Sunday, 24 June 2007

"This is my Son...."

The UCCF North West team had a really stimulating team day at the beginning of the week with Simon Austen from St John's and St Peter's Church in Carlisle. He spoke on the importance of proclamation in evangelism, and most of his time was spent showing how the proclamation of the gospel is a fulfilment of Jesus' ministry in Luke 24 and Acts 1.

However, Simon also spent time unpacking the core of the gospel from Romans 1:1-6. I was particularly fascinated by his treatment of verse 4: '... and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God, by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.'

The idea that Jesus was the Son of God, of course, was not something that was alien to him before his death and resurrection. Time and again throughout the gospels we see Jesus recognised to be the 'Christ' - 'the Anointed One', the 'Son of David' or the 'Son of God' (terms which, within Jewish thinking are fairly interchangeable - coming as they do from the OT expectations of Psalm 2 and 2 Samuel 7, amongst other places). As I've been reading through Matthew's Gospel I've been struck by the way in which those who do the recognising are perhaps those we'd least expect to make the connection - including a Gentile centurion (8:8-9), two blind men (9:27) and a Canaanite woman (15:22, amazing within the context of Judges 1:30-33). Meanwhile, those who we'd most expect to recognise the Christ - the religious teachers who spend their lives with the noses in the very Scriptures that testify about Jesus - reject him: the Pharisees (9:3, 11, 34; 12:14, 24), the teachers of the law (15:1-2, 12) and the Saduccees (16:1). Even John the Baptist, the great prophet, has a wobble (11:2).

Within this context then, it's interesting to note the points at which God declares Jesus to be his Son, the Messiah. They are in chapter 3, as Jesus begins his public ministry, and at the Transfiguration (in chapter 17). It's surely no coincidence that it's at the Transfiguration that God the Father reiterates his declaration of Jesus' Sonship and the imperative, 'Listen to him!' In Jesus' ministry, Jesus has just spoken of how he will be a suffering Messiah (16:20-21) - an idea abhorrent to Jewish ears (16:22). How the disciples needed to hear the words of God the Father's endorsement of his Son, 'This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!' (17:5).

And so then, back in Romans 1, why does Paul say that it's only through his resurrection that Jesus is declared with power to be Son of God? Simon's helpful pointer was that it's through Christ's resurrection that he's shown with power to the Son of God. In other words, it's not only that he's declared to be Son of God, but also shown to be Lord - something of which the disciples got only a taster at the Transfiguration. It's through his resurrection and ascension to the Father's right hand that Jesus is shown to be the Lord of the Universe, God's appointed Ruler and Judge. And so Paul's summary of the gospel is seen in a new depth: Jesus Christ our Lord - Jesus is both Christ - Messiah - and also risen Lord and heir of the Universe (a formula also used by Peter in the climax of his sermon at Pentecost - see Acts 2:38).

What a reminder of the core of the gospel that those four words - 'Jesus Christ our Lord' form! What a reminder that the gospel is foremostly not about seeing needs met or about humans at all, but about the one worthy of praise, honour and worship as Christ and Lord! How amazing that this very same, God-given message is also the salvation for everyone who believes!


Chris said...

in a brilliant article, AB Caneday points out something similar in Mark's gospel:

Mark 1.1-13 (Baptism)
heavens torn, John as Elijah, Spirit descends, voice from heaven, “you are my son, whom I love, in you I am well pleased

Mark 9.2-13 (Transfiguration)
clothes dazzle, Moses & Elijah, cloud descends, voice from cloud, « this is my son, whom I love, listen to him ! »

Mark 15.33-41 (Crucifixion)
curtain torn, “he’s calling Elijah”, darkness descends, loud voice from the cross, “truly this man was the Son of God”

just had finished a breathtaking overview of the Hebrew OT with James HH last night - turning the page from 2 chronicles 36 to Matthew 1. Getting inside Joseph's head, feeling the tension of Psalm 89. Waiting for this Son.

Dave K said...

As well, in true NT language, Christ's resurection is not just where he is shown to be Lord of the universe but where he becomes Lord. I think NT authors often talk about something as not being true until it's consequences have happened. So they talk about filling up what is lacking of Christ's sacrifice when by Christian giving the consequences of Christ's sacrifice happen. In Christ's resurection he conquers death, Sin, and the devil which was always the inevitable consequence of God's sovereignty and his nature of love.

So the Good News that Jesus is Lord, is similtaneously and necessarily that death has been defeated and Eden can be restored.

Enjoying your posting as ever Peter.

peterdray said...

Thanks both :)

Dave I guess 'declared with power' certainly has some of the edge that you highlight there.