Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Making the Good Confession

You are the Christ: this is a remarkable statement to make of someone.  Whichever form of “Anointed” is used—Christ (Greek) or Messiah (Hebrew)—what would cause belief that another person is the one of whom all your holy writings have spoken and in whom all your hopes have been placed to deliver a people and make all things right?  What kind of faith is required?  From where does that faith come?

Consider some of what describes the Anointed One of Israel and what he would be.
  • He is born but existed before his birth (Mic 5:2)
  • He is human but is called God (Is 9:6)
  • He is born of a woman (Is 7:14) but is God’s Son (Ps 2:7)
  • He is David’s son but is greater than David (Ps 110:1)
  • He is nobody special to look at (Is 53:2) but is the Great Prophet (De 18:18-19), teaching faithfully (Is 11:1-4) and healing many (Is 35:5-6)
  • He will die (Is 53:7-9) and that childless yet see his seed live and flourish (Ps 16:10; Is 53:10)
When we read of Jesus in the New Testament, there is no question that this carpenter from Galilee was and is the Anointed of God, however what would convince someone during His time on earth?

A preponderant, or at least evident, aspect of Jesus’ time on earth was His prophetic work.  He went out teaching the need of repentance (Mt 4:17), corrected misunderstandings of the Law and obfuscations built up by the Jewish rulers (Mt 5:21-48), and proclaimed the good news of God’s kingdom accompanied by healing of diseases (Mt 4:23; 9:35) as evidence to His message and claims.  A great many abandoned the Lord because of the difficulty in His teaching, but when Jesus ask the twelve if they wished, Peter responded, Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.”  (Jn 6:68)  Peter and the Twelve understood the authoritative nature of Jesus’ teaching in His earthly itinerant work, understanding that He was the source of revelation and truth.

Under the umbrella of Divine promise is another facet that was not immediately evident but was a latent understanding of the Scriptures—the final resurrection.  This theological point is made evident in an early work of the Old Testament.
For I know that my Redeemer lives,
    and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
And after my skin has been thus destroyed,
    yet in my flesh I shall see God,
whom I shall see for myself,
    and my eyes shall behold, and not another.  (Job 19:25-27)
This clear testimony shows that from the first days of mankind those who believed on the promises of God looked forward to a day after death, when they would be rejoined to their bodies and once again be complete.  This idea is carried through Israel’s history and is mentioned in the time of the exile.
Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise.
    You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy!
For your dew is a dew of light,
    and the earth will give birth to the dead.  (Is 26:19)

And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.  (Da 12:2)
Where this was true of the faithful Israelite, it was most certainly true of Messiah.
Yet it was the will of the Lᴏʀᴅ to crush him;
    he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for sin,
    he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lᴏʀᴅ shall prosper in his hand.  (Ps 53:10)

For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
    or let your holy one see corruption.
You make known to me the path of life;
    in your presence there is fullness of joy;
    at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.  (Ps 16:10-11)
The promise of the final resurrection and victory of Messiah was alive and well in New Testament Israel and led Martha, the sister of Mary and Lazarus, to make that great confession of faith:
Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.  (Jn 11:27)
Yes, this eldest sibling, who is typically regarded as overly concerned with earthly matters to sit at the Master’s feet like her supposedly more spiritually-minded sister, confesses who the Lord is at the tomb of her brother Lazarus.  She knew that Jesus had the power and authority of Messiah to heal her brother and keep him from dying.  She understood the promises of God to raise Lazarus on the last day.  What she does not quite understand is that Jesus is the resurrection and life incarnate?  He is the One who will raise the dead to life on the final day, and can do so now in calling Lazarus from the tomb.

Much is made of Peter’s confession (Mt 16:16), especially since he had previously made the same confession previously in different terms:
And we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.  (John 6:69)
And rightly so because of the looming work the Twelve would do.  Yet I find remarkable that Peter and the others had the benefit of intense instruction, while Martha would only be able to piece things together in ad hoc situations.  She was spiritually astute, putting the pieces together and recognizing Jesus’ office without the benefit of regular, personal interaction.

As amazing as Martha’s perception and Peter’s understanding might be, we today are no less well-off spiritually.  Though the centuries remove us from the immediate impact of what the Lord accomplished in making the Father known, we have more revelation than the early disciples first had.  Dare I say that they could be envious of the further revelation we were given through the continuing work of the Holy Spirit.  Because of this Peter could write years after the Ascension:
Though you have not seen him, you love him.  Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.  (1 Pet 1:8-9)
Those believers receiving the epistle never had the opportunity to walk with and hear Jesus, but they were no less blessed than the Twelve, and we even more so having the full revelation of God, and yet with all this knowledge made known to us, we still receive the understanding of Christ in the same manner as all believers: flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven (Mt 16:17).  May we continue to walk by faith in what He revealed and hold fast to what has so richly been given.

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