The Many Names of God

Names of Jesus Part 4

Matthew 16:13-14, John the Baptist, Elijah, or one of the prophets
Matthew 16:15-17, 20, Christ/Messiah (Gospels)
1 Corinthians 15:1-21, Christ/Messiah (Letters)
Revelation 5:6-13, Lamb/Lamb that was Slain

More Names of God

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Matthew 16:13-14, John the Baptist, Elijah, or one of the prophets (2/18/2009)

Have you heard the joke that The Odyssey wasn't written by Homer, but rather by another blind Greek of the same name? Surely you know that William Shakespeare didn't write the works of William Shakespeare, although it isn't clear who did, because no two modern writers can agree. I'm sure that no one would publish a book saying that Homer wrote The Odyssey, Shakespeare wrote King Lear, Peter wrote I and II Peter, and Paul wrote the Pauline epistles, because in general people would rather believe in some sort of mysterious conspiracy.

People had the same problem in deciding who was going around preaching the good news, feeding the hungry, healing the sick, and restoring sight to the blind. Surely the obvious answer Jesus bar Joseph of Nazareth couldn't be right. For one thing, they knew him from when he was a kid. For another, they knew he was from Nazareth, and everybody knew that nobody would know where the Messiah was from, or alternatively that nothing good comes from Nazareth, take your choice. Consequently rumors flew about who was doing all these miraculous things. The interesting thing about the rumors was that all the candidates were real heavyweights: John the Baptist risen from the dead, Elijah, and Jeremiah led the polls.

Matthew 16:15-17, 20, Christ/Messiah (Gospels) (2/19/2009)

We've all heard the saying, "Actions speak louder than words." We all normally act as if words speak louder than actions, however, and certainly the entire advertising industry is built on that idea. Jesus did no advertising that he was the Messiah, the Christ. In fact, he routinely forbade people and demons who had figured it out from telling anybody. What was the point of this "Messianic secret"?

The Old Testament offers two primary models for the Messiah (Hebrew OT) or Christ (Greek OT the two words are identical in meaning). One model was a powerful military leader who would lead the people of God out of oppression and back into a glorious earthly kingdom. The second model was for a servant who would suffer for his people and lead them back to God. Now, first-century Palestine was ruled by powerful Gentile foreigners called the Romans. They had soldiers, they levied taxes, they installed governors and puppet kings, they didn't put up with any backtalk, and they ruthlessly put down insurrection. Which model for the Messiah, do you suppose, was popular in first-century Palestine? As a matter of fact, several small rebellions against the Romans were led by Jews claiming to be a messiah or The Messiah, both before and after the time of Jesus; the most famous of these is Simon Bar Kochba, who led a rebellion around A.D. 133. Jesus had no intention of being a military messiah, so he did not want people to know he was The Messiah until after they knew who he was. Even his own disciples, who had been with him for three years and should have known who he was, asked at the Last Supper, "Now will you restore the kingdom?" Nevertheless, because actions do indeed speak louder than words, all sorts of people kept figuring out that Jesus was the Messiah.

1 Corinthians 15:1-21, Christ/Messiah (Letters) (2/20/2009)

Paul was not a follower of Jesus, he was a follower of Christ. He never met the human Jesus, as far as we know, but he met the risen Christ on the road to Damascus. Reading the first few chapters of Acts should be enough to convince anybody of the truth of the resurrection, because it's the only thing that could account for the overwhelming change that took place in the disciples in the less than two months from the crucifixion to Pentacost. And Paul, never a disciple, was changed from a persecutor of Christians to one of the foremost makers of Christians.

Read Paul's argument about the resurrection carefully. It is very tightly reasoned, as is appropriate when writing to a largely Greek congregation at Corinth. Greeks loved logic, and they loved to argue. Apparently some of the Corinthians were arguing against the resurrection of the dead. Paul's rebuttal is this: What Paul is saying boils down to this: Without the resurrection, Christianity's got nothin'. Never get confused about this crucial doctrinal point.

Revelation 5:6-13, Lamb/Lamb that was Slain. (2/23/2009)

I see that forgiveness has made the papers again. Now, don't get me wrong: I'm not against forgiving your enemies, and I'm glad that this family can leave their bitterness behind. Still, I'm always exasperated and a little saddened when forgiveness of one's enemies makes the news, for two reasons.

In the second place, forgiveness is required of us whenever someone asks our pardon (Luke 17:3-4). We don't get any special points for it. In fact, we are supposed to bless our enemies and pray for our enemies (Luke 6:27-28) even when they don't ask our pardon. Things have come to a pretty sorry pass when the world thinks forgiveness on the part of a Christian is newsworthy. And besides, as fellow-reader Joan S. has so astutely pointed out, forgiveness even when we are not asked for it allows us to stop fretting and stewing and damaging ourselves over the wrong done to us. In short (and this is me again), it allows us to stop our enemy from doing us any more damage.

But in the first place, news articles about one person forgiving another person get the story exactly backwards from the scripture. The fact is that scripture is vastly more interested in when I should and how I can obtain forgiveness for my sin against God. Here's the score sheet: I didn't count offerings for sin, atonement for sin, blotting out of sin, or remembering not of sin, just "forgiveness" of sin. There are several additional columns on these other topics in the concordance, and it looks like that would be a couple hundred more mentions that are almost exclusively concerned with God's forgiveness of our sin. So the scriptural emphasis is probably more than 10 to 1 on our need for God's forgiveness, rather than on our need to forgive each other.

Yesterday we saw that Jesus is God's Lamb, who takes away the sin of the world. How does a lamb take away sin? By being slaughtered as a sacrifice to God on behalf of the sinner. I tell you what, people, the Lamb was not slaughtered so that I could forgive you or you could forgive me. The Lamb was slaughtered so that God could forgive me and you.
More Names of God
Names of God - Introduction
Sacred Names - Part 1
Sacred Names - Part 2
Other Names - Part 1
Other Names - Part 2
Other Names - Part 3
Names of Jesus - Part 1
Names of Jesus - Part 2
Names of Jesus - Part 3
Names of Jesus - Part 4
Names of Jesus - Part 5
Names of Jesus - Part 6
Names of Jesus - Part 7
Names of Jesus - Part 8
Names of Jesus - Part 9
Names of the Spirit

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