Archive for August, 2014

Aug
27

Jesus’ Family Tree

Posted by: | Comments (0)

Last week I took some time to investigate my family tree. My great grandfather, Frank, came to America from Baden, Germany, in 1869. After some time in St. Louis, he settled in Clark County, Missouri. He was granted U.S. Citizenship in 1890, at the age of 21. What was interesting about his story was that his citizenship papers spelled our last name “Deitrich.” Family lore explains that he was afraid he would be sent back to Germany, so he changed the spelling to “Deatrick.” He was married to his wife Mary for fifty years and together had three daughters and one son, my grandfather.

My grandfather John was a veteran of World War I. Because of his military service, he married later in life. My father was the oldest of three children and grew up without a mother because she died in child delivery when he was five years old. My grandfather died when I was four years old, and I can remember bits and pieces about him. I remember that every time I saw him he gave me a silver dollar. I also remember sitting on the front pew of his funeral with my parents.

Matthew 1:2-17 is a list of the people in Jesus’ family tree. Normally when one comes to one of those genealogies he or she will face the temptation to gloss right over them to get on to the “good stuff.” But it is not just a list of names. Jesus’ genealogy is very important for three reasons.

First, it reveals that Jesus came from the proper lineage. Matthew’s goal was to provide proof that Jesus is the rightful heir to two important promises. God’s promise in 2 Samuel 7:12-13 was that he would be faithful to continue David’s royal throne forever. God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3 was that he would bless him so that he may bless the world. These two promises came together and were fulfilled in Jesus. Though Matthew is clear to point out that Jesus is the son of God and Mary but not of Joseph, Jesus possessed the right to Messiahship.

Second, the genealogy shows that Jesus came at the perfect time. Matthew 1:17 states, “All those listed above include fourteen generations from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the Babylonian exile, and fourteen from the Babylonian exile to the Messiah.” This statement covers three important transitions in Israel’s history. David to Abraham spans the rise of the nation, from its formation to its height. David to the Babylonian exile is a description of the demise of the nation, and then from the exile to the Messiah expresses the return of the nation to God. Galatians 4:4 says that “in the fullness of time, God sent his Son…” Jesus came into the world at precisely the perfect time.

Finally, the genealogy reminds us of God’s unprejudiced purpose. Providing a genealogy is a very Jewish thing to do. But if you read the list of names you’ll notice some unique features. For example, the genealogy includes the mention of five women, four of whom are gentiles. Three of the women, Rahab, Tamar and Bathsheba are noted for sexual sin. And if you read the stories of each male in the list you’ll see that each of them had their personal sin issues. Matthew was writing to a Jewish audience, but from the very start of his gospel he wanted his audience to know that the gospel of Jesus is inclusive. Broken men and women, Jews and gentiles alike, are all welcome to find grace and forgiveness through the Messiah who had come.

Categories : Jesus, Matthew
Comments (0)
Aug
21

Who is Jesus?

Posted by: | Comments (0)

This is the record of the ancestors of Jesus the Messiah, a descendant of David and of Abraham (Matthew 1:1, NLT).

Imagine you are minding your own business and a complete and total stranger asked you a question. Not something you would expect, like “What time is it?” or “Could you give me directions to a particular establishment?” It’s a personal question. Very personal, in fact. Suppose you are going through your daily routine and someone was to ask you the question, “Who is Jesus?” How would you respond? What would you say? Would you know what to say? Would you respond honestly? Or would you couch your response in politically correct language so as not to offend? Would you be confident should that happen to you?

Matthew established three things about Jesus that help understand and articulate who Jesus is.

First, he is the Messiah, or the Christ. The word Messiah means “anointed one,” and speaks of both Jesus role and purpose. At the turn of the millennium, messianic expectations were at fever pitch. People were looking for the Messiah to come, one who would eradicate the rule of Rome from their land and re-establish Israel to her former glory. Jesus was Messiah, but not that kind of Messiah. As God, Jesus stepped out of the splendor of heaven and stepped into our broken world to provide salvation for us. He taught us how to live, then modeled a life of discipleship, and then died our deaths so we could live his life.

Second, he is a descendent of David David was regarded as Israel’s greatest king. The covenant God made with David was that he would maintain a line of successors going forward. And he did. Jesus is tied to David which is important. His royal lineage speaks of his reign. The demands of his rule are rightful. He is able to make the claims he made. C.S. Lewis famously said that Jesus is either liar, lunatic, or Lord. Our confession as Christians for 2,000 years has been, “Jesus is Lord.”

Finally, he is a descendent of Abraham. Abraham was the non Jewish founder of the Israelite race. The covenant that God made with Abraham was that he would be blessed in order to bless the world. (cf. Genesis 17:4; 18:18; 21:18) Israel was blessed to be a blessing. Not just to one another, but to the entire world.

These references to Messiah, David, and Abraham help us understand that Jesus came from God to rule over us so we might bless the world. So why is this important?

1. We have to be clear in our understanding of who Jesus was and is. If we’re not clear on Jesus, nothing else really matters.

2. We have to be able to articulate our understanding of Jesus. 1 Peter 3:15 says, “And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it.”

3. We have to be prepared to live in light of our understanding of Jesus. In other words, its not enough to know it or even be able to talk about it. We have to live it practically in our every day experience of life. If I know it and articulate it but don’t live it, can we really say we believe it?

Jesus came from God to rule over us so that we might be blessed and bless the world. That’s who Jesus is.

Categories : Jesus, Matthew
Comments (0)

I was first exposed to N.T. Wright as a seminary student at Southwestern Seminary about 15 years ago through a class on the atonement. I was fascinated by Wright’s Jesus and the Victory of God, in particular his exodus motif of interpreting the gospels.

Since then, I have discovered that Wright has a “popular” side as well, and over the past several years have come to appreciate his treatment of Jesus, the gospel, and Scripture on a non technical level. Surprised by Scripture is that sort of book.

In Surprised by Scripture, Wright deals with some contemporary theological issues. The most important offering of the book is his suggestion that Americans deal with theological conundrums in a manner unique from the rest of the world. For example, he points to the idea that it is only in America that we estrange science from faith, as in our ongoing evolution versus creationism debates. But it is not just that. Generally its our entire treatment of the Bible, everything from the necessity of a historical Adam to women in ministry to our views on eschatology.

As a reader I found that I didn’t agree with everything that Wright had to share. But as a theologian, I had to admit that I appreciate his thoughtfulness and his open handed treatment of some sensitive if not polarizing topics. He writes as if his goal is for the reader to figure it out for yourself.

I remember a seminary professor telling my hermeneutics class that when he went to seminary the saints of his home church admonished him by saying, “Don’t let seminary ruin your faith.” What he discovered he offered to us. “Seminary didn’t ruin my faith,” he said. “It put muscles on it.” Such are the writings of N.T. Wright, and in particular, Surprised by Scripture.

I would encourage you to read this book thoughtfully and with an open mind. No, you won’t agree with everything he says. Nor will you be persuaded by each argument. But you may close the book after the final page with some conviction about what you believe and why you believe it. And that experience will leave you stronger than the borrowed faith you’re clinging to.

Categories : Books
Comments (0)