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Posts Tagged ‘Incarnation’

The humanity of Jesus

December 24th, 2017
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It is interesting how the gospels of Matthew and Luke have genealogies leading to Jesus’ birth. Matthew begins with Abraham showing he is embedded in the story of Israel and Luke retraces it back to Adam, the son of God, showing he is one with all humanity.

To understand the Old Testament, we need to ask: What’s the role of Israel? Too many Christians fail to teach from the Old Testament because “it’s done away with”– we’re not under the law but under grace.

When we read the Old Testament, we see that it’s all figuring and types prefiguring the coming of Jesus Christ.

Paul talks about the law as a wonderful schoolmaster to bring us to Christ. So in that sense, through Israel, God has formed a community. He has not taken a pre-existing one. He creates a community of people through individuals, starting with Abraham, gives them a blessing, enters into a covenant with them: “I’ll be your God, you’ll be my people; I’ll give you blessings if you do these things, curses if you do these things.”

He’s forming them through giving them the law, rules which cover every aspect of life.

God is forming a people to know what it means to come into the presence of someone who is not an idol – someone who is not human – someone who is holy. “I’m holy – take off your shoes. I’m holy – prepare yourself. I’m holy – think different ways, act differently.”

Paul describes it this way.

Romans 9:4-5

4 the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption to sonship; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. 5 Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, for ever praised! Amen.

All of that is in preparation for Jesus Christ, so that when he comes, he is the fulfillment of Israel. He is all Israel. So he represents, he substitutes for all Israel. Time and time again, the Gospels are alluding to this, where Jesus re-enacts the story of Israel.

Then we get the climax – not only is this for Israel – Jesus now is the way through which all humanity will be saved. All humanity will have the Spirit, all humanity can have the promise, the ingrafting that Paul and others talk about.

So we read the Old Testament, particularly Israel, as this long preparation for the coming of Christ. That gives us a context in which to understand this rabbi , teacher or master.

And did you notice verse 5 Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, for ever praised! Amen.

Human ancestry and who is God overall.

Now there are two perspectives we find in discussing Jesus.

One is from above -which we read in John1:1

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

John starts his gospel up in the heavenlies. Here’s the Logos who comes down and verse 14 – takes to himself human flesh. But the rest of that Gospel is here with us-below.

We can emphasise his divinity as a lot of Christians do. But in doing so we may downplay the importance of his on-going humanity.

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Message for the Day

The struggle to believe in Jesus

December 22nd, 2015
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Everything in the OT is preparing for something totally unexpected. Last week we had seen how remarkably God had worked with Ruth and Esther.The purpose of God would now be focused on the womb of a young Jewish woman called Mary.

 In the midst of the realities of an occupied people, directly ruled by a erratic genius tyrant Herod, with great discrepancies between rich and poor, a young woman is chosen for the greatest assignment ever given to any woman.

 Mary is the first one in the church who hears the good news and through whom the Word becomes flesh.

 How does she respond?

 She struggles. She has doubts and fear.

 What can we learn from her response?

 We will see that it is a very human response.

Luke 1:26-38

26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.

 Here she is a young woman going to her prayers, as a devout, young Jewish maiden and what she got in her prayers that day was not what she was looking forward to, and it wasn’t expected, and the text is quite clear that she was deeply troubled by what happened and she was also afraid.

There is a struggle going on here. Her first response isn’t just an immediate thankfulness and of course whatever you say I understand and accept.

 We have to allow this in our human responses. We like Jacob sometimes have to wrestle with God about our life and what he is doing with us.

 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

That is a very real and practical question.

We hear these questions throughout Jesus ministry: We have only five loaves and two fishes.

35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”

There is a patient explanation: a redirecting away from her own resources to the one who is saying this. “For no word from God will ever fail.”

But with God all things are possible.

The how question is replaced with the Who.The Holy Spirit will do this.

38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

The scriptures want us to know how she responded and it’s part of her journey. She has to know the Who not the how.

But it’s all part of the process. An important thing for us to remember that – there is no perfect way to respond to God except to be genuine and to be honest before God. And if there’s fear, if there’s trouble – things going on in my life – that’s part of what I openly and honestly bring it to the table. And God accepts that.

I have always found the following parable insightful about human responses.

Matthew 21:28-32

28 “What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’

29 “‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.

30 “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.

31 “Which of the two did what his father wanted?”

“The first,” they answered.

It reminds us, I think, of how important our response is meant to be not just a verbal one but with our whole hearts and so, again, the second sentence is a great example of somebody who took him a while. At first he let his father know “I’m not doing this.” But it percolated, he thought about it, and he was honest and genuine in his initial, “No” but as he thought about it, and he thought, “You know, I think I’m going do what I was asked.” And so that had integrity.

Now Jesus had a specific application for this parable.

Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32 For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.

It is so easy to appear enthusiastically religious without really wrestling with the cost of obedience and the challenge to our comfort zone.

Too often we can focus on the outward appearance – saying the right things, fitting in to please those we want to think well of us, but true faith is a difficult struggle within. It has to confront our own fear, even doubt – or even rottenness.

We all have had such confrontations with our self. We have all had our John pointing out the way. It is not easy.

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Message for the Day

The Word became flesh

December 16th, 2014
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In the next two sermons I want to show the wonderful link between the incarnation of Jesus Christ or as it is described in John, The Word became flesh, and Jesus’ ascension back to heaven.

 This has enormous implications for our understanding of the Christian faith.

 I will be using material from interviews giving by Gerritt Dawson with Mike Feazell.

 I want to go back to the resurrection and ascension descriptions given by Luke

 What jumps out to you in Luke’s emphasis?

Luke 24:1-3, 36 -43

1 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.

36 While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39 Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”

40 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41 And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate it in their presence.

Acts 1:3-5,9-11

3 After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. 4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with[a] water, but in a few days you will be baptized with[b] the Holy Spirit.”

9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

Luke wants us to know that Jesus’ resurrection was bodily: he was the same human Jesus they knew before. This is the man who was born like we are, named Jesus and grew up in to manhood.

He bodily ascended and will return bodily.

Gerritt Dawson:

People think that God only became a human for a little while he was with us those 33 years that Jesus was here. But in fact, Scripture and traditions of all believers have taught for centuries that Jesus remained incarnate. He did not kind of unzip his humanity and take it off, he remained wedded to our humanity.

That’s wonderful news for us because it means that the same Jesus who gathered the little children in his arms and touched them and blessed them, the same Jesus who accepted the tears of the sinful woman and pronounced forgiveness to her, the same Jesus who was willing to touch someone with a terrible disease and to heal them, that’s the same Jesus that we relate to now. He still has the memory of walking among us on this earth. He still has our flesh. He’s still the Jesus that we meet in the Gospels.

This means what we see in the gospels is the same Jesus who ascended: this is the character of his kingdom as we heard. This is how he is towards us now.

The Jesus of the gospel’s is the same Jesus presently at the right hand of God.

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Message for the Day