Gods?

Jesus is God’s Son and I was created in God’s image

Read: John 10

“I am the Good Shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me – just as the Father knows me and I know the Father – and I lay down my life for the sheep.” (John 10:14-15)

Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are “gods” ‘? If he called them ‘gods’ to whom the word of God came – and Scripture cannot be set aside – what about the one whom the Father sent as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’?” (John 10:34-36)

Reflect:

Jesus begins with one metaphor in this chapter, using imagery of shepherds and sheep, gates and thieves. This is fairly simple to understand, especially since I have had the pleasure of hand-rearing several lambs from birth, feeding them from bottles, taking them for walks through our town (tourists would stop and take photos as I led my lamb along by a leash, as one would do with a dog, and later, as the older lamb followed along behind me without a leash). I’ve rolled my eyes when my lambs knocked at our back door with their front hooves as soon as they heard me in the kitchen in the morning, seemingly demanding the milk they knew I was preparing. I’ve laughed at my lambs rollicking frolics and marvelled at the way they have indeed come to my call, recognising and responding to my voice.

I find it easy to understand the figurative language which describes a Christian knowing Jesus’s voice and following him in the same way a lamb knows and follows her shepherd.

The second metaphor in this chapter is much more opaque. Jesus refers to himself as God’s Son, and to those “to whom the word of God came” as “gods”. The psalm Jesus is quoting (Psalm 82) describes a scene of God’s judgement and rebuke of “gods” who are unjust fools, not like the One True God at all. They are described as “all sons of the Most High” who will still die, just as every mortal dies.

As Jesus stated, this Scripture cannot be set aside. So how do I understand it and what do I do with it?

I can’t accept that it is right to think that those who receive the word of God (people who read or hear the Bible’s message, generally) are literally gods in the same sense the Father, Son and Spirit are God. This understanding would be completely at odds with the rest of the entire Bible, starting with Genesis 1, which related the creation of people by an uncreated God. And this understanding is also at odds with Psalm 82 itself, which is clearly portraying these so-called “gods” in contrast to the One True God who sits in judgement on them and disciplines them.

So I have to understand that this use of the word “gods” by the psalmist Asaph and by Jesus in quoting the psalm, is a metaphor. It is a use of figurative language, just like the use of the word sheep to describe God’s people in other parts of John 10.

One way the imagery can be understood is to say that the people to whom the word of God has come are idolaters who worship themselves, just like each and every person does a little bit of self-worship at some time of their lives or another. If Jesus is using the passage this way, then he is condemning his hearers for their religious hypocrisy in condemning him as a blasphemer when he proclaims himself as God, while at the same time they are acting as if they are their own little self-proclaimed gods. This makes sense with the passage.

Another way the imagery can be understood is as a reference to the fact that when God created people, he made us in his own image (Genesis 1:26-27). We are, in some senses, replica gods, image-bearers of God himself, like God but not God. So why should we (or Jesus’ hearers), who are made in God’s image, be surprised when we meet the One who bears the image of God perfectly? This too makes sense with the passage.

I am convicted of my sinfulness and convinced of my need for Jesus and my potential for glory.

Crux:

Jesus is God’s Son and I was created in God’s image.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are perfect and I am far, far less than that. Your Scripture says that I was made in your image, yet I frequently do a very bad job of making your glory known.

You are love, You constantly had compassion on others during your Immanuel years. You care for your sheep, of whom I am one. I frequently am not loving, compassionate or caring. I’m not gregarious or extraverted, which isn’t a fault in itself, but my selfish ignoring of others is a problem. I know if I push myself to hard to be friendly and chatty I will melt down or burn out. Please help me find balance, especially with my church family at Camp this weekend.

Please help me to know you and respond to you just as a good sheep does her shepherd. Please help me to follow in your steps as a good sheep follows her shepherd. May I bring you glory as I show your image clearly to the world.

Amen.

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Suffering

God’s grace and glory are displayed in me when I suffer.

Read: John 9

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9:1-3)

Reflect:

There is a clash of ideologies between the disciples’ question and Jesus’ answer. The disciples are looking for a cause to explain the man’s disability, whereas Jesus reveals a purpose to his suffering. The question of suffering is not primarily one of cause and effect, rather, it is one of purpose and plan.

The important thing is not what circumstances led to the suffering. Within the Christian world view, all suffering originated with the Fall, with the first sin and the consequent curse, so all suffering is caused by sin either directly or indirectly. There’s no value in dwelling on who sinned, or what sin led to which consequence, because ultimately, the problem of sin has already been solved.

The solution to sin was and always is Jesus’ sacrifice of himself. However, this sacrifice has not (yet) achieved an alleviation of suffering. The reason any person suffers, whether it is me, my loved ones, you or a man born blind some 2000 years ago, is for the ongoing purpose of showing off the works of God, displaying God’s glory.

This ideology allows Christians to suffer joyfully, to persevere when persecuted, to die with dignity, to mourn hopefully. We can do all this because we know that God is at work within us and within our situation, to bring about our good and his glory, whether or not our wounds are healed in the short term.

Crux:

God’s grace and glory are displayed in me when I suffer.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

I truly believe you are a God of loving-kindness, compassion, mercy and grace. You care for your people with tender-heartedness, generosity, patience, gentleness and wisdom.

I see your character at work in this story of Jesus healing a blind man and then speaking to him several times to ensure that he was not just physically healed, but also spiritually nurtured.

When I think of my own past suffering, I am forced to conclude and confess that I have not always glorified you in my responses, particularly my immediate, automatic responses. I am sorry. Please forgive me. Please change my heart so that what I know to be true will be evident from my first response as well as from my more thoughtful and informed responses later on.

I acknowledge that you have always been at work, displaying your care for me as I have suffered. You’ve provided for my needs even before I thought to ask. You’ve comforted me as I cried aloud to you. You’ve encouraged me when I sought your strength. You’ve brought me to the place where I could rejoice with singing where previously I was wailing with grief.

O LORD, continue to magnify your glory in my suffering.

Amen.

PS LORD, even as I pray this, I tremble at the thought of what suffering you might yet allow into my life. Please continue to walk beside me and uphold me, all the days of my life.

The LORD

Jesus is the LORD, the One True God.

Read: John 8

“I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.” (John 8:24)

So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father taught me.” (John 8:28)

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, your are really my disciples.” (John 8:31)

Reflect:

Just what was Jesus claiming when he declared, “I am he”?

From John 8:58-59, I can see that the Jews considered this statement to be blasphemy worthy of death by stoning. Jesus was claiming God’s identity, the name “I AM WHO I AM” (first revealed to Moses at the burning bush, Exodus 3:14-15), for himself. In effect, Jesus was saying, “I, Jesus, am the LORD; I, Jesus, am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the flesh.”

It doesn’t surprise me that the Law-abiding Jews freaked out and tried to stone Jesus. According to Jesus, my eternal future hinges on my response to this statement. If I don’t believe it, I will die with the burden of my sins, guilty forever with no hope of parole.

But Jesus also said that those who know that Jesus is God are able to know this because Jesus has been lifted up, crucified. I know Jesus is the LORD, because Jesus was crucified.

But more than that, I know Jesus is God because I lifted him up. In a very real way, I have crucified Jesus: my sins brought Jesus to the cross; my forgiveness was sought by Jesus on the cross.

So, because I am guilty of the death of Jesus, I have been given grace to cling to Jesus’ teaching, to know that Jesus is the LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Because I am guilty of causing Jesus’ death, I am extended mercy to be Jesus’ disciple, and I will be raised up to eternal life.

This is heavy, hard teaching. No wonder so few had the faith to become God’s disciples.

Crux:

Jesus is the LORD, the One True God.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

When I begin my prayers to you with these words, I always consider I’m praying to God the Father, the first person of the Trinitarian Godhead. Yet today I acknowledge that Jesus Christ, God the Son, second person of the Trinity is also inescapably the LORD God Almighty.

And I humbly acknowledge that I can’t get my thoughts to comprehend how this might be possible:

That you, LORD God, sent your Son – and you, LORD God, are the Son who was sent;
You, LORD God, sent the Spirit – and you, LORD God, are the Spirit who was sent.

You are Trinity and Unity, the only True God, God alone, the one and only God – and you are Father, Son and Spirit.

You died because my sins made your death necessary. I’m so sorry for my sins that did this, yet so thankful for your mercy that dealt with my sins. LORD God, Jesus, who is the LORD and my Lord, thank you, thank you, thank you.

Amen.