Saturday, March 28, 2015

Truly the Son of God

Mark Horne points out that Jesus' death in Mark 15:37-39 echos Jesus' baptism in Mark 1:10-11. This is not surprising as baptism is a picture of death. In both cases we find Jesus the sinless one in the place of the guilty. The verbal similarities are striking: heaven / the curtain torn open, Spirit / breath, Son. In both cases there is a voice. At the baptism God the Father announced Jesus as his beloved Son. At the cross the gentile centurion confesses Jesus as the Son of God. Here is the appropriate human response to divine revelation.

See The Victory According to Mark: An Exposition of the Second Gospel (Canon Press, 2003) p183

Thursday, March 26, 2015

A Palm Sunday sermon on Mark 11:1-11

In our Gospel reading we find Jesus is in control (vv1-6).
His entry into Jerusalem is carefully stage-managed.
He’s in control of the details – he knows which donkey is tied up where (v2).
He knows the future – he knows what will happen.
He knows men’s hearts – he knows what people will say and do.
It seems safe to deduce that Jesus is in control of everything.

In life we face all sorts of difficulties and uncertainties.
We don’t know what the future will hold or how we’ll handle it.
But we can be sure that Jesus is in control.
He knows what he’s doing.

Jesus chooses, v2, a colt that has never been ridden.
Jesus, the Master of creation, rides an unbroken colt.
Jesus is in charge even of beasts.
Way back at creation, Adam had been put in charge of all the animals.
He’d exercised his authority over them by naming them.
Mark is showing us Jesus is the new and better Adam who perfectly rules creation.
He is able to do what no-one else can do.

Jesus has a plan, a purpose, a destiny, that he’s deliberately fulfilling.
V1 tells us that Jesus is going up to Jerusalem.
If we’d been reading through this gospel, we’d know what that means.
For example, in 10:32-24, just back over the page, we read:
“They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid.
Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him.
[Again, notice that Jesus knows the future]
"We are going up to Jerusalem," he said, "and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law.
They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him.
Three days later he will rise."
Jesus knows he’s going to die in Jerusalem, but he goes there anyway.
I would have headed in the opposite direction!
Jesus is deliberately going to the cross.
Jesus intends to give his life as a ransom for many (10:45).
He will die, that we might live.
He takes the punishment for you and me.

Although Jesus is completely in control, he uses his disciples (vv1-2).
He sends them with a significant job to do.
No doubt Jesus didn’t really need them.
He could have sent angels.
Or he could have miraculously summoned the donkey.
But Jesus chooses to use his disciples.
Might he use even you and me?
Perhaps he would!
Are we ready and willing for Jesus to use us?
If Jesus is to use them, Jesus’ disciples must do as they’re told.
Are we willing to do what Jesus tells us?
Are we willing to do what Jesus says, even if it seems odd and uncomfortable, as perhaps it did to these disciples, and to those who saw them take the colt away?
Are we willing to risk trouble and challenge for Jesus?

Would you give Jesus your donkey? (vv3-6)
Perhaps you can imagine possible objections and excuses.
“I’m really sorry, but it’s just not terribly convenient just at the moment.”
“It’s such short notice: I’ve got other plans for the donkey today.”
“I’d be really stuck without my donkey. There are other people who could lend you theirs.”
“How do I know I’ll get my donkey back?”
Can you really trust Jesus with your stuff?
Is he the Lord, the Master, of everything you have?
Are your time, and energy, and money, and home, and possessions, and holidays at his disposal, if “the Lord has need of them” (v3)?

Jesus is deliberately fulfilling the Scriptures here.
More or less explicitly, Jesus fulfils several Old Testament passages:

Jesus sending 2 men to look for a donkey is probably significant.
In the Old Testament, Saul was anointed as king, and then he met 2 men who tell him that the donkeys he’s been looking for have been found.
(1 Sam 10:2)

When Solomon, King David’s son, was anointed King he had ridden a donkey (1 K 1:33, 38).

The point is that Jesus is God’s anointed king – the new Saul, the new Solomon.

In Gen 49:8-12, Jacob / Israel says to his son Judah:
"Judah, your brothers will praise you;
your hand will be on the neck of your enemies;
your father's sons will bow down to you.
You are a lion's cub, O Judah;
you return from the prey, my son.
Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like a lioness-- who dares to rouse him?
The sceptre will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his.
[And here comes the donkey bit:]
He will tether his donkey to a vine, his colt to the choicest branch;
he will wash his garments in wine, his robes in the blood of grapes.
His eyes will be darker than wine, his teeth whiter than milk.”
Jesus belonged to the tribe of Judah.
He is the long-promised one to whom the sceptre and the ruler’s staff and the obedience of the nations belong.

In Zech 9:9-10, we read:
Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion!
Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the war-horses from Jerusalem, and the battle-bow will be broken.
He will proclaim peace to the nations.
His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth.”

Jesus is the righteous king who comes to save, who will rule the world, who will bring peace.

It’s surprising, perhaps, that Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a colt, a young horse.
The other gospels tell us it was a donkey.
A war horse might have been better for the King arriving in his capital.
But Jesus has come to bring peace, not war.
Jesus is a surprising sort of king – humble and gentle.
Jesus is re-writing the rules.
He shows us a new way of ruling.
Here are power and authority as they’re meant to be: at the service of others.
Here’s a revolutionary kind of leadership.
Again, back in Mark chapter 10 Jesus has just said:
"You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.
Not so with you.
Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
On Palm Sunday Jesus is the king on a donkey.
On Good Friday he will be the king on a cross.
He is the humble, servant king.
The king who brings peace.

In v8 the people are spreading their cloaks before Jesus.
They’re giving Jesus the red-carpet treatment.
Sir Walter Reighley famously spread his cloak in front of Queen Elizabeth I when she was about to step in a puddle.
Spreading a cloak in the road is the kind of thing you do for royalty.
In fact, that’s a Bible idea.
In 2 Kings 9:13, when the people of Israel want to make Jehu king, they spread their cloaks before him.
Throwing cloaks in front of someone is treating them as a king.
It’s treating them like your king.
The crowd here are saying they want Jesus as their king.
They’re committing themselves to him and pledging their loyalty – throwing their lot in with Jesus’ revolution.

In v8 the people spread branches before Jesus.
Two hundred years before Jesus, Judas Maccabaeus defeated the Syrian king, Antiochus Epiphanies, entered Jerusalem and cleansed and rebuilt the temple.
The people waved ivy and palm branches as they sang hymns of praise.
Judas started a royal dynasty that lasted 100 years.
(2 Macc 10:1-9; cf. 1 macc 13:51).
Again, here is Jesus, the king who will conquer and set God’s people free.

“Hosanna” (vv9&10) is a shout of praise, but it means, “Save!”, “Save us now!”
It’s a cry for help.
Perhaps the people want Jesus to save them from the Romans, who’re occupying the country.
Maybe they’re just thinking of a political and military salvation.
Jesus is the Saviour, but he’s come to save us from sin and Satan and death and hell.
He brings a greater more lasting salvation than we might have imagined.

We sometimes think we know what Jesus is about, but Jesus often has other ideas.
He doesn’t always fit in to our expectations.
Sometimes we have to radically re-think.
Will we have Jesus on his terms?

The crowd who shout “Hosanna!” will soon be shouting “Crucify!”

[Do you know the hymn: My Song Is Love Unknown:]
“Sometimes they strew His way,
And His sweet praises sing;
Resounding all the day
Hosannas to their King:
Then “Crucify!” is all their breath,
And for His death they thirst and cry.”

Are we fickle in the way we follow Jesus?
Are we committed and consistent?

In v10 the crowd cries out, “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David.”
Who knows how much the crowd understand this, but in fact, the Kingdom of David is coming because Jesus the King has come.
Jesus was literally a descendent of King David.
Remember he was born in Bethlehem, the city of David?
If you know your Christmas carols, you’ll remember this from While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night:
"To you, in David's town this day,
Is born of David's line
The Saviour who is Christ the Lord”
David had been promised that God would establish his son’s throne for ever (2 Samuel 7:13).
Jesus is great king David’s greater son.
He will reign for ever.

David was anointed as God’s chosen king.
Christ or messiah means anointed one.
Jesus is God’s long-awaited, promised rescuer king.

In v11, Jesus goes into the temple and has a good look around.
What did Jesus make of the Temple?
The cleansing of the Temple, which comes next, tells us.
He judged it as corrupt.
What would Jesus make of us?
What would Jesus think of our religion and worship?

Will we bow the knee to King Jesus, on his terms?
Will we do as he says and lay our all at his feet?

39 Articles Lent Course Session 5 - The Sacraments

Articles 19-36: The Church
Articles 25-31: The Sacraments

Article 25: Of the Sacraments
Sacraments ordained of Christ be not only badges or tokens of Christian men's profession, but rather they be certain sure witnesses, and effectual signs of grace, and God's good will towards us, by the which he doth work invisibly in us, and doth not only quicken, but also strengthen and confirm our Faith in him.

There are two Sacraments ordained of Christ our Lord in the Gospel, that is to say, Baptism, and the Supper of the Lord.

Those five commonly called Sacraments, that is to say, Confirmation, Penance, Orders, Matrimony, and Extreme Unction, are not to be counted for Sacraments of the Gospel, being such as have grown partly of the corrupt following of the Apostles, partly are states of life allowed in the Scriptures; but yet have not like nature of Sacraments with Baptism, and the Lord's Supper, for that they have not any visible sign or ceremony ordained of God.

The Sacraments are not ordained of Christ to be gazed upon, or to be carried about, but that we should duly use them. And in such only as worthily receive the same, they have a wholesome effect or operation: but they that receive them unworthily, purchase to themselves damnation, as Saint Paul saith.

The word “sacraments” like the word “Trinity” does not appear in the Bible. Sacramentum means an oath. Tertullian first used it around AD200 to compare baptism to a Roman soldier swearing allegiance to the Emperor. Sacrament often defined as “an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace”.  
?Zwingli (1484-1531) and the Anabaptists generally thought of the sacraments as only badges or tokens of Christian men's profession”. The Articles think of them as “certain sure witnesses, and effectual signs of grace, and God's good will towards us, by the which he doth work invisibly in us”. God does what he promises in the sacraments. They are not empty signs or false witnesses. The direction is important: the sacraments are primarily God’s visible words to us, not just our words to him. The sacraments preach the gospel to us in a different form. The sacraments really do something. Jn 3:5; 6:56; Rm 6:3-4; 1 Cor 10:16.
Peter Lombard (1096-1164) had listed the 7 sacraments and his view was defined as orthodoxy at the Council of Florence (1439). Only 2 sacraments of the gospel ordained by Christ. Confirmation hard to find in the NT! Penance influenced by Latin Vulgate translation of e.g. Mk 1:15, penitentia, do penance, rather than Greek of the New Testament, metanoia, repent! “Orders” = holy orders, ordination. “Extreme unction” = the last rites – cf. James 5:14-15. For a sacrament the Reformers required (1) a promise from God (2) a visible sign (3) a biblical command (for all believers). Lord’s Supper: Mt 26:26-29; Mk 14:22-25; 1 Cor 11:23-26; Baptism: Mt 28:19.
Emphasis on the proper use of the sacraments and worthy reception. Cf. Article 28. Reference to St. Paul is to 1 Cor 11:27-32. Cf. The 3rd Exhortation in the BCP Communion service.

Article 26: Of the Unworthiness of the Ministers, which hinders not the effect of the Sacraments
Although in the visible Church the evil be ever mingled with the good, and sometimes the evil have chief authority in the Ministration of the Word and Sacraments, yet forasmuch as they do not the same in their own name, but in Christ's, and do minister by his commission and authority, we may use their Ministry, both in hearing the Word of God, and in receiving the Sacraments. Neither is the effect of Christ's ordinance taken away by their wickedness, nor the grace of God's gifts diminished from such as by faith, and rightly, do receive the Sacraments ministered unto them; which be effectual, because of Christ's institution and promise, although they be ministered by evil men.

Nevertheless, it appertaineth to the discipline of the Church, that inquiry be made of evil Ministers, and that they be accused by those that have knowledge of their offences; and finally, being found guilty, by just judgment be deposed.

Cf. The rigorist Donatists of the 4th & 5th CC who rejected those who had compromised during the persecution under the Emperor Diocletian. RC sacraments valid – no re-baptisms. Some radical protestants boycotted the ministry of ministers they thought evil. No perfectly pure church: if you find a perfect church, don’t join it – you’d only spoil it! Mt 23:2-3; Lev 28:1-29:46, no test of holiness; Judas, Jn 4:2. 1 Sam 2:22-36; 4:11-22; 2 Jn 7-11; 3 Jn 9-10; Jude 8-16.

Article 27: Of Baptism
Baptism is not only a sign of profession, and mark of difference, whereby Christian men are discerned from others that be not christened, but it is also a sign of Regeneration or New-Birth, whereby, as by an instrument, they that receive Baptism rightly are grafted into the Church; the promises of the forgiveness of sin, and of our adoption to be the sons of God by the Holy Ghost, are visibly signed and sealed; Faith is confirmed, and Grace increased by virtue of prayer unto God.

The Baptism of young Children is in any wise to be retained in the Church, as most agreeable with the institution of Christ.

Again against radical protestants who think baptism is merely a sign of profession and should only be administered to adult believers (Anabaptists/re-baptisers) Cf. regeneration and baptism with marriage and the marriage contract. The Gorham judgement – Bishop of Exeter refused to institute Gorham to a living because Gorham denied baptismal regeneration. Eventually the judicial committee of the privy council decided in 1850 that baptismal regeneration is not the doctrine of the C of E. Image of being grafted into the church Rm 11:17-24; 1 Cor 12:13. Sealing Eph 1:13. Cf. membership of the visible church and salvation (Article 26 – church a mixed company).
Infant baptism. At least by the 5th C we know it was universal. For the next millennium or more every child born in Western Europe (apart from Jews) was baptised. Cf. circumcision. Col 2:9-12. The NT is a more inclusive covenant. Acts 2:39; Jesus welcomed little children. Mt 19:13-15. Household baptisms in the NT. Children of believers holy, 1 Cor 7:14. Our prayer for our children is that they will grow up never knowing a time when they haven’t trusted in Christ.   

Article 28: Of the Lord's Supper
The Supper of the Lord is not only a sign of the love that Christians ought to have among themselves one to another; but rather it is a Sacrament of our Redemption by Christ's death: insomuch that to such as rightly, worthily, and with faith, receive the same, the Bread which we break is a partaking of the Body of Christ; and likewise the Cup of Blessing is a partaking of the Blood of Christ.

Transubstantiation (or the change of the substance of Bread and Wine) in the Supper of the Lord, cannot be proved by Holy Writ; but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthroweth the nature of a Sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions.

The Body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten, in the Supper, only after an heavenly and spiritual manner. And the mean whereby the Body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper, is Faith.

The Sacrament of the Lord's Supper was not by Christ's ordinance reserved, carried about, lifted up, or worshipped.

Against some radical protestants, the Supper is not merely a sign of love though it is that. 1 Cor 10:16-17. Importance of right reception, by faith. Transubstantiation depends on Aristotle’s distinction between substance and accidents. According to this theory the accidents or outward appearance of bread and wine remain but the substance or essence is transformed into Jesus’ body and blood. The term transubstantiation was first used in the 11th Century to refer to the change in the elements and was endorsed by the 4th Lateran Council (1215) & The Council of Tent, session 13 (1551). 1 Cor 11:26, 28 says we eat bread! Superstitions e.g. stories of the host disappearing to be replaced by the infant Christ or drops of blood flowing from the consecrated wafer.
Christ’s body is now in heaven. We receive him not materially / physically but through the work of the Holy Spirit by faith. Cf. Words of administration, “feed on him in your heart by faith”, not in your stomach! Jn 6:35, 51, 54-55.
The Council of Trent session 13 said that the same worship could be given to the sacrament which is due to the true God.   
Lord’s Supper to be eaten and drunk – to be used, participated in, not looked at etc.

Article 29: Of the Wicked, which eat not the Body of Christ in the use of the Lord's Supper
The Wicked, and such as be void of a lively faith, although they do carnally and visibly press with their teeth (as Saint Augustine saith) the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ; yet in no wise are they partakers of Christ: but rather, to their condemnation, do eat and drink the sign or Sacrament of so great a thing.

In contrast to Medieval theology which said that those who receive the Lord’s Supper unworthily receive Christ’s body and blood but receive judgement rather than spiritual benefit from it. The quote from Augustine is from his 26th lecture on John’s Gospel (on Jn 6:41-59). Jn 6:54 with 6:35; 14:23-24; 15:10. 1 Cor 11:27-30.

Article 30: Of both Kinds
The Cup of the Lord is not to be denied to the Lay-people: for both the parts of the Lord's Sacrament, by Christ's ordinance and commandment, ought to be ministered to all Christian men alike.

Pope Pascal II had condemned communion in one kind in 1118 but it was required by the Council of Constance (1414-7). Communion in one kind endorsed at 21st session of The Council of Trent (1562). Origins not entirely clear. Connected with idea of transubstantiation? Concern that the laity might spill the blood of Jesus! Beards & theology! Fear of contagion esp. after Black Death? An example of the church over-stepping its authority. 1 Cor 11:25, 28; Mt 26:27. Communion in both kinds is normal though not universal in the RC church today though communion in one kind is still defended, Catechism p314, paragraph 1390.

Article 31: Of the one Oblation of Christ finished upon the Cross
The Offering of Christ once made in that perfect redemption, propitiation, and satisfaction, for all the sins of the whole world, both original and actual; and there is none other satisfaction for sin, but that alone. Wherefore the sacrifices of Masses, in the which it was commonly said, that the Priest did offer Christ for the quick and the dead, to have remission of pain or guilt, were blasphemous fables, and dangerous deceits.

“Oblation” = the offering of something to God.  “Redeemed” – bought back, set free from sin, Mt 20:28; Rm 3:24; Eph 1:7.  “Propitiation” = the turning aside of wrath by the payment of a price, Rm 3:25; Heb 2:17; 1 Jn 3:2.“Satisfaction” an idea from the theology of Anselm (1033–1109): the claims of divine justice were met and satisfied in the death of Christ. Cf. BCP Prayer of Consecration, p255.
Makes it sound as if “all the sins of the whole world” will be forgiven? Cf. Limited atonement / particular redemption. Whilst Christ’s death would have been sufficient to pay the price for all sins, it was effective only for those God has chosen to save / those who have faith in Christ.  
Heb 10:11-14. Jesus both priest and victim – he offered himself. Heb 7:27; 9:12. A once for all sacrifice that cannot be and need not be repeated.
Cf. Articles 2 and 9.  
Cf. Purgatory. Sacrifice of the mass dishonours Christ’s sacrifice as insufficient.
We should put our whole trust in Christ and his death for us.
Cf. Council of Trent session 22, ch. 2 on the sacrifice of the Mass as propitiatory (1562).
Cf. The Lord’s Supper as a sacrifice of thanks and praise in which we offer ourselves to God (Rm 12:2) – BCP Prayer after Communion, p257.