The Son of Man Leads

scribe.2I am reading this week the Third Passion Prediction in Matthew 20:17-19.  In doing so I take note of the context of the three passion predictions (16:21-23; 17:22-23; 20:17-19). The first instance is an indirection quotation where it says “he must go to Jerusalem…”, but the second and third are in direct quotation and he refers to himself as the Son of Man.

I looked up the 23 quotations of the Son of Man in Matthew and found that the name is associated with Authority and Humility. The Authority passages have to do with his present authority over forgiveness of sins, and the Sabbath (9:6, 12:8).  These also reference his authoritative future return (13:41; 16:27; 24:27,30,37,39). The Humility passages refer to his present unassuming appearance (8:20; 16:13) and his betrayal and death (12:40; 17:9,12, 22; 20:18) which serve as a ransom (20:28).

In the passion predictions Jesus calls for a kind of follower-ship that accepts humility:  To “deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” (16:24); “whoever would be great among you must be your slave” (20:27).  The pattern of being a follower includes the pattern of Jesus life – suffering first, reward later. Greatness is achieved by service.  Or as Jesus said,  “the last will first and the first last” (19:30; 20:16).

Among the nations rulers lord it over the people.  James and John longed for the best seats, to the left and right of Jesus in his Kingdom, so that they could be first and second in line and lord it over all the rest.  Grasping for power leads to resentment as we see in the response of the others. “And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers.”

And so in this season leading up to Good Friday and Easter consider that this came about as “Jesus was going up to Jerusalem” (20:18), “not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (20:28).

Small is Biblical #2 – Abraham


The Lord had said to Abram, (Genesis 12)

“Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.

“I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.”

In Genesis 11, the people decided to make a city and to build a tower that would reach to the heavens. With this tower they would make a name for themselves.  Clearly this was a big project that united the community.  They had to organize to make bricks and to haul them to the location and to assemble them.  They had missed the plan of God, which was to spread across the earth, not to gather and to spread the peace of Eden not the fame of their city.

In Genesis 12 we see the plan of the almighty.  It is big in it’s ultimate purpose.  The purpose of Abraham’s call, and thus for the establishment of the nation of Israel and finally for the growth of the Church was to extend the blessing of God to all nations.

The previous chapters had listed many nations which “spread abroad on the earth after the flood.” (Genesis 10:32)  And so from Abraham would come a blessing that would chase these and other later nations across the face of the earth.

What Abraham begins with is what he has to leave.  God’s call is to leave his country, his own people and his own family.  He travels with his wife and nephew, but eventually leaving aside his nephew.

His wealth grows through his travels, adventures and misadventures, yet when he nears 100, there is not nation, there is no son even.  He owns no land, though he had received it in promise from God.

Abraham dies with one heir that will be the one to receive his promise and one plot of land from all that god promised – the burial plot for Sarah.

What grows during this time of obedience is the faith of Abraham.  Read the chapters and see where he moves from being self-serving – putting Sarah in danger in Egypt, to being a peace maker with Lot (Genesis 12)  and to being an intercessor for the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18).

The plan was to go large, but what Abraham experienced in his following God was small – in things that can be counted.  It was large in spiritual riches.

Small is Biblical #1 – Matthew 13:31

????????????????????????????????????????“The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field.”  Matthew 13:31

There is a lot of talk about explosive numerical growth in the church.  There was a map listing which states had the most mega churches. Pastors who take a small group to become a church of thousands are rock stars.

The Bible has a large place for small things.  The lead verse presents a mustard seed.  This parable is first off all about the ministry of Jesus – small at the start but growing as it has gained over the centuries and across the nations.

This parable contains both small and large.  At the small end is the start – a small seed.  It takes thousands of these to be ground and developed into mustard for cooking or to make the mustard that goes on your hot dog.  At the large end is a tree large enough for birds to roost – a picture of the church that emerged over time.

This parable is about the work of God in the world.  More often than not his people were shepherds and fishermen.  They came from small places and were not likely to have been noticed by history except that they entered into the story told in the Bible.

This parable is also how God has been at work in the world since the beginning.  How did the world begin?  Is it with the clash of titanic gods, as in the myths?  No, it is with a word, “and God said…”  What is a word?  It is a seed from with all things came into being.  The gospel is a word, from which the church of Christ was born.

We need to remember that small is Biblical. By that I mean that there are lots of stories in the scripture about individual people and individual acts that mattered.  Some of those grew, some of those did not.

Can ministry be reduced to a number – the usual number is “how many attend on Sunday?”  Do we ask if they are listening or sleeping, taking notes or checking Facebook as they attend.  Do they attend by physical presence or by paying attention with heart, soul and mind to the word of God?

You, reader, started small, almost too small to see when your parents DNA joined to make the pattern that became you.

So I am planning to write a series of thoughts on this theme: Small is Biblical.  I am not saying that Big is un-biblical.  But I am also not saying that small is only good because it might become something big.

Formal and Informal Education – Matthew 19

Jesus_les_envoieSome education is accomplished in a class room. This is formal education.  Some is accomplished informally.  We teach and learn as we go about or lives. This mix of formal and informal teaching is found in the Bible.  One place is in the Book of Deuteronomy.  There, the first generation after the Exodus is to be involved in teaching the following generation.

This great passage teaches us to Love God fully. And the lessons on how to love God involve formal teaching and informal.  Dt 6:4-9 (NIV)

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates

There is formal teaching in that the children were to be told the commands of God.  This teaching was to be passed along, unchanged, from one generation to the next.

There is informal teaching, because this passage speaks of teaching while sit at home and while you are on the road.  The idea is that we talk about the scriptures in the course of life.  So you might talk to each other over a meal.  We have almost lost the art of conversation because we are all looking at electronic devices – but really meal times are a time of learning.  We might talk to each other as we work or as we travel – perhaps you see something in nature or you see a person doing something interesting and that becomes a learning opportunity.  We need both kinds of teaching.

In Matthew’s Gospel we see both kinds.  Jesus presents bodies of instruction – such as the Sermon on the Mount.  Parts of that are clearly given out in a way that can be remembered.  Yet we find that Jesus and the Disciples enter into informal conversations as things happen in life.  In Matthew 19 there are three incidents where people presented Jesus with an issue and his response lead to a discussion with his disciples.

The Authority of Scripture – from a lecture by John Woodbridge

Theology-conference1-646x200 I was pleased to attend the Theology Conference of the EFCA at Trinity International University, Deerfield, IL, at the end of January, 2015.  One piece of a lecture by Dr. Woodbridge was very interesting.  He was speaking of the history view of the truthfulness and reliability of Scripture from the “Church Fathers” down through now.  He was saying that the belief in inerrancy and infallibility were not recent additions, but flow along with the history streams of Christendom.

Four uses of Biblical Authority from a Lecture by John Woodbridge 1\29\2015

“Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”   Hebrews 4:12

  1. Infallible rule of faith and practice.

The Roman Catholic church said the Bible needed to be added to, to fill out our knowledge of salvation.  Tradition is held equal with scripture.

  • Infallibility means that the scriptures will reliably accomplish what they promise.
  1. Authority of scripture as a source of power.

This is the power of preaching and the reason for scripture distribution, and the importance of Bible translation.

Romans 1:16:  “I am not ashamed of the Gospel for it is the power of God for salvation.”

  1. Authority of the Bible is a source of renewal in church life.

The Reformation.

The Wesleyan Renewal

Great Awakenings

  1. Scriptural authority a nourishing source of family life and raising children.

Dt. 6:4-9

Proverbs 1-9

  • Inerrancy: “Inerrancy means that we all facts are known, the Scripture in the original autographs and properly interpreted will be shown to be wholly true in everything that they affirm, whether that has to do with doctrine or morality or with the social, physical, or life sciences.”  Paul Feinberg.