Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Jesus' Death

Imagine this conversation between two Galileans days after Jesus death:
"Did you hear, Jesus died."
'No, that's too bad. Was he ill?'
"No, no. He didn't just expire. He was killed."
'How terrible! Was it an accident? Did he drown, or did he fall?'
"No, he wasn't killed accidentally. He was killed on purpose."
'You can't be serious! Was it those Romans?'
"Well, yes, .. and no. It actually started with the Jewish leaders. Worse yet, it even involved one his own disciples."
'But how was he killed? Was he assassinated? Was it a riot? How were the Romans involved?'
"The Jewish high priest brought charges against him before Pilate, and he eventually handed him over to be crucified.
'Crucified! Then he wasn't just killed. He was executed.'
"Well, yes, except he was executed voluntarily."
'No one is executed voluntarily. That's why they use soldiers.'
"Ah, but Jesus knew and accepted this death as his life mission. He died for you and me."
'Oh, so his life wasn't taken from him. He gave his life for us.'
"Yes, that's right."

Thursday, August 11, 2011

More than Meets the Eye

A little girl goes to the pottery studio to fashion a bowl for her mother. She forms it with her little hands, and then paints it with childish artistry. After it is fired, she brings it home, wraps it, and presents it as a gift to her mother.
What is the mother to make of this crooked dish, a little bit gaudy and quite a bit ugly? You can be sure that the mother will have a far different view than a brother.
First, she sees not so much the bowl, but the girl. This is her little girl. The mother gave birth to this child. She taught her most of what she knows. The daughter's eye for shapes and colors are gifts that came largely from and through her. One might think that this is a moment to be critical of a dish. Rather, it is a moment rich with appreciation for a daughter. 
Second, the mother evaluates the dish not so much for its utility, but for its token or symbolic value. "This is a gift from my daughter. I will keep it so long as I live." Other bowls fill the cupboards. They are used, cracked, and discarded. This bowl will have a far different life, put in a special spot to be handled with care whenever the mother feels the need of a smile.
Third, Mom can say, "it is beautiful" without lying. The beauty of the bowl consists not in its form or function. The beauty consists in that it is a gift, freely and gladly given to a mother, not because she needed it, but because the little girl wanted to respond in a relationship that was initiated and founded, not by the daughter, but by the mother. The gift shows that this is indeed, a real relationship.
And so, when you and I offer our acts of devotion or service to our God, His eye rests not so much on our works, but on us, His children. We are his children solely by virtue of His grace, and He is gladdened by our clumsy participation in a relationship which He Himself has formed.

Monday, August 01, 2011

In Search of a Singular Subject

For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:8, NASB)
This is a tough verse. I just don't get the way it is translated. Let's start with the verb, here shown as "render." Nowhere else in the NT it is translated this way. Elsewhere it is translated "appoint" (Lk 12:14), or "put in charge" (Lk 12:42), or, in the case of Jas 3:6; 4:4, it has the sense of "function in this capacity."
So, in the case of 2 Peter 1:8, "these things" (qualities is an interpretive addition) have been appointed. But "these things" is plural, and the verb is singular. It seems that "these things" actually should function, not as the subject of the verb, but as the direct object. "He" appoints these things for you. And who is "He"? It would be our God and Savior, Jesus Christ (1:1) or our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ (1:11) that begins and ends this section. He has personally and authoritatively designed and ordered that a fully-supplied faith would have a powerful effect in our lives. It is not unusual to have an un-named subject. It is rather foolish to have an un-known subject. I think that subject is Jesus. Let's give him some credit.
Next, there is no "if" in the text. He appoints these things (the seven qualities in vv. 5-7) for you, to have a powerful and fruitful effect in your lives, with the result that you will have a deep and rich relationship (true knowledge) with him. This is not an "if" or "maybe" verse. It is not hypothetical or mere potential. It is a clear statement that serves as a powerful promise. Christian, this Person will grow on you. Work your faith; use it; develop it. It is a wonderful gift from above. And it will strengthen that heavenly relationship that you have with our risen and ascended Savior.
And, consider making a couple of pencil notes in the margin of your Bible alongside 2 Peter 1:8.