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Tuesday, January 29, 2008


This morning I was listening to Max McLean reading John Chapter 1 ESV, and something struck me from the final few verses:
Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, "Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!" Nathanael said to him, "How do you know me?" Jesus answered him, "Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you." Nathanael answered him, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!" Jesus answered him, "Because I said to you, 'I saw you under the fig tree,' do you believe? You will see greater things than these." And he said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man."
-John 1:47-51 ESV, emphasis mine

As I listened to the passage, it occurred to me that Jesus, who was operating in His capacity as Man, had received a vision of Nathanael by the Holy Spirit, Who had descended on Him at His baptism earlier in the chapter. Then Jesus told Nathanael that he would "see greater things than these." It's interesting how Jesus' statement is broken up at the beginning of verse 51, "And he said to him..." as though Jesus were making a separate statement. I always assumed that Jesus meant that the "greater things" were the same thing as "heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man," but to me the way the sentences are written leaves that open to another interpretation.

This chapter, in my ESV, contains the word "see," "seen," or "saw" fifteen times, beginning with the idea in verses 14-18 that although no one has seen the Father, we have seen Jesus and thus have seen God's glory. Then we find out what John saw, what Jesus' soon-to-be disciples saw, then what Jesus saw. And when Jesus saw something, He immediately said that Nathanael would one day "see" greater things. It's almost like the point of Chapter 1 is to emphasize that God purposefully reveals things to people. Maybe Jesus was speaking of the day when His disciples would also be filled with the Holy Spirit and would be able to see prophetic visions like Jesus did (see Acts 2:17 and Joel 2:28). "Do you believe I am the Messiah because of a little vision? Even YOU will see visions one day!" Jesus seems to be saying. Receiving prophetic visions, apparently, is not a valid sign that you are the Son of God!

So what is the significance of verse 51? I looked it up in Matthew Henry, and his explanation is that Jesus meant that Nathanael would see more valid indicators that Jesus was the Messiah, which also makes plausible sense in context. I think there is a little mystery left there, a little bit of ambiguity. Maybe Jesus meant a little of both... that Nathanael would see valid indicators of His Messiahship, and also that Nathanael would one day see and understand things by the Holy Spirit. After all, Peter did, even before the Holy Spirit was given.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Bible Of Steel

For months I've been wanting to replace my main ESV Bible with the metal "Battlezone" version. Well... not exactly replace... maybe supplement. I ride a bus to work every day, and I carry a soft pleather briefcase-y thing with me. In my bag I carry whatever books I might be reading, a clipboard and paper to write on, my lunch (usually a piece of fruit and noodles in a cup), and maybe some other stuff. The lunch and the clip part of the clipboard can be especially harsh on the paper and cover of a soft-covered Bible.

So I was riding the bus this morning, looking over my new metal Bible (the pages are paper, by the way... it's just the cover that's metal!) and thinking about how emotionally attached I become to my Bibles. My NIV that I've had since college (about 17 years at this point)... my brown ESV that will still go to church with me... my beat-up little red Gideon New Testament from high school. Heck, I still think about the NKJV Open Bible that I gave away in 1986 or so (if the ESV is ever published with the Open Bible stuff in it, I'm there, baby)! I love books in general anyway, especially beautiful hardback books, but I can't think of a single book that makes me as happy as one of my own Bibles. Undoubtedly this is mostly because I know in my heart of hearts that the Bible contains words of Life. I don't necessarily fall head over heels with every Bible I see, but I do over ones that I buy for myself. Maybe it's because they're not just "food"... they're my very favorite food. It's not just steak... it's steak with my favorite steak sauce, a salad with my favorite dressing on the side, bread made just the way I like it, my favorite drink with free refills, and some yummy key lime cheesecake for dessert.

So after less than 24 hours together, I have already fallen in love with my ESV Bible, Nick Chopper Edition. I hope to spend many happy bus rides squinting in the blue fluorescent bus light at those tiny little red words of life!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

God=dead (or not?)

This discussion got me thinking. When Jesus died on the cross... did God die? Or did Jesus' human nature die and His divine nature live on? If He died, and if He holds the universe together, how come the universe didn't explode? Are Bill Hamilton and Friedrich Nietszche, in a twisted sense that they never intended, correct? As I considered it, I realized that the real question is what you mean when you say "dead." (And no, I'm not going all "meaning of the word is is" on you.) People who don't believe in an afterlife think "dead" means "no longer existing." Those who believe in an afterlife think "dead" means "no longer existing in physical form on the Earth." When Jesus died on the Cross, I agree totally that He no longer existed in physical form on the Earth (His body was still there, of course, but it was inert). But I do not agree that for three days Jesus did not exist. I believe that every human being exists eternally somewhere.

When Nietszche and Hamilton said "God is dead," though, I think they meant something different... they basically meant that the concept of a "god" had been outmoded and was no longer necessary. They weren't talking about a personality at all; they were talking about a philosophical vantage point.

I guess that leaves the question open about the whole universe not exploding thing. Did Jesus somehow, in His divinity, still hold everything together, even though He was dead and preaching to "spirits in prison" (commonly understood to mean that He was in some afterlife holding area called "Paradise.") Or maybe, as some theologians have speculated, maybe Jesus handed the keys to the apartment to God the Father for a few days... "Hey, Dad, I'll be away for the weekend... can you water the plants and feed the parakeet please?" ...and the Father held it all together. This strikes me as something of a fruitless question. The universe still exists, right? What difference does it make if God the Father held it together, or God the Son? SOMEBODY did, and so I'm here and the world is not a disintegrated cloud of dust floating in oblivion somewhere.