The Ascension of Jesus has become a forgotten doctrine in most churches. We think of Jesus in terms of his past work at the manger, cross, or empty tomb but neglect his ongoing work from the throne. Jesus has not kicked up his feet to enjoy the retired life until his return. Reclaiming our understanding of the ascension helps us answer what Jesus is doing right now, and why his reign gives us rest.
We each have a story that includes a past, present, and a future. The Bible also tells a story; a narrative of historical events full of significance for all of humanity.
As those united to Jesus, we are made participants in God’s story and cast as characters in the drama of redemptive history. The resurrection of Jesus is one of those climactic moments in both Jesus’ life and the Bible’s story of God redeeming a people and restoring His corrupted creation. When we think of Jesus’ resurrection we should consider the past accomplishment, the present effects, and the future realities dawning upon us. As participants of the story through union with Christ, we must see how the resurrection rewrites our past, remakes us in the present, and reshapes our future.
Like any good narrative, the Bible uses literary devices such as metaphors, double-meanings, paradoxes, and irony. The New Testament authors often used irony to draw out the difference between how mankind sees things and how God sees things. Irony shows the sharp contrast between expectations and realities as well as between intent and effect. A third way authors employ irony is to highlight something the readers know that the characters in the story would have been unaware of. In Colossians 2:13-15 Paul provides at least four ironies tied to the cross of Jesus Christ.
There are some interesting parallels between Jesus’ conversation with the woman at the well in John 4 about water and his dialogue about bread with Jews following him in John 6. Reading the two together echoes John’s key themes for us. Here are some of the parallels in the accounts.
John’s purpose for writing the gospel: “these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ” (John 20:31).
John’s background for his book: “the framework for Jesus’ understanding of his own mission is shaped by the Scriptures mediated by the Jews” (D. A. Carson).
John’s 2 questions for the reader to wrestle with: 1) Who is Jesus? 2) What do I do with his words/teachings?
When we really think about the Incarnation (God taking on flesh), it should stir wonder in us. In The God Who Became Human, Graham Cole summarizes his hope for the reader.
The first words of Holy Scripture describe the story’s opening drama of creation, creation by God speaking forth light into the dark abyss. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth…and darkness was over the face of the deep…And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light’” (Gen 1:1, 3). Bruce Waltke recognizes the Bible’s theme here and expresses it as “God irrupting into chaos to establish his rule over everything.” The creation account emphasizes the God who speaks light into darkness and breaks the silence with the power of his voice.
As our church continues to read the book of Acts, the second chapter highlights the day of Pentecost. The author of Acts, Luke, assumes his readers are familiar with the holy-day/holiday. He, therefore, doesn’t explicitly tease out what Jesus sending the Holy Spirit on his people that day (of all days) means. If you skip over Pentecost you miss a lot of color within the text’s story that the wording itself doesn’t always supply. Here are four blogs surveying some of the meaning behind that day and what’s going on in Acts 2. Continue reading What’s Pentecost About?
Since my identity is found in Christ and sanctification is the process of the Spirit remolding me into his image, I find it to be of great help when I read the Bible to first focus on who Jesus is (worship) and then think about what is true of me because I’m in Him (identity) before tying it into how it applies to my thoughts, affections, and actions (ethics). This keeps my sanctification firmly rooted in a longing to see and become like Jesus as well as an awareness of what’s true about me (indicative) and available for me now that I’m in Christ.
As I’ve been studying Colossians the last few weeks I’ve been amazed by the glorious, sweeping statements about the supremacy and sole-sufficiency of Jesus Christ. Colossians is all about clarifying just who this Jesus is and why nothing and no one else needs added to him. Even when it seems like it’s not about him it is all about him. For example, the whole point of the vain and empty ascetic lifestyle that can’t stop the desires of the flesh (2:20-23) is to demonstrate the supremacy of Jesus who puts to death the flesh in us and resurrects as new people (2:11-14; 3:1-4). As our eyes are redirected towards him we see equally glorious, sweeping statements made about us in him. We’re told not only who we now are in Christ but what’s true of us and what belongs to us because we are in Christ. The book has a lot less than other NT books on how to live the Christian life but it more than makes up for this by showing us the blueprint of truly living (Jesus) and reminding us we are now being remade in him. When you can’t get him out of your mind he will show up in your life (your affections and actions). Here are some of those gigantic statements about Jesus and then about us in him I’ve found in Colossians.