A Review of “Taken”

I know I said I’d write about the Trinity some more tonight, but one of my friends invited me to go see “Taken,” and as a movie fan who loves spending time with my friends. I took him up on his offer. If you’re thinking of seeing the movie, keep this one in mind as while I try to not give spoilers in a review, sometimes it might inevitably happen. You might just want to mark this one down and read it later. (And please do make sure to read it later.)

Liam Neeson is the star of this one. He’s divorced and his only daughter stays with his mother and her stepfather and he emphasizes that he is her real father. We see early on that he’s got some fighting skills and later realize that he once had a job with a government as what he describes as, “a preventer.”

His daughter, Kim, wants to go on a trip abroad with a friend and needs his signature for permission and he does not sign it immediately. At this point I’m thinking, “Way to go!” It’s about time we had a father who didn’t give into his child’s every desire and the reason is the best one he could have. He is not comfortable with two youngsters being alone overseas. 

He does sign though and gives her three conditions to follow. Unfortunately, she doesn’t do well. The next time he talks to her, she’s witnessing men breaking into the apartment of her and her friend and kidnapping her friend. Her Dad, Brian, tells her that she’s going to be kidnapped next, but that he will come for her. He hears her screaming into the phone as she’s kidnapped and shouts for someone else to answer and when a man answers he tells him that he will pay anything to get her back and not let her go, but if they don’t want to pay, he gives the ultimatum of  “I will come, I will find you, and I will kill you.” The voice on the other end says “Good luck.”

Bad choice of words….

The next hour involves Brian going overseas and fighting everyone who tries to stop him to find his daughter and save her from being sold into a prostitution ring. I would say it is about an hour because this is a short movie and frankly, I had no desire to look at my watch. The action is intense and seeing Brian take out the villains is intensely gratifying.

And I’m thinking, “It’s about time a Dad got to be a Dad again.”

This is something that we need in the world again. Men need to step up and be men and be willing to fight for their families. This time around, the Dad was the hero. He was the one who was willing to go overseas to save her and seeing as it took place in France said that he’d tear down the Eiffel Tower if he had to to save her.

How can you not love that?

As I saw this, I kept thinking, “How far will a father go to save the one he loves?” In this case, it’s his daughter. In our case, we have a Father who was willing to do whatever it took to save us even while we were still enemies. Brian is willing to tear down the Eiffel Tower to save his daughter. God is willing to send his Son to save us and I believe eventually do a total re-working of the creation to show his glory in saving us. 

As I thought about the prostitution aspect also I pondered, “How far will a father go to make sure the one he loves is pure?” Brian was willing. As the one scene where someone gets the best of Brian shows up, I heard someone in the theater say “Oh no.” I think that’s revealing. What if the father cannot save his daughter? What then?

Fortunately, a loving father will face anything just for the one he loves. We as Christians should know this, and we should realize how powerfully the ending speaks to us when his daughter is saved. As Brian rescues her, he holds her as she sobs and she says “You came for me. You came for me.” To which he replies, “I said I would.”

And one day we’ll get to eternity and be able to embrace the one who saved us and can we not picture the conversation going the same way?

“You came for me. You came for me.”

“I said I would.”

Lord of the Sabbath

We’re going through the New Testament and looking for Trinitarian passages and hitting a few highlights. Right now, we’re in the gospel of Matthew and looking at Jesus as he was seen by those around him and how he saw himself. Tonight, our passage comes from Matthew 12.

 1At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. 2When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.” 3He answered, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 4He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. 5Or haven’t you read in the Law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple desecrate the day and yet are innocent? 6I tell you that one greater than the temple is here. 7If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. 8For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

Mark 2 has a similar passage

 23One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. 24The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?” 25He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? 26In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.”

 27Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

And so does Luke 6:

1One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and his disciples began to pick some heads of grain, rub them in their hands and eat the kernels. 2Some of the Pharisees asked, “Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?” 3Jesus answered them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry?4He entered the house of God, and taking the consecrated bread, he ate what is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.” 5Then Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

Matthew 12 is the most interesting one though.  Jesus explains how David and his men ate the bread that was according to the law, meant only for the priest. However, there was a greater good that was to be met by giving the bread to David. 

Jesus also says that the priests break the Sabbath on the Sabbath but are without blame. The reference from Hosea tells us that God is more interested in the condition of the heart than in the outward motions of the law.

Two points are also brought out in this exchange.

First, Jesus speaks of the temple and says that one greater than the temple is here. Don’t skip that over. The temple was where the presence of God dwelt with his people and Jesus is talking about that temple and says one greater than that is here.

This is the presence of God dwelling bodily.

He also says that the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath. We must keep this in mind. The Lord of the Sabbath is one who has power over the Sabbath, but who instituted the Sabbath? Why it was God of course, and here is Jesus claiming to be Lord of the Sabbath.

Dare we not miss the implication to be drawn from that.

Jesus has the authority over the Law of Moses. He can speak about it because he was the one who gave it. It is the supreme irony that the Moses are accusing the disciples of breaking the Law to the one who gave them the Law to begin with.

Tomorrow, we shall see more of Jesus’s interactions with the Pharisees.

Wisdom Is Proved Right

I invite you all to recall what I said about Proverbs 8. I brought out a little bit about wisdom and then stated that that would be recalled more as we looked at other texts in the New Testament. Tonight, we are looking at such a text.

16“To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others: 
 17” ‘We played the flute for you, 
      and you did not dance; 
   we sang a dirge 
      and you did not mourn.’ 18For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and “sinners.” ‘ But wisdom is proved right by her actions.”

The context going on in this passage first off is very good news for doubters. John had seen a lot and he wanted to be sure and Jesus did remind him of the evidence. What he spoke about were the signs that would follow the Messiah. 

What’s even more comforting for us is that Jesus then turns around and praises John to the crowd. In any time I’ve had of doubt, I have taken this to be a great solace that Jesus does not condemn an honest questioner.  John had not seen the miracles that Jesus had done as he was put in prison shortly after the baptism of Jesus. 

Jesus speaks though about the differences between he and John. He’s pretty much saying “You people can’t be pleased.” John did one thing and they condemned him. Jesus did another thing and they condemned him as well.

However, Jesus says that wisdom will be proved right by her actions.

What’s he saying?

On one level, we could say that he is talking about conventional wisdom. If one is wise, they will see who Jesus is. They will see that his actions are the ones that mark his claim to be the Messiah despite what people say.

There’s another level I think going on though.

We know that later in the gospel, Jesus will be in debate with the Pharisees. In Matthew 12:42, he says this:

The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now one greater than Solomon is here.

Solomon was the wisest king of all, but Jesus is saying one greater than Solomon is here. The difference is not that Jesus simply possesses greater wisdom, which he does. (And by the way, we Christians do a huge disservice to Jesus when we don’t see him as an intelligent thinker. How often do you think “Jesus was smart.”? When George W. Bush said Jesus was his favorite philosopher, it was a very rational statement and Jesus was, and is of course, a far greater mind than the philosophers.) The difference is that Jesus is Wisdom.

Why the feminine? Sophia, Wisdom, is often pictured as feminine simply because she plays a subservient role. She wasn’t bound to being feminine and in the same way, Jesus can be a man and still be the embodiment of Wisdom.

By doing the actions that he does, Jesus is showing himself to be the Wisdom of God.

We will look more at the self-understanding of Jesus tomorrow.

That’s Not Why The Paralytic Came…

Tonight, we’re going to be looking at Matthew 9 and the story of the healing of the paralytic. What does it tell us about the understanding of Christ?

Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town. 2Some men brought to him a paralytic, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” 3At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, “This fellow is blaspheming!”

 4Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? 5Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? 6But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins….” Then he said to the paralytic, “Get up, take your mat and go home.”7And the man got up and went home. 8When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to men.

The Markan account is longer and runs as follows:

A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home.2So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. 3Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. 4Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on. 5When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 6Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7“Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

 8Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? 9Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? 10But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins . . . .” He said to the paralytic, 11“I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 12He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”

While there are several facets to this story, the main one we’re focusing on is that Christ forgave sins. It’s already been shown he has power over sicknesses, weather, and demons. Now he’s going to take on the condition of paralysis.

One can imagine the shock that would have been experienced by these friends though when they heard Jesus say to him “Your sins are forgiven.”

It makes you wish there could have been cameras in the courtroom to see the way the friends reacted. 

Of course, the way the Pharisees reacted was quite noticable as well and that’s what Matthew wants us to notice. The Pharisees immediately say that this man is blaspheming. Who can forgive sins but God alone?

And the truth is, they’re right.

If Jesus is not God, he is blaspheming. 

Jesus knows their thoughts though, which is an indication of his unique nature as well. 

Why is this blasphemy though? If you sin against me, can’t I forgive you?

I can, but if you sin against a stranger, I can’t forgive you. Jesus is treating all sin as an affront against him. 

Jesus uses what is called an a fortiori argument here. It was common in Jewish thought. If the lesser is true, then a greater idea based on that lesser truth is true. If Jesus can heal the paralytic, he implies that what he said about forgiving sins is true.

And of course, he does heal the paralytic.

Now what about the authority being given to men by God? It could be that Matthew is hinting at what happens at the end of the gospel in that Jesus passes on to his disciples the right to pronounce the forgiveness of sins of others. They do not arbitrarily forgive on their own. They pronounce forgiveness already forgiven.

Jesus is not like that though. He has his authority by nature.

We shall continue going through Matthew tomorrow.

Exorcism and the Identity of Christ

Tonight, we’re going to be looking at the first case of an exorcism in Matthew. This is again in the 8th chapter.

28When he arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way. 29“What do you want with us, Son of God?” they shouted. “Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?” 30Some distance from them a large herd of pigs was feeding. 31The demons begged Jesus, “If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs.”

 32He said to them, “Go!” So they came out and went into the pigs, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and died in the water.33Those tending the pigs ran off, went into the town and reported all this, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. 34Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region.

Now we have seen that Jesus has power over sickness and we have seen that he has power over the natural world. When we come here, we will see he has power over beings that are directly opposed to him, which is what we see in the Old Testament as well. Satan has limits in how far he can go against the people of God which we see in the book of Job. It should be a comfort to we Christians that evil can only come at us insofar as God allows it.

What’s interesting about these exorcisms though is how the demons recognized Jesus. They believed that with the coming of Jesus, their judgment was sealed. The demons were also not slow to announce who Jesus really was.

Now what stance you will take eschatologically from this is up to you. I have a stance, but I do not make it an issue of my blog. All I want to recognize thus far is that Jesus was seen as a figure with the authority to judge demons and they realized that he could very well be there to bring about that judgment.

Notice in this passage that they ask him if they can go into swine. They seek permission to even be allowed to enter another body. This shows a fascinating difference between Jesus and any other exorcist. It is not likely that demons would ask any common exorcist of the day if they could go somewhere else if they must be cast out?

After this, the men go into the town to witness about what Christ has done. The people come out and see Jesus and they beg him to leave their region. This might seem like a shock to us, but in many ways, I think it’s reasonable. If I lived in a town and knew someone had come with that kind of power and authority, I’d probably be a bit spooked to.

Maybe we should learn something from the demons and the townspeople.

Jesus is a unique authority figure. You don’t ever take him lightly. The great shame of evangelicalism is we’ve made Jesus such a friendly figure entirely that we forget he’s a holy and righteous judge as well. May we never lose sight of who he is. It’s a shame if demons know who Jesus is better than we do.

Power Over Weather

As we look at who Jesus is in the New Testament, we’re going through the gospel of Matthew. Our text tonight is to be found in the eighth chapter.

23Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. 24Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” 26He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.

 27The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”

At this point in the gospels, Jesus has been doing various miracles. The first was the healing of a leper. The one we looked at yesterday was the healing of the Centurion’s servant. Before that was the healing of Simon’s Mother-in-Law. (You ever wonder today if he regretted that decision?….)

Tonight though, Jesus is on a boat with the disciples. This is most likely the Sea of Galilee and from talking to friends who have been to Israel, I have been informed that if one is on the Sea of Galilee, that the storms can come over the waters very quickly!

The disciples do consist of some fishermen, but even they are nervous. What is going on here the whole time? Jesus is asleep!

Now let’s get rid of an objection right off.

Some people will say Jesus was asleep, but God never sleeps.

The orthodox doctrine of the Trinity says we are not to confuse the substance. Jesus in his humanity slept. As his deity, he did not sleep. To think otherwise would lead to monophysitism where the human nature eventually gets swallowed up as it were by the divine nature. A lot of people see Jesus doing an activity in his humanity and then ask if the deity did that. No. (Especially since in Trinitarianism, Jesus is not the Trinity.)

Eventually, the disciples do come and wake Jesus up and ask him to save them lest they perish. 

The one thing I’d like to know is what were the disciples expecting? We honestly don’t know. I doubt the full ramifications of who Jesus is had sunk in on them yet. They were seeing him as a greater figure than others though and they might be thinking something like “Well, we don’t know what he’ll do, but he’ll do something.” Note also that they called him “Lord.”

So Jesus does get up and he is astounded that they are afraid, as if to say that they should know better. Could it be Jesus is saying that enough of his identity has been shown that they should know by now? We see this throughout the gospels. The disciples have enough evidence, but they just keep wavering between belief and unbelief.

And if we were honest, we can relate to that. We have enough evidence of God, and yet so many times we’re also saying “Lord. Save us!”

Not that it’s not justified to do that at times, but did they really think God would let his only Son drown in a boat without completing his mission?

So Jesus gets up and what does he do? He rebukes the winds and the sea. Notice that. He rebukes them. He gives an order. Perchance the disciples were thinking of Psalm 107 then.

23 Others went out on the sea in ships; 
       they were merchants on the mighty waters.

 24 They saw the works of the LORD, 
       his wonderful deeds in the deep.

 25 For he spoke and stirred up a tempest 
       that lifted high the waves.

 26 They mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths; 
       in their peril their courage melted away.

 27 They reeled and staggered like drunken men; 
       they were at their wits’ end.

 28 Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, 
       and he brought them out of their distress.

 29 He stilled the storm to a whisper; 
       the waves of the sea were hushed.

 30 They were glad when it grew calm, 
       and he guided them to their desired haven.

 31 Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love 
       and his wonderful deeds for men.

 32 Let them exalt him in the assembly of the people 
       and praise him in the council of the elders.

We have to keep in mind that these people had a thorough knowledge of the Old Testament and one idea we will see repeatedly is that images applied to YHWH in the Old Testament apply to Jesus in the new.

Where will we go tomorrow? Come back and see.

The Centurion’s Servant

Today as we continue our look at the way the New Testament portrays Jesus looking at various sections throughout, we’re going to be looking at the story of the Centurion’s servant found in Matthew 8. This story is also found in the Lukan narrative. The portion from Matthew is here:

 5When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. 6“Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering.” 7Jesus said to him, “I will go and heal him.”

 8The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

 10When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, “I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. 11I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

 13Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! It will be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that very hour.

Whereas the account in Luke 7 reads as follows:

 1When Jesus had finished saying all this in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. 2There a centurion’s servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die. 3The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant. 4When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, “This man deserves to have you do this, 5because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.” 6So Jesus went with them. 
      He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof.7That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. 8For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” 9When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.” 10Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.

Now in both of these, we find that this centurion was obviously someone respected in Israel and was most likely, a God-fearer. This refers to someone who respected the Jewish tradition and could be considered a worshipper of YHWH, but did not follow the ritualistic practices. (A lot of guys weren’t keen on circumcision. Imagine that….)

For those concerned about the supposed contradiction, a reply is generally that the person being sent is as the Centurion itself. It’s a metonym. Consider if you heard a news report that said the White House issued such and such a statement. You would understand that to be the President. The White House refers to the executive branch of the government.

This centurion asks Jesus to come and heal his servant and Jesus says that he will go and heal him. The centurion though tells Jesus that he is not worthy to have Jesus come into his household. This is enough to get us thinking right now.

What kind of view must this centurion have of Jesus that he is not worthy to have him in his house? Normally, a Jew wouldn’t enter the house of a gentile anyway. Jesus is already going beyond the bounds by even making it a possibility. 

Before this story, we have Jesus touching a leper and healing him. A Jew would not touch a leper as he would become unclean then. The point is that Jesus seems to work in reverse. His cleanliness passes on to the unclean rather than the uncleanliness contaminating him. It’s almost as if Jesus is the source of cleanliness….

Now we have Jesus not hesitating again, but the centurion at this point at least sees Jesus as a holy man and he is not worthy to be in the presence of one who is so holy. It is when we get to the next part of the story that we see more.

This centurion is a man with authority and he knows the way the game works. If he tells one of his men to do something, he does it! A centurion would lead a hundred soldiers and if he told one of those soldiers to do something, he knew that soldier would do it. He had the authority over those soldiers.

The authority he has in that realm, the centurion understands Jesus to have in the realm of sickness. All Jesus needs to do is speak and the servant would be healed. This indicates a far greater control than any human authority. It could be the centurion understood that as he rules in a human realm, so Christ rules in the spiritual realm. (Of course, I consider Christ the Lord of humanity. The difference is at this point, we tend to not acknowledge that.)

Jesus did not condemn this view. Instead, he congratulated it and said he had not seen such great faith in all of Israel and made a promise about the coming kingdom indicating that he has knowledge of the kingdom and knows who will be there and who won’t be.

And of course, the centurion’s servant was healed without Jesus having to enter the house. Once again, we should be reminded of the uniqueness of Christ. While miracles like this do not prove his deity, taken combined with other claims we shall see and the other actions he does, we certainly have a strong case.

The Self-Understanding of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount

We’ve already had a series done here on the Sermon on the Mount. Tonight, we’re going to take an interesting look at it as a whole though to see the self-understanding of Christ based on what he said. We can so often look to the sermon as offering good teaching on morality, which it does, but if we only stop at that point, then we deprive ourselves of the true benefit. 

Let us begin with the understanding of Torah. If you are a Jew in the time of Christ, you believe the first five books of Torah at least came from God written by the hand of Moses. You hold that this Law is sacred. You and your ancestors have been copying it down for centuries. You are willing to die for these traditions and these teachings that have come from this.

You raise your children every day telling them about the Law of Moses. You quote the Shema every morning and every evening. You make sure you honor the temple rituals as you’re supposed to. You pay close attention to the Law, especially with the experts on the Law who are around you. Such great care is spent in understanding the Scripture that one rabbi spent two years exegeting the text, “Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.”

You know that to go against this book is to go against God himself. You are one who knows the story of how your ancestors were in Egypt and also how they went to Babylon. You have become a unique group in that no one believes anything like you do in the ancient world and all around you, your customs set you apart.

Now here comes a new teacher and what does he say? He takes this beautiful Torah that you believe to come from God ultimately, and then when he speaks of the text he says, “You have heard it was said” and at this point, you are in agreement. Yes. It was said, and it was said by God himself through Moses. It is his next words that stun you.

“But I say unto you.”



Who the heck do you think you are? You are going to take the very words of God to Moses and say that your words should be put on such an authority?

William Lane Craig speaks about this in his book “Reasonable Faith.” The following is a statement in his book. It is a revised edition published in 1994 and the quote is on page 247.

Jews believe in the Torah of Moses….and that belief requires faithful Jews to enter a dissent at the teachings of Jesus, on the grounds that those teachings at important points contradict the Torah….

And therefore, because that specific teaching was so broadly out of phase with the Torah and covenant of Sinai, I could not then follow him and do not now either. That is not because I am stubborn or unbelieving. It is because I believe God has given a different Torah from the one that Jesus teaches; and that Torah, the one Moses got at Sinai, stands in judgment of the Torah of Jesus, as it dictates true and false for all other torahs that people want to teach in God’s name.”

Citing this time Robert Hutchinson, Craig points out that the question Neusner wants to ask is, “Who do you think you are—God?” As he says Neusner goes on to say:

No one can encounter Matthew’s Jesus without concurring that before us in the evangelist’s mind is God incarnate.

I agree. While I do not agree that Jesus contradicts the Torah but rather fulfills it, Neusner is right in taking the claim of Jesus seriously. It would behoove us all if we would do the same.

The Baptism of Jesus

When we had some Mormons visiting us last Summer, one of them used this passage in the gospel of Matthew to try to disprove the Trinity. I was dumbfounded for awhile as I was trying to figure this out. This is the baptism of Jesus. How does the baptism of Jesus disprove the Trinity?

Well, let’s go to the text in Matthew 3.

16As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. 17And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

Matthew’s gospel is the one that has John’s hesitancy to baptize Jesus, pointing to his identity. More of John’s thought on the matter is explained in the gospel of John. (Though keep in mind, it is not John the Baptist who wrote that gospel.)

John’s hesitancy also indicates to us that Jesus was righteous at this point. He didn’t need to be baptized to repent. He was not at this point some man that God chose to use to bring about salvation as the adoptionists would want people to believe.

The idea that this passage is used to disprove the Trinity still boggles my mind. And yet, I can bet there are some people in the church who would have fallen for that Mormon’s argument. In fact, I can be sure there are or else he wouldn’t have used it. The reason he used this argument is apparently it worked so well.

And yet, it’s fundamentally flawed in that it doesn’t even get the doctrine of the Trinity right. 

What our Mormon told me was that they couldn’t be three persons if they were all one person. To that, no Christian should disagree. If there was any necessary contradiction in orthodox Christianity, then we would have to abandon it. 

While we had the Angel of the Lord and God at times in the Old Testament, when we get here, we see from further revelation, which, I think best waited till Israel got past idolatry less they misconstrue the doctrine, all three persons working together in unity. Note also I think God in his wisdom waited until Israel worked out their doctrine for we will see as we go through that Jesus fits in very well with Wisdom doctrine in Jewish thought.

The identity of the Son is seen in his relationship to the Father. When Jesus is called the Son of God, it means in the context one who has the nature of God in this unique way. There are other meanings of “son of God” throughout Scripture. Christians today could be called sons of God, but only by adoption. We are sons in that way while he is the Son by nature.

All three are seen here as Jesus prepares for his ministry. The Son being the agent, the Father sending, and the Spirit providing ministry all throughout. The Holy Spirit has been considered the silent person of the Trinity, but as we go through the New Testament, we’ll see him.

When we go through further, we need to keep in mind passages like this one. They have a rather explicit Trinitarianism and it won’t be the last time this happens in Matthew.

Now, He Is Truly With Us

Today, we’re going to be looking in the New Testament as we begin our look for the Trinity in there. A good place to start our look in the New Testament is a good place to start a lot of books, namely, the beginning. What of the first chapter?

Matthew begins by telling us the genealogy of Jesus. He is descended from David, in that he is of the royal line, and he is descended from Abraham, in that he is the child of the promise. The rule of David which would be the law and then the promise of Abraham which would be grace. Law comes before grace. 

Matthew’s record contains a lot of interesting features. Let’s look at some of them.

In verse 3 we read about Tamar. Do we remember her? She’s the one who had a child by Judah, who was her father-in-law, while she posed as a shrine prostitute. Out of this incestual relationship came two sons, Perez and Zerah and the line would continue through Perez.

In verse 5, we have mentioned Rahab and Ruth. Let’s consider these two. Who was Rahab? Rahab was the prostitute from Jericho who hid the Israelites. Some of us might be thinking “The messiah has an impressive line-up so far.” Let’s keep in mind it wasn’t essential for Matthew to add the name of these women. He’s doing so for a reason. He’s probably including them not in spite of the disgrace they would seem to bring but because of it. Even the ones looked down on as sinners are used to bring about the greatest good.

Ruth? Ruth was the Moabitess. Now she was hardly portrayed as a sinner in Scripture, but she would be seen as an outsider and yet, this one who is from Moab would find herself an important figure in the lineage of the Messiah.

Verse 6 mentions a low point in the life of David, the affair of Bathsheba and the mention of Uriah the Hittite. This is included in the lineage of the Messiah. Matthew brings out the bad. It’s like he wants to bring in all that he can. For the Messiah, there are no outcasts.

How about Jeconiah in verse 12? Jeconiah in Jeremiah was said to be one who would be childless and none of his descendants would sit on the throne. For those who think that’s eternal, think again. God refers to him as a signet ring. One of the descendents though, Zerubbabel, is made a signet ring at the end of Haggai 2. God was restoring the right to rule again and undoing any curse on Jeconiah.

Then we have the last female, Mary. This is the one that is so good in Scripture that Catholic doctrine considers her sinless. While I disagree as a Protestant, we Protestants who do not agree with the Catholics on the place of Mary, nevertheless should realize that she truly was the most blessed among women and we need to recognize that.

But what we need to focus on in this chapter is what the child will be called. Immanuel.

Right from the start, we have a message built into the child’s identity. But he was never called Immanuel was he?

No more than Solomon was called Jedidiah, but if you read 2 Samuel 12:24-25, that was his name.

The name Jedidiah referred to an identity embodied in Solomon. The same for Immanuel. God had been with his people in one way, but as we go through the gospel, we shall see in this case, he is with his people in a whole new way.