Jesus Christ: H.C. Question 18

Then who is this mediator—true God and at the same time a true and righteous human?

Matthew 1:21-23 – She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

Luke 2:11 – Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.

1 Timothy 2:5 – For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus,

1 Corinthians 1:30 – It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.



Mediator: H.C. Question 15

Heidelberg Catechism Question 15

What kind of mediator and deliverer should we look for then?

Romans 1:3 – regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David,

1 Corinthians 15:21 – For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.

Hebrews 2:17 – For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.

Isaiah 53:9 – He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.

2 Corinthians 5:21 – God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Hebrews 7:26 – Such a high priest truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.

Isaiah 7:14 – Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

Isaiah 9:6 – For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Jeremiah 23:6 – In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety.  This is the name by which he will be called: The Lord Our Righteous Savior.

John 1:1 – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.



Revelation 8 – Trumpets (Part 1)

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When the last seal is opened, John records something unique to Revelation so far: silence.  While silence is certainly not a foreign concept in the Bible, often indicating reverence or awe in the presence of God.  This could certainly be the case as the scroll that was sealed is now open for all.  However, it could also be that this silence brings a time of preparation for what is known as the “trumpet judgments,” the next series of seven judgments that are about to take place on the earth.

The golden censer and the burning incense draw their symbolic meaning from the altar of incense in the Tabernacle and Temple and from Old Testament imagery of prayers and actions before God.  Such things rose up to God like the smoke of a fire and were thought to produce either “pleasant” or “fowl” odors before the Lord.  John records that the incense that was in the golden censer was indeed the prayers of God’s people.  Old Testament tradition holds that angels played a part in mediating between God and humanity though this is certainly not something that the New Testament indicates.  Jesus Christ is our mediator and also the perfector of our prayers and worship as He presents them before God.

As the seven angels begin to blow their trumpets, the judgments that are poured out on the earth contain some familiar imagery.  Thunder, fire, and earthquakes we have seen before indicating in some fashion the presence of God in whatever is happening.  The first trumpet judgment, like many of these, draws its imagery directly from that of the 10 plagues in Exodus, something that is echoed in the book of Ezekiel.

The impact of these judgments is expressed by the fraction 1/3, indicating that at least partially, the punishment that is being poured out here is not yet complete.

The second trumpet judgment’s impact is reminiscent of the first plague on Egypt when the whole of the Nile river was turned to blood.  Jeremiah also records the image of the mountain begin destroyed as part of a vision regarding the punishment of Babylon, which becomes an image for all the is evil in the world and a focal point for the battle between good and evil later on in Revelation.

Wormwood, the falling star of the third trumpet judgment, is a very bitter tasting plant.  The star, John says, taints the fresh water of the world, making it poisonous to drink.  This event is reminiscent of the miracle of the waters of Marah, recorded in Exodus 15, except in reverse.  Jeremiah records a similar series of events in his prophecies as well in both chapter 9 and chapter 23 of his book.

The fourth trumpet judgment carries a similar theme to the ninth plague on Egypt, that of darkness.  These similarities are important to the overall theme of Revelation, that of the ultimate freeing of God’s people.  Israel’s exodus represented the freeing of God’s people from bondage; the plagues were God’s action on behalf of His people to punish the enslaver.  Here we see similar things happening again, but on a cosmic scale, signaling the coming of the “final exodus” of God’s people from the oppression of sin and evil in the world.  This is also why we draw so heavily on imagery from the prophets because they too envisioned this as a result of the coming of the Messiah and the ultimate redemption, reconciliation, and victory that He would bring.

Drawing on imagery like this doesn’t always “explain” what exactly it means, but rather creates connections in the redemptive work of God throughout salvation history.  We can then see that what John is witnessing here is not necessarily something new, but instead is the great revelation of God’s work to reconcile the whole world to Himself and put an end to sin and evil once and for all.



Revelation 1 – Seeing Jesus

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John begins his writing by orienting his readers to what is happening and the purpose of his writing.  The whole of this book is a revelation from God that is given to John to make known that which will take place soon.  Remember that we talked in 2 Peter about the dimensions of time when it comes to God’s actions and history.  In fact, all of what “is going to take place” is a New Testament reference to the Old Testament phrase “in the last days.”  This is a phrase that is often used by the prophets to talk about the time when the Messiah would come which means that, since Jesus came to earth, we are in those “last days”.

As he begins his writing, John also directs this letter to the “Seven churches” in the province of Asia.  Each of these churches is specific, however, the meaning of the number seven in Scripture is also important.  Seven is associated with the number of God, perhaps meaning that this letter, while given specific destinations, is also directed to God’s Church, the Universal Church made up of all those who put their faith in Him throughout all time.  Further evidence of this would be the introduction of God as being both “Alpha and Omega.”  Both would seem to indicate that the scope of this letter is much greater than simply seven churches at one point in time.

1bc068bd89998b7e40c90cc47ad06afbThe vision that John has of Jesus is pretty intense and packed with imagery.  These images can seem foreign to us, especially because our study this year has only contained New Testament passages.  However, Jesus is actually revealing Himself in a way that would have been familiar to both John and to readers of God’s Word (which at that time was only the Scripture there was).

John records that he saw 7 golden lampstands.  This may be a reference to the menorah, the lampstand with seven arms that was made for the tabernacle and the temple of God.  He then saw “someone dressed like a son of man.”  Both Daniel and Ezekiel, in their visions, also describe an image of the Messiah in this way.  Isaiah, in his vision of the Lord, sees God dressed in this way, perhaps reflective of the High Priest who also wore such a robe.

The golden sash that Jesus is wearing in this vision is also noted in another vision of Daniel.  A head of white hair suggests wisdom, as referenced in Proverbs; Jesus is often described in the New Testament as the “Wisdom of God.”  His eyes of fire suggest a “penetrating” or “refining” gaze; Daniel again sees this in his visions as well as the feet of glowing bronze.

Ezekiel hears a similar voice in one of his visions.  The rushing water is perhaps a reference to the “living water” that Jesus offers.  Out of His mouth, John writes, came a double-edged sword.  Isaiah makes references to this several times in His writing; the author of Hebrews also makes reference to the Word of the Lord being a double-edged sword.  Jesus is the Divine Word Incarnate (in the flesh).

Jesus then introduces Himself to John who has rightfully fallen down before Him in what was likely a mix of fear, reverence, and worship.  He says to John, “Do not be afraid.”  This too is a normal greeting for a Divine being to give to a human when a revelation is occurring.  There is obvious reason to be afraid, but Jesus reassures John and us that we need not fear because of who He is and what He has done for us.  This greeting becomes, for us, the basis in which we can approach the rest of the book:

“Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last.  I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever!  And I hold the keys of death and Hades.”



Acts 26 – Defense to Agrippa

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This is not the first time that we have heard Paul use his story as a defense against the accusations brought against him.  However, this particular moment records something very interesting that perhaps we tend to overlook.  As Paul began to follow Christ he didn’t turn his back on the teaching of the Old Testament.  In fact, at this point, 25 years into his ministry, he was not guilty of breaking the law and traditions of the Jewish people, at least not the ones that they religious leaders are accusing him of.

Paul’s understanding of Jesus comes from a deep knowledge of the Old Testament Scriptures, the only “Bible” that they had at that time.  He understands that, as he is a witness to Jesus Christ and the Gospel of the resurrection, the best witness to that among the Jews is to hold well the Old Testament Scriptures that point to Jesus as the Messiah.

Sometimes I think we too readily throw the Old Testament aside.  We think that because Jesus came, and because He represents a New Covenant, the old stuff doesn’t matter any longer.

While it is true that Jesus fulfilled the Law and through Him we have freedom from it, perhaps we shouldn’t be so quick to cast aside the Old Testament teachings.  All of Scripture points to Jesus Christ as the Messiah.  The sacrificial system that was in place helps us to make sense of the need for Jesus’ sacrifice.  The Passover has a direct correlation and brings deep meaning to the sacrifice of Jesus.  The Law shows us our need for a savior.

Do you want to know Jesus better?  Read the Old Testament and see how it foreshadows the coming Messiah and the salvation, reconciliation, redemption, light, and renewed relationship to the world.



John 7 – Who Are We Looking For?

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In the time of Jesus, there was a considerable amount of unrest within the Jewish community; they were on the hunt for a Savior.  In fact, between the time of Malachi, the last book in the Old Testament (mid 500s B.C.), and the time that Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans (70 A.D.), several people rose up as prospective messianic figures and whose rebellions were summarily snuffed out.  Suffice it to say, the people were on the lookout for a Savior.

When Jesus comes on the scene, He works miraculous signs, fulfilling Scripture left and right, and teaching with an authority much greater and more pronounced than the other religious leaders.  We see that something sets Jesus apart by the comments that the people make about Him.  Many are impressed by His teachings while others are extremely threatened by Him.

One of the reasons that the Jews were looking for a Messiah was because of the cultural and political climate that was present in that time.  Roman rule and oppression had been going on for years but the Jewish people had a vision of a “restored kingdom,” like that of King David, and thought that the prophesied Messiah was going to rise up to overthrow the oppressive regime and restore Israel to its former glory.

Sound familiar?  The current state of the U.S. and the political climate of the 2016 presidential election seems to have taken on some of the same themes.  No matter the political affiliation that you hold, many are angrily looking for someone to be America’s “savior.”  We seem to be willing to listen to just about anything that offers some semblance of hope.

Sadly, doing this relates us more closely to the Pharisees, those who doubt Jesus’ identity, than to His disciples, those who follow Him.



John 1 – Prologue

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The opening words of John 1 give a beautiful introduction to the message of this Gospel.  It is a high point from which we can look down on the whole of the Gospel, a point to which we can always return as we being to move through this book.  This is the perspective that John invites us to take as we are introduced to Jesus the Messiah.

John’s whole purpose in writing is to paint a picture of Jesus as God, a theme that is picked up instantly in chapter 1, and is carried throughout the whole Gospel.  Jesus is revealed as “the Word,” coming from the Greek word “Logos,” referring not only to “words” but also to divine wisdom.  Jesus is the “Wisdom of God,” as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians and was present with God the Father before the beginning began.

Contained within John’s Gospel is also a microcosm of the greater Biblical story, from beginning to end.  We get a sense as John talks about creation and the many people that came before “the light” who witnessed to it.  John the Baptist joins the ranks of so many who came before Jesus, testifying to the light of the world that is Jesus Christ.

One of the most beautiful things about this is how John, and really all of Scripture, draws us into the story and then shows us that it is our story and that we are a part of it.  When we meet Jesus, He says to us like the call of Nathanael, I saw you while you weren’t here, but you will see greater things than this!  We are called to be witnesses to the light as well, to testify to all that we have seen and heard, and to the grace that we have experienced.



Introduction to John

The Gospel of John is the fourth and most unique of the four Canonical Gospels.  John the Apostle wrote this Gospel later than Matthew, Mark, and Luke and writes to a much wider audience as well.

John records the life of Jesus in an effort to prove Jesus’ identity as the divine Son of God who is one with the Father.  His writing is highly symbolic, a literary masterpiece.  One could read John on the surface and gain considerable knowledge and wisdom, or start to dig deep and find truths and wisdom that come alive in the text.  I have heard it likened to a swimming pool: you can splash around in the shallow end or dive into the deep end; in either case you will still get wet!

Because of the way John writes, this Gospel is not considered a “Synoptic” Gospel.  John records things in a way that brings out the truth that is being proclaimed here.  Some have argued that, because of John’s lack coherence with the other Gospels, it calls into question the truth of Jesus.  Yet it is important for us to know that “facts” and “truth” are not necessarily always the same thing.  While facts are always true (think: timelines, dates, weights, etc.), truths are boundless and timeless (think: parables, stories, proverbs, etc.).  The Gospel of John contains some of the deepest truths about Christ, even if its timeline is not the same as the other Gospels.

Things to look out for:

John’s Outline:

  • Prologue – 1:1-1:18
  • Book of Signs – 1:19-12:50
    • Sometimes considered the general revelation of Jesus.  Contains 7 miracles of Jesus during His public ministry.
  • Book of Glory – 13:1-20:31
    • Sometimes considered the special revelation of Jesus.  His public ministry finished, Jesus shares with His disciples and then goes to the cross.
  • Epilogue – 21:1-21:25

John records 7 statements made by Jesus, all pointing to who He is as God. Photo Credit: http://www.foundationsforfreedom.net/

John records 7 statements made by Jesus, all pointing to who He is as God.
Photo Credit: http://www.foundationsforfreedom.net/



Luke 9 – Who is Jesus?

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Here at Hopkins Community Church, we have been going through a sermon series examining 7 Essential Questions for faith and life as we journey through Lent.  We began this series examining the question that Jesus asks His disciples: “Who do you say that I am?”

This is an important question that Luke has to examine for his audience, the answer of which is the crux of the whole book.  If Jesus is not the Messiah, then Luke is simply chronicling the life of a religious leader.  The whole purpose of his writing revolves around this.

What we see in this chapter, in response to Jesus’ question and particularly Peter’s response, is a series of incidents related to Jesus’ question.  More important are the different sources from which the consideration comes.  Herod, a Roman official is perplexed at the news of Jesus.  Could a prophet really rise from the dead?  Obviously, it can’t be John.

Later, in the scene of the Transfiguration, we see the Divine affirmation of who Jesus is, followed by another spiritual affirmation of Jesus’ identity from a demon.

I think the point that Luke is trying to make here is two-fold.  The first, and probably more obvious, is that Jesus is the Messiah, God’s Son, our Lord and Savior.  Yet the second, and perhaps the one we often miss, is that the answer to the first may not readily be obvious to everyone.  Peter is the only one of the disciples that confess Jesus as Lord.  Later Thomas will still doubt Jesus even after He appears to them.

This is a question that we all must answer at some time in our lives.  God in not afraid of our questions.  In fact, He welcomes them as an opportunity to show His true love to us.



Luke 7 – Contrasting Faiths

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Jesus speaks about faith a great deal during His ministry.  Often, these teachings come in the form of a parable.  Today, though, it comes in the form of commentary on the faith of others.  While Matthew is known more for his audience being the Jewish people, Luke works show what true faith is by way of  contrast.  Unfortunately for the Jews, they find themselves on the wrong side of this contrast.

The significance of the centurion in this first narrative cannot be overstated.  This is a man who, even though the Jews say he is a good guy, would have been seen as an outsider, and oppressor, and obviously not someone that would share their faith.  In fact, at this time in the Roman Empire, for whom this centurion would have been serving, the practice of “Emperor Worship” was on the rise.  Yet this man knows Jesus and His faith, as Jesus says, is greater than any in Israel.

This is contrasted with the reaction of the Jewish crowd in the next narrative.  Jesus raises a man from the dead in front of everyone.  Their response is almost disheartening, “A great prophet is among us.”

After this, the disciples of John the Baptist show up to ask Jesus if He is indeed the Messiah.  Jesus, quoting Scripture, tells the to report what they have “seen and heard.”  Given what has just happened, this is an interesting response.

However, Jesus doesn’t simply tell them “yes, I am the Messiah,” He uses the very Scripture that points to the Messiah as proof of who He is and gives them the freedom to make up their own minds.  This is the essence of faith, having the ability to freely choose in whom we truly believe, love and trust as our Lord.