Archive for the ‘Jesus’ Category

Isaiah and Jesus: Mighty God

December 31, 2016

For a child has been born for us,

a son given to us;

authority rests upon his shoulders;

and he is named

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6 NRSV

To think of Jesus as “Mighty God” may not be difficult for us as Christians who affirm the Trinitarian nature of God. Because the “Son” is the second person of the Trinity, we can think and speak of Jesus as part of the Trinue God.One blog post can’t possibly cover the pertinent church history, however simply put the church wrestled with question of who Jesus is for a very long time. Our understanding of Jesus as truly human and truly divine, as well as our understanding of the Trinity is the result of much thought and prayer by the early church. But things were not as simple for the first believers. (I’m not saying that understanding the Trinity is simple, but it does give us a way to make sense of the relationship between Jesus and the Father.)

In ancient times, when Isaiah was writing, kings were often believed to be a god. And if not a god, the son of a god. And if not that, someone who ruled because god placed the ruler in power. Rulers; kings, pharaohs, emperors; ruled on behalf of the gods and were believed to embody at least some of the god’s attributes and powers. If the people were polytheists, as most of the ancient world was, thinking of the ruler as another god was not a theological problem.

But the Jewish tradition was different. They were always very clear that their ruler was not God. There is only one God. So how can Isaiah and Israel speak of the coming king as mighty God? There is more than one possibility.

The phrase that is translated as “Mighty God” can also be translated as “mighty hero” or “divine hero”. These four titles may also have been understood to be describing the God who placed the ruler- God’s representative- on the throne. The Bible is full of examples where someone’s name was a phrase about God. For example; Elijah- YHWH is my God. Isaiah-YHWH saves.

What about the early church? To speak of Jesus as God presented a problem. No one should be called God, but the one true God. When Jesus closely identifies himself with God (The Father and I are one,   John 10:22-39) it is considered blasphemy.

Nevertheless, the New Testament does describe Jesus as one who does divine, God like things. In ancient literature, what one did was a statement about who one was. When the early Christians talked about Jesus as one who cast out demons, as one who nature obeyed, as one who forgave sin, as one who healed, and so on; they were ascribing and describing divine actions to Jesus. Jesus showed the mighty power of God and that revealed  who Jesus was.

The question for us to reflect on is, what does Jesus’ actions tell us about mighty God? And then how do we as modern disciple continue to reflect and reveal the power of God?

My reflections this Advent and Christmas are based on Walter Brueggemann’s book Names for the Messiah: An Advent Study Guide.  

Isaiah and Jesus: Wonderful Counselor

December 5, 2016

Last week we began our Advent series on Isaiah’s four titles for the King. This week we take up the first title, Wonderful Counselor.

Counselors are people who give advice. This may refer to a therapeutic relationship,or it might refer to an advising role. Political leaders, heads of state, and Kings all have advisers or counselors. Walter Bruggemann is his book Names for the Messiah, talks about counselors in terms of governance. Counselors have the ability to plan and administer policies.

Isaiah’s message may have originally been about a baby to be born or it may have been a coronation message. Either way we still have the question, how is a king a counselor? Who does the king counsel?  More than one possibility comes to mind. We do need to remember that the way God calls kings to rule is not the way kings (for the most part) actually ruled.

One prominent Biblical image about kings was that of a shepherd. Kings were to act a shepherds. Shepherds guide their sheep to safe places with food and water. Shepherds protect their sheep from danger. Shepherds know their flock and how to care for them. Likewise a king was to care and provide for  their people. Kings, all across the ancient world, were understood to in some way stand in for, or  to speak for or  to act for God. Kings were God’s agents. As an agent, a king did have responsibility to be sure their people knew how best to live.

But what about Jesus? In what ways is Jesus a counselor? Certainly one of the ways the Christian tradition speaks about Jesus is as king. And so we think about Jesus as the perfect king, the shepherd who counsels and care for his people. Certainly Jesus tells us, advises us how to live.  But Jesus not only tells us but shows us. By word and by action, Jesus counsels, advises, us about how to live as Jesus’ people.

How about the modifier “wonderful”? If you were going to select a word to go with counselor, would it be wonderful?  I might be inclined to select “wise”, or “good”, or “astute”. It would take me a while to come up with “wonderful”. But that is the word Isaiah gives us. A counselor who is full of wonder. Full of Awe. Full of delight.

I suspect the wonderfulness of Jesus’ counsel is its unexpectedness. King Jesus, the king who knows how we should best live counsels an unusual way of life. His counsel involves including the outcast, welcoming the stranger, feeding the hungry, healing the sick, loving our enemy. In this world, that may or may not be wise or astute counsel but it certainly makes the world wonder.

And because Jesus empowers us to carry on his work, we are called to be wonderful counselors.  Are there places you can speak or enact  inclusion, welcome, healing, loving?  What might your wonderful counsel be this week?

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