Monthly Archives: March 2018

REFLECTIONS ON ROMANS (2)

                          The Lord’s Commissioned witness tells his Story

Paul introduces his good news of God’s righteousness (faithfulness) in 1:1-17, which is good news for the whole of humanity (1:5, 13b-17).
Note that the word “gospel” occurs six times in these opening verses. Paul certainly used texts to explain and present his message but he preached “the gospel” rather than a host of verses.
The centrality of the “good news”

Why did Paul write the book of Romans? Scholars continue to debate that question and they come up with differing answers. Perhaps there is no one single reason for Romans. There certainly isn’t one that stands out so plainly that scholars can agree on it. That’s the trouble with and the beauty of rich literature. It carries our minds in so many directions that we find it hard to stay with one profound insight. This is especially true when the writer himself hasn’t offered a single purpose for writing. And even if a writer has a single purpose in mind, if the material is very rich he or she will be saying more than they consciously mean to say. This is because truths exist in a network of truth rather than standing in complete isolation from one another; so one truth leads to another. Humans, though individuals are not solitary beings; they are shaped by the community and culture they live in and experience life within the network of shared convictions and thought and speech patterns. I say a word that has many related uses and you experience one that I am not consciously thinking of.
In any case, it’s always helpful and sometimes critically important to discover the overall reason for the book. Just the same, sometimes we can understand how some of the pieces work together even if we can’t determine where it is going as a whole. Something like a jigsaw puzzle I suppose. We can piece together some of the sections and still not know what the whole is about. But if we can piece a significant number of pieces together we can get a sense of the kind of scene we’ll find in the end. We may adjust our educated “guess” but we’ll not be simply groping in sheer ignorance.

Paul introduces his good news of God’s righteousness (faithfulness) in 1:1-17, which is good news for the whole of humanity (1:5, 13b-17). He uses the word “gospel” 4 times in these opening verses that act as an introduction to the entire letter; that should affect how we view the book as a whole. However somber some of the parts of Romans are we need to remember that Paul sees himself as a preacher and teacher of “the gospel of God” (1:1) and it’s that good news he wants to bring to the Romans.

                               The truth and authority of the “good news”

An inscription discovered in Priene in northern Turkey is dated 9 B.C. and it gives us an insight into what the word “gospel” means. Here’s a piece of what it says.

“Whereas the Providence which has ordered the whole of our life, showing concern and zeal, has ordained the most perfect consummation for human life by giving to it Augustus, by filling him with virtue for doing the work of a benefactor among men, and by sending in him, as it were, a saviour for us and those who come after us, to make war to cease, to create order everywhere and whereas the birthday of the God [Augustus] was the beginning for the world of the glad tidings that have come to men through him. Paulus Fabius Maximus, the proconsul of the province has devised a way of honoring Augustus.”

From this it’s clear that the “gospel” is glad tidings. It’s also clear that the gospel is an announcement, a proclamation rather than just an invitation to share the joy inherent in the good news. This inscription isn’t saying that Augustus is lord if only the people would let him into their hearts. It claims that the power that governs the universe had established Augustus as lord of the world and he is its instrument to bring peace and security to that world.
Individualism is such a part of our culture and religious decision is so stressed that we forget this aspect of the gospel.
When Paul preached Jesus as King he wasn’t inviting people to faith in a new religion, he was proclaiming a change in the entire creation because a new King had risen! Nothing is now to be seen in the same way. So he warns them as he approaches the gates of Rome, the world’s center of Caesar power, that he is coming with a gospel that is God’s power to save anyone who believes it!
Even the Roman historian Tacitus, quotes Calgacus, saying that Rome by force of arms created a desert and called it peace; but Paul insists that he was not on a destroying mission; he was coming with a gospel of salvation and life. It is this gospel he wants to lay before the Romans and see it bear fruit among them.

                                           Aspects of the gospel

He says it is the “gospel of God” (1:1). This phrase may mean it is a gospel that comes from God, a gospel that God himself makes known. It may also mean it is a gospel “about” God. There is no need to choose between these two because Paul might have had both in mind. Both are certainly true and it is important in the book of Romans to see that both are true.
The gospel isn’t about less) important things like the weather, or the economy of the Greco-Roman world or how to get along with our neighbors. The gospel is about God Himself and how He relates to His sinful creation as He works to bless a human family that still resists Him.. And the gospel comes from God Himself.

It isn’t good advice or a philosophy that Paul or others have dreamed up—it comes from God. All this means that the Romans (and we) should pay close attention to his message.
He says the gospel concerns God’s Son (1:1-4, 9) who is Jesus the Messiah (Christ). Paul insisted that God had made Himself and His purposes known in and as Jesus Christ in a way that never happened before.
When we think of the Son of God Paul insists that He had come to the world as a son of David’s line but that He was also marked out as God’s unique Son by His resurrection out from among the dead. The phrase “according to the spirit of holiness” suggests that there was more to Jesus than His “fleshly” (human) nature. Viewed from His “fleshly” side he is David’s son and viewed from His “spiritual” side He is God’s Son. Many scholars think we should understand that Christ was David’s son according to the flesh but that he was shown to be God’s Son by the Holy Spirit (“the spirit of holiness”).
That is, they think, and they may be correct, that here Paul isn’t speaking about the Godhood of Jesus but is particularly interested in His resurrection and glorification via the Holy Spirit.
He says the gospel is God’s power to save (1:16). We’re tempted to think of God’s “power” as merely “divine muscle” but it’s a mistake to think of it like that in this context and most others. Even when speaking about human power we know the difference between the power to move a huge stone and the power to “move” a person. A person “saved” in Paul’s sense means God brought that person back into relationship with himself and so saved him/her from sin and loss. This kind of “saving” isn’t done with “divine muscle.” Since God saves us in and by the crucified Christ it’s clear that he doesn’t bully us into life and doesn’t save us by force. To be saved by God’s “power” means God set himself the task and was able to complete it. The gospel, or good news, is the message that a faithful God did that very thing and that he did it through the crucified (and resurrected) Jesus Christ. There are some places naked powers or force can’t enter and one of them is the human heart. Paul comes to the most powerful city of the world armed with nothing but a GOSPEL about God.
He says the gospel is God’s power to save all who believe because in the gospel God’s righteousness (faithfulness) continues to be revealed (1:16-17). God’s righteousness is God’s covenant faithfulness. He keeps His commitments and when He created humanity He made a commitment to humanity. Despite our rebellion against Him He didn’t utterly destroy us He was faithful to his word and that’s part of what we mean when we say God is “righteous”. His faithfulness is to all people and not only those who are Jews. The gospel message that proclaims God’s faithfulness draws people to God in response to that faithfulness and they put their trust in Him. So the gospel is “from” faith (God’s faithfulness) “unto” faith (the faith of those who hear). The relationship between the righteous God and those who are declared righteous by faith is a dynamic one if salvation is to be experienced finally in glory. It isn’t just God keeping faith with man; it is man trusting himself to that God who keeps faith.
He says the gospel of God’s righteousness in Jesus Christ was promised in the Old Testament scriptures (1:2). Paul will make the point repeatedly that the Old Testament scriptures (including the covenant Torah itself) pointed to the gospel he was preaching about Jesus Christ, God’s Son (see also 3:21 with Acts 26:22-23).
So, in some senses Paul’s message might be surprising but the truth is, Israel had been given fair warning of how the good news would be worked out in Jesus the Messiah (see Luke 24:25-27,44-47). Many in Israel, eager to establish their own national connection with God missed what the Old Testament taught about God’s righteousness toward and for the whole human race (see Romans 9:30 -10:4 in light of 1:16). GENTILES were and are to take note.
In addition, the OT scriptures spoke of these glorious coming things as promises to Israel. Paul stresses again and again that the good news had special significance for Israel and then through them to Gentiles. But it’s “to the Jew first” [Romans 1:16; Acts 3:26; 13:46 and elsewhere].

EVEN DYING IS LIVING

Yes! He died 2,000 years ago and He hasn’t been dead since and because of Him our beloved ones in the Lord live with Him happily and patiently waiting for the redemption of their bodies.
We have so much invested in that “place” where those who died in Him experience a new mode of being in His nearer presence that is even “far better” than now even though now for so many of us life’s not at all bad, with blessings galore, beloved family members and friends. We win either way.

Psalm 119:46 
is one of our texts. I DO understand that it can be tricky and we need to be wise in our approach but dear God, with our gospel of RESURRECTION that says it doesn’t end with the death of Christ but with His immortal life, surely we have something to say worth saying. And despite the complexities of the Story even His dying is living!
And in His rising He says, “Did you think it ends with Death? Never! I was sharing what you, my beloved human family, have and will share but I died to let you know that Death and Sin are losers! I did it for you. You have questions? Of course you do! You wonder about all the brutalized who know nothing about Me and are kept in hopelessness? Trust Me! If you in the midst of your own troubles can sometimes feel anguish for them who suffer in despair, with no reason to hope—if you can feel for them, trust Me, I do and I died and rose for them also. Feel what you feel, do what you can, but trust Me. Think noble thoughts of my Holy Father whose will I love to do.”
Paul closes out 1 Corinthians 15 shouting! Jeering at the grave and Death and then says, “So, don’t grow weary in well-doing; what you do, how you live, what you say, the hymns you sing, the prayers you pray, the tears you shed, the illnesses you endure, the kindness you engage in, the forgiveness you offer—all that while you trust in Him—it isn’t empty! It’s not in vain!  Unending joy comes in the morning! However painful, and at times it will be excruciating—you’re vulnerable little humans right now living in a world that has experienced and is experiencing a moral wreck of cosmic proportions and life can’t be otherwise than it is right now, but see it as part of the adventure. There’s a day coming when countless glorified, deathless, happy, and united lovers of warm righteousness will dance on the graves of Sin and Death and LIVE in unending astonishment at who they have become. Right now you’re doing what He did, you’re taking your share of hurt and loneliness and death.”
He tells us even now, “I’m doing it again in you, you are My Body, you are parts of Me, I’m showing in you that suffering and death in Me is the path to unimaginable glory. There’s a new day and a new world of living coming. TRUST ME! If it were not so I would have told you! Wouldn’t I?
Wouldn’t I? Come! LIVE with Me! Die with Me and LIVE forever with Me!”

 

REFLECTIONS ON ROMANS (1)

                                               Setting the Scene a little

In Romans Paul is not rehearsing his gospel teaching to 21st century Anglo-Saxons or to a 16th century Roman Catholic hierarchy. If he had been addressing either of these he would have framed his gospel presentation differently.

In Romans he is addressing a community of Jews and Gentiles that had placed its faith in Jesus as the promised Messiah and King, the promised Savior of the world.

Though he is addressing believers in Jesus he is saying things about all Jews and Gentiles as they relate to God (or not) and to one another in terms of Jesus whom Paul claims is the revelation of God and His saving righteousness.

Paul is speaking to Christian Jews who are part of a nation that God had chosen as His peculiar people, a nation to whom He made promises and a people to whom He gave circumcision in their flesh as a constant reminder of that covenant which He made with them in their father Abraham. He is speaking to members of a nation which God chose out from among all other nations, a nation with whom God made covenants from which He excluded all other nations (Ephesians 2:11-12 and Leviticus 18:1-5). God gave that nation a covenant law (the Sinai covenant) that identified the nation, shaped and guided their lives under His sovereignty and it contained within it public ceremonies that bore witness to God’s redeeming actions worked exclusively among and for Israel (Passover, Weeks and Tabernacles for example). Paul was speaking to members of a nation to which the OT prophets promised a coming redeemer, the Messiah—their Messiah [see Romans 9:1-5]. All this being true it shouldn’t surprise us that his message in Romans is shaped as it is.

It is because the above is true that the gospel Paul and others preached was difficult for many Jews to believe, especially when Gentiles were being blessed and many pious and virtuous Jews who lived by the Torah (but rejected Jesus) were excluded. Paul knew his gospel was offensive to the Jews and in Romans he attempts to explain the way in which his gospel was true and in keeping with God’s faithfulness in working out his purposes with both Jews and Gentiles in mind. [See Romans 15:8-9.]

                            Americans, a coming “George Washington”
Suppose God had made a covenant with George Washington and his new national children—the Americans—a covenant from which he excluded all other nations. Suppose the Americans had the sign of that covenant in their flesh and a constitution that had the will of God for their lives; a constitution that had public ceremonies that celebrated God’s delivering them from slavery and setting them on the road for ultimate deliverance and blessing which he would bring to them in a coming “George Washington”.
Suppose that promised one came and died and nothing particular had changed. Suppose then a little group of Americans began to say that the coming one had risen from the dead and was now Lord of All and that he was offering the American hope [spoken of in their constitution] to the Chinese, the Russians, the Iranians, the Cubans, the Koreans, the Venezuelans and all the other nations independent of the Americans and independent of the American constitution.
Suppose this group said that many Americans were not going to be blessed with the blessings brought by the new “George Washington” and that those who would be blessed would be blessed independent of the American constitution that had shaped the chosen American nation. Constitutional changes would be made that home-born Americans would have to embrace if they were to share in the blessings under this coming “George Washington” and that the established and traditional constitution no longer had to be adhered to by “newcomers” (foreigners).
And suppose the non-Americans now regarded as equal citizens with the home-born Americans began to be arrogant and look down on the home-born Americans as and claimed that God wanted nothing more to do with the bulk of them (see Romans 11:13-24; 15:27).
That’s something like the setting in which Paul writes his Romans and it is something like the scandalous nature of the gospel he has been preaching and will develop in Romans.

(However misleading the word “constitution” in this setting might be please endure it for illustration purposes.)

BROKEN PLAYTHINGS ON THE FLOOR

I really like Longfellow’s poem Nature. It doesn’t say enough about death; death is so much more than a “natural” thing, but what a thankless wretch I’d be if I didn’t thank God for this fine way of looking at one of death’s facets—especially in light of the resurrection of Jesus.
It’d be poisonous to demand of every speaker/writer or thinker that he/she should give a full Christian perspective on anything when they open their hearts. Do we ever do anything but tell part truths? I’m sure I remember someone saying, “We know in part…now we see in a glass darkly…”
Whether it’s life or death, God or ourselves there is so much more unknown to us than what we know and even what we know we don’t know very well. Don’t you think that’s so? In any case, the truly hungry won’t complain if in kindness they’ve been offered something substantial; they won’t peevishly complain it wasn’t all they would have wanted.
No, with grateful hearts they’ll please the giver by wolfing it down with a smile and then licking their lips and wishing for more. Longfellow gives me something substantial here and, once more, because of the Lord Jesus, the risen Lord and Savior who is Lord of Death and giver of eternal life; because in the coming New Creation that will be consummated in a rising to fullness of Life, LIFE that is missing nothing that we long for in our better, wisest and most hopeful moments–because of Him we don’t need to see the approach of Death with nothing but unrelieved sorrow or fear. How about this?

As a fond mother, when the day is o’er,
Leads by the hand the little child to bed,
And leaves his broken playthings on the floor,
Still gazing at them through the open door,
Not wholly reassured and comforted
By promises of others in their stead,
Which, though more splendid, may not please him more;
So Nature deals with us and takes away
Our playthings one by one, and by the hand
Leads us to rest so gently, that we go,
Scarce knowing if we wished to go or stay,
Being too full of sleep to understand
How far the unknown transcends what we know.

I’ve no wish to suggest that the sight and smell and sound of death is a pleasing experience for I take no pleasure in the thought of my own death though I have no particular fear of it. (When I once seriously thought of Ethel leaving I trembled.) Just the same, to have lived and by God’s grace to have had an honest shot at it; making no great waves, no name in lights, no footprints in celebrity cement, no household name—just an honest simple go at it—to have done that and then for “Nature” to take you by the hand to a well earned grave with God’s assurance of better things, that’s living and that’s a fine death. What more should we expect who are blessed with that?

AUTHENTIC GODHOOD

In Euripides’s Alcestis the Spartan king, Admetos, is to die unless he gets a substitute. His wife Alcestis offers herself as his substitute but the thought of losing her is driving Admetos crazy. Hercules (Heracles), son of the gods and a regular guest at Admetos’s house comes to visit, notes the gloom and misery everywhere, learns of the situation and goes out and rescues her from Death.
The poet Robert Browning zeroes in on the reputation of Hercules as a helper of humankind against the forces that are too strong for it. He makes the point that this going to humanity’s defense is one of the authenticating marks of genuine godhood and has the chorus singing this:
Gladness be with thee, Helper of our world! 
I think this is the authentic sign and seal 
Of Godship, that it ever waxes glad, 
And more glad, until gladness blossoms, bursts 
Into a rage to suffer for mankind, 
And recommence at sorrow: drops like seed 
After the blossom, ultimate of all. 
Say, does the seed scorn the earth and seek the sun? 
Surely it has no other end and aim 
Than to drop, once more die into the ground, 
Taste cold and darkness and oblivion there: 
And thence rise, tree-like to grow through pain to joy, 
More joy and most joy,—do man good again.

Browning stresses not only the theme of suffering to help humanity, he stresses the gladness of heart in which the enterprise is undertaken. It isn’t a grim, reluctant, foot-dragging approach to the matter (Heracles “strode” off to effect the rescue). And it was “for the joy set before him” our Savior despised the pain and loss barring His way. Only a blind theology gives the impression that God has a hard time loving sinners! Only a blind Ecclesiology and Pneumatology teaches the blessed Church of the Lord Jesus Christ that it is to be the enemy of sinners. What nonsense! What a blatant denial of the Incarnation, Cross & Resurrection!
P.T. Forsyth insisted that the coming of God as the weak and wounded Jesus Christ is not only not surprising, it would be astonishing if He had not come in Jesus Christ, in a rage to suffer on humanity’s behalf. In this, Forsyth doesn’t have in mind only the tender side of God, His gentle love and compassion though he does have that in mind; he’s thinking of God’s infinitely holy character that hates all that stands between Him and the human family He has Fathered (Acts 17:29). If God was moved in love, it was a holy love. Christ doesn’t come simply blessing, being sweet, talking kindly and taking us in His loving arms—He comes sharing the suffering of the judgment that holiness must bring upon Sin in order to deal with it!
The forgiveness of sins, the reconciliation of the world is achieved through love’s judgment on Sin—the word of the cross says that! And it’s love judgment on Sin on behalf of sinners! Romans 11:32.
And it had to be God’s Incarnation, God’s cross or it wouldn’t be the love of God that worked the rescue. And it had to be a representative human in and through whom reconciliation was accomplished because a repentance worthy of the nature of Sin must come from humankind if we wish to live in immortal glory. In the cross Jesus repents for us. I don’t mean he repents so that we don’t have to—I mean what R.W. Moberly and McCleod Campbell have taught us, that He alone could give humanity a repentance which gives complete homage to the righteousness of God and to which we can (by faith in Him) add our “amen”. Our repentance is His for His mind alone knows the nature of Sin and denounces its very existence, denounces its usurping His life-bringing place in human hearts (see Romans 8:3 where He condemns Sin that made its home in humankind).
Those who are His do not see what He and He alone has done and draw the conclusion that they don’t need to repent since He has done it or equally bad, nod some tame approval of it and stroll our way home, hands in pockets. There is nothing “legal” about this! It’s “relational”. Those who are His  are part of Him (1 Corinthians 6:15; 12:12)!!! Part of Him, telling again through suffering and joy and speech the Story of His own once-and-for-all doing for humanity and for them, them who are sinners like everyone else!
“Nothing in my hand I bring/Simply to Thy cross I cling/Naked come to Thee for dress/Helpless turn to Thee for grace…” is true in every syllable but we still “cling, come, turn” to such a Lord Jesus. By faith we offer Him as our representative; Him, who did for us what we could not for ourselves. And in offering Him we offer back nothing other than God’s being and doing, Himself as the Lover of humanity and of each of us in particular. but we offer! We offer in repentance and faith that which the gracious God works in us (Romans 2:4; Philippians 1:29; Acts 18:27). It’s that that we freely offer in and through Jesus Christ but we do offer it! The Christ into whom we are baptized is not “any old Christ”—we become part of a Sin-killing, Life-bringing, Righteousness-embodying Lord Jesus. We don’t just smile approvingly and wish Him well—we become one with Him, for Him, for ourselves and for the world!
It was God and it was God in Christ who came to our rescue. The motivation for this coming/sending of God is that God “so loved the world” (John 3:16-17). We can’t take it all in. We can’t take it all in because we have neither the intellect nor the purity of heart. We’d have to be God to take it all in—it’s a God thing!

Not to be able to see that in the cross blinds us to the possibility of seeing it anywhere else in the world.
There is no authentic God but that God; the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ!

 

DON’T THINK IT STRANGE (2)

       “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to                   try you, as though some strange thing has happened to you.” 1 Peter 4:12

Yes, but we do think it strange! We don’t think that way every moment but when serious pain or loss enters we cry out and want it to stop. The Hebrew writer voiced that sense of things for us when he said of Jesus (5:8), “Though He was a Son yet He learned obedience by the things He suffered.” Despite the fact that He was God’s Son He suffered—one wouldn’t have thought He would since He was God’s Son—but He did!
The Temptation narrative has Satan voicing the same thing. The particle can be rendered “if” or “since”—context determines. Either works here. “If you’re God’s Son you shouldn’t be going hungry; turn the stones into bread!” More than three psalmists (see 22, 44 & 88) speak our minds. The psalmists wonder how things could be going so bad with them when they were part of a covenanted people. They knew they weren’t sinless but they also knew that God knew they were sinners when He made a covenant with them. Psalm 22 and 88 are more individualistic than 44. When agony came on them they laid it at God’s feet (Job does the same thing and so does God who “put forth His hand” and took from Job all He had given him—42:11 with 1:11-12; 2:5-6).
Psalmists and prophets could understand that when the nation apostatizes God may well respond in severe chastisement (Psalm 106 & Amos 4 illustrate). In such circumstances we speak of it as “punishment” but there were those who were bewildered because they hadn’t walked away from God, had held Him to be their God since they were born (Psalm 22:1-10). “Why me?” they want to know. “What have I done that this should come on me? Don’t you love me?” These protests, this bewilderment triggered by anguish is not strange. It makes good sense! Peter can say all he wants about it not being strange but we don’t believe him or at least, we don’t understand him.
In the great movie Glory Thomas is a young black gentleman, well-read and sensitive to what is going on in the world (his father being a fervent abolitionist). He is a close and long-time friend of Robert Gould Shaw who came to be the colonel-commander of the first African-American division in the northern army during the civil war. Thomas is the first man to enlist when he heard his boyhood friend is heading up that company but he discovers that his boyhood friend has now become his commanding officer and will not permit friendly fraternizing. Thomas is stunned, it is experienced as rejection and we see it on his face. Half astonishment, half bewilderment and total disbelief. His face says it all: “What? Did I do something? What did I do? It’s me, Thomas, your dear friend since boyhood…”

He was the only black gentleman in the entire regiment that felt isolated and he felt isolated and mistreated precisely because he had had and still felt from his perspective a special relationship with the commander of the force. He was anguished not because the commander was treating him differently from all his fellows but because the leader was not treating him differently. After all, they had history, a long standing relationship—friendship must mean something. Through a long painful period he comes to understand why he can’t be given special treatment; but it is through and via a long agonizing period that he learns it. And there’s this: he bonds with his fellows who never knew the blessing of the intimacy, the warmth and friendship of anyone with such power as the colonel. His privileged place and comfort had robbed him of understanding of and fellowship with his brothers. The movie closes with the leader, Thomas and the entire company marching together in glorious unity of heart and purpose. But it was through pain! Anguish!

Yes, but, why through pain, why anguish?

(To be continued, God enabling)

(Holy Father, who through pain and anguish sought us, help us to understand that we might honor you and sing your praises in a strange land.)

 

DON’T THINK IT STRANGE (1)

Jesus took Himself very seriously. You know that. Make your own list of the things He said about Himself. I wish here to focus on His claim that the entire OT was really about Him (John 5:39-40, 46). In Luke 24:25-27, 44-49 He said it was all about Him, about His suffering and the glory that would follow. In the Luke 24:25 He rebukes His distressed followers for not taking into account all that the prophets foretold. (We need to take 24:44 into account when reading that rebuke.)

Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 makes the point that Jesus died and rose in keeping with the Scriptures. He does the same thing in Romans 1:1-4 and in Acts 26:22-23. Peter does the same thing in 1 Peter 1:10-11, 20. You’ll remember how Jesus trenchantly rebuked Peter in Matthew 16:21-24 when the disciple took issue with Christ’s talk of suffering and death. Peter thought it strange talk for a Messiah but he later learned better and told God’s new chosen People, “Think it not strange that you undergo great suffering—it isn’t strange; you are sharing Christ’s sufferings.” 1 Peter 4:12-14.

Two things (among others) are clear. First, the sufferings and death of Christ were a total surprise even to (perhaps especially to) His followers and Jesus understood that suffering & death were part of what He was appointed to. None of it surprised Him. “Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour?’ But for this purpose I came to this hour.” John 12:27, speaking of His suffering and death and more than that. Another conversation for another time, God enabling.

Secondly, that the apostolic gospel included the truth that His suffering and death were no chance events—they were foreknown and took place in accordance with God’s redemptive purpose. Peter to the crowd about Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection in Acts 2:23-47, “Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you…crucified and put to death; whom God raised up…” The entire section needs to be read, including 2:38 where baptism is the Spirit-appointed way of acknowledging the Lordship of Jesus via the God-appointed suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that brought and brings forgiveness to sinners.

The apostolic gospel stressed Jesus’ death and resurrection as the fulfillment of  not just a verse or two here and there in the OT, but the entire drift of it. If Israel had known who they were and what their place in the desperately sinful and ignorant world was they would have expected to experience suffering and rejection—it came with the “job”. They were assigned to be the “covenant” and light-bringer to the world via their faithfulness (Isaiah 49) and they via their unfaithfulness became part of the problem and went after other gods. Yet there were those in the nation who remained faithful to God and were called to bring Israel back to God and so bless the world (again, Isaiah 49). Jesus (who is God being a man—David’s son according to the flesh, Romans 1:1-4) was and is the embodiment of all that Israel was to be, Abraham’s child (Galatians 3:16), was to bear rejection, suffering and death that was the fruit of the Sin of the world.

In His suffering and death He was exposing the evil world for what it was (John 12:31). Apart from God and His gracious work in human life there is only lies and deception, loss of honor and life, abuse and alienation from one another, cruelty and corruption. That is the “world” of which Satan is the prince and it ends with nothing but Death. The Godhead purposed that as Jesus of Nazareth, the Son, for humanity’s sake would share their agony and in that way expose such a world, experience its inevitable end (death) and then rise as its conqueror, as the Lord of a new creation that will be consummated at His return though such glory is currently hidden. (None of this has anything to do with God punishing Jesus.)

[To be continued, God enabling.]