Sunday, December 04, 2016

Following Jesus by N. T. Wright #2

Following JesusThis post continues reading through the New Testament devotional book, Following Jesus: Biblical Reflections on Discipleship, by N. T. Wright. The book is a collection of Easter sermons that encourage us to “follow Jesus” and give us a biblical picture of how to do it.  I welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book. I read this book before, but felt like I needed the encouragement of reading it again. I hope you benefit from it too.

The Glory of God: John

John's Gospel reveals the human Jesus as God come in the flesh, the glory of God forever in the "tent" of a human body. Wright hits on several of the main themes in John including: Jesus' body replaces the temple as the dwelling place of God; the seven "signs" pointing to Jesus' deity culminating in the cross and resurrection; the theme of new creation as Jesus rises (after the closing the old week with his death on Friday and resting in the grave on Saturday) on the first day of the new week; and the importance of following Jesus so that the glory that indwells us may be passed on to others.

John does not describe the transfiguration, as the other gospels do; in a sense, John’s whole story is about the transfiguration. He invites us to be still and know; to look again into the human face of Jesus of Nazareth, until the awesome knowledge comes over us, wave upon terrifying wave, that we are looking into the human face of the living God. John 1.14, 28

The ‘signs’ point to the new creation through the cross; the ‘lifting up’ of Jesus insists that the cross itself is the moment of glory, the moment when sovereign love meets a world in agony and grasps that agony to itself. John 12.23-32, 31

The whole amazing story of Jesus, with all its multiple levels, is given to us to be our story as we follow him. This is John’s ultimate vision of the nature of Christian discipleship...The love which he incarnated, by which we are saved, is to become the love which fills us beyond capacity and flows out to heal the world: so that the Word may become flesh once more, and dwell (not just among us, but) within us; having beheld his glory, we must then reveal his glory, glory as of the beloved children of the Father, full of grace and truth. John 21.22, 33–34

The Servant King: Mark

Mark is the Gospel of Jesus as the Servant-King. He fulfilled the Isaiah 53 prophecy to take the sin and evil of the world on to Himself and defeat it and pay the price for humans to be what God made them to be, in fellowship with Him. He calls us to follow his example and take up our cross; that is absorb the pain of others and don't run away from it, bringing Jesus' healing to them; and follow Him.

This was the destiny Jesus had glimpsed. He would draw on to himself the pain of Israel, just as Israel always seemed to draw on to herself the pain of the world. Instead of projecting evil out on to the world, instead of keeping the pain in circulation by passing it on, he would bear its full weight in himself. Mark 10.45, 38–39

Mark calls the Church to abandon its imperialistic dreams on the one hand, and its passive non-involvement on the other, and to become for the world what Jesus was for the world. Mark 10.39-44, 40–41

The Church must be prepared to stand between the warring factions, and, like a boxing referee, risk being knocked out by both simultaneously...Taking up the cross is not a merely passive operation. It comes about as the Church attempts, in the power of the Spirit, to be for the world what Jesus was for the world—announcing the kingdom, healing the wounds of the world, challenging the power structures that keep anger and pain in circulation. N. T. Wright, Mark 10.39-45, 41–42

A World Reborn: Revelation

Revelation ends God's story with the victory of Jesus over all evil, the destruction of tyranny and the removal of all its effects. It encouraged a persecuted, crying church of the 1st century and it encourages us that the tears we cry will all be wiped away in the celebration of this victory. This victory began with the resurrection of Jesus and we should enjoy and celebrate it now in the face of evil as we actively wait for Christ's return.

Easter isn’t just about you and me and our present spiritual experience, or our hope beyond the grave. Easter is the beginning of God’s new world...Easter is the victory of the creator over all evil. It is the victory of the God of love over all tyranny...It declares that, after all, God is God, and that his kingdom shall come and his will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Easter speaks of a world reborn. Revelation, 44

Here is the Easter message in vivid picture-language. The Lion, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, has become a Lamb, a sacrificial Lamb, the Paschal Lamb; and by his death he has conquered the powers of evil; so that now the plan of God, God’s rescue operation for the whole cosmos, can be unrolled and put into dramatic operation. Revelation 5.4-6, 46

And now, at the end of the story, he is the bridegroom, the one for whom we have longed without knowing it, the one for whom we are made, the one whose love for us is like the sun, and all our earthly loves mere reflecting moons. The wrath of the Lamb, of which Revelation speaks from time to time, is the anger of love against all that hurts and damages the beloved. The love of the Lamb is the great reality that undergirds the entire vision. Revelation 21.1-5, 50

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