Saturday, January 04, 2014

A, Epiphany General - John 1:10-14 "The Names of Jesus in his Word"

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John 1:10–14 (ESV) He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Twelve days of Christmas comes and goes each year and then the church year rolls into the season of Epiphany.  Epiphany is really an extension of the Christmas season; we’ve heard how the Word of God was made flesh in the Advent and Christmas bible narratives; how God sent his Son into the world to save the world.  In doing so Jesus was first revealed to the shepherds as a human; a baby in the manger.
Christmas is the season which celebrates the epiphany of Jesus as a human being; the revelation or the uncovering of the child.  And so until Ash Wednesday and Lent the Epiphany season proper breaks forth.  The baby boy born to Mary has been reveal, and now in Epiphany the church emphasises just who the flesh of this child actually veils.
The Word became flesh, and so we hear and are called to believe the flesh of this child, the flesh of this man crucified on the cross, is the one and only Son of God, the Word of God, that he in fact is God the Son, with God the Father, and the Holy Spirit, who is, who was, and who is to come, the Almighty (Rev 1:8).
Yet it’s here in the message of Epiphany that both believers and non-believers become confused and confounded that this Christ Child born in this world is the eternally existing Son of God, eternally being born of the Father, whom from both the Holy Spirit proceeds.  Infinite, immortal, all-powerful, all-knowing, omnipresent, yet a fragile, weak, baby born into the confusion of a world that neither knew him, nor wanted to know him!
In the reading before us John says, He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. And still today, even more so perhaps, in this age of human reason we struggle to comprehend what’s written in the Word of God about the child, the man, he who was sent to bear the burden of our sin!
During the course of my faith journey, my confusion over this mystery became obvious to me as I constantly over looked something quite simple in God’s written Word.  God’s Word was speaking but I wasn’t hearing the full depth of what God was trying to tell me, in this particular area.  I know there are many areas of God’s Word we don’t really understand; that all will be revealed and made plain for us in our resurrection!  But it seems I, like all of us, got lost in my own little world of understanding; reading the Word, but not seeing something in the sea of Scripture before me.
But God in his patience and glorious beauty, continually leads us back into his word, and in his time, manifests himself to all of us who continue in confession, repentance, and hearing the Word of God.
John continues …to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
“To believe in his name” this phrase and others struck me over time that I need sorting out in my own understanding, the uses of the names of Jesus in his Word.  Over time the Holy Spirit showed me something quite simple that perhaps I had taken for granted, glossed over many times, and not really thought much about in its right context.
The beautiful thing with repentance is when we overlook what we shouldn’t; God stops us and turns us back for another go.  Repentance is not what so many of us see as a threat of wrathful vengeance from God but rather loving redirection and correction from our Heavenly Father.  One can learn from their mistakes, be led to the “ah ha” moment and praise God through what he’s taught us from our missing the mark.
So moving along, I hope and pray we all might learn from my missing the mark, busyness of my self-centred mind and overlooking of Scripture, by looking at the use of the names for Jesus in the New Testament, and the context of their uses. 
By stopping and considering what God is saying through the bible writers it has been a part of my faith growth; a personal epiphany, as it were; one of those delightful “ah ha” moments one has in their lives.
When hearing the New Testament, Jesus is mentioned many times as we would expect.  But he has many titles.  My focus is more on the use of his name rather than titles like “the Good Shepherd, the way, the truth and the life, the gate, the Alpha and the Omega, and the many other titles these pictures paint.
The focus here is on the names; Jesus Christ, Christ Jesus, Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of Man, the Son of God, God the Son, the Messiah, the Saviour, the Christ of God, the Lord’s Christ, Christ the King, Christ Crucified, the Chosen One, Immanuel, and the simple singular name of Jesus, and the name Christ, and lastly when Jesus says “I am”.  
Asking questions of the text is a healthy thing to do.  Unfortunately when something usually crops up that’s a bit difficult we have a tendency to overlook it or brush it aside, but enduring in the text is good for us, it increases our hunger for the things of God, and God himself.  In fact, persevering in his word glorifies him and pleases him no end that we seek him in his word. And God will not leave your questions unanswered.  He will open the doors of understanding, in his time, in his way, and to the praise of his glory, rather than yours or mine.
The mistake I make, as do many of us in this post resurrection and ascension era of the church, is when hearing all these names I think, “Yep, this is Jesus, Son of God.”   This is not wrong in itself, rather it is spot on, yet I neglect the context of each of the names used in the context of the day they were used and by who spoke them.
You see the Jews of Jesus’ day would have been quite happy for Jesus of Nazareth to be the Saviour.  But what are they talking about and what do we understand them to say?  It is quite easy to hear in our post ascension understanding something entirely different to what was actually being said on the day.   Their view of saviour is very different to ours, because we now live with all the evidence, the complete written account. 
Their saviour was another man, a king, like King David who was to ride into Jerusalem and over throw the Romans.  But our Saviour is one who is the Christ, (the anointed, or the messiah), who is both the Son of Man born of woman, and God the Son of the Father from eternity, who claimed to be God but gave up his power as God. 
And so for us today an epiphany of Jesus Christ in our lives occurs when allowing Scripture to distinguish between that which became flesh, the baby Jesus, the man Jesus.  And the Word which became flesh, God the Son, Immanuel (God with us), the Lord’s Christ or Anointed and so forth.
We live post cross, resurrection and ascension.  It’s true we may more easily believe that Jesus is God the Son and the Son of Man; he is both crowned eternal King, and Lord of Lords; and is human like you and me; crucified and raised and now sits at the right hand of the Father in heaven, glorified in human flesh. 
But for revelation, epiphany or manifestation of Jesus as our Saviour in our day to day context of birth, existence, blessings and struggles, aging and dying, we need to hear who is being spoken of, who is speaking it, by whose power are they saying it, when and where it is said in relation to the Good Friday Crucifixion.  Is it being said to a physical audience (of Jews, disciples, or folk of Jesus’ day) or a written audience (such as a congregation or individuals in the early church or even us today)?
As you endure in his Word, asking questions of him in his Word, God will answer.  In receiving him you will believe him.  In other words the more you hear and understand the more you will want to hear and understand.  The Holy Spirit will work in the Word; the scales will fall from your eyes and keep on falling every day until that glorious long-awaited day.  We will be eternally transfigured, once and for all the veil will be removed, saved and anointed by his death and resurrection we will see him face to face, at the great eternal epiphany. 
May the Word who became flesh, dwell among you, and in his word you see his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth, Amen.