, the living Son of God, is the Messiah awaited by Israel who, through the scandal of the Cross, leads humanity into the "Kingdom of God" (Page 317) and to ultimate freedom (Chapter 9).
The Pope's book ends with an in-depth analysis of the titles that, according to the Gospels, Jesus used for himself (Chapter 10). Once again it becomes evident that only through reading the Scriptures as a united whole is one able to reveal the meaning of the three terms "Son of Man," "Son," and "I Am." This latter term is the mysterious name with which God revealed himself to Moses in the burning bush. This name now allows it to be seen that Jesus is that same God. In all three titles "Jesus at once conceals and reveals the mystery of his person. [...] All three of these terms demonstrate how deeply rooted he is in the Word of God, Israel's Bible, the Old Testament. And yet all these terms receive their full meaning only in him -- it is as if they had been waiting for him" (Page 354).
Together with the man of faith, who seeks to explain the divine mystery above all to himself; together with the extremely refined theologian, who ranges effortlessly from the results of modern doctrinal analyses to those of their ancient precursors, the book also reveals the pastor, who truly succeeds in his attempt "to help foster [in the reader] the growth of a living relationship" with Jesus Christ (Page xxiv), almost irresistibly drawing him into his own personal friendship with the Lord.
In this perspective the Pontiff is not afraid to denounce a world that, by excluding God and clinging only to visible and tangible realities, risks destroying itself in a self-centered quest for purely material well-being -- becoming deaf to the real call to the human being to become, through the Son, a son of God, and thereby to reach true freedom in the "Promised Land" of the "Kingdom of God."

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Thursday, April 4, 2013

Jesus: The Master Teacher

By Wayne Jackson

Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, conceded that Jesus of Nazareth was “a teacher” from God, as documented by the “signs” which he did (John 3:2). A wealthy young ruler approached the Lord asking, “Teacher, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” (Matthew 19:16). Even Jesus’ enemies addressed him as “Teacher” (Matthew 22:16, 24), though their use of the expression was not always genuine. The Lord is addressed as “Teacher” twenty-nine times in the Gospels. The noun (teacher) and verb (teach) combined are used of Jesus some ninety times.
Christ’s teaching was informative, logical, buttressed by Old Testament evidence, well-illustrated, documented by divine power, original, and uniquely authoritative (Matthew 7:28). When officers once were sent to arrest him, they returned to their superiors empty-handed, exclaiming: “Never man so spoke” (John 7:46). The Lord’s various methods of teaching beg for careful study.


Formal sermons were rare in the Savior’s repertoire of teaching tools. There is, of course, the renowned Sermon on the Mount, in which Christ set forth principles for discipleship, dealing with such issues as:
  • the blessedness (bliss, happiness) of holy living (Matthew 5:1-12);
  • godly influence (vv. 13-16);
  • the nature of the Mosaic law (vv. 17-20);
  • moral issues (vv. 21-48);
  • proper demeanor in worship (6:1-18);
  • the dangers of materialism (vv. 19-24);
  • the stress-free life (vv. 25-34);
  • proper attitudes toward others and God (7:1-12);
  • the consequences of wrongdoing (vv. 13-29).
The Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24-25), delivered shortly before his death, dealt with:
  • the impending destruction of Jerusalem (24:1-34);
  • the second coming of Christ and the judgment (vv. 35-51);
  • some parables and instruction concerning preparedness (25:1-46).


Jesus was more of a conversationalist than an orator. He walked with people and talked with them. He sat and spoke of soul matters. He was interested in individuals, recognizing the value of each soul. G. Campbell Morgan (1863-1945) was a noted British writer. One of his superb volumes was The Great Physician – The Method of Jesus with Individuals. In this book Morgan discussed the methodology of Jesus’ teaching to forty different persons—from John the Baptist to “doubting” Thomas.
The Lord’s nighttime conversation with Nicodemus allowed the teacher to introduce this Jewish ruler, a member of the Sanhedrin (cf. John 7:50), to the kingdom of God and the conditions of the born-anew process by which one enters that regime (John 3:3-5). And rich dividends it paid. The ruler defended the Lord before his peers (John 7:46-52) and assisted Joseph of Arimathea in the preparation of Christ’s body for burial (John 19:38-42). Faith—from the bud to the flower!
Consider the Lord’s conversation with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well (John 4:1-42). All alone at the well (his disciples gone into a nearby village to purchase food), Jesus encountered a Samaritan woman who had come for water. Christ overcame two cultural barriers—one gender, the other racial—by speaking in public to a non-Jewish female (vv. 9, 27). He led her gently into a conversation, intriguing her with the promise of some sort of water that could quench one’s thirst eternally. He established his prophetic authority by revealing details of her past that no ordinary person could possibly have known. The lady hastily returned to her village and spread the news of this remarkable man. An envoy came out to see Christ; they invited the Lord to their village. He stayed with them two days, and many believed in him. The impact of this event cannot be fully seen until one considers Philip’s evangelistic success after the establishment of the church (Acts 8:2ff). It all started with a seemingly casual conversation.


Christ was not a rabble-rouser. He was not, like far too many today, always spoiling for a fight. He was the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). Nonetheless, the nature of his mission and message was such that it was bound to ignite controversy—and certainly it did. Great truths come to light in these engagements between God’s Son and those who adopted the position of adversaries.
A demoniac was brought to Jesus; the poor man was both mute and blind (Matthew 12:22ff). Christ cast out the evil spirit. The crowds were amazed and audibly wondered whether this might be “the son of David” (an expression for the Messiah). The Pharisees promptly charged him with operating by the power of Satan. Knowing their thoughts (a power only deity could possess), Jesus brilliantly refuted their allegation. With devastating deductive logic, proceeding from a well-known general truth to a specific point, Christ argued:
  • Every kingdom divided against itself will come to ruin.
  • Demons are servants of Satan.
  • If, therefore, Christ (by Satan’s power) is casting out demons, then “the prince of demons” (v. 24) is undermining his own diabolic efforts! Not even he is that obtuse! By default, therefore, the Lord’s power over demons was shown to be divine—not satanic.
The eighth chapter of John is “hot” with conflict. The Lord had identified himself as “the light of the world” (v. 12), which implied those who refused his teaching were in darkness. The Jewish leaders disputed him. He informed them if they did not believe in him they would die in their sins (v. 24); he foretold they would kill him (v. 28). But he would maintain his integrity, “always” doing “the things pleasing” to his Father (v. 29). Christ’s attention was then directed toward those who had “believed” him, but with a superficial faith (vv. 31ff; especially v. 44). The interaction became intense. The careful student may note how often the debate went back and forth, “Jesus said . . . . They answered . . . .” (vv. 31, 33, etc.). The Jews claimed to be Abraham’s offspring; Christ denied they were “seed” in the loftiest sense of the expression. They slurred him, suggesting he was “born of fornication” (v. 41); he challenged them to “convict” him of sin (v. 46), but they could not. The debate concluded with the Lord’s magnificent claim that he existed eternally before Abraham was born—a claim of absolute deity (v. 58). They attempted to stone him but could not, because “his hour” had not arrived.

Pearls in Parables

During the early portion of his ministry Christ taught in open prose. As animosity against him intensified, he changed his method, employing the use of parables. Parables served a twofold function. They were delightful stories that, when explained, revealed important truths. Without explanation, however, the lessons remained obscure. Thus instruction could be conveyed to his disciples, yet concealed from his enemies.
The Savior’s parabolic instruction alone would have immortalized him as a teacher. For example:
  • He issued a dozen parables regarding the coming kingdom, i.e., the church established on Pentecost (Acts 2)—for example its nature, growth, influence, diversity, blessings, etc. (Matthew 13).
  • He demonstrated the preciousness of those lost, as evaluated by God (Luke 15).
  • Christ emphasized the compassion of Heaven and the divine desire to bestow forgiveness (Matthew 18:21-35).
  • The Lord stressed the power of persistent prayer (Luke 18:1-8).
  • Jesus taught the value of conscientious stewardship respecting one’s possessions, over against the curse of materialism (Luke 12:16-21).
  • He urged the wise to be prepared for a day of accountability (Matthew 25:1-13).
These message-bearing stories have embalmed valuable truths across twenty centuries, blessing the lives of countless souls.


The benevolent influence of Jesus’ teaching is beyond reasonable dispute. Even the skeptical philosopher Ernest Renan (1823-92), who opposed Christian tradition on almost all points, stated: “Jesus will ever be the creator of the pure spirit of religion; the Sermon on the Mount will never be surpassed” (1991, 221).
As his critics, both ancient and modern, fade into the obscurity they so justly deserve, the Son of God, who adorned this earth with his presence two thousand years ago, will continue to exert his influence through a vast conglomerate of students around the globe, who will bless humanity because of the teacher at whose feet they have received instruction.


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