The Light From The Beginning, Part Two

Jesus Christ identified Himself as the light of the world. This would have been no surprise to people familiar with the scriptures, for God has always connected Himself with light. It’s a common analogy in scripture — light is found with God and whatever is not of God is in darkness. As I’ve studied this concept, I’ve been excited to realize the Light connection goes even deeper than I originally knew (and probably far deeper than I’ve yet discovered as well). To quote Paul, “Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past tracing out!” (Rom. 11:33, WEB)

Last week, we started with a side-by-side comparison of the opening verses from Genesis and John’s gospel. As we learned in that post, John and several Jewish rabbis identify the Light spoken of in Genesis with the Messiah. We know this Messiah is Jesus (Messiah and Christ both mean “anointed, who says He came to this earth in human form as “the light of the world.” You’ll want to make sure you’ve read last week’s post before continuing with this one. Click here to go back and read “The Light From The Beginning, Part One.”

From Darkness to Light

God has “called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” for a reason (1 Pet. 2:9). God longs for a relationship with us, but “God is light” and we cannot enter the relationship that He wants to have with us if we are walking in darkness.

This is the message which we have heard from him and announce to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him and walk in the darkness, we lie, and don’t tell the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:5-7, WEB)

It is one of the central truths of the Christian faith that God loves us and wants us to be in relationship with Him. Light does not, however, fellowship with darkness (2 Cor. 6:14). Apart from the work of Jesus in us as the Light, we would not be able to draw close to God. Following Him is what takes us out of darkness to walk in Light. Read more

The Light From The Beginning, Part One

Let’s start today’s post by comparing two passages of scripture:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him. Without him, nothing was made that has been made. (John 1:1-3, WEB)

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and empty. Darkness was on the surface of the deep and God’s Spirit was hovering over the surface of the waters. God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. (Gen. 1:1-3)

In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness hasn’t overcome it. (John 1:4-5)

God saw the light, and saw that it was good. God divided the light from the darkness. God called the light “day”, and the darkness he called “night”. There was evening and there was morning, the first day. (Gen. 1:4-5)

Clearly, John meant us to connect the opening of his gospel with Genesis through his phrase, “in the beginning.” But that’s not the only connection. Light also links these two accounts. It’s not until later in the creation story that God makes the sun, stars, and moon, so this first Light must be something else. And it’s something powerful enough to cause Day and Night before any of the physical light sources we know of existed.

Messiah in Light

John identifies this Light at creation with the Messiah, Jesus (John 1:6-16). (Language note: Messiah is the Hebrew word for Christ. Both words mean “anointed”.) It’s not just Christians who’ve made this connection, though. Even Jewish rabbis who are still waiting for a Messiah other than Jesus recognize the Light in Genesis does refer to the Messiah.

God’s first words in the Bible are: ” ‘Let there be light!’ And there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good.” When we study the creation account closely we notice that it was not until the fourth day that God created the “two great lights”, the sun and the moon. The Sages understood this too to be a Messianic allusion, and so the Midrash known as Pesikhta Rabbah, which was read from the 9th century on in connection with feast days, asks, “Whose is this light which falls upon the congregation of the Lord?” and answers, “It is the light of the Messiah” …

The Rabbis considered the Aramaic word Nehora, ‘light’, to be one of the secret names of the Messiah, since we read in the Aramaic part of the book of Daniel that, “He knows what dwells in darkness, and light dwells with him” (2.22). (from “The Messiah In The Old Testament In The Light of Rabinnical Writings” by Risto Santala)

The Yalkut, a rabbinic anthology from the medieval period, says this:

‘And God saw the light, that it was good.’ This is the light of Messiah … to teach you that God saw the generation of Messiah and His works before He created the universe, and He hid the Messiah … under His throne of glory. (quoted in “What The Rabbis Know About The Messiah” by Rachmiel Frydland)

Even without knowing who the Messiah is, these rabbis understood that the Light in Genesis points to Messiah, whom they saw as the “center of all creation”

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Walking Through Philippians 3: Paul’s Thoughts on Following Jesus

In 1 Corinthians 11:1, Paul said, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (KJV). If we want a how-to guide for the way Paul follows Jesus, we can find a succinct version in the 3rd chapter of Philippians. This chapter is a bit unusual. Rather than speaking generally to his fellow believers or addressing a specific issue in the church, Paul gets real about his own walk of faith.

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photo credit: Samuel Zeller via StockSnap.io

Paul’s Zeal

We break into the middle of the letter to the church in Philippi. Paul has been warning against “dogs, “evil workers,” and “the mutilation.” He gives a general principle that physical things like circumcision aren’t what determines whether or not you’re part of God’s chosen people. “We are the circumcision,” he writes, “who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh” (Phil. 3:2-3). He then shifts to using himself as an example.

Though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. (Phil 3:4-6)

What a pedigree! Under the Old Covenant, Paul was as perfect as you could get. There was no stain on his Israelitish lineage. His parents kept the Law and had him circumcised. He became an elite leader in the Jewish community and an expert in the Law, which he kept to the letter. He even actively persecuted heretics.

Then, suddenly, Jesus Himself showed up and told Paul those weren’t heretics. The Messiah had come and Paul was fighting the next step in God’s plan. In response, Paul gave up power, prestige, and (parts of) the belief system he’d poured his entire life into to follow Jesus. And that’s an aspect of Paul’s life that we’re supposed to imitate. Read more

God’s Message Through the Aaronic Blessing

At a conference this past December, I attended an excellent seminar by a gentleman named Hal exploring the depth of the Hebrew words used in the Aaronic blessing (I want to credit him, but not sure if he’d want his full name used here, so we’ll just stick with first names). This blessing goes like this in the New King James Version: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace” (Num. 6:24-26).

God's Message Through the Aaronic Blessing | marissabaker.wordpress.com

These words are lovely in English, but I was awed by how much more incredible they are when you start digging deep into the Hebrew meanings. In this article, we’re going to take a deep-dive into the words originally used to record this blessing. These words illuminate an encouraging, hopeful message that God continues to share with us today.

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Jesus The Christ

I’d like to share a quote from a book I picked up a couple weeks ago. I still haven’t decided whether or not I like Mysteries of the Middle Ages by Thomas Cahill, but it has given me several things to think about. For example, there is an interesting footnote to page 50, in which the author discusses the shift from approaching Christianity through a “Jewish conceptual framework” to a Greco-Roman view that disconnected Christianity from its Jewish roots.

By the time of Constantine, Jesus was already shedding his Jewishness; and the Greek word Christos (Christ), meaning ‘Anointed One,” a translation of the Hebrew mashiach (messiah), had become in effect Jesus’s surname.

The problem with this is that treating “Christ” simply as a surname can make us lose sight of an important aspect of Who He is and what He was sent to do. His names have meaning, but too often we pay no more attention to those meanings than we would to the fact that the names John Doe mean “God is gracious” and “a female deer.”

Christ, the Anointed, is a title that God gave Jesus. It is so important that it quickly became part of His name — the name “Jesus Christ” is used 198 times in the New Testament and “Christ Jesus” 58 times. “Lord and Christ” is how Peter referred to Jesus in his Acts 2 sermon.

This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, He hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear. For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on My right hand, until I make Thy foes Thy footstool. Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:32-36).

Looking For a Messiah

Having read from the scriptures we know as the Old Testament (some were discussed in this post last week), the Jews of Christ’s day were expecting an Anointed Savior to appear from the Lord. When Andrew (who became one of the 12 disciples) first met Jesus, he said, ““We have found the Messiah” (which is translated, the Christ)” (Jn. 1:41, NKJV). Even the Samaritan woman who Jesus spoke with at the well said, ““I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us all things” (Jn 4:25, NKJV). In reply, Jesus said, “I who speak to you am He.”

The fact that the Jews were expecting the Messiah — the Lord’s Anointed, or masiyach (H4899) — is why He is referred to as “the Christ” seventeen times in the gospels. It is why John’s Gospel was written, so “that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through His name” (Jn. 20:31).

What Was He Anointed to Do?

 The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He hath sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord. (Luke 4:18-19)

This scripture is one Jesus chose to read as He taught in the synagog at Nazareth on the Sabbath. After reading it, He said, “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears” (Luke 4:21). Quoted from Isaiah 61, this mission is what His anointing included. Here in Luke and Acts 10:38 are the only places I’ve been able to find where the word “anoint” is  used this way in the NT, but I think it is safe to say that the anointing Jesus received from God included other roles, such as High Priest (Heb. 5:1-10).

If we forget the meanings contained in Jesus’s names, we lose sight of much more than just the Jewish roots of our faith. The fact that Jesus is the Christ, the One chosen and Anointed by God, is one of the founding principles of our faith, and should not be ignored if we seek to follow and honor Him.