(Except where noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, published by HaperCollins Publishers © 2001 Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.)
"Better was a poor and wise youth than an old and foolish king who no longer knew how to take advice. For he [the wise youth] went from prison to the throne, though in his own kingdom he had been born poor" (Eccl. 4:13-14). These verses acquaint us with the seeming impossibility in ancient times of rising from poverty or prison, or both, and ascending to the throne of the kingdom.
One of the patterns of events that we find repeated throughout the Bible is the ascension of a prisoner to the throne of the land or to some position of great authority. Christ, of course, is the preeminent example of this theme and the fulfillment that exceeds all the types. He was born poor and amassed no wealth. It might even be said He was a prisoner of poverty. He became a prisoner of the temple guard, a prisoner of the Roman Empire, and finally a prisoner of the grave. Yet He arose from these prisons to ascend to the throne of God. We will see this plot lived out in varying degrees in the lives of a variety of people. In them are portrayed typical prophecies of what Christ would do.
The imprisonment takes many forms. In biblical times a common means of imprisonment was to cast the prisoner into a pit or cistern. The word often translated dungeon was literally pit. Pit was also a term used figuratively to represent the grave or death. Sometimes death itself is viewed as an imprisonment. We will find examples of binding with ropes or chains, being locked in a city, casting into pits, being carried away in exile, meeting the foe in the valley below the armies, the imprisonment of slavery, being cast into the lion's den, and so forth. Because of this wide variety of figurative prisons, the study will frequently embrace allusions to the resurrection.
To a degree we see the pattern of ascension in Job and in the functions of the priest. It comes into fuller and more detailed view in the lives of Samson, David, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, Azariah, Mordecai and Esther. Joseph provides a very detailed, and perhaps the clearest, example. Each of these Old Testament stories, with their own specifics and events, shows us something of the story of Christ. Each of these accounts is a window, illuminating some aspect of the ascension and glorification of Christ.
One of the purposes of this study is to show God's preparation in the Scriptures of the concept of a suffering Messiah. This is a key point on which New Testament history pivots. Even though Christ's lineage fulfills the Messiah's regal requirements, His poverty, His method of teaching and His lack of involvement in politics disqualified Him as Messiah in the mind of many Jews. How could they believe in a Messiah that did not impress them with military victories? How could they believe in a Messiah Who dies? Our study will show that the Scriptures supply reason to expect such a Messiah.
This theme also meets us in the New Testament. There we have similar pictures recorded in the life of the apostle Paul, in events and prophecies related to the nation of Israel, and in events and prophecies related to the Church. But some of the most unexpected and creative displays of this theme are in the accounts of the gospels themselves. Each of those books has its own unique method of presenting Christ as the Messiah, the wise young Man, who ascended from various forms of prison to the throne of the universe. To Him be the glory.
The life of Joseph comes before us in Genesis 37. Prior to this his name is mentioned with respect to his birth and membership in Jacob's family. But not until chapter 37 do we begin to learn things about him and meet him as a person.
Jacob loved Rachel, probably from the first moment they met. He had served Laban, Rachel's father, seven years for Rachel's hand in marriage. Imagine his surprise the morning after the wedding festivities when he woke up with Leah - Rachel's older sister! Jacob ended up with four wives: Leah and Rachel, the sisters, and Bilhah and Zilpah, the handmaids belonging to Leah and Rachel. Rachel was Jacob's most beloved, and Joseph, Jacob's eleventh son, was Rachel's first child. The story of Joseph begins by telling us that Joseph was Jacob's favorite and most beloved son.
"Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his sons, because he was the son of his old age. And he made him a robe of many colors. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peacefully to him" (Gen. 37:3-4).
It immediately becomes clear that there would be another generation of conflict between elder and younger members of the family. Isaac had struggled with Ishmael and Jacob with Esau. In this case the younger would be greatly outnumbered. Joseph complicated the issue by telling Jacob of the evil speaking of his half-brothers. After this he fanned the flames more by telling his dreams, which represented his family bowing down before him. To complicate matters more, Joseph's mother, Rachel, died in the childbirth of Joseph's young brother, Benjamin. This left the favorite son standing alone, with ten older half-brothers and three step mothers.
Was he a tattle-tale antagonist - an infamous informer, or is that just one possible first impression? And since Jacob flagrantly favored him, how much did the rest of the family compensate for Jacob's favoritism? The brief record of these events does not supply enough details to make an objective evaluation of Joseph's behavior. We are left to discover his character in later events that would transpire in the absence of his family.
The older brothers had taken the flock to pasture near the city of Shechem. After a while Jacob sent Joseph to check on their welfare. Meanwhile the brothers had moved on to Dothan. If the name of the city was derived from Shechem, the son of Hamor, there may still have been hostility toward Jacob's family in the area, because of the prior slaughter of the family of Shechem by Levi and Simeon (Gen. 34). Or, perhaps they moved on to Dothan, a town on the route of caravan travel, because the shepherds were looking for more diverse entertainment than could be found in Shechem's hill country.
Joseph eventually met someone who knew of his brothers' destination. When Joseph reached Dothan, his brothers saw him coming and began plotting his murder before he even arrived. Reuben objected to shedding blood, so they stripped him of his robe, the symbol of their father's favoritism, and tossed him into a pit - possibly an old cistern. This was the beginning of Joseph's first imprisonment and life as a slave.
A passing caravan, headed to Egypt, sparked a thought in Judah's mind. "What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother, our flesh" (Gen. 37:26-27). Having disposed of their brother in this way, they slaughtered a goat and dipped Joseph's coat in the blood. This focal point of their jealousy they sent to Jacob. This act shows the cruelty of their anger and hatred against their father. It seems they hated Jacob more than they did Joseph. They were satisfied if Joseph was removed, whether alive or dead. But they wouldn't stop short of convincing Jacob that his beloved son was dead. They wanted to grieve him. They wanted their father to suffer for not loving them as much as he loved Joseph.
Jacob was inconsolably grieved. When his sons and daughters tried to comfort him, he said, "No, I shall go down to Sheol to my son, mourning" (Gen. 37:35). In today's language he said he would mourn till the day he died.
The 38th chapter of Genesis creates an interlude in Joseph's story. This interlude shows the man, Judah, to be unqualified as head of the family. In addition to his instrumentality in ridding his family of his brother, he was in marital and social alliance with the Canaanites. Reuben, the firstborn son, had showed himself unsuitable by committing incest with Bilhah. Simeon and Levi, the second and third sons, showed themselves unfit by their slaughter of the city of Shechem. A man there had raped their sister, Dinah, and though he wanted to marry her, they slaughtered the city (Gen. 34). So Leah's first four sons showed themselves unfit, though Judah's tribe would later ascend to supremacy among the tribes.
The 39th chapter begins by telling us that the LORD was with Joseph (see Gen. 39:2, 3, 21, 23 and Acts 7:9), even though he was a slave in Egypt. The Scriptures have used this description of the divine presence being with Abraham (Gen. 21:22), Isaac (Gen. 26:24, 28), and Jacob (Gen. 28:15). Now, being told that the LORD was with Joseph, we can expect him to be the key player in upcoming events for the covenant people.
Joseph was a slave to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh. He found favor with his master, and he prospered in all he did. Soon he was promoted to oversee all the affairs of Potiphar's household. Things were going well for him.
Joseph was a handsome young man, and Potiphar's wife took an interest in him. She tried repeatedly to seduce him, but he resisted her overtures. One day, when they were alone in the house, she took hold of his garment to pull him to herself, but he left the garment in her hand and fled from the house. Angry that Joseph would not consent to her desire, Potiphar's wife showed his garment as proof of her fabrication that Joseph had tried to rape her.
Joseph, innocent of wrong doing again, was cast into prison. Potiphar's wife cast the blame for the incident on her husband. "See, he has brought among us a Hebrew to laugh at usThe Hebrew servant, whom you have brought among us, came in to me to laugh at me" (Gen. 39:14, 17).
"And Joseph's master took him and put him into the prison, the place where the king's prisoners were confined, and he was there in prison. But the LORD was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison. And the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners who were in the prison. Whatever was done there, he was the one who did it. The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph's charge, because the LORD was with him. And whatever he did, the LORD made it succeed" (Gen. 39:20-23).
Joseph's slavery to Potiphar and his confinement in prison were both long term conditions that prove Joseph to have been honorable and trustworthy regardless of his circumstances. The repetition of the statement that the LORD, Yahweh, was with him, was with reference to his slavery and his imprisonment. God was using what seemed to be tragic events in Joseph's life as the means of leading him to exaltation. Things seemed to be going from bad to worse, but they were actually progressing closer and closer to the throne.
Joseph's imprisonment sets the scene for the imprisonment of Pharaoh's servants and their dreams. The royal cup-bearer and baker were imprisoned. Joseph was assigned their care. One night they both had dreams which Joseph interpreted for them. In three days they would both be lifted up from the pit, or dungeon - one to return to Pharaoh's service - the other to be executed. One was for life and the other for death. This scene is parallel with Christ's crucifixion between the thieves. One repented and was given a future expectation of life, and the other was for death. Part of Christ's exaltation is that He is the great divider of humanity. He is the Object of faith for life. Without Him there is only death. The dreams of the prisoners were fulfilled in three days. For us, the third day speaks of resurrection and mankind's judgment then.
Two years later Pharaoh was troubled by two dreams he had in one night. Joseph was raised up from the dungeon to interpret Pharaoh's dreams. Both dreams had the same message. There would be seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine. Joseph not only interpreted the dreams, but he also gave Pharaoh a plan for dealing with the plenty and famine to preserve the country through it.
Pharaoh was pleased and amazed at Joseph, the interpretation of the dreams, and the plan dealing with the ensuing famine. He exalted Joseph to the throne of Egypt. Joseph was second only to Pharaoh. Joseph was also placed in charge of the works of preparing for the famine. Pharaoh gave Joseph a new name meaning either Savior of the age, or, Revealer of secrets. Interpretation of the name varies depending on whether it is taken from Egyptian or Hebrew. Either is suitable. Pharaoh also gave him Asenath, the daughter of the priest of On, as a wife.
This was the means by which Joseph, the prisoner, ascended to the throne. Before the year of the famine, two sons were born to Joseph. "Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh. 'For, he said, 'God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father's house.' The name of the second he called Ephraim, 'For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction'" (Gen. 41:51-52).
The record of Joseph gives great detail of the trial and humbling of his brothers before him. They did indeed bow before him as he had dreamed. And Judah, the brother who said to sell him into slavery, finally came to a full repentance and humbling before him. These events, no doubt, are prophetically typical of Israel's future repentance and mourning over the Christ they crucified.
We will not try to list every aspect of similarity between Joseph and Christ. They are certainly abundant. A lengthy listing of comparative texts is given by Ada Habershon.i What we would like to do here is mention some of the aspects that are relative to the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension, with our focus on the ascension.
The story of Joseph begins with a great emphasis on Jacob's love for him. So also, the Son of God enjoyed the unlimited love of the Father. His coming into humanity was the means by which the love of the Father could envelope those who came to know Christ. "that the world may know that you sent me and I loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world" (Jn. 17:23, 24). The Father's love for the Son, and the glory bestowed upon Him in His ascended position are central here.
God is love, and God is light. These are figurative expressions. What do they mean? First, perfect love abides in the spiritual Being, God. Second, light represents truth and intelligence. All of God's actions are truthful and wise. God's love for humanity and all His creation required that He make a truthful and equitable sacrifice for sin. This He did in the giving of His Son to die. The three days of imprisonment in death were required to prove the completeness of Christ's death. But the love of the Father would not allow His Son, Who was innocent and gave Himself in love, to remain the prisoner of death after God's love for His creation was proven. He would not allow His holy Son to see corruption. The third day Christ was raised from death by the glory of the Father. The glory of love is seen in the magnificence of the gift. And the glory of love for the Son is shown in His exaltation after making such a marvelous sacrifice.
In the scene at Dothan, where Joseph finally found his brothers, the narrative supplies the comments of several of the brothers, but nothing Joseph said was recorded there. This scene represents the rejection of Christ by His people, and casting Joseph into the pit represents the crucifixion of Christ. So the silence of Joseph in this context suggests Isaiah's description of Christ: "he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth" (Isa. 53:7). Much later, when the brothers were trying to understand why the Egyptian ruler was giving them such a difficult time, they said, "In truth we are guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the distress of his soul, when he begged us and we did not listen. That is why this distress has come upon us" (Gen. 42:21). Like the hard hearts of Joseph's brothers at Dothan, the hearts of those who dealt with Christ were also hardened.
One of the most touching scenes of Joseph's story is the mourning of Jacob for Joseph when he saw the bloody coat. The love of the father for the son brought the father into the sorrows of the grave. Can we think it any less the case for God the Father when His Son died? Would we think that God loved His Son any less than Jacob loved Joseph? Would we think the God Who is love could slough off the emotion of His Son's agony simply because He knew that He would raise Him from death later? This is an important question for the life of faith. Does God ignore our pain simply because He knows we will be happy in the end? Or, is God in us sharing the pain?
The writer of Hebrews said, "Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honour because of the suffering of death" (Heb. 2:8, 9). The glory and height of Christ's exaltation is in direct correspondence to the satisfaction of the Father in Christ's faithfulness. It was the desire of the Father's heart to glorify the Son. The Father's desire was to remove Christ from the pit of shame and raise Him to the highest glory of heaven. We cannot measure the depth of hurt that God suffered because of His Son's suffering.
After Joseph interpreted Pharaoh's dream and told what should be done, he was elevated to the throne of Egypt, being second only to Pharaoh. In the message to Laodicea Christ said, "The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne" (Rev. 3:21). "Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them" (Rev. 20:11). Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb through the middle of the street of the citythe throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it" (Rev. 22:1-3). These verses express the same thought as given in Matthew 28:18 and other passages: "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me."
In chapters 41 through 47 Joseph is seen exercising the power of Egypt's throne as he saves Egypt and the surrounding countries from the famine. He took in all the wealth of Egypt as he sold back the grain that was gathered during the time of plenty. When the money was all gathered in, he bought the people, the livestock, and the land with grain. The land was saved, and the people and all property belonged to the throne. This prefigures the events of the coming ages of the kingdom, when all will be brought under the headship of Christ.
There are seven dreams that sum up the life of Joseph. It is clear that his life represents the life of Christ in many ways. It may also be that the seven dreams themselves may have a representation in Christ's work that goes beyond the meaning they held for Joseph. The first two dreams are the only ones of the seven that Joseph dreamed himself. In the first dream Joseph's sheaf of grain arose and stood upright, and the sheaves his brothers bundled bowed before it. His second dream was more extensive and more personal. The sun, moon, and eleven stars bowed down to him. This was interpreted as his parents and brothers bowing to him. The dreams are very similar, but they take in two completely different realms. They include both the terrestrial and the celestial realms. This reflects the exaltation of Christ. He is over all realms in the celestial sphere (Eph. 1:20-21) and His future administration will bring all in the heavens and all on earth under His headship (Eph. 1:9-10). Paul even expands this designation to include the dead: "at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil. 2:10-11). All of the earth and all of the heavens will honor Him. These are the two great realms of creation in Genesis 1.
The second set of dreams is another pair. They were very similar to each other but had different results. These were the dreams of the cup-bearer and the baker in the prison. In those dreams the fulfillment was to come in three days. The three day period suggests resurrection. We have already noted the correspondence between the two prisoners with Joseph and the two robbers crucified with Christ. Christ becomes the Judge and divider of humanity, as well as the Savior of humanity.
The third set of dreams is another matched pair, and they were given to Pharaoh. In the first dream seven plump cows came up out of the Nile and fed on the grass. These were followed by seven skinny cows which ate the plump cows. In the second dream there were seven plump ears of corn on one stalk. After these seven blighted ears came up on the stalk and consumed the seven good ears. When Pharaoh told his dream to Joseph, he gave the further detail that the seven skinny cows were no better for having eaten the seven plump cows. Times of plenty and times of famine characterize this world we live in. But when it is all said and done, the good times do not outweigh the bad. We are mortal. This is a life of vanity. And, apart from God's glorious plan of salvation, there is nothing to which we can look forward.
We have seen six dreams, all in sets of two. The seventh dream is singular, and it was given to Jacob regarding Joseph. In Jacob's dream God spoke to him, telling him not to fear going down to Egypt, because God would be with him. This calls us back to Jacob's dream of the ladder to heaven at Bethel, and to the words of encouragement God gave him there (Gen. 28:12-22). God assured him that he would be brought back to the land of promise and that Joseph's hand would close his eyes when he died. This dream seems especially suited to represent the future return of the Jewish nation to Christ. Jacob mourned grievously when he thought Joseph was dead, and Israel will mourn for Christ as one does for their firstborn. But there is solace in this dream for the church as well. We need not fear our pilgrimage, even if the years enfeeble us. We are going to meet our Beloved, and He will open our eyes with immortality.
There is a very interesting feature of the ceremony in which priests were consecrated. They were imprisoned for a week. "And you shall not go outside the entrance of the tent of meeting for seven days, until the days of your ordination are completed, for it will take seven days to ordain you at the entrance of the tent of meeting you shall remain day and night for seven days, performing what the LORD has charged, so that you do not die, for so I have been commanded" (Lev. 8:33, 35).
Under penalty of death, the priests could not leave the court of the tabernacle until their consecration was complete. And there were other restrictions also. The priests could only participate in the burial of close relatives. To come near the dead was to become unclean and required a special period of cleansing before entering the tabernacle. But the high priest could not become unclean even for his parents. His consecration to God was too high a calling. But along with these restrictions on the priests, it was the high priest alone, once a year, who entered the holy of holies on behalf of his people. This was the place from which God's communication issued. To Israel, the ark of the covenant in the holy of holies was God's throne. The high priest alone could make that ascension, but only after his consecrations. So while the priests ascended to places more holy, they first had to be imprisoned.
If we were to search the Bible for one character to be an action hero, Samson would probably get top billing. The Spirit of God would come upon him suddenly, even in the midst of an enemy militia, and enable him to perform astounding feats. At other times, we find him in the most precarious situations, kissing death. He fails miserably when compared with Joseph for a show of virtue, but he possesses a fascinating charisma that makes us wish we had been his friend. We will look at three incidents in Samson's life, all of which involve or were precipitated by his unwholesome romances. We will not moralize or criticize his women and affairs, because they all represent Israel in her relationship to God.ii The astonishing exploits of Samson represent the unmatched faith of Jesus Christ in His God and Father. And what Christ accomplished by faith is even more extraordinary than Samson's deeds of might.
Samson had made himself odious to the Philistines. He killed thirty Philistine men because of a bet that turned his wedding celebration sour. His bride married someone else, so Samson burned the Philistine harvest. This infuriated the Philistines, who burned his ex-fiancée and her family alive for provoking Samson. Samson retaliated again with an ambush of the Philistine forces that left many dead. After this Samson abode in a place of solitude, probably from concern for the safety of his family.
The Philistines decided that they really needed to eliminate Samson, but were afraid to attack him directly. Instead they gathered their forces at a place called Lehi, and they set themselves in array to attack the Israelites of the tribe of Judah who lived there. The Israelites were fearful and sought terms of peace. The Philistines said, "Give us Samson, bound, and we will leave without harming you." Three thousand men of Judah went out to Samson's camp, and talked him into giving himself up. He allowed them to bind him, as long as they promised that they would not harm him themselves. This binding is Samson's imprisonment.
The men of Judah escorted their prisoner back to Lehi, to the waiting Philistines. When the Philistines gathered to take custody of Samson, they raised a great shout of victory. At that shout, the Spirit of God came upon Samson with great power. The ropes that bound him became like burned flax, and just crumbled away. Samson had no weapon, but he grabbed the jawbone of a donkey and began to fight. The scriptures say he killed a thousand men with that jawbone, and then he spoke a little poem:
With the jawbone of the donkey
To rub out, I rubbed them out.
With the jawbone of the donkey
I smote a thousand men. (Jdg. 15:16 CV)
Samson was severely dehydrated by this time. He threw away the jawbone and cried out to God in thirst. Samson feared that even after such a great slaughter of the Philistines, in his exhausted state he could still fall prey to the enemy. God responded to Samson's plea by splitting open a place in the hillside there, and water flowed out. Samson drank from the water and revived. He called the name of the place En-hakkore, which means, the spring or well of him who cried out. The hill where this battle took place was named, Ramath-Lehi, which means, the height or up-lifting of the jawbone.
As soon as the Scriptures relate this event, they tell us that Samson judged Israel in the days of the Philistines for 20 years. This statement is repeated again at the end of the next chapter, after Samson's final and greatest feat of deliverance. I believe this statement stands where it does as a marker to identify Samson as ascending to a position of authority and power after his victory. There were no kings in Israel in those days, and there was no throne for the nation's leaders. Judges were raised up from time to time, and they represented the greatest authority in that area of the nation.
This passage of Scripture, Judges 15:9-20, is packed with action and significant events. And it is packed with details that represent Christ and His work. Samson was bound by his own people and handed over to a foreign power that ruled over them. He was betrayed by his own people. The same things were true of Christ.
Samson fought a battle against overwhelming odds, and cried out in thirst at the end of it. We know that Christ cried out "I thirst!" from the cross (Jn. 19:28). But we don't usually think of Him fighting a battle on the cross. Perhaps we have missed something there. There were three hours of darkness when Christ was on the cross, and at the end of those three hours Christ cried out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Mk. 15:33, 34). What happened during those three hours? We know that Christ's suffering then was severely intense, but how much do we really know about what happened?
When Jesus was arrested the night before, He said to His captors, "this is your hour, and the power of darkness" (Lk. 22:53). We can rightly expand this comment to say, "this is your time, and the time of the power of darkness." All the hours leading up to His death are included in this hour. It is easy enough to read what the temple guard and chief priests did during this time, but how do we fathom everything done by Satan and his kingdom? At the temptation in the wilderness, Satan showed the Lord all the kingdoms of this world in a second - a moment of time (Lk. 4:5). If he had the power to do that, what could Satan show Christ during three hours of darkness? We have no idea what terrors He might have seen and felt. Would we be out of line to compare Samson's battle with the Philistines, a battle that very nearly drained life from him, to the battle and struggle that Christ endured and won as He hung on the cross? I don't know how we could compare anything less to it.
We don't know what Christ experienced during those hours, but we do know what sustained Him. Luke records the final words of our Lord from the cross. "'Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!' And having said this he breathed his last" (Lk. 23:46). The Lord's last words were a quotation from Psalm 31:5. Christ quoted the first line of that verse, and then stopped and gave up His life. But when we read that verse, there is no question that the second line was ringing from the bottom of His heart. He wanted to shout it out, but it was not yet fulfilled. "Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God." It was Christ's faith in His Father that carried Him through His passion. His tongue burned to say, "You have redeemed me, O LORD, My faithful God!"
Samson spoke a lyric at the end of his battle, and we quoted it from the Concordant Version for a special reason. This lyric has been translated in a wide variety of ways, but the CV takes its cue from the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament. Let's look at the lyric again.
With the jawbone of the donkey
to rub out, I rubbed them out.
With the jawbone of the donkey
I smote a thousand men.
The word for rub out is the Greek word exaleipho. It was used for a Hebrew word meaning to daub or smear. That Hebrew word was used when Moses' mother smeared the papyrus ark that held Moses with pitch so it wouldn't leak. The Greek word can be translated erase or blot out. Erasing in biblical times was often done by applying some oil or solvent to the surface and rubbing the ink away. Samson was saying that he wiped out the Philistines - he smeared them away - he erased them! The interesting thing about this word is that it is used in the New Testament in a context that tells about the cross of Christ and also about a great victory over hostile powers.
"erasing the handwriting of the decrees against us, which was hostile to us, and has taken it away out of the midst, nailing it to the cross, stripping off the sovereignties and authorities, with boldness He makes a show of them, triumphing over them in it" (Col. 2:14, 15 CV).
"cancelling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him" (Col. 2:14, 15 ESV).
As we look at these verses and consider the thoughts we have mentioned before, the fog begins to lift. It becomes more and more clear that the supernatural strength that the Spirit of God bestowed on Samson gives us a tangible illustration of the strength of faith that Christ had in the Father. We've given some newer translations here, but the Authorized Version also bursts with the joy of victory. "Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; And, having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it" (Col. 2:14, 15 AV).
We have noted the thought of Samson ascending to the position of judge and that it is recorded right after this victory. Christ ascended to heaven and the throne of God, following His victory in resurrection. The joy of victory rings in these verses.
Samson went to Gaza, and there he saw a prostitute, and he went in to her. The Gazites were told, 'Samson has come here.' And they surrounded the place and set an ambush for him all night at the gate of the city. They kept quiet all night, saying, 'Let us wait till the light of the morning; then we will kill him.' But Samson lay till midnight, and at midnight he arose and took hold of the doors of the gate of the city and the two posts, and pulled them up, bar and all, and put them on his shoulders and carried them to the top of the hill that is in front of Hebron" (Jdg.16:1-3).
Here again we see Samson imprisoned, within the gates of the city, with an ambush lying in wait. Darkness is a key issue here. Samson's foes were waiting for the morning light to spring their attack, but Samson surprised them. There was also a great surprise when the children of Israel were enslaved in Egypt, because at midnight - the same time that Samson arose - God struck with the death plague, and the exodus began (Ex. 12:29-31). We saw how the darkness on the cross represented the time when the powers of darkness held sway. The exodus out of Egypt, like the believer's exodus out of the life of sin, is a journey out of darkness into the light. Christ's victory in the darkness is our turning point to the light.
Gates are the weakest part of a wall. So the strength of the gates is the strength of the wall and of the city. Samson pulled up the gates - posts and all - and carried them off to the top of a hill near Hebron. There on a bald hill he set them up as a mockery of Gaza's strength. It reminds us of the words of Christ to Peter, "on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matt. 16:18). The climb up the hill at Hebron was Samson's ascension.
Christ entered hades and was dead for three days, but then He broke out of death by the glory and power of God. Death was conquered! Aaron threw down the rod of God and it became a serpent. The magicians of Pharaoh threw down their rods, and they also became serpents, but Aaron's rod swallowed up the rods of the magicians. Paul, writing of the resurrection said, "When the perishable [body] puts on the imperishable, and the mortal [body] puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: 'Death is swallowed up in victory.' 'O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?' The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 15:54-56).
After His resurrection Christ ascended to the throne of God. His presence there, having come out of death, is a constant verification that the power of death is broken. As surely as if the gates of hades were ripped from their walls and put on display before the entire heavenly host, Christ was victorious over death. Christ is God's strong Man. Christ's presence on the throne of God also speaks of our justification and His intercession (Rom. 8:32-34). On the yearly day of atonement, the high priest took the blood of the sin offering into the holy of holies, and placed it on the mercy seat - the lid of the ark. The ark was God's throne. The blood on the ark parallels the ascension of Christ, our sacrifice, to God's throne.
Samson loved Delilah, and Delilah loved money. Delilah got her money, and Samson got shaved and blinded. But that is just the beginning of Samson's final episode. He was shackled and imprisoned at Gaza, where he was made to grind in the mill. We don't know if he turned larger stones, or if he was made to use a mortar and pestle. Use of the smaller tools would have been an added humiliation, since it was work often relegated to female or child slaves.
The Philistines planned a great celebration of their victory over Samson. All the elite citizenry were invited and present. They assembled in Gaza's arena, and sacrifices were made to their god, Dagon. As their celebrating ramped up, they called for Samson to be brought and put on display for their entertainment. The building was filled with people, and it had an upper deck which was filled with about 3,000 men and women.
The building was designed with a pair of large columns close together that were the primary loadbearing features of the structure. Samson asked the young man who led him by the hand to take him where he could lean on these pillars. There Samson called out to God to strengthen him one final time, and he asked that he might die with the Philistines. God strengthened him, and he bowed with all his might with one hand against each pillar. The building came down, and the Philistine casualties were great. "So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he had killed during his life" (Jdg. 16:30). In his death Samson dealt a severe blow to the Philistine power. Here are the final words of the Samson story: "He had judged Israel for twenty years" (Jdg. 16:31). Again, as in our first example with Samson, there is a reference to his authority immediately following his feat of strength.
As we think of 3,000 Philistines on the upper deck watching Samson, can we not see the host of spiritual powers looking down on Christ at the cross. What did the forces of evil think and do and say at that time? Might we think the demons would say, like the Philistines, here is the one who ravaged us!? Would they praise their god for the capture and crucifixion of Christ, Who had seemed so invincible to them? And what became of the law, which was a mandate of angels? Christ fulfilled the law in the flesh. It could not condemn Him. It was violated in His crucifixion. The death of Christ collapsed the authority structure of the spiritual realm. His death was a great victory. His death was the initiation of the kingdom of God on unshakeable ground. His death broke Satan's power. "Goddealing graciously with all our offenses, erasing the handwriting of the decrees against us, which was hostile to us, and has taken it away out of the midst, nailing it to the cross, stripping off the sovereignties and authorities, with boldness He makes a show of them, triumphing over them in it" (Col. 2:13-15 CV).
There were two instances where Joseph was cast into a pit or dungeon. In the record of both of those events no words were spoken by him. We do not see him crying out or trying to justify himself. Instead the narrative presents him suffering in silence and waiting for God somehow to bring his dreams to pass. David, on the other hand, is always vocal. Always his heart is moved, and always his voice bares the faith or love or anguish that moves his heart. The narrative doesn't tell us his feelings, but it thrusts us into the context and forces us to interpret his emotions by what we think we would have felt there. The Psalms tell us more of his feelings, but the narratives leave us to walk beside him as one of his friends or mighty men. Joseph was imprisoned twice. We will look at three similar events in David's life. These were not literal imprisonments like Joseph's, but they are typical representations of Christ's descent into hades, which was an imprisonment.
David's father Jesse had sent David with supplies to check on his brothers who were in King Saul's army. The Israelite and Philistine armies were set in array opposite each other on hills overlooking the valley of Elah. They had been in a standoff for forty days. The Philistine champion, Goliath, a giant, came out morning and evening calling for an Israelite champion to fight him. The battle of champions would determine which country served the other.
Goliath is marked with the number 666. He was six cubits plus in height. He is described with six pieces of body armor and weaponry, and the weight of his spear's head was 600 shekels of iron. He stands as a formidable image of all that evil in humanity can muster. The Israelite army had prepared itself to charge into battle, but turned and fled back in retreat at the reappearance of Goliath and the shout of his taunt.
David was baffled that no one would fight the giant. For him it was not a matter of how big and powerful the enemy was, but the issue was the glory and honor of their God. He went through the assembly of troops, asking, why no one would fight the giant, and what would be done for the one who killed this foe. Eventually he was brought before Saul, where he volunteered to fight Goliath himself. Saul had him try on his own armor, but David declined to use things to which he was unaccustomed. He headed down into the valley to meet the giant with his sling and shepherd's bag.
Goliath bellowed out his disgust for being offered such an unworthy opponent, and then told David to come to him and he would feed him to the birds. David replied to the Philistine: "You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the LORD saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the LORD's, and he will give you into our hand" (1 Sam. 17:45-47).
David ran forward to meet the Philistine, slinging his stone as he went. The stone sunk into the forehead of Goliath, and he fell on his face. David ran up, drew out Goliath's sword, dispatched him and cut off his head. At this the Philistine army fled from Israel's pursuit. Israel gained a victory, weakened the Philistine force, and gained many much needed weapons.
In the garden of Eden, God told Adam and Eve that the Seed of the woman would bruise, or crush the head of the serpent. David beheading Goliath is a picture of that. Christ entered into the valley of death. But he came out of death in victory. Now the keys of death and hades belong to Christ (Rev. 1:18). Death was Satan's weapon. He was a murderer from the beginning (Jn. 8:44). But, by His death on the cross and resurrection in glory, Christ has taken the power of death away from the devil. "that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil" (Heb. 2:14). Christ entered the stronghold of death, a prison whose bars had never been broken, that He might lead mankind forth into immortality.
If the events of 1 Samuel are recorded in chronological order, David had already been anointed king when he slew Goliath. We know that he was anointed by Samuel long before Saul's reign ended. But the slaying of Goliath set the eye of Israel on David as a great leader, and as one they would eventually anoint again as king. During Saul's victory parade through the towns, there was dancing and singing in the streets. "And the women sang to one another as they celebrated, 'Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands'" (1 Sam. 17:7). Saul became jealous of David, and would try repeatedly to kill him. In his efforts to do this he became a representation of the principalities and powers (AV), or rulers and authorities (ESV), that God disgraced by raising Christ from the dead (Col. 2:15). Just as David's victory over Goliath was part of his ascension to the throne of Israel, Christ's defeat of Satan in His resurrection was part of His ascension to the throne of God.
In 1 Samuel 24 Saul was pursuing David near Engedi. Saul and his men came to a cave, which was probably used as a shelter for sheep. Saul went into the cave to cover his feet. This was a Hebrew euphemism for relieving himself. Unknown to Saul, David and some of his men were hiding in the cave. David's men wanted him to kill Saul, saying that God had delivered Saul into his hand. David would not harm Saul, because Saul had been anointed as God's king over the people. But David did do something. By stealth he cut off part of the skirt of Saul's robe. He remained in hiding until Saul was withdrawn a distance from the cave. Then David came out of the cave, holding the piece of Saul's robe. He called to Saul, asking him why he was chasing after him. He told Saul that he could have killed him if he had wanted to, but he would not lift his hand against the LORD's anointed. Saul was shamed.
"As soon as David had finished speaking these words to Saul, Saul said, 'Is this your voice, my son David?' And Saul lifted up his voice and wept. He said to David, 'You are more righteous than I, for you have repaid me good, whereas I have repaid you evilAnd now, behold, I know that you shall surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in your hand'" (1 Sam. 24:16-20).
The king's robe here carries a symbolic meaning. The skirt of the robe, in Hebrew, is literally called the wings of the robe. When Samuel rebuked Saul for not fully following God's instructions in the battle against Amalek, Saul grabbed hold of Samuel's robe as he turned away, and tore it. Samuel said to Saul, "The LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you this day and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you" (1 Sam. 15:28).
The picture of the kingdom robe was set before in the story of Ruth and Boaz also. Boaz awoke in the night with cold feet and discovered Ruth lying there. Ruth said to him, "Spread your wings [corner of your garment] over your servant, for you are a redeemer" (Ruth 3:9). Boaz became Ruth's protector-redeemer-husband. He spread the covering of his protection and care over her.
Ezekiel spoke to Jerusalem about their covenant with God in a parable. He described Jerusalem as a newborn Canaanite baby that was despised and cast into a field to die in its afterbirth. God came by and spoke to the infant causing it to live and grow. "When I passed by you again and saw you, behold, you were at the age for love, and I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness; I made my vow to you and entered into a covenant with you declares the Lord GOD, and you became mine" (Eze. 16:8 emphasis mine). The Psalmist wrote: "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the AlmightyHe will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge" (Ps. 91:1, 4). These verses give us the idea of the significance of Saul's robe as king of Israel.
Here is the picture before us. The cave was underground, showing a condition or place similar to the grave. Saul's bodily function was unclean, and death is considered uncleanness. Saul confessed that David was more righteous than he was, and that David would become king. He even requested that David not destroy his family when he came to rule Israel. The idea of ascension or promotion is presented by David emerging from the cave holding the symbol of Saul's authority over the nation - the symbol of the kingdom protector or redeemer.
Here is the picture as it relates to Jesus Christ. Christ, in resurrection, emerges from the tomb. He has conquered and shamed Death. The name Saul is the same as sheol, they both mean asked (Prov. 30:15, 16). He begins the kingdom by ascending to the throne of God. He holds kingdom authority in His hand. The covenant of the kingdom is sealed in His blood.
While David was living as a fugitive in the wilderness of Ziph, some of the people of the area sent word to Saul of David's location. Saul took his standing force to search for David. David received word that Saul had come into the area, so he sent out scouts to spy out Saul's exact location. When he received word about Saul's camp, he took some of his men closer for a look. Saul's force had made a round camp. The chief and officers were located in the center, and the troops surrounded them. It was the custom that the leader, such as Saul was, would place his large spear in the ground beside his place in the camp. This spear was similar to the king's scepter, and it marked the place of authority in the camp. It also served as a marker so that David could tell from some distance away just exactly where Saul was located.
David asked for a volunteer to go with him down into Saul's camp, and Abishai, a relative of David, volunteered. Under the cover of night, David and Abishai crept to the place where Saul lay sleeping. We are told that a deep sleep from Yahweh had fallen on the camp (1 Sam. 26:12). Abishai asked David's permission to dispatch Saul with one, swift, merciful blow. Again David refused, because Saul was God's anointed. David took the spear and container of water from beside Saul's head, and he and Abishai quietly left the camp.
David and Abishai went some distance across the valley and up the hill. From there David called out to Abner, Saul's chief military leader. "Will you not answer, Abner? Then Abner answered, 'Who are you who calls to the king?' And David said to Abner, 'Are you not a man? Who is like you in Israel? Why then have you not kept watch over your lord the king? For one of the people came in to destroy the king your lord. This thing that you have done is not good. As the LORD lives, you deserve to die, because you have not kept watch over your lord, the LORD's anointed. And now see where the king's spear is and the jar of water that was at his head'" (1 Sam. 26:14-16).
David probably left Abner utterly frustrated with these accusations. There is no recorded response from Abner, but Saul answered David. Then David responded to Saul, condemning him for trying to kill one who had never done him any harm, nor even intended any harm to him. He said they were driving him away from the presence of the LORD in the land of promise. Then David called for him to send a young man over to get the spear and water.
Here is the picture. David, his name means beloved, enters the camp of Saul - Sheol. Everyone there is dead in a deep sleep. He takes the emblems of superior authority, and leaves the camp untouched. From an exalted vantage point he mocks the chief officer of Saul's camp, and then Saul himself. Saul was finally shamed enough to stop pursuing David.
Now let's consider the picture again with the greater David, the Beloved of the Father. Christ gave up His life on the cross and went to hades, the unseen realm. Three days later he arose. Not only did He come out free, but He came out holding the keys of death and hades (Rev. 1:18), like David holding the king's spear and cruse of water. He ascended, not up a hill by the valley, but up into heaven itself. The law was a mandate of the angels. It was associated with the spiritual realm and patterned after the true worship there. But Christ left hades to grace the holy of holies in heaven itself, and to fulfill the law and cleanse the heavenly precincts by his sacrifice. His victory over death collapses the spiritual power over flesh. He spoils principalities on behalf of humanity. He made a show of them openly, like David mocking Abner, triumphing over them in His victory (Col. 2:14, 15).
Like King David before him, Elijah was a fugitive. His imprisonment was in obedience to God's command. He hid himself in the Jordan wilderness by a brook where he was fed by ravens, and later with the widow of Zarephath in Sidon. During this time Ahab and Jezebel searched in vain to find him. Elijah came out of hiding to contend with the prophets of Baal, and turn the Israelites back to Yahweh. This was followed by a threat on his life from Jezebel, and Elijah went into hiding again. God commissioned Elijah to anoint new kings for Israel and Syria, and Elisha as his replacement prophet (1 Kings 19:15, 16). These anointed ones finished the work that Elijah had started, ridding Israel of its most wicked ruling couple.
Elijah's exaltation was his ascension into heaven in a chariot of fire in a whirlwind. Jesus was like Elijah in many ways. He said the foxes had holes and the birds had nests, but like Elijah, He didn't even have a regular place to lay His head. Elijah especially represents Christ in the ascension, and in the ministry that followed. Christ ascended to heaven, and sent the Holy Spirit to multiply His work through His disciples. Twice as many miracles are recorded as performed by Elisha than those recorded of Elijah. And Elisha completed the work Elijah had begun.
Jonah was imprisoned in the belly of a great fish. From there he prayed: "I called out to the LORD, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice. For you cast me into the deep into the heart of the seas, and the flood surrounded me; all your waves and your billows passed over meat the roots of the mountains. I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me for ever" (Jon. 2:2, 3, 6).
Jonah describes his imprisonment with a variety of figures which span the range of ideas we are contemplating. Though Jonah was not given a position of authority, still there are a couple of ways in which we can perceive an ascension of sorts. Jonah ascended from the depths of the sea up onto dry land. Then he carried a message to Nineveh which the entire populace, from the king on the throne to the paupers in the street, obeyed. They fasted and cried out to God, and even the animals were caused to fast. So there was a sense in which Jonah exercised authority over the city. In his representation of Christ, Jonah's experience also represents the resurrection and ascension of our Lord. Our Lord Himself said, "For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth" (Matt. 12:40).
As the book of Job opens, we see him as an unsuspecting actor on stage before the heavenly realm. Job was wealthy and blessed. We also see that he was careful and fearful, and he expended considerable effort doing things he thought would maintain his favor with God. "And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and consecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, 'It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.' Thus Job did continually" (Job 1:5).
At Satan's instigation, God allowed the loss of Job's children and possessions, and later the loss of good health. Job remained faithful to God through these trials, though he did despair of his life. He also confessed that the thing he had feared happened. "For the thing that I fear comes upon me, and what I dread befalls me. I am not at ease, nor am I quiet; I have no rest, but trouble comes" (Job 3:28).
Job's three friends heard of his trouble and came together to comfort him. He was so changed that they didn't even recognize him at first. They tore their garments to express their grief at his condition, and sat down with him in the ashes. For seven days and seven nights they were with him without speaking a word. Probably they brought him some comfort during that time. But when they opened their mouths to bless him with their wisdom and explanations of the reasons and purpose for evil things, their comfort vanished. The largest part of the book is taken up with their philosophies and theories. It seems to have eluded them that the ability to give a reason for the problem may miss the whole point. So often, when a death or some tragedy occurs, we hear people say: "I believe there is a reason for this." Perhaps we should say, "I still believe in God, whether there is a reason or not." Faith in spite of a lack of understanding seems to be our real need.
When God spoke to Job, He did not give him a reason why he suffered. But He brought him to realize how much greater than Job He was, and how much greater than Job's was His wisdom. Job was stilled and humbled before God - an appropriate posture for the creature before his Creator. Then God told Job's friends that he was angered by their false representations of Him, and they needed Job to offer sacrifices in their behalf. Also Job was to pray for them so that their sacrifice would be accepted.
"And the LORD turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends; also the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before" (Job 42:10 AV). Notice that the word captivity is used of Job's condition. He was impoverished and stricken with physical ailments, but in the mind of God this was an imprisonment that Job suffered. And, when Job was released from this imprisonment, he ascended to the position of intercessor between God and his friends. Though it is different from our other examples, Job shows us an imprisonment and an exaltation.
The name Job means hated, or, enemy. From the worldly perspective it seemed that God was Job's enemy. But, from the worldly perspective, there were times when it seemed that God was Christ's enemy also. "his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankindhe had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with griefYet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief" (Isa. 52:14; 53:2, 3, 10). And yet, how does this passage from Isaiah start? "Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted" (Isa. 52:13). Such is the path from prison to the throne.
The book of Esther is famous as being the only book of the Bible in which God is not mentioned. More than that, prayer is not mentioned. But, when we see that the theme of the book is occupied with showing God's providential care, these absences become pluses. God is not seen or called upon, but His care can be clearly seen, in spite of His invisibility. The beauty of this historical drama lies in the significance of insignificant details.
The book of Esther takes place about 100 years after Jerusalem had been destroyed by Babylon. A large portion of the Jewish population had been deported to Babylon and other countries. Some had returned with Nehemiah and Ezra to rebuild, but many more stayed in their new homes, rather than face the rigors of rebuilding. The story of Esther takes place in Susa, the Persian capital, some distance east of Babylon. The Jews are seen as a distinct people scattered throughout the empire. Mordecai, uncle of the orphaned Esther, had taken her in and raised her as his own daughter. They appear to have been as devout as Jews of the diaspora could be. Their life in exile from the promised land serves the place of imprisonment in our theme. Mordecai will be seen to exhibit a patient faithfulness much like that of Joseph.
The story opens with King Ahasuerus (the Hebrew appellation for Xerxes), holding a 180 day festival meeting. All the leaders of the empire's provinces were in attendance. This festival was preparatory for Persia's invasion of Greece. History tells of Xerxes' miserable failing in that endeavor. This gathering was brought to a climax with a seven day feast of banqueting and drinking. At the end of this feast, the drunken king called for Vashti, his queen, to come and display her beauty before him and his drunken guests.
When Queen Vashti refused the call, she was deposed from the throne. The plan for replacing the queen was for the king to select one from the most beautiful virgins of the kingdom. Hadassah (Esther's Hebrew name) was selected as a candidate and enrolled in the required beautification process. When the time of her audience with the king arrived, she was selected as the new queen. Mordecai had advised her to keep the fact of her Hebrew lineage secret. This would be crucial to later events. The actual selection of Esther occurred some four years after Vashti was deposed. The biblical account notes this time lapse without explanation. It was during this time that Persia invaded Greece.
Sometime after Esther's selection as queen, Mordecai, who served in the royal court, learned of a plan to assassinate the king. He told Esther, who advised the royal bodyguard, and the plan was foiled. Official records were kept of Mordecai's allegiance and service to the throne.
After these events, Haman was promoted above all the other princes in the king's court. Haman was obsessed with having preeminence, and the king had commanded that all were to bow to Haman when he came into the court. All bowed except for Mordecai. Word reached Haman that Mordecai, the Jew, didn't bow to him. Haman was furious, but he didn't want to punish Mordecai alone. He devised a plan to vent his wrath on all the Jews in the kingdom.
Haman told the king there was a people scattered through the kingdom who had their own laws and customs and who did not keep the king's laws (like bowing to him). Haman offered a huge sum of money to the king's treasury for the eradication of these people. Haman was to be repaid through the spoil taken from the Jewish slaughter. The king gave Haman liberty and authority to plan the massacre. There would be one day throughout the kingdom when it was legal to destroy Jews and confiscate their property. The empire stretched from India to Ethiopia, so the event had to be planned long in advance so the whole kingdom could be made aware. Haman went to great lengths to select the day for initiating his plan. Using an ancient Persian method, he cast lots for each day of the month and each month of the year, to find the most suitable day to launch his plan.
Mordecai was among the first to learn of the impending doom for the Jews, and he put on sackcloth and sat in ashes, something not allowed in the court areas of the palace where he worked. Esther heard what he was doing, and communicated through a messenger with him. Mordecai told her she must act on behalf of her people. She had not been called in to the king for a month, and anyone who approached the king without being called was subject to the death penalty. She told Mordecai to fast for three days, she would do the same, and then she would approach the king.
After three days of fasting, Esther donned her royal apparel and went to the inner court across from the royal house. The king was pleased to see her and extended the golden scepter to her. She touched the top of the scepter, and the king asked what her request would be. Esther asked that the king and Haman might attend a banquet she had prepared for them that day. The king accepted. At the wine banquet the king again asked Esther for her request. She asked that the king and Haman would attend yet another banquet tomorrow, and at that time she would tell the king her request. It was agreed.
We are not told why Esther delayed to tell the king her request, but this delay becomes the pivotal point of the whole episode. Haman went home elated that he alone had been the dinner guest of the king and queen. He boasted of it to his family and friends, but then complained that as long as Mordecai was alive his joy would be empty. His wife and friends advised him to build a gallows on which to hang Mordecai. Then in the morning he could request of the king that Mordecai be hanged. Haman directed the gallows project to be started immediately.
While Haman was savoring what he believed was the end of Mordecai, the king was having a sleepless night. To pass the time the king ordered the chroniclers to come in and read the records to him. We are not told how extensive these records were, or why a particular book was selected, but the reading included the account of Mordecai warning the king of the assassination attempt on his life. The king asked if anything had been done to reward Mordecai. Nothing had been done.
Haman arrived early at the court next morning. The king saw him and had him called in. Before Haman could make his request, the king asked him, "What should be done for the man whom the king delights to honor?" Haman thought to himself, "Whom would the king delight to honor more than me?" Assuming the honor would be done to him, Haman said the honored one should be dressed in the royal robes, led through the streets on the royal steed, accompanied by the royal crown, and proclaimed as one honored by the king. The king said, "OK, do everything you have just said for Mordecai the Jew." Haman was mortified! Obviously his request was left unsaid. Haman did as commanded, and then returned home, mourning with his head covered. He related these events to his family, and they said that he must be doomed.
Before Haman could take any further actions, the royal escort arrived to take him to Esther's banquet. As they were enjoying their wine, the king asked again what Esther's request might be. The queen asked the king for her life, and the lives of her people. She said she would not trouble him if they had only been sold into slavery, but they had all been sold to be slaughtered. The king was stunned and indignant. "Who and where is the one who would presume to do such a thing," asked the king? "The adversary and enemy is this wicked Haman," replied Esther (Est. 7:6 AV). Haman was terrified. The king was furious and walked out into the palace garden to find his composure. When he returned, Haman was fallen on the queen's couch to plead for his life. "Will he force the queen also before me in the house," snapped the king? (Est. 7:8 AV) The insinuation of the King's statement was that Haman was assaulting the queen sexually. At the king's statement the attendants covered Haman's face. This was a Persian practice which showed he was doomed and that he was no longer worthy to behold the light. One of the chamberlains spoke up, advising the king that Haman had built a gallows at his house on which to hang Mordecai, the one who had spoken to the king's defense. "Hang him on that" was the king's response (Est. 7:10).
The king gave Esther the household and property of Haman. Esther told the king of her relationship to Mordecai, and he was brought into the palace. Then Esther once again pleaded for her people. Even with Haman gone, the crisis for the Jews was not past. The act for their slaughter had been signed into law, and the laws of the Persians could not be revoked. The king promoted Mordecai to Haman's position, and gave him his royal ring - the seal of the empire - so that he could pass measures to counteract Haman's decree.
Sufficient time remained to communicate the opposing decree throughout the empire. It allowed the Jews to fight back and destroy their enemies at the time of the first decree. When the time finally came, the Jews overwhelmed their enemies in a great victory. Mordecai had become great in the kingdom, and the fear of him fell upon the governors of all the provinces. Thus the Jews were supported in their battles. The king told Esther what was done on that day and asked if she had any further requests. She asked for one more day for the Jews in the capital city, and it was granted. All the enemies of the Jews in the capital were killed, along with the 10 sons of Haman, who were also hanged. The Jews were allowed to take the spoil of their enemies, but they refrained from doing so. They executed the men who were their enemies, but did not destroy their families.
Then Mordecai and Esther made a memorial holiday of that date when their mourning was turned into rejoicing. The holiday was called Purim, the plural term for Pur. Pur was the Persian term for lots, with the reference to Haman casting lots. "The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD" (Prov. 16:33). The celebration of this day was far different from the day's original intent. It was a day of feasting, sending gifts of food to one another, and of giving to the poor.
Mordecai and Esther were imprisoned in the sense of being captives who were taken from their homeland and forced to live in a foreign land. And yet they rose, very literally, to the throne of the empire in which they were captives. Mordecai, like Joseph in Egypt, was second only to King Ahasuerus (Est. 10:2, 3). Haman is often identified as a type of anti-christ, and his persecution of the Jews often compared to the persecution of the Jews in Revelation by the beast. His ten sons are even compared to the ten kings there. The rising of the Jews to prominence in God's plan in later days is but a shadow of Christ, the true Son, Who, though bound and imprisoned, even in death, ascended to the throne of God.
The irrevocable laws of the Persians present some interesting ground for thought. We today operate in more than one kingdom, and there are laws of different kingdoms that hold sway over us. We have been transported out of the jurisdiction of darkness into the kingdom of the Son of God's love (Col. 1:13). And yet, there are irrevocable laws that bind us. We are still mortal and destined for the grave. Only the return of Christ can change that. And yet the life of the kingdom ages to come is ours, and our position there will be far above what we can know now.
It is comforting to see God's providential care and blessing in the details of the story. Why did Mordecai tell Esther to keep her nationality a secret? Why would Mordecai refuse to bow to Haman? Why did Esther not tell the king her request at the first banquet? Why could the king not sleep? Why did the royal chroniclers read from the specific book, and place in the book, where Mordecai's deed of loyalty to the king was recorded? Things of chance, things of freewill, and things which seem to happen without reason, things motivated by fear, things motivated by faith all worked together for the good of God's people.
In the first two chapters of Daniel is the story of these four young Jewish men who were carried away as captives to Babylon. They were taken in the first of three captivities to Babylon. They were not what we might think of as normal captives. They were chosen to be taken because they were intelligent and educated. They were not taken as slaves for servile work, but they were taken and placed in a pool of other educated captives. After three years of training, the best of the group would be kept in government positions in the Babylonian kingdom. They were destined to become members of an ancient brain-trust.
The four Jewish boys made the cut. They were placed among the magicians, sorcerers and wise men of the Chaldeans. They weren't treated as slaves, but they were far from home, and they were not free to leave. In time King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that troubled him severely. He called in the highest of the wise counselors, and demanded that they tell him both the dream he had seen and its interpretation. The counselors tried to explain that he must tell them the dream before they could interpret it, but he became angry with them and sentenced them all to death. Daniel and his friends were gathered with others of the royal consultants for execution, though they had not yet even had opportunity to hear the king's demands.
Daniel spoke with prudence and discretion to Arioch, the captain of the king's guard, asking about the urgency of the king's demand. Then he went in and asked for an appointment when he could tell the king the interpretation. Daniel and his friends sought mercy and help from God, and Daniel was given the dream and its interpretation. Daniel blessed the God Who gives wisdom and understanding and Who reveals deep and hidden things - the God Who knows what is in the darkness.
Daniel explained that Nebuchadnezzar's dream was of a great image. The image had a golden head, silver arms, a bronze torso and thighs, iron legs and feet made of iron and clay. Nebuchadnezzar's kingdom was the golden head, and succeeding kingdoms were the other parts of the body made of differing materials. A stone struck this image in the feet, and the whole image shattered. The pieces became like chaff and blew away. The stone that struck the image turned into a mountain. This stone and mountain represent the kingdom set up by God that will never be replaced.
After Daniel gave the interpretation, the king of Babylon fell down before him and said, "Truly your God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries" (Dan. 2:47). Then the king gave Daniel gifts and honors and made him ruler over the province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon. At Daniel's request, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, whose Chaldea names were Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, were set over the affairs of the province of Babylon, while Daniel remained in the king's court.
These four young men went from being captives and exiles to rulers in the foreign kingdom. They were greatly honored in this, but all the honor belonged to God. Their experience provided the stage for God to display His glory and wisdom.
On the night of his betrayal Jesus was giving final instruction to His disciples. "After Jesus had said this, he lifted up his eyes to heaven. 'Father,' he said, 'the moment has come. Glorify your son, so that your son may glorify you. Do this in the same way as you did when you gave him authority over all flesh, so that he could give the life of God's coming age to everyone you gave him. And by the life of God's coming age I mean this: that they should know you, the only true God, and Jesus the Messiah, the one you sent" (Jn. 17:1-3 KNT).
Daniel made known the only true God, whose mountain kingdom will be permanently established through the work of Jesus Christ. The life that Christ came to give us is the life of those coming kingdom ages. When we are raised and glorified to live that life, we will live and learn to know the only true God and His Son.
King Nebuchadnezzar built a huge golden image. It was 60 cubits high and 6 cubits wide, and at the sound of 6 musical instruments the people were to bow down and worship. These numbers give us 666, reminding us of the weight of gold that came to Solomon each year, of Goliath, and of the number of the beast. Failure to worship at the musical command was to be punished with the death penalty, by casting the violators into a furnace.
There was a huge representation of officials from all the provinces of the kingdom at the dedication of the image. Some noticed that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did not bow down and worship the image. This was reported with obvious jealousy to the king. These three Jews were brought before the king and questioned. They told the king that they would not worship his image, whether their God delivered them or not. They would only worship their God, regardless of the consequences. The king was infuriated and had the furnace heated seven times hotter than normal. Then the objectors were cast in. The heat of the furnace was so intense it killed the executioners, and the three fell bound into the furnace. The king looked into the furnace and saw four figures walking around in it, apparently unhurt. The fourth figure looked to the king like a son of the gods.
The king approached the furnace and called for the three men to come out. He called them servants of the Most High God. When they came out it was seen that they were unharmed. The hair of their heads was not singed, their clothing was not even burnt, and they did not even have the smell of smoke or fire upon them. The king made a decree that anyone who spoke anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego would be executed, and these three men were promoted to higher positions. So again we have the completed cycle of imprisonment followed by exaltation.
One question that always seems to arise here is, "Where was Daniel?" Daniel's exaltation in the kingdom was so high that probably no one would dare to criticize him if he had been present at the dedication of the statue. He may not have attended the celebration. And the king had already seen that Daniel stood in close relation to a most powerful and wise God. If we think of the things represented in this scenario, it may be that the casting of the men into the furnace represents the Jewish nation undergoing severe persecution in the end times. If this is so, then Daniel, who was promoted to very high position at the end of the previous chapter, could represent Christ, who ascended to heaven. As with the first scene in Daniel that we viewed, the endangerment or imprisonment becomes a means of showing the unbelieving how great the true God is.
Daniel had risen to the top in the Babylonian empire, but when the Medes and Persians conquered Babylon, Daniel again became the subject of persecution. This episode in Daniel's life doesn't receive the emphasis that many other passages do when types of Christ are being considered. Yet the lines of correspondence are many and clear. We will look at this scene through those parallels as we follow Daniel through the process of descending to imprisonment and rising to exaltation.
Daniel's service and wisdom was so impeccable that the king thought to elevate him to rule over the whole kingdom. Upon hearing of this the jealousy of the satraps and presidents bristled. They didn't want to lose any of the authority that they had. They conspired together and agreed that the only way they might be able to find an occasion against Daniel was if it was something regarding his God. This is the same kind of conspiracy the Jews raised against Jesus. The charge they finally brought against Him was that He said God was His Father. Even Pilate, after questioning the Lord, said, "I find no guilt in him" (Jn. 18:38; Dan. 6:1-5).
So the conspirators came to the king, flatteringly, suggesting that a law be passed that no one could request anything of any god or any man, except the king, for thirty days. And if anyone broke this law, they were to be cast into the den of lions. The king was flattered and passed the law. The law of the Medes and Persians was irrevocable.
Knowing the law had been passed, Daniel did not change his routine. He went to his upper chamber three times daily, and, before an open window facing Jerusalem, prayed and gave thanks to God. This reminds us of the comment of Jesus when the temple guard took Him by night in the garden. "Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me" (Matt. 26:55).
"Then these men came by agreement and found Daniel making petition and plea before his God" (Dan. 6:11). It was also by agreement that the Jews sent the guard to pick up Jesus. Judas had agreed to set up a time and place where this could be done in the absence of a crowd so there would be no rioting by the multitudes gathered for the festival. Jesus even made a habit of going to Gethsemane that week so Judas would know where to do this. Then Christ sent Peter and John secretly to prepare the place of the last supper, so that Christ could have that covenant meal with his disciples and give them His parting words without Judas interrupting. Judas carried the bag, and he should have been the one to make those arrangements.
The conspirators went to Darius and told him that Daniel had flaunted his breaking of the law - three times a day! The Jewish accusations against Jesus were much like this. "The Jews answered him, 'We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God'" (Jn. 19:7). Pilate became afraid when he heard this, and wanted to set Jesus free. So Darius also wanted to set Daniel free: "he labored till the sun went down to rescue him" (Dan. 6:14).
Finally, forced by a large group of his officers and the obligation of his own law, the king commanded that Daniel be thrown into the den of lions. The lions provide a figure that we also find in the N. T. Peter said, "Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith" (1 Pet. 5:8,9). Daniel was in the lion's den overnight, in the darkness. Similarly, Jesus said that the time of the crucifixion was the hour and power of darkness.
"And a stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet and with the signet of his lords, that nothing might be changed concerning Daniel" (Dan. 6:17). A similar sealing took place after Christ's crucifixion. "Next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, 'Sir, we remember how that imposter said, while he was still alive, "After three days I will rise." Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, "He has risen from the dead", and the last fraud will be worse than the first.' Pilate said to them, 'You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.' So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard" (Matt. 27:62-66).
King Darius passed the night fasting and sleepless, and then went to the lion's den with haste at the break of day (Dan. 6:19). The disciples and friends of Jesus were very early to the tomb, as soon as they had met the Sabbath requirement. The king called to Daniel, asking if his God had protected him. Daniel answered that God did indeed protect him by sending an angel to shut the lions' mouths. Further, Daniel said this was done because he had been found blameless before God and also before Darius. This reminds us of the sinlessness of Christ, and Pilate's failure to find any fault with Him.
The king then commanded that the men who accused Daniel be brought and cast into the den of lions with their families. Because the Jews rejected Christ and demanded His crucifixion, God gave Jerusalem over to destruction, after ample time for repentance had passed.
After this the king made a public proclamation: "Then King Darius wrote to all the peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you. I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel, for he is the living God, enduring for ever; his kingdom shall never be destroyed, and his dominion shall be to the end. He delivers and rescues; he works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, he who has saved Daniel from the power of the lions" (Dan. 6:25-27).
This clearly sounds like what happened after the Jews failed to repent for killing their Messiah, Christ. The gospel of peace and reconciliation went to the nations of the world! The king at this time was Darius rather than Nebuchadnezzar, so a change had taken place in the ruling kingdoms. The chapter closes with a statement that Daniel prospered during the reigns of Darius and Cyrus. This final word shows Daniel's exaltation that occurred after his imprisonment in the lion's den. Since the king thought to promote him higher before this incident, it appears sure that the promotion was given after the incident. A close searching of the chapter is sure to reveal even more correspondences between Christ and Daniel than we have given here.
God created Israel, the nation, through the Passover redemption and the exodus. In the opening chapters of Exodus, it becomes crystal clear that Israel was imprisoned in Egypt. Egypt had forced them into slavery. When Moses and Aaron confronted Pharaoh with God's command to release His son, Israel, Pharaoh refused. With the growing severity of the plagues Pharaoh offered compromises. We might call them conditions of parole. Only the men could go, or they couldn't go very far. Or, only the people could go and they must leave their animals and livestock behind. But God and Moses were adamant. They would take everything they had and go a three days' journey. The drawn out negotiations of compromise had the effect of hardening Pharaoh so that finally he brought on the death of the firstborn in Egypt and Israel's permanent freedom.
But being freed from prison is not the same as ascending the throne. There were still many things for the young nation to do and learn before it would be elevated to a position of power and authority. In his farewell address in the wilderness, Moses told the people, "And the LORD will make you the head and not the tail, and you shall only go up and not down, if you obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you today, being careful to do them" (Deut. 28:13). But Israel was not obedient, and they did not become dominant until David reigned as king centuries later. And under his son, Solomon, the nation finally reached its peak of glory.
But even under Solomon their failure in obedience continued, and their dominance fell away in the Babylonian exile. After that they suffered at the hands of other conquerors. Finally, with the rejection of the greater Son of David, their capital and temple were destroyed and they were scattered. Yet the time is still waiting when their Lord will return and turn them away from their ungodliness and disobedience. Then they truly will become the head of the nations.
Paul said of Israel: "all Israel will be saved as it is written, 'The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob'; 'and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins'" (Rom. 11:26, 27).
In a similar way to Israel being enslaved in Egypt, we have been enslaved to sin and the lusts of the flesh. When Paul spoke of humanity's condition in Romans 1, he spoke of three different conditions to which God gave humanity. Humanity was given up (paradidomi) to impurity in the lusts of their hearts (1:24), to dishonorable passions (1:26), and to a debased mind (1:28). This giving up can carry the idea of being given into the custody of. John the Baptist was given up to prison (Mt. 4:12). And back in Romans where Paul used this word of humanity three times, he used it twice of Christ also, saying that Christ was given up for our offenses (4:25) and Christ was given up for us all (Rom. 8:32). In Romans 6 Paul says that we were enslaved to sin, but now, being given up to the teaching of the gospel, we have been freed from sin and become slaves of God. Many more texts could be presented, but every believer has some degree of realization of their emancipation from sin.
But this is not the only imprisonment that Paul speaks of in his gospel of grace. The Jewish situation with the law was not the solution either. "Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed" (Gal. 3:23).
But what is our condition now under the gospel? "But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ - by grace you have been saved - and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2:4-7). So believers follow this same route, from prison to the throne - from humiliation to glorification.
With the New Testament to guide us, we readily see that Psalm 8 is a Messianic Psalm. But few, if any, of the Old Testament Jews would have been able to see the reference to Messiah in the subjection of the animal kingdom to humanity. Hebrews and 1 Corinthians take us to a higher plane to view the glory of Christ in this Psalm.
Oh Yahweh, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens. (v. 1)
Out of the mouth of babes and infants you have established strength
Because of your foes to still the enemy and the avenger. (v. 2)
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which you have set in place (v.3)
What is man that you are mindful of him,
And the son of man that you care for him? (v.4)
You have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings,
And crowned him with glory and honour (v.5)
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
You have put all things under his feet, (v.6)
All sheep and oxen,
And also the beasts of the field (v.7)
The birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
Whatever passes along the paths of the seas (v.8)
O Yahweh, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! (v. 9; ESV, but Yahweh substituted for LORD)
Psalm 8 is made up of couplets, except for the last line which repeats the first line. The psalm has been divided into verses with a couplet making up each verse, except the last. So with 9 verses in the Psalm, the 5th verse is the hinge, the center or turning point. This is true also according to the context. A very crucial turning point comes in the fifth verse, between the first and second lines of the couplet.
"Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
And crowned him with glory and honour" (Ps. 8:5).
Here is the transition from humiliation to glory, from prison to the throne. Here is the transition from death to resurrection.
Verse 2 sets the stage for what happens in verse 5:
"Out of the mouth of babes and infants, you have established strength
Because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger" (Ps. 8:2).
Christ quoted this verse to the chief priests and scribes when they wanted Him to silence the crowd crying, "Hosanna!" (Mt. 21:15, 16). The Jewish leaders were frustrated by the praise of children. It was a very similar situation when the Lord Jesus, at 12 years of age, amazed the teachers in the temple. The apostle Paul said something very similar in his first letter to the Corinthians. "For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God" (1 Cor. 1:26-29). Just as Christ in humility and weakness confounded the Jewish nation, so also those who believe in him will confound the world in the coming age.
Portions of this Psalm were quoted and expanded in Hebrews 2 and in 1 Corinthians 15. We will give the heart of the Psalm here with parallel quotations.
|Psalm 8||Hebrews 2||1 Corinthians 15|
|"what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?" v.4
||"What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him?" v.6
||"But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. vv.20-21 |
|"made a little lower than heavenly beings" v.5
||"we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus" v.9
||For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive" v.22|
|"crowned him with glory and honour" v.5
||"crowned with glory and honour because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone" v.9
||"But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits" v.23|
|"given him dominion over the works of your hands" v. 6
||"Now it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking" v.6
||"then at his coming those who belong to Christ" v.23 |
|"you have put all things under his feet" v.6
||"Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present we do not see everything in subjection to him" v.8
||"Then comes the end [of making alive]" v.24
He delivers kingdom to Father
He nullifies delegated authority
He puts all enemies under feet
Death is destroyed
"For God has put all things in subjection under his feet" v.27
Psalm 8 speaks of man as the head of the creation account in Genesis. Hebrews 2 takes the Psalm to another level. Instead of speaking of the creatures of creation, Christ is viewed as the Son of Man, and His authority will be over the kingdoms of earth. While the angels were authoritative during the administration of the law, believing humans, under Christ as Head, will be authoritative in the kingdom. Currently the kingdom is here in spirit, and Christ is Head of believers (Eph. 1:22). In the next age, Christ will be present, and those who are His will be given authority. Humanity is elevated in Christ. He is the Head with supreme authority, and others assist Him (Eph. 1:10, 23 see CV). When all are made alive - quickened to immortality - then all mankind will have been elevated to the position of the children of God. That is when God will become All in all - All in everyone.
The Corinthian passage only quotes the Psalm in the verses dealing with subjection. We understand verse 27 to mean, "For 'God has put all things in subjection under his feet.' But when the Psalm says, 'all things are put in subjection', it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him" (1 Cor. 15:27). The underlying theme in Corinthians is the reconciliation that is effected by Christ's headship. By being raised to immortality, Christ has become the new Head of mankind. Instead of imparting death to His race like Adam did, Christ will raise all to immortality after they come under His headship. 1 Corinthians 15:27b and 28 must be mentioned here also. It seems a difficult verse, but it simply says that when God spoke through the Psalmist saying all would be subject to Christ, the Son of Man, it obviously excluded the Father from the all. Psalm 8 and Hebrews 2 don't have any such Why does Paul find it necessary to make such a comment? Reconciliation is a two-sided affair. The cross of Christ conciliated God to man. And when humans come under the Headship or Lordship of Christ, they are conciliated to God. That Headship comes to full fruition at vivification - glorification - when we are made immortal. But Christ is not the One to Whom we are reconciled. He is the Image of God and the means by Whom we are reconciled. Our reconciliation is to God, and therefore Paul differentiates between the Father and Son on this issue.
All the way through our O. T. examples we have spoken of Christ's fulfillment of the types on the cross and by His ascension. In the N.T., instead of reiterating these things, we would like to focus on how the gospel writers present the theme of Christ rising from prison to the throne - how did they cope with the fact that Jesus did not fit the Jewish conception of what the Messiah would be and do? Jewish ideas about the Messiah varied considerably. This was not their fault by arbitrary decision. Some messianic prophecies speak of the Son of man coming with clouds (Dan. 7:13), a splendidly glorious arrival. Others speak of Him as "humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey" (Zech. 9:9). Some rabbis thought that the glory of the coming depended upon the merit of Israel at the time He came. If Israel was meritorious when Messiah came, His coming would be glorious. If Israel was backslidden and corrupt when Messiah came, His coming would be in humility.
The average twenty-first century Bible reader in the western world probably has little, if any, idea of the concept of a Messiah. He or she meets the gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, and the letters of Paul all at once. In the gospel accounts the Lord is usually called Jesus or the Christ, but rarely both. In Acts and Paul's letters the names Jesus Christ and Christ Jesus are so common that we might think of Christ as Jesus' last name. Jesus is an historical figure. We have no experience of anticipating the Savior's first coming. Without a Jewish background the concepts of Messiah become vague. The title Christ literally means Anointed. This was the Jewish term for Messiah, as John explains (Jn. 1:41). Western Christians need to be thinking promised Messiah of God, when they read Christ. It's doubtful that we grasp what the name Jesus Christ meant to a first century believer. If one is familiar with the range of views that prevail within the Church about the second coming of Christ, he might be better able to grasp how controversial the Messiah's first coming was to first century Jews.
The following quotation from Gabriel to Mary illustrates how easy it was to get the wrong idea about the Messiah's coming: "He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father, David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end" (Lk. 1:32, 33). On the basis of these words, who would have any concept of a Messiah Who dies? Such an idea seems to contradict what the angel said!
As the evangelists composed their accounts of the gospel, one of their chief priorities was to present Jesus as the Christ - the Messiah - God's promised King. This goal brought them face to face with a difficulty: How would they proclaim a Savior Who dies? How would they proclaim a Messiah Who must make the journey from prison to the throne? Paul said the Greeks considered such a thought stupidity. And the Jews, who traditionally thought of their Messiah as a powerful King, would stumble at the idea of a humble Messiah.
Each of the gospel accounts has its own unique way of resolving this problem. Each account draws events from the historical data and weaves the threads together to create the story that presents this theme, interlaced with the other themes of the book. Our goal will be to call attention to the dark shades of humility and the brilliant rays of glory that are hallmarks along the way from prison to the throne.
Matthew introduces us to Jesus the Messiah as the son of David and son of Abraham, linking Christ to the promise to Abraham and the covenant God made with David (Mt. 1:1). He is called son of David first, a term which identifies Him with the royal lineage. Matthew uses the term son of David more than all the other evangelists combined to help highlight the idea of His Kingship. Only Matthew and Luke give any account of Jesus' birth, but Matthew presents Jesus' birth as a rival king, Whom the current king tries to murder. Remember that the travelling wise men find Jesus in a house (Mt. 2:11), and that they present Him with gifts fit for a king. There is nothing royal about Luke's account of His birth. Matthew even describes the return from Egypt to Nazareth in the light of a royal conflict.
Matthew begins and ends with people who are not Jews identifying Jesus as the King of the Jews! (Mt. 2:2; 27:37). This is an affront to the Jewish nation. It tells of their failure to recognize their King, and it looks forward to the time when all the nations of the world will honor the King of the Jews. Solomon was king when Israel was at its pinnacle of glory. But Christ told them that One greater than King Solomon was among them (Mt. 12:42).
Matthew's account also has the most frequent mention of the kingdom, and parables about the kingdom. Naturally there must be a King in order to have a kingdom, so the theme of the King receives emphatic repetition in Matthew. At the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Mark, Luke and John allude to or give a partial quotation of Zechariah 9:9, but Matthew gives of full quotation of the verse and calls it a fulfillment of the prophecy. "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey." Notice the unlikely combination of ideas. The King is described as lowly. Christ did not ride the royal mule, like Solomon did (1 Ki. 1:33), neither did He ride the warrior's horse, but He came into Jerusalem on the back of the foal of a donkey.
We also need to call attention to a context which is pivotal in Matthew, Mark and Luke: Peter's confession that Jesus was the Messiah (Mt. 16:13-23; Mk. 8:27-33; Lk. 9:18-22). Remembering what was said earlier about the Jewish concepts of the Messiah, this passage clearly and strongly associates the ideas of suffering with the Messiah. Jesus immediately told the disciples that they were not to make it known that He was the Messiah, and all three of the synoptic accounts add that He began instructing them that He must suffer many things at the hands of the Jewish leaders and die in Jerusalem. Jesus was connecting the prison with the throne for His disciples. But, like the other Jews, they couldn't grasp the idea of a Messiah who suffers. Matthew alone makes a direct connection of this scene to the idea of the King by mentioning the kingdom and the keys that would be given to Peter, based on his recognition of the Messiah.
Our final point in Matthew comes to us in the account of Jesus' arrest, trial and crucifixion. Matthew sets these events before us as a mockery of a coronation. So Matthew maintains the theme of Jesus being the Messiah King, but he presents the coronation as modified to show us that the path to the throne goes through humiliation and the prison of death.
In Matthew 26:47-56, the Lord Jesus was arrested and taken into custody by the temple guard. This was a military force which the Romans had designated for use by the Jewish authorities. This detachment delivered Jesus to the high priest for the mockery of a trial which served the purpose of identifying Who He was.
When Solomon was anointed king, David ordered the royal guard, the Cherethites and the Pelethites to escort Solomon to the spring Gihon. This was a public place where his anointing could be witnessed by the people. There Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anointed Solomon. The royal trumpets blew, the people shouted, "God save King Solomon!" and there was much shouting and rejoicing (1 Ki. 1:38-40).
Jesus was taken before the high priest, but He held His peace. Finally the priest adjured Him by the living God to tell him if He was the Christ (Messiah), the Son of God. Jesus acknowledged that He was, and further said, "Hereafter shall ye [plural you, designating the Jewish nation] see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven" (Mt. 26:64 AV). "The Son of man, coming in the clouds of heaven" is a reference to Daniel 7:13. The high priest would have been well aware of this passage and knew it as a reference to the Messiah at His coming - in this case, His second coming. The highest authority in the Jewish nation was told, from the lips of Jesus, in no uncertain words, that He was the Messiah.
Instead of anointing Jesus, which was the high priest's responsibility to the Messiah, the high priest called Him a liar. Then he and those with him spit on Jesus and beat him with their hands. In addition to this, the high priest tore his garments. For the high priest to tear his garments was a breach of the law punishable by death (Lev. 21:10-12). If the high priest did such a thing he was desecrating the holy anointing oil that was upon him. The tearing of garments was an expression of extreme grief, such as one would experience at the death of a parent. But the high priest was not allowed to show the grief the common people did, even if his own parents died. The expressions of grief of the lower priests were limited also. So Caiaphas showed himself disqualified from the priesthood by this act. God did not strike him dead, at least not at that moment. But at this time the holy anointing oil's significance was passing away, to be replaced by the anointing of the Holy Spirit. The high priest failed to anoint Jesus, and his actions showed a cancellation of his authority.
After the death of King Saul, the men of Judah anointed David as their king (2 Sam. 2:4), later all the tribes of Israel came to David and anointed him as king over all the tribes. At his anointing the heads of the tribes confessed David's leadership, their relationship to him, and that Yahweh had chosen him to be their leader (2 Sam. 5:1-3). This profession of loyalty by the populace is a natural part of a coronation. Matthew presents this aspect of the coronation next in a variety of ways. First is the threefold denial of Peter. The one who had confessed that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of the living God (16:16) denied that he even knew him (26:69-75). This, ironically, was followed by the betrayer, Judas, going to the chief priests and elders and declaring that Jesus was innocent (27:1-4). Next the chief priests and elders accused Jesus before Pilate, who wanted to know if He was King of the Jews. Pilate responded by making his annual offer to release a prisoner. To entice them to request Jesus' release, he limited their choice to Jesus or the murderer, Barabbas. They asked for Barabbas. Then, unexpectedly, Pilate's wife advised him to have nothing to do with Jesus because she had suffered much in a dream because of "that righteous man" (27:19). Pilate asked the assembled crowd what was to be done with Jesus, if he granted their request for Barabbas. Though we may long for the cry, "God save King Jesus," the cry, "Crucify him!" is all that echoed forth.
Pilate, fearful and seeking to justify himself, washed his hands before the crowd. The crowd responded, taking responsibility for Jesus' death. "His blood be on us and on our children!" (27:25). How ironic that one day this nation, in true humiliation and repentance, will plead that His blood be on them and their children for the forgiveness of their sins!
With all these confessions of disloyalty recorded, Matthew moves to the coronation proper. Matthew's detail in these events is part of what sets his account apart as a mock coronation. Pilate prepared Jesus with the honor of a scourging. Then Pilate's soldiers took Jesus to the governor's headquarters and gathered the whole squad or battalion before Him. With the coronation of a new king, the armed force must know the king to whom they swear allegiance and loyalty on the battlefield. The soldiers stripped Him and put a scarlet robe upon Him. This was His royal attire. Then they twisted together a crown of thorns and placed it on His head. Mark insinuates the crown was placed on His head but lacks the specific statement. A common symbol of victory was a garland or wreath of foliage, placed on the heads of winners in the Grecian athletic games and sometimes worn by the Caesars. The thorns were a cruel mockery of such garlands.
The soldiers also placed a reed in His right hand. These details are given by Matthew alone. This was a scornful imitation of a king's scepter. Scepters were usually made of a strong and durable wood, which the artisans overlaid with gold and embedded with jewels. The right hand is the place of power. After fasting and praying for three days that the king would favor her, Esther appeared in the royal court to seek audience with the king. He held out his golden scepter toward her, and she approached and touched the top of the scepter. The king then told Esther to make her request, and that anything, to the half of his kingdom, would be given her. The scepter was a symbol of the power and authority of the kingdom. But a reed is a symbol of weakness and futility. Ahijah the prophet told Jeroboam's wife that the LORD would strike Israel, "as a reed is shaken in the water" (1 Ki. 14:15). Rabshakeh said to rebellious Judah, "Behold, you are trusting now in Egypt, that broken reed of a staff, which will pierce the hand of any man who leans on it" (2 Ki. 18:21). The soldiers were showing contempt to One they considered to be a powerless king.
Then the soldiers bowed down on their knees before Him, and "they mocked him, saying, 'Hail, King of the Jews!'" (27:29). Matthew says they fell on their knees - a stronger expression suggesting fear of a powerful king. They spit on Him, took the reed from His hand, and beat on His head with it. Then they stripped Him of the scarlet robe, and put His own garment back on him. Finally, they led Him away to His crucifixion. As we compare this listing of details, the crucifixion parallels with a king being seated on His throne.
Simon of Cyrene was compelled by the soldiers to bear Messiah's cross. He was to carry the King's throne. In Mark and Luke it is said that Simon came from the field, and Mark gives the names of his sons who were members in the early church. Mark and Luke show Simon as one living in the land of the Jews. Matthew only identifies Simon as from Cyrene, the land of his nativity. Just as Matthew has emphasized foreigners recognizing Jesus as King, so he presents Simon, the bearer of the throne, as a foreigner.
The cross/throne was carried to Golgotha: place of a skull. Here is the place where the Lord Jesus, through death destroyed "the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil" (Heb. 2:14). Here is where the power to submit to God and believe in Him are transformed into the power to reign. Here Jesus' death was the temporary wound of His heel being bruised, but He bruised the serpent's head for a permanent defeat (Gen. 3:15). It has been suggested that the place was named for the head of Goliath. David took the head of Goliath to Jerusalem, and a mound of stones would have been raised over it as a memorial of a great victory. Over time the place simply retained the term skull placeiii. Golgotha suggestively hints that the prison will become a throne.
In the place of a royal toast with the wine of joy at the King's coronation, there is the cheap vinegar/wine mixed with gall. When the Messiah tasted it, He refused to drink it. He was stripped naked. His clothing became the property of His executioners. And the sign was placed over His head which read: "This is Jesus, the King of the Jews" (27:37). So the King was enthroned at Golgotha, and two robbers, in place of His general and prime minister, were also enthroned at His right and His left. There He was mocked. The King's building plan for the kingdom - the raising of God's temple in three days was scorned. His kingship and identity were denied.
There were three hours of darkness, after which Jesus cried, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (27:45-46). During the three hours of darkness it seems the Messiah was truly forsaken to the terrors and suffering of His death. And yet we must see more than this in His quotation cry from Psalm 22. The early portion of the Psalm gives an apt description of one suffering the rigors of crucifixion. But it also describes the mockery and other things that happened there as well. Christ would have been suffering from dehydration, and speaking was extremely difficult for Him. His quotation of the opening of the Psalm should lead us to understand that His reference was to the whole Psalm finding its fulfillment in Him at that time. And if we accept this view, then we should realize that the final third of the Psalm ascends the steps of faith and glory. It speaks of deliverance by the God who had momentarily forsaken His Son.
Thus we conclude that Matthew's depiction of the crucifixion as a coronation does indeed lead us from the prison to the throne. With Jesus' yielding up of His spirit, Matthew joins immediately the rending of the veil of the temple, an earthquake that shook the area and split rocks, and the resurrection of dead saints. The subject of earthquakes recurs in Matthew to emphasize that the King Who shakes the kingdoms of this world has appeared, and His kingdom was beginning.
Mark's brisk and abrupt style of writing exhibit the character of a devoted servant whose primary concern is to complete his assigned tasks. Seldom do we find the narrative explanations that abound in Matthew. The book reads like a brief listing of actions and events. In this short summary of Mark, we will follow the development of three themes. First is that of the Messiah, which follows the word Christos, rendered Christ in most translations. Second is the theme of power and authority, traced in the words dunamis and exousia. The third theme is suffering. Pascho is the word for suffering, but in most instances this theme will be presented with contextual descriptions, rather than occurrences of a single word.
Mark has by far the fewest occurrences of the term Christ, or, Messiah found in all the gospels. Like the other two synoptic accounts, but in strong contrast to John, Mark is roughly divided in half at the point of Peter's confession that Jesus was the Messiah. Mark's first use of Messiah, is in the first verse of the first chapter: "the good news of Jesus the Messiah, God's son" (KNT). In some texts the second use is in 1:34, saying that the demons knew He was the Messiah. The next use of the term is in 8:29, where Peter answers Jesus' query, "Who do you say I am?...You're the Messiah" (KNT). The final four occurrences are later in the book: once Jesus speaks of deeds done in Messiah's name; once He asked how the Messiah could be both David's son and David's Lord; once when Jesus spoke of the future and many false messiahs coming; and once the high priest asked Jesus if He was the Messiah.
Between Mark's opening declaration that Jesus was the Messiah and Peter's confession, we find a listing of proofs that Jesus has the power and authority that verify His identity as Messiah. He taught in the synagogues as One having authority (1:22). Even unclean spirits obeyed His authority (1:27). The Son of man has authority to forgive sins (2:10). Jesus gave His disciples authority to heal and cast out demons (3:15). At Nazareth the people questioned how someone they knew could have power to do these deeds, and He was unable to do many powerful deeds there because of their unbelief (6:2, 5). In 6:7 is another mention of giving disciples authority over unclean spirits, and Herod assumed that Jesus could perform powerful deeds because He was John the Baptist raised from the dead. The exhibition of power and authority by Jesus in the first half of the book provides the reason why Peter and the disciples would confess their belief that Jesus was the Messiah in chapter 8.
Immediately following Peter's confession that Jesus was the Messiah (8:29), Jesus had two things to say: (1) He warned the disciples not to tell anyone who He was, and, (2) He began teaching them that the Son of Man - another messianic title - must be rejected and suffer (pascho) many things at the hands of the chief priests and scribes, and be killed and raised from the dead. This is Mark's first clear indication of the prison before the throne. There was a prophecy that the Bridegroom would be taken from the disciples, and they would fast at that time (3:20), but this is the first clear mention of suffering.
(1) Why did Jesus command the disciples not to make His identity as Messiah known? Matthew explains this for us by quoting a passage from Isaiah (Mt. 12:14-21). Here is the passage from Isaiah:
"Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law" (Isa. 42:1-4).
In the Matthew passage the Pharisees were conspiring to kill Christ because of their anger and jealousy when He healed on the Sabbath. In Mark the circumstances are much the same. If it were noised abroad that Jesus was the Messiah, the opposition to Him would escalate faster. So God's Servant continues working publicly, but as quietly as possible, and mostly at a distance from Jerusalem.
(2) The teaching about suffering was a shocking change to their concepts of the Messiah, and it was difficult for them to assimilate. On this same vein of thought, Mark doesn't associate the idea of glory with his portrayal of the Messiah. In fact, the word glory (doxa) is only found three times in Mark, and all three contexts speak of future kingdom glory rather than glory associated with Messiah's first coming.
From the point of Peter's confession onward Mark emphasizes this theme of suffering. The ninth chapter relates the transfiguration on the mountain, and it is followed immediately by two statements referring to the Messiah's suffering (9:9, 12). After an incident with a demon-possessed boy, there is another reference to Messiah's suffering (9:31). Chapter 10 has no less than five such statements: (1) followers must pick up the cross (10:22); (2) those forsaking possessions will be rewarded now with persecutions (10:30); (3) on the road to Jerusalem another warning of the suffering that was awaiting Him there was given (10:32-34); (4) when the disciples asked to be seated on His right and left when He entered His glory, He mentioned a foreboding baptism that must precede it; (5) after the example of how humanity uses authority, He said, "For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (10:45).
The eleventh chapter brings us to the triumphal entry and references to suffering change from teaching and warning for disciples to comments about the activities of the Jewish leaders and Jesus' parables directed at them. The cleansing of the temple seems to be the event in which Jesus toppled the critical domino in the chain of events leading up to His crucifixion at Passover. Symbolically the temple cleansing is an illustration of a person's repentance (1 Cor. 3:16; 2 Tim. 2:19-21). When repentance occurs, a cleansing follows. The Jewish leaders had refused to repent at the Baptist's preaching. Had they done so, the temple would have received a cleansing before Jesus arrived. The temple cleansing moved the chief priests and scribes to counsel about means for destroying Jesus. Our mention of the Baptist brings us back to the theme of power and authority. In the latter part of Mark those words focus more on the questioning of Jesus' authority by the Jews. When Jesus asked the Jews whether John's baptism was from heaven or from men, the theme of authority reached its climax. The authority residing in Christ and the authority of the Jewish leaders had come to an impasse.
In conclusion, Mark shows us that the Messiah's path of uncompromising service places Him on a collision course with the existing powers.
Both Matthew and Mark present the Lord's work as being very closely aligned to the Baptist's message. This is because both give strong emphasis to the response of the Jews, nationally, to the message. Both Matthew and Mark bring in the idea of the prison that precedes the throne, but it is a theme developed as the text progresses. Whether the Messiah is seen as King or Servant, as the stories develop, the conflict grows which brings the Messiah to bondage.
Luke does something the other evangelists do not. Luke gives us the low side of the story early on. Luke gives us the prison before the throne. Matthew introduced Christ as born a king, Luke presents Christ born and laid in a manger. Mark started with an itinerant Preacher Who showed He had all the proper credentials, but just as it became evident that He was the true Messiah, it also became evident that the world was against Him. Luke is determined to show us that the Messiah Who ascended to the throne started as the poor prisoner, and that the Messiah of God fulfills all the prophecies, negative and positive.
Before we see how Luke does this, let us look at his summary statement: "'You are so senseless!' he said to them. 'So slow in your hearts to believe all the things the prophets said to you! Don't you see? This is what had to happen: the Messiah had to suffer, and then come into his glory!'" (Lk. 24:25-26 KNT). Luke echoed this same thought in Acts 17:2, 3: "Paul went there, as he usually did, and for three Sabbaths he spoke to them, expounding the scriptures, interpreting and explaining that it was necessary for the Messiah to suffer and to rise from the dead, and that 'this Jesus, that I am announcing to you is the Messiah'" (KNT). Peter also stressed the idea of suffering preceding the glory of Messiah in his first epistle. "The prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be given to you searched and inquired about this rescue. They asked what sort of time it would be, the time that the Messiah's spirit within them was indicating when speaking of the Messiah's sufferings and subsequent glory" (1 Pet. 1:10, 11 KNT).
Only Luke records Christ coming to the temple for circumcision and the details regarding Simeon. With Paul's letters in hand we know that circumcision represents the cross and the death of the flesh. So there is a typical representation of death here long before Christ is exalted. Luke also notes that the offering for cleansing and atonement was a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons. This was the alternate offering for a young lamb. By mentioning this Luke is telling us that Mary and Joseph were too poor to afford the standard offering.
Simeon met them in the temple, took the baby in his arms, and blessed God and prophesied. His words are divided into two parts. The first part is very positive, and reflects the usual thoughts about Messiah:
"For my eyes have seen your salvation,
That you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
A light for revelation to the Gentiles,
And for glory to your people, Israel" (Lk. 2:30-32)
But the second part, which Simeon directed toward Mary, strikes several ominous notes:
Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel;
And for a sign that is opposed
(and a sword will pierce through your own soul also),
So that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed" (Lk. 2:34, 35).
The first line of this second portion is very suggestive. "This child is set, or, lying (CV) for the fall of many in Israel." The word for set, or, lying is also used in the context where it says the axe is lying at the root of the tree. There is a sense of purpose involved. Many indeed would fall with the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. The word for rise is the usual word for resurrection. Rise answers well to fall, and is widely used in the common translations, but the idea of resurrection gives the statement an interesting undercurrent. The fall precedes the rising, just as the prison precedes the throne.
All four of these lines find fulfillment immediately in Luke's account, Acts, and other places in the N. T. The child was set for a sign to be contradicted, or, spoken against. The Jews in Rome said to Paul, "we count it worthwhile to hear from you what your disposition is. For, indeed, concerning this sect, it is known to us that everywhere it is being contradicted" (Acts 28:22 CV). "take into account the One [Jesus] Who has endured such contradiction by sinners while among them, lest you should be faltering, fainting in your souls" (Heb. 12:3 CV).
We read of Mary pondering the worship and story related by the shepherds (2:19) and the words of the 12 year old Boy when they found Him in the temple (2:51; see also 1:29). She would struggle with His separation from her and her family by the multitudes, and she would be sorrow-stricken by His crucifixion. And Luke gives abundant examples of the reasoning of many hearts being revealed: Christ understood the reasoning of their hearts (Lk. 5:21, 22; 6:8; 9:46, 47; 20:14; 24:38).
At Twelve In The Temple
One of Luke's unique features is the account of Christ in the temple at 12 years of age. We suggest that this episode gives a typical representation of Israel's loss of their Messiah at the time of His first coming. The event transpired at the feast of Passover, and it was at a Passover when Israel lost their Messiah.
Joseph and Mary represent a future Israel who will seek their Messiah and find Him. They will look upon the one they pierced and mourn for Him as they would for their firstborn and only son (Zech. 12:10). Mary and Joseph turned back to Jerusalem seeking for Him (Lk. 2:45). "And the Lord, whom ye seek, will suddenly come to His temple" (Mal. 3:1). Christ was found in the temple. He was found after three days, suggesting the idea of resurrection and new life for Israel.
It is noteworthy that He was sitting in the temple. Sitting was the posture taken by teachers when they teach (notice Luke 4:20). "He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver," (Mal. 3:3). And here was Christ, sitting among the sons of Levi (Lk. 2:46). His parents had sought Him painfully, or, sorrowing, just as Zechariah prophesied (Lk. 2:48). Future Israel's problem will be failing to seek Christ according to all the revelation in the things the Father has given them. This accords well with His reply as a rebuke to His parents.
In Matthew the genealogy begins with David the king, moves to Abraham, father of the promised seed and moves forward to Christ, noting the hallmarks of King David and the Babylonian captivity. In Luke the genealogy is in reverse order, going back to Adam, the source of sin and death, and then to God. This suits Luke's purpose better for identifying Christ as the Son of Man Who will become the new Head of the race. He takes us back to humanity's origin, and will show the Son of Man ascend into heaven - a heritage Adam lost.
Since man encounters the imprisonment of death before he knows the glory of heaven, so Christ encounters death too, before being raised to the position of God in glory.
It appears that the Lord's ministry started around the area of Jerusalem, close to the Baptist, and then moved to Galilee with John's imprisonment (Mt. 4:12, 13; Mk. 1:14; Jn. 3:22-24). In both Matthew and Mark, the opening words of Christ's preaching was, "Repent for the kingdom of heaven [or God] is at hand" (Mt. 4:17; Mk. 1:15). Luke opens his detailed account of Christ's ministry with His speaking in the synagogue of His hometown (4:16-30).
Notice the harshness of John's ministry in the Jordan wilderness as Luke records it. Multitudes came to him, and he said something like this: "You bunch of snakes! Who warned you to run from the coming judgment? Don't think you can waltz out here on a sunny afternoon and promenade down to the baptismal waters! You go change your life and change your works first, if you want any chance of escaping judgment!" And they all cowered before him and asked what they should do (Lk. 3:7-10).
In Nazareth Christ read a passage of Scripture about healing and pardon and the acceptable year of the Lord. Then He told them this gracious message was being fulfilled that very day. The people started asking, "Where does this hometown boy get the idea that he is something special?" Jesus responded to their remarks saying that there were plenty of widows in Israel when Elijah found refuge with one from Sidon, and there were many lepers in Israel when Elisha healed Naaman the Syrian. Israel's sins in Elijah's and Elisha's days were little different from those in Jesus' day. But instead of seeing their need for humility and repentance, like the crowds that went to John, the people of Nazareth became incensed with the local Citizen and tried to throw Him off the bluff where their city was situated. Our Lord's attempt at ministry in His hometown commenced with an attempt on His life!
We might think that this near catastrophe would have drawn reference from some of the other evangelists. But it didn't suit their purpose in the same way it did Luke's. Again, Luke is showing us the prison that precedes the throne, the humbling that comes before glory. And we can see this, even in the words that Christ read to the Nazarenes from Isaiah: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour" (Lk. 4:18-19).
As mentioned before, Matthew and Mark both give the opening words of Christ's ministry as an echo of the Baptist: "Repent for the kingdom is at hand." But Luke presents the beginning as a proclamation of Jubilee. Luke pictures the kingdom as a Sabbatical, not from the seven years' service of one who became poor and sold himself into slavery, but a Sabbatical from poverty, a Sabbatical from prison, a Sabbatical from blindness and oppression. Jesus spoke of a jubilee from the things we cannot escape, not even by waiting for seven years. Luke says we are all in prisons of one sort or another, and the kingdom, God's great rest, has come to us in the Messiah to release us from our bonds.
So the Messiah left His hometown and cast out a demon in Capernaum, freeing a man from a hideous and invisible bondage. Then He went to Simon Peter's house and freed his mother-in-law from the bondage of a great fever. And, as the Sabbath sun set, many came with ailments and demons and He healed them all. They would have kept Him there in Capernaum, but He said He must go to other towns to preach "the kingdom of God" there also. So here Luke further defines this emancipating jubilee as the kingdom of God.
When Messiah forgave the sins of the paralyzed man (Lk. 5:16-26), He was again calling for the people to test in their hearts what were the things that really hampered and bound them. Has not sin paralyzed us and prevented us from enjoying God's liberty and reign? Use your imagination for a moment, and visualize an event that took place many years ago. The children of Israel had left Egypt and entered the wilderness. They sent some spies into the promised land to see what the land was like. Now picture two of the spies returning. One is following the other. They are carrying something. There is a long heavy branch running from one man's shoulder back to the shoulder of the man behind him. Hanging on that branch is a huge cluster of grapes, so large it almost touches the ground.
Now freeze that picture in your mind for a moment. And let's overlay another picture on top of it. Instead of two men carrying something, visualize four men carrying something. Two are in front and two are behind, and a stretcher is resting on one shoulder of each man. Lying on the stretcher is a paralyzed man. Can you see the standing men all overlap, and there is the paralyzed man lying at the top of the cluster of grapes. The paralyzed man is presented to Jesus. Jesus forgives his sins. And the man arises and walks away. That is the fruit of the kingdom of God.
The disciples were criticized for picking some grain and eating it on the Sabbath. Can we enjoy the peace of God's rest when we are hungry? Could the man with the withered hand rest on God's Sabbath as well as he could when his hand was healed (Lk. 6)? Jesus was releasing people from the bonds that held them and was teaching them that the real freedom they longed for was to be found in God.
In Luke 6:20-23 we have what might be called a shortened version of the beatitudes found in Matthew 5. But there are some significant differences between this passage and Matthew. Here Luke immediately follows the blessed statements with converse woe statements. And he adds the word now to strengthen the contrast between those who are hungry now and those who are full now, those mourning now and those laughing now. This emphasizes again the contrast between imprisonment now and glory to come in the kingdom.
In the 7th chapter the Lord healed a centurion's servant and raised the widow's son from death. Then John's servants came to Him asking if He was indeed the One that should come. "In that hour he healed many people of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many who were blind he bestowed sight. And he answered them, 'Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me'" (Lk.7:21-23). It seems that John was looking for the Messiah to bring judgment upon the nation. Jesus was not fulfilling his expectation. As Jesus talked to the crowd about John, He used the parable of children playing in the market place. The children tried two different ways to get their fellows to join in with them. They played music for dancing, such as might have been in a wedding, and they sang a song of mourning, such as would be part of a funeral. The parallel to this is that John and Jesus tried two different ways to get the people to respond (Lk. 7:29-35). At first they both preached judgment and repentance, but the nation at large did not repent. After John was cast into prison, Jesus' ministry emphasized the blessings the kingdom would bring.
In chapter 4 the kingdom of God was described as a Sabbatical release. Here in chapter 9 the kingdom of God is equated with Christ in glory. In Luke 9:27 Jesus said: "But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God." His reference was to the transfiguration where Jesus was seen in glory and honored by God the Father (2 Pet. 1:16-18). The glory of the Messiah would come, and He will establish the kingdom, but it would be after His exodus (Lk. 9:31), which He would accomplish at Jerusalem.
When we considered Psalm 8, we noted God's use of babes and infants to establish strength and silence His enemies (Ps. 8:2). We will wrap up these thoughts on Luke showing us the low side first - the prison before the throne - with one passage which is similar to Psalm 8:2. This is the only verse which speaks of our Lord rejoicing. "In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, 'I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will'" (Lk. 10:21). Jesus spoke these words when the 70 returned with joy from preaching and healing. He is rejoicing in the Father's method and the service of those who believed in Him. It is wonderful to think that our service could be the cause of His rejoicing. We dare not miss the importance of this thought here in Luke's account.
Luke closes his book with an allusion to the throne. He closes with the ascension of Christ. "Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshipped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy" (Lk. 24:50-52). Christ walked the road from beginning to end. Through poverty, persecution, and imprisonment, He continued on to the glory of God's throne.
John is so bold! He jumps beyond the concepts of Messiah that the synoptic accounts present to show us our Lord as the Word of God! John presents the Messiah as Son of God. For John, the family of David and the house of Judah are mere trifles! There are many descendants of David; there were thousands born in Bethlehem; Judah has produced millions; but there is only one Messiah, and He must come from God! That is the key requirement. If He is not from God, nothing else matters.
This revelation of Jesus as Son of God is simultaneously a revelation of God as Father. In Mark's account of the Servant, God is only referred to as Father about 5 times. (Yet even God's Servant, in the intimacy of prayer addresses the Father as Abba). In Luke's account God is Father about 17 times; in Matthew's account of God's Messiah/King, God is Father over 40 times. But in John's account, God is the Father of Jesus more than 120 times! This simple repetition of the word Father is a major pillar of the theme of the Messiah's origin. And the text of John's account is generously seasoned with narrative comments about the unity and relationship of the Father and Son. In fact, it is difficult in many places to discern if the words recorded should be understood as spoken by Jesus Himself or if they are explanatory commentary supplied by the apostle.
In the synoptics the confession of Peter came about midway through the narrative. In John's account Andrew finds his brother Simon and tells him they have found the Christ, which John interprets for us as Messiah. Andrew brought Simon to Jesus and Jesus renamed him Cephas, or, Peter, an event which Matthew ties to Peter's confession that Jesus was the Messiah (Jn.1:40-42; Mt. 16:18). In John's account Peter's confession is not given the pivotal location and emphasis it receives in the others. It is not the fact of when and where the Messiah was recognized and professed that John wants us to see. What he wants to implant in our hearts and minds is the fact that the Messiah is obviously the Son of God. John intertwines this theme with the theme of the Messiah's rejection. Together these themes show one of John's methods of bringing out the prison before the throne. We will give a few examples from the narrative.
"He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him" (1:10, 11). These verses tell us the Messiah was unrecognized and unknown on more than one level. Though He was intimately related to both the world and His own people, neither accepted Him as they should. World (kosmos) is another theme unique to John's presentation. John uses the word, world about 80 times, but Matthew, Mark and Luke together only use it about 15 times. Many times when John uses the word world, he uses it to represent the Jewish nation. Other times it appears to have a broader meaning. By doing this he shows that the Messiah's rejection by the Jews parallels His rejection by the world. And the collapse of the Jewish world that followed parallels the ultimate collapse of the world system. The Messiah is the Son of the God of the whole world. And so John's scope is far broader than the view which considers the Messiah of the Jews only. This is a necessary element for raising the Messiah out of the realm of Jewish expectation, literature and culture.
Nathanael, the skeptic, asked: "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" But, after the Lord mentioned seeing him under the fig tree, the converted skeptic proclaimed: "Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!" (1:46, 49). We are not told Nathanael's meditation under the tree, but we can be relatively sure of its significance. The fig tree is a symbol of God's kingdom, especially as related to Israel. Adam and Eve tried to imitate kingdom blessing by covering themselves with fig leaves. Christ's cursing of the fig tree prophesied the casting off of Israel. Nathanael under the fig tree was a symbol of the peace and prosperity that was proverbial of the kingdom (see 1 Ki. 4:25; Mic. 4:4; Zech. 3:10). Under the fig tree, Nathaniel would have been in its shade. (Compare also the ideas associated with shade in Ps. 91; Isa. 4:5, 6; Lam. 4:20; Song 2:3). Nathanael's initial skepticism parallels the Jews rejection of Jesus, but his confession foreshadows their ultimate reception of Him.
"When the master of the wedding feast in Cana tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the he called the bridegroom and said to him, 'Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now'" (2:9-11). Here the wedding feast represents the kingdom. The good wine represents the joy in the Messiah that accompanies the kingdom. But the master of the feast, representing the leaders of the Jews, did not recognize the wine with relation to its simple beginning. The Jews did not recognize Christ at His first coming, and will not until His later coming. That is the thought of the best wine being reserved till the end.
"'Take these things away; do not make my Father's house a house of trade''Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up'" (2:16, 19). John's presentation of the temple cleansing appears to be non-sequential. But the key thought of the Messiah's rejection is right on target in the context. John's purpose is different from that of the other evangelists. His account is carefully structured with layers of meaning. The words of Jesus suggest that the Jews of His day were destroying God's temple and worship because they themselves were temples filled with greed and malice rather than humility and reverence. They would verify this assessment by destroying Christ - God's true temple. So the words Father's house speak of Christ's origin, and His death shows His rejection.
In chapter 6 we have the long discourse on the Bread of life. Jesus was the true Bread that came down from heaven. But His words were hard and offensive, and He was rejected.
At the feast of tabernacles the Pharisees sent officers to arrest Jesus. But the officers were confounded by His words. The origin of the Messiah became the issue. How could Jesus be the Messiah since He came from Galilee when the prophets said He would come from Bethlehem, David's village? That was sufficient reason for the scribes and Pharisees to reject Him. Perhaps we would want to shout, "But He was born in Bethlehem! Luke records it!" But John would not deign to stoop to inform the hard-hearted of Jesus' birthplace. If they could not see by His signs and works that He was from God, then no persuasion of men would help them (7:40-51). They rejected obvious divine witness on the basis of minor details which they would not bother to verify. They had no response to the Messiah of God Who spoke like no one else had ever spoken.
In the temple, Jesus said to the Pharisees, "'Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.' So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple" (8:58, 59). By speaking of His pre-existence, Christ alludes to God as His origin.
The Pharisees rebutted the man born blind, "'We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.' The man answered, 'Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes'" (9:29-30). Again, it is rejection of the Messiah because of questions about His origin.
At the last supper with His disciples, "Jesus, knowingthat he had come from God and was going back to Godlaid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it round his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped round himWhen he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, 'Do you understand what I have done'" (13:3-12)? Do we know what Jesus did here? He gave us a picture of Himself: laying aside His glory in the presence of God, clothing Himself with humility to come and cleanse us, and returning in glory to God. Peter's questioning shows even His disciples stumbled at grasping His love and service and the significance of His origin.
We have seen that John ties the theme of rejection closely to the theme that the Messiah is from God. He has kept the negative and positive ideas of the prison and the throne close together. But there is another word which he uses in an unusual way to help us grasp this idea. It is the word exalt (hupsoO). This word is used twice of Christ being exalted to the throne of God (Acts 2:33; 5:31), so it is well associated with glory, authority and power. But John uses it with irony. In all 5 occurrences of the word in John, it speaks of Christ being exalted on the cross. We will give the texts here in the Concordant Version, because most versions render it lifted up, and the point John is making is lost.
"And, according as Moses exalts the serpent in the wilderness, thus must the Son of Mankind be exalted, that everyone believing on Him should not be perishing, but may be having life eonian" (3:14, 15; Num. 21:5-9).
"Jesus, then, said to them again that 'Whenever you should be exalting the Son of Mankind, then you will know that I am, and from Myself I am doing nothing, but, according as My Father teaches Me, these things I am speaking'" (8:28).
"'And I, if I should be exalted out of the earth, shall be drawing all to Myself.' Now this He said, signifying by what death He was about to be dying.
"The throng, then, answered Him, 'We hear out of the law that the Christ is remaining for the eon, and how are you saying that the Son of Mankind must be exalted?" (12:32-34).
John's use of exalt is similar to Matthew's presentation of the crucifixion as a coronation. But, like Matthew, he shows that the humiliation and crucifixion are the necessary steps for the Messiah to be exalted by the Father. His first use of the word exalt in 3:14 gives the example of the brass serpent on a pole that was made by Moses. The miraculous healing by looking up at the serpent parallels the simplicity of receiving the Messiah by believing. And the serpent being used as a parallel to Christ speaks of His being made sin for our sakes (2 Cor. 5:21).
John presents the Messiah as the coming of a life that is light. Light makes manifest (Eph. 5:13). That is what it does. So the natural result of Christ's life was to reveal the true character of all with which He came in contact. God's purpose in sending His Son was the saving of the world. But because the Son was Light, He exposed the darkness. It was the laying down of His life that completed the revelation of Light, and thus the laying down of His life verified the true nature of darkness. His death defined darkness as evil, and thus His death was a judgment upon darkness. John presents this theme to us over and over again in his account. It comes to us repeatedly in the statements of Christ throughout the book, and it comes to us at the crucifixion through the subtle pen of the Spirit.
The synoptic accounts all relate the temptation of Christ in the wilderness early in their records. That event was a testing of Christ. It was part of a judgment upon Him. But in John's account Christ is shown to be the Judge. In chapter 5 we are told that the Father has given Him authority to judge. In keeping with this idea of Christ being the Judge, John does not record Christ's testing in the wilderness. If we were to suggest something that takes its place, we would suggest that the meeting with Nicodemus might show a similar situation that is in keeping with John's theme. In that interview we see Jesus very much as the Judge. Nicodemus came to Him, acknowledging that He was from God, but not knowing how to progress. Jesus spoke of the kingdom and celestial things, but Nicodemus was shown to be deficient in understanding: "'How can a man, being a veteran, be begotten?'...'How can these things be?'Jesus answered and said to him, 'You are a teacher of Israel, and these things you do not know?'" (Jn. 3:4, 9-10). Instead of being judged, Christ is judging Nicodemus.
The synoptics also all record the threefold praying by Jesus in Gethsemane. This also was a testing or judging of Him. But John does not record that event. Instead, he shows the temple guard falling to the ground at Christ's word! In the synoptics Christ's threefold prayer in Gethsemane seems to be answered by Peter's three denials. Christ was faithful in the test of submitting His will and life to God's will. On the other hand, Peter was probably still angry from being told to put up the sword, and he broke his promise of a few short hours earlier to never forsake or deny his Lord. Also in John, Peter's threefold denial is answered by his threefold reinstatement (Jn. 21:15-17). That is an event which also pictures Christ exercising the authority of Judge.
In the 18th chapter Jesus was taken captive for trial by the high priest. This chapter reminds us that in chapter 11 the Sanhedrin had gathered and concluded that Jesus needed to die to save the nation from a revolt the Romans would surely crush. As chapter 18 progresses, the narrative alternates between Jesus before the Jewish leaders and Peter before those in the courtyard. Who is on trial here? Is it Jesus or Peter? If we read the passage thoughtfully, we cannot help but conclude that the life of Jesus puts all of us on trial.
Next the Jews delivered Jesus to Pilate, and Pilate asked what they wanted him to do. The Jews responded that they lacked the authority to execute capital punishment "that the word of Jesus may be fulfilled which He said, signifying by what death He was about to be dying" (Jn. 18:32). So here we have the idea suggested that the Jews brought Jesus to Pilate, so that Jesus' words would be fulfilled. Who is in control?
So Pilate returned to Jesus in the pretorium and asked Jesus if He was the king of the Jews. Jesus was being interrogated by the Roman governor, but instead of answering him, Jesus asked Pilate a question: "Are you asking me this, or did someone else tell you to ask me this?" Again we ask ourselves, who is it that John wants us to think is in control? The Jews lacked authority to crucify Jesus, and Pilate concludes that Jesus had no fault worthy of death. When Pilate told Jesus that he had authority to release Him or crucify Him, Jesus responded that he had no authority against Him in anything except what was given to him from above.
"Pilate, then, hearing these words, led Jesus outside, and is seated on a dais in a place termed the 'Pavement,' yet in Hebrew, 'Gabbatha'" (Jn. 19:13 CV). Here is a most interesting statement. The Greek language of this statement is vague. This could be translated that Jesus was led outside and seated on the dais. Or, as it is here, it can be translated that Pilate sat on the dais. Some commentators have even suggested that Pilate may have seated Jesus there in mockery. I don't believe that was the case, but I think that John was deliberately vague here because he wanted his readers to see something.
Earlier Jesus had said, "Now is the judgement of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up [exalted] from the earth, will draw all people to myself" (Jn. 12:31, 32). A few hours earlier, when Judas left to betray Him, Jesus said: "Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him' (Jn. 13:31). He spoke so much of glory in those last hours! And He said, "the ruler of this world is judged" (Jn. 16:10, 11). And, "Take heart; I have overcome the world" (Jn. 16:33). In all these statements John wants us to see that by laying down His life, Jesus was passing judgment on this world and its systems. At the same time He was dying in humility and weakness, He was judging the world in glory and power.
While each evangelist emphasized specific themes in their accounts, they also maintained balance by recording comments or events in such a way that we would not come away thinking there were four different Messiahs. There is a great unity running throughout all the accounts. Matthew's account of the Messiah King is not without these words from the Lord Himself: "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head" (Mt. 8:20 AV). As King of the Jews, the entire nation should have been at His disposal. But when the King was unrevered in the hearts of His people, He was little more than homeless. Mark showed us the diligent, humble Servant of Yahweh, yet only Mark shows us in the intimacy of prayer that the Servant Messiah addresses God as "Abba" (Father, or, Daddy Mk. 14:36). We have already shown how Luke's presentation of the humble Messiah was not without prophecies that He would be great and be called Son of the Most High (Lk. 1:32).
Now let's delve in deeper detail as we look for the balance in John's account. John's theme of God's Messiah places Christ in the most intimate relationship to the Father. How does John balance this thought? What does John say about Jesus that is on the other end of the spectrum from being the Word of God? It is this: only in John's account is Jesus designated as the only-begotten. This is a term which must be explained. Many people think it is a term which relates to the virgin birth of Jesus, but that is a mistake. The virgin birth is a typical representation of His begetting, but it is not actually the begetting that John refers to with the term only-begotten. The virgin birth speaks of life coming from the sterile womb of death. The barren wombs of Sarah, Rebecca, Hannah and all the others prefigured this same thing.
Only-begotten refers to the resurrection to immortality that God bestowed upon Christ three days after His crucifixion. Proof of this is ample: "And we are bringing to you the evangel which comes to be a promise to the fathers, that God has fully fulfilled this for our children in raising Jesus, as it is written in the second psalm also, 'My Son art Thou; I, today, have begotten Thee.'" (Acts 13:33).
Paul clearly says that the resurrection of Christ was His begetting as Son of God. The book of Hebrews says the same thing when it shows Christ in His exaltation elevated above angels. "For to whom of the messengers said He at any time, 'My Son art Thou! I, today, have begotten Thee'? And again, 'I shall be to Him for a Father and He shall be to Me for a Son'?" (Heb. 1:5).
The modern western mind sees Jesus as God's Son throughout His existence. But that is not the way the Scriptures present Christ. Christ was the Image of God in the O. T. times. Then He became flesh, and He was the probationary Image of God and the probationary Son of Man. Though He was sinless, He had to shoulder the burden of proving His sinlessness in every situation of temptation. In giving a brief summary of the gospel, Paul said: "the gospel of Godconcerning His Sonwho was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead" (Rom. 1:1-4 ESV). We speak of Christ as the Son of God without regard to time or situation, but historically and theologically that fact depends on His resurrection. The resurrection was the historical event and the sending of the Holy Spirit was the confirming witness that Jesus indeed is the Son of God.
John is the only evangelist to designate Christ as the only-begotten Son. John is also the only evangelist to use the word begotten with reference to believers becoming children of God. Further, John only speaks of believers being begotten anew, or, born again in two contexts - his prologue in chapter 1 and the nocturnal visit of Nicodemus in chapter 3. And it is only in these two contexts that John refers to Christ as only-begotten. Now this raises a question, doesn't it? How can Jesus be the only-begotten, if others are begotten by God too? The answer is really quite simple. Currently Jesus is the only-begotten, but when believers are raised and glorified, then He will be the Firstborn among many brethren (Rom. 8:29). The firstborn is the only-begotten until others are born into the family also. Paul tells us that in the "redemption of our bodies" is "the revealing of the sons of God" (Rom. 8:18-25).
Now let us return to the idea of how the term only-begotten balances Christ being called the Word of God. Since His resurrection was His begetting, only-begotten presupposes Christ's death. Christ was dead - He ceased to exist unless God would raise Him and give Him new life. How marvelously this balances the opening of John's prologue where the Word of God was the channel through Whom everything came into being. He Who was involved in giving existence gave up His own existence.
"And the Word became flesh and tabernacles among us, and we gaze at His glory, a glory as of an only-begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth" (Jn. 1:14). Here it seems that only-begotten may be linked to becoming flesh. But when we discover that John's use of the word glory relates to Christ in His passion and the revelation of God in His death, it becomes clear. And the next use, in verse 18, tells us that the God no one has ever seen is unfolded, or explained, or exegeted by the Only-begotten. Or, simply put, Jesus makes God known to us through His death and resurrection. And the final two uses of only-begotten in John's account (3:16, 18) make it clear that belief in the only-begotten is a necessity for others to be begotten by God also. Again, to put the matter simply, belief in Jesus as resurrected by the Father is necessary for salvation.
Psalm 110: A Psalm of David
"The LORD says to my Lord: 'Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.'
The LORD sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter. Rule in the midst of your enemies!
Your people will offer themselves freely on the day of your power, in holy garments from the womb of the morning, the dew of your youth will be yours.
The LORD is at your right hand; he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath.
He will execute judgement among the nations, filling them with corpses; he will shatter chiefs over the wide earth.
He will drink from the brook by the way; therefore he will lift up his head.
There are more quotations and allusions to the 110th Psalm in the N. T. than any other Psalm, and for such a short passage, perhaps more than any other O. T. passage. More than 20 times it comes before us in the Greek Scriptures, and always with reference to the ascension and authority of Jesus Christ after His resurrection. This should cause us to make at least two general statements. First, the exaltation of Jesus Christ to the throne of God, is a universal and emphatic theme throughout the N. T. The words of this Psalm sound a divine proclamation of accomplishment on the work of Christ in His humiliation.
Second, as the first line of the Psalm shows, the issues of authority are not immediately resolved. Often people read of all authority and power being given to Christ in Matthew 28:18, and they assume it is a statement of completed fact. Then, as followers of Christ, they try to exercise authority that they do not have, and they find themselves frustrated and wondering if something is wrong with their faith. Paul tells us in Ephesians 1:22 that Christ is head over all things to the Church. But we would do well to read Psalm 110:1 and remember that Christ is seated on the Father's throne with the Father, and He is told to be seated there in honor until the Father places His enemies under His feet as a footstool. His day of full authority is coming, but the Father has not brought it to pass yet. Even if Christ is Head over all things to the Church, the world does not yet recognize His authority. It has not yet spread to all realms.
Why does the N. T. place so much emphasis on the ascension of Christ? And we might also ask at the same time, why does it seem that the Christian Church places so little emphasis on the ascension? I will answer this second question by simply saying the Church at large does not understand the significance of Christ's ascension.
I set before you a chair. Pretend with me for a moment that this chair represents the throne of God. This throne is the seat of universal authority and power. No one except God has ever occupied this seat. Now suppose that God decided to remove Himself from His throne for a time. He got up, moved over here to the side, and, for a time He did not exercise His authority in His customary fashion. Then having finished this break in His normal activities, He returned to the throne, and resumed His seat. Do you suppose there would be a great celebration when He returned? Perhaps there would be some sighs of relief that the all wise, Deity returned to His throne, but things would only have returned to normal. No real changes took place. God moved over here, and then God moved back.
What I have tried to depict here is an explanation of why the Christian Church has little enthusiasm about the ascension of Christ. Most of the Christian Church believes that Jesus is God. And, for them, Christ's ascension to the throne is simply a return to His previous state - no big deal. Sure, they may say that they are glad He's back, but it still does not amount to anything more than a return to a previous condition. The Church would say that they honor and respect Christ as God, and that is the highest respect that can be given. But what is the honor that God gave Him? The Father honored Him by placing Him on His throne for the coming ages until the kingdom is completed (1 Cor. 15:25-28). You can search the majority of Christianity in vain for that teaching.
The ascension of Jesus Christ is a phenomenally big deal. And the reason that it is a big deal is because, for the first time ever, in the history of creation, Someone Who is not God is seated on the throne of God! Jesus Christ is not God. He is God's Son. He is the Firstborn of the creation. He is a spiritual being Who served in O. T. times as God's Image. He also continued in that role and function in the N. T., but in the N. T. He was the probationary Image of God. In the flesh He had to prove His faithfulness to God, even to the extreme of a most shameful and painful death. But now, because of His tremendous obedience and perfect fulfillment of God's will, God chooses to honor Him by raising Him from the dead and seating Him on His (the Father's) own throne! The Christian Church as a whole has no clue concerning the greatness of Christ's ascension because they believe that He was already God and just went back to the status quo. The presence of Christ on the throne is something to shout about! It has never happened before. It says to every human being, "Look! Look, What God delights to do for those who truly honor Him!
And there is more! The exaltation of Christ to God's throne is also the exaltation of humanity in Christ to the place of rule so that evil spiritual powers can be nullified and so that mankind can take the place God intended for it - the place and function of being God's image, and the place and function of reconciling the universe to God. There is a Man seated on the throne of God! Before the ascension of Jesus Christ that had never happened! Jesus Christ is taking humanity somewhere they have never before been!
One more thought should be mentioned here. Down through history many of the emperors of great empires have designated themselves as divine and taken the title Son of god or Son of the gods. It is a very telling contrast that John, in warning of antichrist, describes it as a spirit that denies that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh (1 Jn. 4:3). It denies that the Messiah has come in flesh.
Jesus gave Himself the title, Son of Man. This title is far different from that claimed by emperors. When the antichrist comes, he comes as a messiah in his first coming for Israel, but Christianity would think of him as messiah in his second coming. Because Christianity so strongly supports the idea of the deity of Christ, it would be natural for them to expect a messiah who would demonstrate divine powers. This is exactly what Paul described to the Thessalonians: "No one should be deluding you by any method, for, should not the apostasy be coming first and the man of lawlessness be unveiled, the son of destruction, who is opposing and lifting himself up over everyone termed a god or an object of veneration, so that he is seated in the temple of God, demonstrating that he himself is God?" (2Thess. 2:3-4 CV). It seems quite plausible that the doctrine of the deity of Christ may help set the stage for the acceptance of the antichrist.
I've asked you to consider that the Son of God is not the same as God the Father, and I've asked you to consider it differently than the distinctions made in the Trinitarian doctrine. I would like to spend some time looking at verses in John's account, because the book of John is claimed by many Christians to give strong support to the teaching that Jesus Christ is God. The fact of the matter is quite the opposite. John gives strong evidence that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, but never does he claim that Jesus is God. In fact, he is emphatically clear that the opposite is the truth. In order to get the most consistent presentation of the words, we will use the Concordant Version in this section. We will focus especially on verses which speak of seeing God. John provides a number of these verses throughout the book to develop his presentation of this idea. We want to grasp what John means in each situation when he speaks of seeing, or not seeing God.
There are four N. T. words that will require our attention. The first is horaO, which means to see. The second is eideO, which means to perceive. It is often translated by such terms as to see, to perceive, to be aware, to be acquainted with and to know. The differences between idiom of English and N. T. Greek call for wider variation in its rendering. The third is theOreO, and it means to behold. The final word is ginOskO, which means to know.
There is a general progression through these terms in the book of John, and it follows a deepening progression in their meanings. Things may be seen from a distance without perceiving them clearly or understanding them. Perception has broader and more numerous avenues of receiving information than sight alone. In addition to sight, perception takes in hearing, touching, understanding, reasoning and so forth. Beholding brings in an additional element of its own. We associate beholding with thoughts of awe or respect, and sometimes even fear. Knowing goes beyond all three of the previous terms. It speaks of recognition and realization that may have been gained through all three of the previous terms. All four of these terms can be used as synonyms for each other. That should be kept in mind, as well as the fact that they may be used in contrast.
"God no one has ever seen. The only-begotten God, Who is in the bosom of the Father, He unfolds Him" (Jn. 1:18).
First let's consider the statement that no one has ever seen God. Is this to be understood literally or figuratively or how? This statement stands in sharp contrast with the opening words of John's first epistle. "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, at which we gaze and our hands handle, is concerned with the word of life. And the life was manifested, and we have seen and are testifying and reporting to you the life eonian which was toward the Father and was manifested to us. That which we have seen and heard we are reporting to you also, that you too may be having fellowship with us, and yet this fellowship of ours is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ" (1 Jn. 1:1-3).
In 1 John the apostle speaks very emphatically of the literal. Not only did they see the Word of life, but they saw this Life with their eyes. And they gazed or stared at this Life that was toward the Father, and their hands touched and handled Him. John clearly emphasizes the reality of the tangible, living Christ. This is strengthened further in 4:3 where John says, "every spirit which is not avowing Jesus the Lord having come in flesh is not of God. And this is that of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and is now already in the world." These verses define a distinguishing difference between the Father and the Son: the Son has come in visible, tangible flesh and has been seen and touched. God has never been seen. Twice the apostle Paul tells us God is invisible (Col. 1:15; 1 Tim. 1:17. The writer of Hebrews tells us that "apart from faith it is impossible to be well-pleasing [to God], for he who is coming to God must believe that He is, and is becoming a Rewarder of those who are seeking Him out" (Heb.11:6). And it was by faith that Moses was "staunch as seeing the Invisible" (Heb. 11:27).
Our obvious conclusion here is that if God has never been seen by anyone, then Jesus cannot be God, because Jesus was seen and perceived in various ways by many people. Let us come back then to our initial statement of John 1:18. No one has ever seen God, and a variety of N. T. texts give strong support for taking this passage literally. But one of the characteristics of John's writing is to suggest more than one idea by the things that he writes. Notice as we look at the verse again, that John sets the idea of explaining or revealing God in answer to the idea of not seeing God. "God no one has ever seen. The only-begotten GodHe unfolds Him" (Jn. 1:18). Even though God is invisible to the sight, He is not imperceptible, and He is not incomprehensible. Though no one has seen Him, someone is revealing Him. God does not confine Himself outside the realm of human recognition. In fact, the sending of His Son was for the purpose of making God, the Father, known to us in a much greater way than any optical view ever could. And so there is a subtle suggestion in all this that before John's book is finished, in some way, God will have been seen, even if it will not be with the human organs we call eyes.
Some texts of this verse read the "only-begotten God," and others read the "only-begotten Son." Regardless of which text you prefer, a begotten Being has a birth - a beginning with dependence on another - and therefore is in contradiction to eternal existence. The context of the book will verify that God's Son is not the Deity.
John 3:8: This verse sets the theme of God's invisibility before us by means of illustration, though the words may appear to be talking about something else. Wind, or Spirit, is invisible: "The blast [wind, or spirit] is blowing where it wills, and the sound of it you are hearing, but you are not aware [eideO] whence it is coming and where it is going. Thus is everyone who is begotten by the water and the spirit." (Jn. 3:8)
The Concordant version uses blast here to render the word pneuma, which means spirit, or, wind. Since the idea of sound is in the text, it could be argued that this is a good rendering, though I prefer the use of wind, or, spirit. The same Greek word can mean either wind or spirit. The same Hebrew word can mean either wind or spirit. We don't have that condition in English, so it's easy for us to lose the connection.
We could express some of the thoughts in this verse by rendering it like this: The wind (or Spirit) is moving where it wills, and you hear the sounds of its movement, but you cannot see where it came from or where it is going. For years I failed to see how important this verse is to the rest of the book of John. First of all, it presents a restatement of 1:18. God, like the wind, is invisible, but we can perceive the things He is doing.
Next John amplifies this by saying that those born of the Spirit have a resemblance to this invisible God. This takes us back to John 1:12 and 13 in the prologue to the book. There he spoke of children of God, who were begotten of God. Those who were begotten of God were the ones who received Christ, the Word of God. Christ was the only-begotten of God (v.18). But now, through Him, others are being begotten of God also. Notice the similarity in this relationship to the means of creation. All creation came into existence through Him, and all those begotten of God come into that new life through Him.
The Concordant Version is different from most translations in its rendering of verse 8. It repeats the mention of a double aspect of the birth from verse 5. There, anyone not begotten of water and Spirit cannot enter the kingdom of God. Probably the water here is a reference to baptism, which in turn was a reference to repentance. At the time when Jesus spoke to Nicodemus, that was the order of things. Verse 8 places emphasis on the Spirit. John, writing at a later time, probably after the Spirit had fallen upon Cornelius and others before baptism, may well have omitted the water reference in verse 8, as many of the translations show.
John presents Christ to us as One Who is born (begotten) of the Spirit. He will be seen later in the book as the One who is going away and they would look for Him and not find Him, etc. Think how many times this is illustrated in the book. How often did He heal someone and they didn't know Who it was that healed them (Jn. 5:13; 9:11, 12, 35-38)? How many times did He tell His disciples He would be going away, and they just didn't get it? How many times did the Jews try to take Jesus into custody, or even to stone Him on the spot, and He got away (Jn. 8:59; 10:31, 39; Lk. 4:30)? Christ is One born of the Spirit. So Christ came from the Father, Whom they could not see, and He would return to the Father, Whom they could not see, and they were continually losing track of Him.
In the book of Acts is recorded the story of Philip and the Ethiopian proselyte. Philip was caught away by the Spirit, met the Ethiopian, then after his belief and baptism, Philip was caught away again. Philip was like the wind, the Ethiopian did not know where he came from or where he went. Philip was one born of the Spirit. Notice that John speaks not only of Christ as born of Spirit, but also everyone who is begotten by the spirit (3:8). We may see in this a characteristic of the future ministry of believers.
Following these thoughts of being begotten of Spirit, John will make his first mention of eonian life (vv. 15, 16). This is very significant because it defines the purpose of the Word being made flesh, and it also identifies begotten of the Spirit with eonian life. In 1:12, 13 those receiving Christ and believing in His name were begotten of God. In 3:15 and following, those believing in Christ receive eonian life. The cross-reference of these terms shows that those who are begotten of God are the ones who have eonian life, and they come into possession of this life through the channel of Christ.
John 4:21-24: "Jesus is saying to her, 'Believe Me, woman, that, coming is an hour when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem shall you be worshiping the Father. You are worshiping that of which you are not aware [eideO]; we are worshiping that of which we are aware [eideO], for salvation is of the Jews. But coming is the hour, and now is, when the true worshipers will be worshiping the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father also is seeking such to be worshiping Him. God is spirit, and those who are worshiping Him must be worshiping in spirit and truth.'"
This passage is again hitting on thoughts related to invisibility. Remember our context. In chapter 3 it was pointed out that wind or spirit was invisible. Now we are told that God is Spirit. Therefore, God is invisible. Worshipping God in Spirit and truth is done without regard to tangible locations or structures. The only-begotten Son is exegeting or expounding the invisible God. The only-begotten Son is the Messiah. And the invisible God is seeking worshippers through the Messiah.
In John 5 we have another illustration that is parallel with John 3:8. There is an invisible being, an angel, who bathed in the pool at a certain season, disturbing the waters. The angel was not seen, but the waves in the water could be seen and heard, just as in chapter 3 the sound of the wind could be heard and felt, though the wind was invisible. The effect on the disturbed waters was that whoever first entered the waters was healed. The healing was occasioned by an invisible being. The healing of the lame man carries this idea with it also, because the lame man did not know who Jesus was or where He was when the Jews questioned him.
5:12, 13 "They ask him then, 'Who is the man who said to you, "Pick up your pallet and walk"?' Now he who is healed had not perceived [eideO] Who He is, for Jesus evades him, a throng being in the place." John uses the ambiguous synonym perceived (eideO) which can also bear the idea of seen in describing the lame man's ignorance of who Jesus was. This enables John to maintain his theme of the invisible God being revealed through Jesus the Messiah. Obviously the man saw Jesus, but he had not come to know Who Jesus was. This leads us into a thought that goes beyond just physical sight to the idea of knowing someone. This scene leads up to another statement by Jesus about God not being seen.
But first we must take note of a conversation between Jesus and the Jews: (Jn. 5:17-18) "Yet Jesus answers them, 'My Father is working hitherto, and I am working.' Therefore, then, the Jews sought the more to kill Him, for He not only annulled the Sabbath, but said that His own Father also is God, making Himself equal to God. Jesus, then, answers and said to them, 'Verily, verily, I am saying to you, The Son can not be doing anything of Himself if it is not what He should be observing the Father doing, for whatever He may be doing, this the Son also is doing likewise."
Well, here it is! Jesus is equal to God. It must be true, because the Jews accused Him of making Himself equal to God! Of course we realize that the Jews did not believe that Jesus was equal to God. If they had they surely would not have conspired to kill Him. Notice here that John speaks of two things: (1) Jesus being equal to God, and, (2) Jesus annulling the Sabbath. Tell me. Did Jesus annul the Sabbath? No more so than He made Himself equal to God. These were the Jewish accusations, not the teaching of Jesus Himself. Jesus claims nothing more than being God's Son, and He also claims He Himself can do nothing of Himself without the Father. There is nothing in these verses that can be made to support the idea of Jesus being the Deity.
Now the statement about not seeing God: John 5:37-38: "And the Father Who sends Me, He has testified concerning Me. Neither have you ever heard His voice nor a perception [eideO] of Him have you seen [horaO]. And His word you do not have remaining in you, for that One Whom He commissions, this One you are not believing."
"Nor a perception of Him have you seen" This is the second time John says that God has not been seen. And it is important for us to realize that Jesus couples their failure to perceive - not just see visually, but to perceive in any way - with failure to believe. Jesus gives this statement when they reject the healing of the lame man as God's work, and they fail to believe in Jesus as the commissioned One - the commissioned One means the Messiah. Origen pointed out that John calls John the Baptist a voice (1:23) and a burning lamp (5:35), but Jesus is the Word and the Light. A voice can touch the ear, and a lamp can touch the eye, but the Word and the Light enter the heart and mind and open the understanding. Those who saw the lame man healed had the opportunity to hear and see God in the works Christ did. But the word did not enter their hearts and the light did not illumine their minds and so they did not believe in the One God commissioned. Christ summarized this when He said, "His word you do not have remaining in you."
Chapter 6 is similar to chapter 5. It gives us an illustration of not seeing Christ that is followed by a statement about not seeing God. A multitude was gathered to Christ and the disciples on a mountainside out in the countryside. Jesus performed a miraculous feeding of them, there being about 5,000 men plus women and children. When He had done this, the people said, "This truly is the Prophet Who is coming into the world!" (Jn. 6:14). This statement by the people was based on a prophecy by Moses in Deuteronomy 18:15-19. "A Prophet from among you, from your brothers, like me, shall Yahweh your Elohim raise up for you. To Him shall you hearken according to all that you asked from Yahweh your Elohim at Horeb on the day of assembly, saying: Let me not continue to hear the voice of Yahweh my Elohim, and let me not see this great fire any further so that I may not die! Then Yahweh said to me: They have done well in all that they have spoken. A Prophet shall I raise up to them from among their brothers, like you, and I will put My words in His mouth, and He will speak to them all that I shall instruct Him. Yet it will come to be that the man who should not hearken to My words that the Prophet shall speak in My Name, I Myself shall require his blood from him."
Some of the multitude were perceiving what was happening. Moses gave Israel bread from heaven. Then Moses told them that God would send a prophet like himself. They were on the verge of putting 2 + 2 together. Notice here that this prophecy of Christ includes the words of the nation of Israel at Sinai, and they begged not to hear words directly from Yahweh, and they pleaded not to see the fire that represented His presence for fear of being consumed by it. So even this prophecy speaks of not wanting to hear and not seeing God! And beyond that, the very structure of this passage in Deuteronomy reflects the way that John recorded Jesus words. The Prophet is said to be like Moses. Moses told what God had said and then quoted God's words giving us a double witness. So also with Christ - He spoke God's words and God witnessed to His presence with Christ through the miracles and signs.
Next comes the illustration. Knowing the people would come to make Him king, Jesus went up into the mountain, where He stayed till after dark. The disciples got into a boat to cross the Sea of Tiberias. A storm came up, Jesus came walking on the sea, and they were transported to the other shore. In the morning the people were looking for Jesus, because they knew He didn't leave with the disciples. Here is the One born of the Spirit, and they can't tell where He comes from or where He goes. Finally, finding Him on the other side of the lake, they asked how and when He got there. Then Jesus addressed the multitude about their attitude and motives, and discoursed on Himself as the Bread of life. They had made a connection between Jesus, Moses and the manna. Jesus unfolded the connection to them.
John 6:45-46: "It is written in the prophets: And they shall all be taught of God. Everyone, then, who hears from the Father and is learning the truth, is coming to Me. Not that the Father has been seen [horaO] by anyone, except by the One Who is from God. This One has seen [horaO] the Father." Here we read that no one sees the Father, but they hear Him, are taught by Him, and learn the truth from Him. Furthermore, only Christ has seen the Father, but what does this mean? For others, being taught, hearing and learning all stand in correspondence to the idea of seeing. This is very like 1:18: no one has seen God, but God is being revealed. That revelation is described as being taught, hearing from the Father, learning the truth and coming to Jesus.
Should we think that Jesus' seeing of the Father means that Jesus has seen God with the vision of His eyes of flesh? Or might we not think that His seeing of the Father represents that He has been taught by Him and hears Him and learns from Him? In many places the Lord describes His relationship to the Father in such terms (5:19-20; 8:28, 38; 12:49, 50 etc.). He does His Father's works which the Father shows Him and He speaks the Father's words just like Moses prophesied, etc. We do not know how it is that spiritual beings perceive each other. Before becoming flesh, the Lord knew God so well that He was His Image. But God is described to us, not as a spiritual being that can become visible, like the angels, but simply as Spirit. May it be that when John said that no one has seen God, this includes the Lord Jesus also? May it be that one of the purposes of John's account is to prepare us for the fact that we will never see the God Who will eventually become all in each of us? Perhaps part of the reason for the incarnation was to show us that an invisible God can be known without being seen. As we progress through the book of John we are seeing that the words see, perceive, behold and know are used both in contrast with one another and synonymously. And it becomes obvious that knowing is more important than seeing.
The response of the Jews to Jesus was much like the response of a previous generation of Jews to Moses. They did not want to hear God's words. They did not want to see God. Only a few remained in spite of His hard sayings.
Our next passage is 7:27-29. In this passage we will change from the word seeing (horaO) to the word percieve (eideO). In the AV of this passage, the word is translated know. In the CV used here it will be translated acquaint. "'But this man, we are aware [eideO] whence he is, yet the Christ, whenever He may be coming, no one knows [ginOskO] Him, whence He is.' Jesus, then, cries in the sanctuary, teaching and saying, 'You are acquainted [eideO] with Me also, and you are aware [eideO] whence I am, and I have not come from Myself, but He Who sends Me is true, with Whom you are not acquainted [eideO]. Yet I am acquainted [eideO] with Him, for I am from Him, and He has commissioned Me.'"
Though we have a change in terms, previous ideas are expressed here in a parallel manner. No one has seen God (1:18), and no one is acquainted with God (7:28). The One Who unfolds the invisible God (1:18), is the One Who is (1) acquainted with Him, (2) from Him, and (3) commissioned by Him.
What does Jesus mean when He says that they are acquainted with Him? It is important that we ask this question, because Jesus means something different than the Jews meant. He used their same words, but with a different meaning. The Jews said they were aware [perceived] where Jesus was from. They meant that they knew He was from Nazareth in Galilee. Jesus said they were acquainted [perceived] with Him and that they were aware [perceived] where He was from. What Jesus meant was that they had seen the signs He performed and that they knew it had to be God working through Him. This proved Jesus to be from God, and they knew it, though they would not acknowledge it. John's writings are written with simple and repetitive words, but the message he tells is often given in layers, and it is deep. It needs to be read carefully and thoughtfully.
We need to tie 8:19 with this passage to clarify a distinction that Jesus makes there. "They said, then, to Him, 'Where is your father?' Jesus answered and said, 'Neither with Me are you acquainted [eideO], nor with My Father. If you were acquainted [eideO] with Me, you should be acquainted [eideO] with My Father also.'" In the previous passage Jesus said that they were acquainted with Him, but not with His Father. These statements seem to contradict each other, but they come from different contexts, and they represent different viewpoints. The previous acquaintance with Jesus referred to the obvious fact that He had to be from God because of the works He did. In this case He says they were not acquainted with Him because they were not believing in Him. Again we are reminded of 1:18. They were not acquainted with the Father, Whom no one has seen. If they had become acquainted with Christ, Who unfolds the Father, they would have become acquainted with the Father also.
John 8:54-55 continues the same vein of thought with an expanded expression of ideas. "Jesus answered, 'If I should ever be glorifying Myself, My glory is nothing. It is My Father Who is glorifying Me, of Whom you are saying that He is your God. And you know [ginOskO] Him not, yet I am acquainted [eideO] with Him, and if I should be saying that I am not acquainted [eideO] with Him, I shall be like you, a liar. But I am acquainted [eideO] with Him and I am keeping His word.'" Jesus is able to perceive the Father to Whom He is obedient, but the Jews could not perceive their God. Here we have the words know and perceive contrasted as equivalents. Again we see the reflection of 1:18 here. The Jews did not know God, but Christ, the One Who unfolds Him does perceive Him.
Our next passage contains a statement from the man born blind. It is filled with biting satire and irony, but it tells us the same thing these other verses have said: the Jews cannot perceive, see, or know either God or the One God has sent. The word to watch in this passage is aware.
"A second time, then, they summon the man who was blind, and they say to him, 'Give the glory to God. We are aware [eideO] that this man is a sinner.'
"He, then, answered, 'If He is a sinner, I am not aware [eideO] of it. One thing I am aware [eideO] of, that, being blind, at present I am observing.'"
"They said, then, to him, again, 'What does he do to you? How does he open your eyes?'"
"He answered them, 'I told you already, and you do not hear. Why again are you wanting to hear? Not you also are wanting to become His disciples?'"
"Now they revile him and said, 'You are a disciple of that man, yet we are disciples of Moses. We are aware [eideO] that it was to Moses that God has spoken. Yet this man - we are not aware [eideO] whence he is.'"
"The man answered and said to them, 'For in this is the marvelous thing, that you are not aware [eideO] whence He is, and He opens my eyes! We are aware [eideO] that God is not hearing sinners, but if anyone should be a reverer of God and doing His will, him He is hearing. From out of the eon it is not heard that anyone opens the eyes of one born blind. Except this Man were from God, He could not be doing anything'" (Jn. 9:24-33).
Jesus had told His disciples and the Jews as well, that, if they could not believe His words just to believe the works that were done. The blind man does the same here. The Jews refused to see or believe the obvious act of God performed before their eyes. Therefore they could not know Him or the One He had sent.
Let's consider the illustration briefly. The man was born blind, not because of any sin of his parents or himself, but so that God's works could be manifested in him. The blind man represents the fact that no one has ever seen God (1:18). Jesus also told His disciples that He must do the works of the One that sent Him while it was day. He was the Light of the world (Jn. 1:4, 5, 9; 8:12) as long as He was in the world - the day represents His lifespan - His time of visible presence in the world. He was the daylight that was illuminating God to man.
Jesus spit on the ground, made clay from the dust, anointed the man's eyes and told him to go wash his eyes in the pool called Siloam. Siloam is Hebrew for Sent, or, as we are seeing in the CV here, commissioned. The man came back seeing clearly.
Forming clay from the dust of the ground suggests God forming man from the soil, and takes us back to John's words in the prologue: all came into being through the Word. In Genesis there were two parts to man's creation: (1) the forming from the dust, and, (2) the breathing of life into his nostrils by God that imparted life to him. In Christ's commissioning there were two similar steps: (1) He was made flesh - the incarnation, and, (2) He died and was given immortality by God raising Him from the dead. This shows us a new beginning or new creation in Christ. The incarnation was God making a new man, and the resurrection was God giving immortality to the Head of the new humanity.
It is in Christ's death that we are able to see, or know God. The pool meaning sent speaks of God commissioning His Son. John repeatedly speaks of Jesus being commissioned or sent by the Father. He was sent to die. At the pool the mud on the blind man's eyes dissolved, representing the dissolution of death that Christ suffered. The mud dissolving and disappearing in the water represents part of what Jesus meant by His going away - His absence from death till resurrection. (Christ's going away includes His ascension to the throne of heaven so that He could send the Holy Spirit to dwell in believers.) (1) In Him was life, and, (2) the life was the light of men. When the blind man returned, he could see.
In the blind man's belief and worship of Jesus, are represented the process of coming to know God through the Son. It was obvious to the man who had been blind that Jesus was from God, but the Pharisees could not accept it. In chapter 14 we will see comments that confirm this understanding of the illustration.
Jesus' opening comment (9:4, 5) about light and darkness refers to blindness toward God. The motif of light and darkness used by John is part of the same theme of seeing God that we have been considering throughout the book. This man's blindness is one of the scenarios that binds these themes together. Do you remember the condition of Adam and Eve in the garden? When they sinned, their eyes were opened. In John we have seen, and will see more instances of where vision is figurative for coming to know something. So it was in Eden. Their eyes were opened to the fact of their sinfulness and offense toward God. In Christ's death - in Christ being made sin for our sakes - our eyes are opened to the love and provision of God.
Before returning to the use of horaO, we will give one passage which uses the word theOreO. It will be translated behold. It is frequently rendered see, look and behold, and occasionally consider and perceive.
John 12:44-46: "Now Jesus cries and said, 'He who is believing in Me is not believing in Me, but in Him Who sends Me. And he who is beholding [theOreO] Me is beholding [theOreO] Him Who sends Me. I have come into the world a Light, that everyone who is believing in Me should not be remaining in darkness.'" Jesus here clearly presents His purpose as God's Image. Jesus is able to represent the invisible God to humanity because He can be seen. By His display of the works of the invisible God, humans are able to believe in God through Jesus. Since God is invisible to man's limited perception, it is as if man was in darkness. But Christ came as Light. His was the life that is light. And He enables man to see what God is like. Thus He is unfolding God.
What did Jesus mean when He spoke of the beholding of Him that was equated with beholding the One Who sent Him? In verses 37-43 we were told that the issue which brought forth these words from Christ was the fact that the Jews did not believe the signs He performed. This fulfilled a prophecy by Isaiah. And even of those who could saw the powerful truth of the signs, some would not profess belief in Jesus as Messiah, because the Pharisees had already announced that such belief would be cause for excommunication from the synagogue. So what Jesus actually meant when He spoke of some beholding Him Who sends Me, is that they beheld the sign miracles that He performed. They did not actually behold God. Like the passage following, Jesus was not saying that anyone who had seen Him had seen God.
Our next passage, John 14:5-10, is probably the most familiar, but if so, it is also the most misunderstood. We will present it in a large enough context to ensure that we can grasp the thought of Jesus. This text will bring before us the fourth synonym for seeing God - ginOskO - to know.
"Thomas is saying to Him, 'Lord, we are not aware whither Thou art going, and how can we be aware of the way?'"
"Jesus is saying to him, 'I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one is coming to the Father except through Me. If you had known [ginOskO] Me, you would have known [ginOskO] My Father also. And henceforth you know [ginOskO] Him and have seen [horaO] Him'"
"Philip is saying to Him, 'Lord, show us the Father and it is sufficing us.'"
"Jesus is saying to him, 'So much time I am with you, and you do not know [ginOskO] Me, Philip! He who has seen [horaO] Me has seen [horaO] the Father, and how are you saying, 'Show us the Father?' Are you not believing that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me? The declarations which I am speaking to you I am not speaking from Myself. Now the Father, remaining in Me, He is doing His works'" (Jn. 14:5-10).
Too often this passage is read flippantly, and the conclusion is drawn that if you had seen Jesus you had seen God, and therefore Jesus is God. That is not what the passage says or means. Jesus answers Thomas by saying that if Thomas had known Jesus, he would also have come to know the Father. Knowing is the foundational idea for what follows. Then Jesus told Thomas that from this time forward he would know God and would have seen God. What does He mean by this? What does the word henceforth mean? Jesus was about to be betrayed to crucifixion. It should be obvious to us that Jesus means, in the crucifixion, ascension and the coming of the Spirit, Thomas would indeed come to know God, and He would have seen God's character revealed in the giving and raising of His Son.
The disciples were still not understanding what was about to take place. Philip misses the point of Jesus' "henceforth you will know and see" statement. So he asks the Lord to show them the Father. Jesus has already said He is about to make the Father known to them in His crucifixion. Now He asks Philip if Philip has been conscious for the last three years. "Philip, have your eyes been closed and your ears stopped all this time?!" Throughout the book of John we have heard Jesus say that the words He speaks are the words He hears from the Father. The works He performs are the works His Father gives Him to do. Jesus claims that He does nothing but that which the Father wills. We need to remember the context of the book and grasp this! We need to understand the background from which Jesus speaks when He says these words to Philip!
And so Jesus told Philip: "He who has seen Me has seen the Father." So, are we going to forget John's clear statement of 1:18 that no one has ever seen God? Are we going to make Jesus somehow identical with the Father? No. The first thing that must be understood here is what Jesus meant by the word seen. In the statement: "He who has seen Me has seen the Father," the word seen does not mean to see with the physical eye. Jesus is speaking of much more. He is speaking of the knowing in verse 7 in His response to Thomas.
Let me ask a question. The Pharisees saw Jesus. And they were jealous of Him and hated Him. Did the Pharisees see God? Herod saw Jesus. Did Herod see God? Obviously not! Jesus was soon to say to the disciples: "they will be putting you out of the synagogues; but coming is the hour that everyone who is killing you should suppose he is offering divine service to God. And these things will they be doing to you, for they know not the Father nor Me" (Jn. 16:3). Jesus answers this question for us. He began by speaking of knowing Himself and the Father. He switches to seeing, probably because it corresponds to the experience of seeing Jesus crucified that Philip would endure. But that experience would help bring Philip to know the Father, and so the seeing is synonymous here with knowing.
Jesus' next question to Philip makes it clear that we are understanding these words correctly: "Are you not believing that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me?" (v. 10). Paul said, "God was in Christ, conciliating the world to Himself" (2 Cor. 5:19). This is the simple but profound answer to this relationship between the Father and Son. The Father was there, in Christ, speaking the words, performing the works and revealing Himself. This passage again highlights the truth of 1:18. No one knows or sees God the Father, except through His Son, the One Who unfolds Him.
John 14:16-17: "'And I shall be asking the Father, and He will be giving you another consoler, that it, indeed, may be with you for the eon - the spirit of truth, which the world can not get, for it is not beholding [theOreO] it, neither is knowing [ginOskO] it. Yet you know it, for it is remaining with you and will be in you.'" Here is an interesting comparison to 1:18. The Spirit of truth cannot be received by the world, because the world is not beholding [theOreO] the Spirit and the world is not knowing (ginOskO) the Spirit. We have the same words used of knowing and beholding God, but here used of His Spirit. We could also say, "the world cannot see the Spirit, except through the mediation of those in whom the Spirit resides."
John 14:28 "the Father is greater than I." Do we need to add anything to this statement? I think not.
John 15:24: "If I do not the works among them which no other one does, they had no sin. Yet now they have seen [horaO] also, and they have hated Me as well as my Father." "If I had not done among them the works which no other man did, they had not had sin; but now have they both seen [horaO] and hated both me and my Father." (AV).
I have given the Authorized Version here as well as the CV, because it comes across the same way that several more modern translations read. And here we have a plain statement that those who are not believers have seen God. So we ask the question, "Does the context tell us how these unbelieving haters of God have seen Him?" And the answer is: Yes. The haters of God saw God in the works which Jesus did that no other man had done. John is not saying in this verse that God was visually seen. Again, if we follow the context to 16:3 we find that those who hated God and His Son will also hate the disciples and persecute them. The reason for this persecution is given: "And these things will they be doing to you, for they know not the Father nor even Me." That they have never seen the Father is clear, because they do not know Him. And even though they have seen Christ, they do not know Him either. We can see here that the word know is used of something much deeper than a casual acquaintance.
John 17:3: "Now it is eonian life that they may know [ginOskO] Thee, the only true God, and Him Whom Thou dost commission, Jesus Christ." Please notice here again the word know - ginOskO.
John 17:7b-8: "Now they know [ginOskO] that all, whatever Thou hast given Me, is from Thee, for the declarations which Thou hast given Me, I have given them, and they took them, and know [ginOskO] truly that I came out from Thee, and they believe that Thou dost commission Me." Here again we have the word know used twice and also the word believe.
John 17:25-26: "Just Father, the world, also, knew [ginOskO] Thee not, yet I knew [ginOskO] Thee. And these know [ginOskO] that Thou dost commission Me. And I make known [ginOskO] to them Thy name, and I shall make it known [ginOskO], that the love with which Thou lovest Me may be in them, and I in them." The word know is used five times in these verses. The world did not know God or see God, but Jesus knew God and sees Him (cf. 1:18). The disciples knew that God commissioned Jesus. Jesus made known the Father's name to His disciples, and He would complete the process of their learning the Father's name by going to the cross.
These thoughts would be incomplete if we failed to include a few verses from chapter 20.
John 20:17 "Now go to My brethren, and say to them that I said, 'Lo! I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.'" We begin with this verse to help keep the upcoming verse in perspective. But first, let us remember the change that is inherent in the words of this verse. In 13:13 Jesus said the disciples called Him Teacher and Lord, and He said they were correct in addressing Him that way because He was their Teacher and Lord. But a change took place in His death and resurrection: now He calls them His brethren. Unmistakably, the Lord Jesus says here that the Father is His God. But now God has become their Father also. Christ's death and resurrection, and the disciple's belief, changed them to children of God.
John 20:28 "And Thomas answered and said to Him, 'My Lord and my God!" Here is Thomas response to his first meeting with Jesus after the resurrection. We will remember that it was Thomas who started the questions in chapter 14 about knowing God. It may seem he has forgotten all that here. But as Jesus showed in verse 17, God is His God also. Jesus Christ is the Image of God, and after the resurrection He was seated on the throne of God. There is nothing wrong with addressing God's designated Image as God, which Thomas does here. God intends for us to see Himself in Christ. At this point that should be abundantly clear.
When Jesus Christ became flesh, He stopped functioning as the designated Image of God, and began functioning as the probationary Image of God. He had to prove He could do what no human had done before. Some of us will call Him humanity's second chance, and some of us will call Him humanity's only chance. It is more important that we love each other and honor Him, than it is that we agree on such issues. In O. T. times He was often referred to as Yahweh. He was referred to by God's name, not because He was God, but because He was the Image of God. He was called by the name of the One He represented - that is part of the functional responsibility of an image. In Philippians 2 Paul called the O. T. Image Who existed in the form of God Christ Jesus, out of the natural time sequence.
When Christ Jesus became flesh, He received names of His own - sort of. He received the names, God with us, and, Yahweh is salvation, and He was called Christ which means: one on whom God's Spirit has come. Christ is the Greek word for the Hebrew word Messiah (Jn. 1:41). These names are not what the western mind of today thinks of as names. Instead of something chosen for pleasing phonetics or something to honor a family member or predecessor, these names are descriptions or definitions. All His names refer back to the One He represented. And it is only as we begin to understand this that we really begin to understand Who He is.
Jesus Christ has become the new Head of the human race. Unlike Adam, He brings life to humanity rather than death. Unlike Adam, He performed the works of His Father (Lk. 3:38). Unlike Adam, He did the will of His Father, rather than the will of the world (1 Jn. 2:15-17).
And now the Bible tells us that He has a name above every name. Lord is probably the simplest expression of this name, but Son is also a very important aspect. He invests these titles with dignity and authority they had never before known in common use. How ironic it seems that the One Whose name is above every name is the One Who never had a name which did not refer back to someone else - back to the God of Whom He is the Image. And now He may be called by the title of God, not because He is God's Image, but because, for a time, He is functioning as God.
We are far too quick to quote the Scriptures and claim, "Yes, we too were created in God's image." And we are far too willing to take authority and reign with Him. Our shortfall is that we still don't know what it is to be nameless in the way that He was nameless - to be nameless as He was, when those who looked upon Him thought they had seen God, or something of God. Oh that we might be so like Him that anyone seeing us would forget our name, and only think of Him. Then we would be nameless in the same way He was nameless.
J. Philip Scranton 2015