The Many Names of God –

Names of Jesus – Part 6

Isaiah 5:1-7, John 15:1-6, True Vine
John 10:1-10, Door of the Sheepfold
Random Walk in a Gallery of Religious Art, Step 24: John 10:7-21; Psalms 23; The Good Shepherd
John 1:4-9, 9:1-7, Light/Light of the World
Matthew 2:1-4, John 18:33-39, John 19:19-22, The King of the Jews

More Names of God

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Isaiah 5:1-7, John 15:1-6, True Vine (3/3/2009)

One of the standard images of Israel in the Old Testament is as the vine that God plants in the Promised Land (e.g, Psalms 80, Jeremiah 2:21, Jeremiah 6:9, Ezekiel 17, Hosea 10:1). Isaiah begins to sing about the vineyard and the planter, and all the children of Israel are sitting around the table listening to the radio and saying, "Now, isn't this a great song?" But then the blow falls. The vine is unfruitful, and God is going to let it be destroyed. God looked for the fruit of justice and righteousness, but He got violence and crying. He looked for mishpat and got mispach; He looked for tsedaqah and got tsaaqah. The poetic form of the verse emphasizes the deformed fruit produced by the vine.

Thus when Jesus says "I am the true vine," he is laying a claim to be the true Israel. He and his branches will bring forth the good fruit that God has been seeking. The downside is that any unfruitful branch is pruned out and used for fuel.

John 10:1-10, Door of the Sheepfold (3/4/2009)

Depending on the source you read and the period of time you consider, there were ten or so first-century men who claimed be, or whose followers asserted them to be, the Jewish Messiah. Many of the Jews were looking for a messiah, partly in response to the Roman occupation of Palestine. It's probably fair to say that most of them were looking for a political and military leader who would overthrow the Romans and reestablish the Kingdom of Israel. Most of the claimants were military leaders who made no claim to Davidic descent. Even one of Jesus' disciples, Simon, was a Zealot, which was a sort of insurrectionist political party. After the resurrection, the disciples ask, "Lord, will you restore the kingdom now?" (Acts 1:6). This widespread expectation of a military messiah was probably the main reason that Jesus forbade demons and people to tell anyone that he was the messiah. He wanted them to learn who he was before they learned what he was.

Jesus warned his disciples at least twice against false messiahs. In Mark 13, he warns of false messiahs that would follow him, and in today's reading, he warns against false messiahs who preceded him. In doing so, he also gives them another name for himself, the Door of the Sheepfold.

Random Walk in a Gallery of Religious Art, Step 24: John 10:7-21; Psalms 23, The Good Shepherd (4/2/15)

Modern Bibles tend to have fewer illustrations than the 19th-century Bibles we’ve been looking at, but many of us see stained-glass windows every week. This is a particularly beautiful window, and it illustrates a particularly beautiful concept: God is our shepherd. The 23rd psalm is probably the best-known Old Testament example of this idea, but it’s not uncommon. When Jesus said that he was the “Good Shepherd,” a lot of his listeners thought he was crazy – “he has a demon!” Others weren’t so sure about that. They argued that since demons are known to cause illness, it doesn’t make any sense that a man who has just cured a blind man could have a demon. Either way, they knew enough about the scripture to realize that in saying he was the Good Shepherd, Jesus was claiming to have a unique relationship with God. You can tell from the crown of thorns that the artist had Jesus primarily in mind, but when I see this window, both Psalm 23 and John 10 are in my mind.

Previous Step. Next Step.
God is our Good Shepherd. Click to enlarge.
The Good Shepherd, stained glass,
courtesy of Merkel United Methodist Church.

John 1:4-9, 9:1-7, Light/Light of the World (3/5/2009)

A few days ago I told you that John loved puns as well as metaphors. Today we see one of the great puns. If you read more than one translation, you have probably noticed that John 1:5 is translated in two different ways. Some translations, like the King James, say that the darkness could not comprehend the light. Others, like the English Standard version, say that the darkness could not overcome the light. This is not a difference that results from two different words in the Greek manuscripts. The Greek word is katalambano, and it means either "understand" or "overpower" depending on the context.

A few translators think, and so do I, that John really did mean both, and that's why he used this ambiguous word. These translators use English words like "grasp" or "master," which also have two meanings. I'll tell you why I don't think John used katalambano by accident. Most of the time, John writes easy Greek. John's Greek is easy to read. John's Greek has short sentences. John's Greek has easy words. Nevertheless, at approximately the point in the space-time continuum that somnolence is gaining ascendancy over the reader, John instantaneously deviates from this pattern, and both lexical and syntactical difficulty are augmented. So John is definitely not writing easy Greek because he doesn't know any hard words. I'm sure he used katalambano precisely because it means both "comprehend" and "overpower." Darkness is not able to understand Jesus, and it's not able to overpower Jesus, the Light of the World.

Matthew 2:1-4, John 18:33-39, John 19:19-22, The King of the Jews (3/6/2009)

God's promise to David was that there would always be a descendant of David on the throne of the kingdom of Israel (2 Samuel 7:8-17). Eventually the earthly kingdom of Israel was enslaved by the Babylonians. After a couple of changes in overlord nations and a brief period of independence under the Maccabees, Israel had a king again, Herod the Great. Herod and his son Herod didn't really count, though, for two reasons. They weren't descendants of David, and they were just puppet kings of Israel under the Romans. So during this whole period of time – almost 600 years – the Jews kept pretty close track of who the descendants of David were, just in case the nation became independent again, and because they also knew that the Messiah would be a descendant of David. Herod was upset at the idea that the king of the Jews had been born because he knew his title was not especially legitimate. The high priests were upset first because a legitimate king would seriously upset the Romans (John 11:48) and secondly because their own power base would be eroded (Luke 20:9-19). The ultimate irony is that Jesus was recognized as the King of the Jews primarily by foreigners – by the wise men from the East at the beginning of his life, and by Pilate, the Roman governor, at the end.

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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