Sunday, December 02, 2007

Study on the Gospel of John: Day 6

Pastor Chris' sermon this morning was from Matthew 1:1-17 today stressing on the theme of many are called but few are chosen. I looked at the genealogy of Jesus, and it is good to be reminded that God uses all kinds of people, the good and the bad, the victims and the perpetrators to bring about his purpose and will. Amongst several prominent people, the women stand out: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and the wife of Uriah.

A typical genealogy is patriarchal, whereas the one in Matthew included these 4 women. The mention of these women and not others seems to be both intentional and significant to Matthew's portrayal of the Messiah. Why did Matthew included them? Why did he choose these women and not the other more prominent ones?

John C. Hutchinson suggests one very interesting perspective. He did not think the reason was the women themselves but to highlight 4 familiar Old Testament accounts that illustrate one common point. In terms of timeline, it spans the periods of the Patriachs, the Conquest, the judges and David's kingdom, and in each case a Gentile shows extraordinary faith in contrast to the Jews, who were greatly lacking in their faith: Tamar's faith supersedes that of Judah, Rahab's in comparison with the Israelites in the wilderness and Ruth's in contrast to the generation of the judges. Matthew refers to Bathsheba as "the wife of Uriah" most probably to highlight Uriah's faith with that of David's. And through all this, God remained faithful in preserving the messianic line, where in some cases He accomplished it through godly Gentiles. It was Matthew's message of God who was faithful to the Abrahamic and Davidic covenant promises to remind the Jews to forsake self-righteous attitude toward the Gentiles who were now joining them in the church. Matthew did this by highlighting the crucial role Gentiles played in the messianic story.
(John C. Hutchinson, "Women, gentiles, and the messianic mission in Matthew's genealogy," Bibliotheca sacra 158 no 630 Ap-Je 2001, p 152-164.)

The message is strong for us as well. We must be careful not to elevate and put ourselves so highly that we look down upon the weak, simple minded and the young. God can use anyone who is willing to be used, to bring about his purpose and will. And throughout history, we see God rather choosing the weak and humble so that his glory will be revealed. For when we are weak, then he is strong.

I then proceeded back to class to complete the last session of the Study on the Gospel of John, where we closed it all with two narratives: the trial of the King in18:28-19:16 and the Coming of the Spirit in John 20:22.

Again, the fact that I have read the entire bible before did not quite mean much was once again brought to light. I did not remember coming across John 20:22 when I was reading John: And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit.

Allen brought us through three possibilities in interpreting this verse:

1. A Pre-Pentecostal Anointing
Max Turner subscribed to this. Basically this interpretation takes the Johannine verse to mean two separate anointing with this one being the "sprinkling" and later in Acts 2 the "full endowment" of the Spirit. The problem with this interpretation concerns the kind of anointing. Since there is suppose to be only one coming of the Holy Spirit and not several comings, what exactly was received here then. Some classmates suggested that this may be the already common filling of the Holy Spirit like what was already seen happening in the Old Testament.

2. A Johannine Pentecost
John Beasley-Murray and Gary M. Burge would take this interpretation where this Johannine anointing and the Pentecostal anointing in Acts 2 is the exact same one. Some interprets the chronological sequence to be a bit different in the sense that first Mary sees Jesus physically, the Jesus ascended and then Jesus meets with the disciples and breathes on them the anointing of the Spirit. Some others say that John in writing the Gospel writes it theologically as one event, where chronology is not key to the writing. The problem to this interpretation was that the events as presented in John and Acts are quite clearly 2 separate and different events that it will be a challenge to reconcile them.

3. A Symbolic Act that looks forward to Pentecost
This was first put forward by Theodora Mopstuetia at the 2nd Council of Constatinople in 553AD, and subscribed by D.A. Carson. This interpretation do not take it as something that actually happened but a symbolic breathing upon the disciples and a command for them to receive the Holy Spirit, which will happen later, as recorded in Acts 2. Mopstuetia was considered a heresy then for propagating this intepretation.

Allen asked for a vote and the result was 10/2/5 for the 3 interpretation above. To me, at this point of time, I take more to the third one. But as I reread the passage, I seem to see that there is this one other option as well, which Allen thinks I may be stretching it a bit.

Here is what I think, but first, the pericope to put it in context:

John 20:19-29
19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you." 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld." 24 Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe."

26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." 27 Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe." 28 Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" 29 Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."

The passage can be divided into 2 parts: firstly, when Jesus appeared to the disciples but Thomas was not around and secondly, Jesus appeared to the disciples again and this time Thomas was with them. I tried working this out and I came out with this structure which I thought quite interesting:

Disciples, in fear inside with doors were locked
      Jesus came and stood with them
            Jesus proclaimed peace, showed his physical being
                  Disciples overjoyed!
            Jesus proclaimed peace and breathed on them
      Jesus commanded them to receive the Spirit for mission
Thomas was not there, was told, did not believe

Disciples were inside, with Thomas, doors locked
      Jesus came and stood with them
            Jesus proclaimed peace, showed his physical being to Thomas
                  Thomas believed – my Lord, my God!
            Jesus proclaimed Thomas’ belief because he has seen him
      (No command given)
Those who have not seen but believe will be blessed

I am not sure if this structure I came up with would carry any water, since Part 2's B' is missing. But what I am trying to draw out is this: can the interpretation of "breathed" be part of Jesus showing the disciples that he has risen - that he is physical, has the wounds and that he can breathe as he breathed on them. If this is the case, then we have no problems in interpreting 20:21-22: "receive the Holy Spirit" can stand on its own and can be taken as a command for the disciples to receive the Holy Spirit when he comes upon them later after Jesus is no longer with them.

So Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you and even as He had said this, He breathed on them. And he said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit.



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