I Am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life

14:1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; [1] believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? [2] 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. (Gospel of John, ESV Bible).

Take a fresh look at this text from what we call the “Upper Room Discourse”; the intimate conversation Jesus had with his disciples, following the inauguration of the New Covenant and just before he went out to his enemies to be crucified.

What did Jesus mean when he said,” I go to prepare a place”?

Why was it necessary that he ascend into heaven for the duration of this present age? What is he accomplishing in his new role at the “right hand of the Father?” These are very important questions to meditate on and see what answers you can come up with in the Biblical narrative. You can start by reading Revelation 5 and get the heavenward perspective. Here are some more starters-

  • His office/function as our Mediator between the Father and humankind.(see Hebrews)
  • His perfect communion as the beloved Son on behalf of his followers on earth.
  • His role as carrying out the Father’s Kingdom rule as he told his disciples: “All authority has been given me in heaven & on earth”.
  • His role as the Head of the Church which he actively engages in through His Spirit (see letters to the 7 churches of Asia minor of the Apostle John, and the Ephesian letter of the Apostle Paul).
  • His role of judging the nations (see John 5:16-47).

These consequences, and much much more, directly flow from the victorious Christ above to us here on earth because he did win the decisive victory on planet earth & then ascended into heaven to carry on the battle:  ” Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when he puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign till he has put all enemies under his feet!”

The tragedy is, The Ascension is probably the most neglected event in the Church’s liturgy. Please don’t neglect it on May 9, 2013!

see related post: What is Jesus Doing?

see also the article at Wikipedia

Viewing an extraordinary emphasis upon Mariology in Latin America in light of the cultural background involved.  

 

Did Mary Ascend as Jesus did?

I think over the past two years I have demonstrated my dedication to the unity of the Body of Christ & the necessity to work together as never before to make visual progress in demonstrating this unity before a watching world.

This does not mean we do not wrestle we difficult questions, seeking to understand Christians in differing faith traditions and promoting open two-way exchanges. Since Ascension Sunday, I have been thinking about the practical effects which are derived from living faith based upon the Biblical narrative. At the center of that narrative for this present age in which we live, I find the reality of the Living, present, rule of the exalted King of KINGS.

I think we have to ask the churches, some soul-searching questions? For example, are there some very real ways they are actually hindering worshippers from seeing and experiencing the above reality of the Living Christ? I found that Eugene Nida had dealt with this directly in his 1974 book, “Understanding Latin Americans” (William Carey Library). For the purpose of challenging Christians and non-Christians alike to seriously think about this issue, I am posting part of Nida’s argument together with a link where you can read the larger context.

In trying to understand the reasons for focusing attention upon Mary, some persons have claimed that this is an almost inevitable result of making Christ less and less attractive to the people. Rather than the victorious ‘culture hero’, Christ is portrayed as the defeated, dying victim. Such a Christ produces feelings of pity and compassion, but he does not inspire confidence and hope. Christ on the cross reminds the sinner of his sins, but this does not make the average person want to identify himself with the suffering Savior. Contemplation of the dying Christ does elicit strong emotional feelings, but they tend to drain one of nervous energy. Accordingly, they do not result in the feeling of well-being or confidence.

In contrast with the dying Christ, the radiantly beautiful Mary is the benevolent one who is always accessible and always giving. It is Mary who has compassion for the multitude, and itis the contemplation of this symbol which brings reassurance and a sense of hope and well-being. As the mediatrix between the worshipper and Christ, or God, she becomes the giver of life, the source of health, and the means of power. It is not strange, therefore, that for many persons the center of worship in the Roman Church has shifted from Christ to Mary. People prefer to identify themselves with a living Mary rather than with a dying Christ. (Nida, page 26)

Continue reading, “Mariology in Latin America“.

Earlier related post: A Catholic word to Evangelicals

A song about the Patron Saint of Brazil  by Elis Regina

 

 
 
 
 
 
 

 

The difference between “ what would Jesus do” and “what IS Jesus doing”! You may be familiar with the popular fad that was revived in recent years that sought guidance for Christians in daily decisions by answering with WWJD. Like so many fads in Christianity, I always felt that though the intent was a sincere attempt to influence life’s decisions by reference to the historical Jesus, this version of what it means to be a disciple of Christ completely missed the heart of the Biblical Gospel.

In the last few days, I have been reading a book which confronts this misunderstanding in the American churches with a fresh exposition of the doctrine of the Ascension of Jesus. The book which was published in 2004 by Gerrit Scott Dawson, is entitled –

Jesus Ascended: the meaning of Christ’s Continuing Incarnation“.

I read a lot and have considered myself a full-time student for over 50 years. It has been a long time since I have been as profoundly moved as I have in reading this book about the present life of Jesus of Nazareth now in His heavenly session as our King-Priest. The fact that I have been celebrating the Festival of the Ascension for over a week now was the preparation needed to be able to profit so much from this author and the mature understanding he has of this neglected part of the Biblical narrative. I would love to recommend this book to everyone but I won’t because of one principle that is a priority here at E4Unity and that is the recognition that each individual is unique and in no way would the many be able to profit in the same way I have from reading any book. In the area of what is called “spiritual formation” that means that real progress is made only when we are able to see these things for ourself, through the “eyes of faith”, and that means we must be patiently brought in life’s experiences to desiring such things as this present world can never give or satisfy our inner spirit with.

I want to leave you with some quotes from Dawson. He is an excellent writer and this book is very “reader friendly” in the sense that he tells you what his topic is, tells you how he is going to approach it, and even gives you upfront a short direction on “how to use this book”. I will tell you that he is a Presbyterian pastor and so he is thoroughly pastoral- that is he concerns himself in the end with the purpose of this doctrine in living here on planet earth, the life of Christ in heaven transmitted to us by the Holy Spirit as we learn to live, not in the flesh, but by faith in God’s abundant provision in His beloved Son Jesus.

He has included some of the rich comments from past teachers in the churches, both from the Patristic fathers as well as men like John Calvin,  Andrew Murray, and Lesslie Newbigin. He has a robust exposition of what the the Ascension of Christ has meant to the Church in the past as well as how it can be instrumental in reviving us in the challenge we are now facing in our own generation.

“We have such difficulty conceiving how, or even believing that, the body of Jesus went to heaven that we may want the doctrine to remain in obscurity” (p.3)

“In no way, then, did the ascension signal simply a return to business as usual between God and humanity. Rather, the ascension of Christ is a vital hinge on which turns the work of the Mediator, the incarnate Son, our Redeemer in all his offices.” (p.8)

“My premise is that the church- our local church and the churches of the west-needs to recover the meta-narrative of the gospel as a counter-story, indeed a better story to the one the world tells. . .one of those episodes, the ascension, has been sorely neglected in the church’s telling of the story. The silence. . .cuts us off from the present work of Christ in heaven and from the conclusion of the story. . .recovering a proper and robust doctrine of the ascension can reconnect us to a sense of our true citizenship in heaven and the implications of that identity for life in the world.”(p.25)

Dawson’s book is divided into three parts, and we haven’t even reached the second one yet. But I don’t want to impose on you so I will close for now with one more, this time, a quote from Andrew Murray. Murray has also been one of my favorite devotional writers for a long time. Dawson may be the first Presbyterian writer that I can think of among contemporary ones that utilizes the treasures in Murray so often and so freely. He says here, that ” the church can reclaim the fullness of its story, with spectacular results.” And then quotes Murray-

” Faith has in its foundation four great cornerstones on which the building rests- the Divinity of Christ, The Incarnation, the Atonement on the Cross, the Ascension to the Throne. The last is the most wonderful, the crown of all the rest, the perfect revelation of what God has made Christ (to be)for us. And so in the Christian life it is the most important, the glorious fruit of all that goes before.” (p.26)

In part two, one of the highlights for me was his discussion of Calvin’s interpretation of the Lord’s Supper as one of the means of grace directly connected with the ascension. We will have a great deal to come back to on another occasion. For now, we must get ready to celebrate once again another Festival: The Day of Pentecost.

The link to the book is the on-line edition where you can read most of it at Google.books.

Celebrating today with Sir Beethoven’s help.

The Ascension of Christ is an integral part of the Biblical story of the Incarnation; it’s public knowledge or what is referred to on this blog as “the open secret”. I am in the process of reading two books that I want to post about before the Day of Pentecost. One was written 100 years ago, the other in 2004, but both have the same objective: to encourage the revival of the Festival of the Ascension in the churches where it has been neglected or is unknown. They both are rich in the meaning the Biblical writers attach to the historical event and what it means in the spiritual life of the Christian Church, tracing it through church history. The festival indeed continues!

I am so glad there is an interval of days between the Ascension of Christ and the Day of Pentecost. I admit that in the past I have not paid enough attention to Ascension Day. And if I did, it was to focus more on the disciples, what they were doing in obedience to their Lord’s instructions.

By continuing now to give my spirit free reign to roam through the narrative looking for additional ways the Ascension is referenced by the Biblical writers, I am finding all sorts of treasures. Some of these I have added as comments on the previous post.

Gifts of the Ascended Christ

Since this one deals so directly to the theme of E4Unity, the unity of the universal Church of Jesus Christ, and the necessity of that unity as related to the perfecting of the Saints, I want to post this separately. Read how the Apostle Paul, reasoning from the historical Ascension of Christ, emphatically states how the Church is to perfect herself in this present age: Ephesians 4:7-16

But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.  Therefore it says,

“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
and he gave gifts to men.”

 (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth?  He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)  And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds  and teachers,  to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,  until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood,  to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,  so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.  Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,  from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

This I believe, is exactly what the Apostle had in his spirit and in his prayers for those first recipients of this letter (see chapter 3: 14-21). This is the vision the Father has allowed me to see for most of my adult life- the vision of His purpose for His new creation, not the race of Adam but the race of the last Adam, even Jesus Christ.

Most of our American calendars do not even have this very special day in the Christian Faith marked. Too many Christians don’t celebrate the significance of what that historical day means.

” But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart.  Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.”

John’s Gospel, 16:6,7

But the Ascension, just like the birth, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ has a vital part of the Biblical narrative to contribute. The ancient Christian Faith cannot do without it. And if we want to understand our role in that faith tradition, we must search out what was happening on this historic occasion. So I urge you to search the Scriptures with the help of  some of the excellent resources available to inform yourself of how this part of the Jesus story expresses God’s wisdom for His creatures. I found this excellent meditation from Robert Hart. He provides us the kind of resources that makes the journey a little easier and enjoyable.

“When we consider the Ascension, we must pay attention to the emphasis given by these scriptures to the coming of the Holy Spirit, so that the Apostolic Church would continue the ministry of Christ as an extension of his incarnation in the fallen world.
(To Continue reading)

There is a lot to discuss these next ten days before Pentecost. That event is also full of significance in the Biblical story as we tried to speak to last year. Keep your Bibles open and keep reading together with the Church.