Monday, March 17, 2003

Jesus One on One

This is the sixth and final post in a series that examines Jesus' encounters with individuals and what they reveal. To start at the beginning, click here.

Common Themes and Important Differences

The five preceding posts told the stories and made observations about Jesus' one on one meetings with a Jewish leader named Nicodemus, a Samaritan woman, a rich young man, Peter, and Mary Magdalene. This small sampling consisted of:

  • Rulers and common people
  • Men and women
  • Disciples and non-disciples
  • Faithful and non-faithful
  • Natives and aliens
  • Sinners only

It is interesting that everybody falls into at least one of these categories.

Four of the five episodes come from John's gospel. The striking significance of this relates to the distinct portrait of Jesus made by each gospel:

  • Matthew presents Jesus as the King. His genealogy, for example, establishes Jesus legal right the the throne, and as a child He was visited by foreign dignitaries who give Him kingly gifts.
  • Mark presents Jesus as the servant. Jesus just appears and busily goes about working in a hurried fashion. Mark does not tell us where Jesus came from and the resurrection account is very sketchy. This is in keeping with the lowly position that a servant has.
  • Luke presents Jesus as the perfect man. Luke gives us human details of Jesus conception and his relationship to John the Baptist. He give us Jesus' blood line genealogy through Mary. In Luke, Jesus' power comes by the infilling of the Holy Spirit. Luke's parallel to Matthew's Sermon on the Mount is given on a level plain.
  • John presents Jesus as the Son of God. In John we see Jesus as the Word made flesh. He is one with the Father. John records Jesus profound words, "Before Abraham was, I am." John, like Mark, records no genealogy, because Jesus has an eternal existence.

Each gospel, in fact, shows all sides of Jesus. It is just that each chooses to emphasize a different aspect. Four gospels are needed to show this four-fold nature of Jesus work on earth. It would be hard to write a single story that showed such opposites as king-servant and man-God.

Now, the gospel that presents the highest, loftiest, and most unreachable portrait of Jesus is the gospel of John. This is the gospel that most clearly presents Him as God made flesh. But John is, also, the most personal of all the Gospels. This truly informs us of God's love for us and desire to know us as His special and unique creation. One might have expected Luke to be the gospel of personal encounters. But our ultimate end is to be children of God, and so it is John's gospel that is the most personal of all.

Jesus' Purposes Then and Now

Jesus wants people to know Him through:

  • The Scriptures: Nicodemus was instructed about the snake that Moses' made in the wilderness. The Samaritan woman was told that the Father wanted those who could worship Him in Spirit and in Truth, which comes from the Jewish Scriptures.
  • The Holy Spirit: John 14:16, 26; 15:26, and 16:7 all speak of the other comforter or advocate that was coming after Jesus' ascended to the Father. Jesus told Nicodemus about being born of the Spirit.
  • By faith as Peter had to do.
  • In love, praise, and worship as Mary and the Samaritan woman learned.

Jesus wants people to follow Him with a love motivation. Obedience, in fact, follows love. Jesus said, "If you love me, you will obey my commandments." The best obedience flows from hearts that love Him.

The Manifest Presence of God

God has always desired to have one on one encounters with His people. Note these verses:

Where would I be if I did not believe I would experience the Lord’s favor in the land of the living! (Psalm 27:13, The Net Bible)

Now without faith it is impossible to please him, for the one who approaches God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)

With every prayer and petition, pray at all times in the Spirit, and to this end be alert, with all perseverance and requests for all the saints. (Ephesians 6:18)

By this we know that we reside in God and he in us: in that he has given us of his Spirit. (1 John 4:13)

but when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is present, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled faces reflecting the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another, which is from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:16-18)

I was teaching in a non-charismatic church one time. During the worship service, I freely raised my hands. Their worship was good, I closed my eyes, felt connected to God's presence, and worshipped as I knew best. That afternoon, someone leaned over the lunch table and asked, in a friendly fashion, "Are you charismatic? You raised your hands in our service." Here was my answer, "If by being charismatic you mean that the manifest presence of God is legitimately sought and with His presence can come power to heal and have words of knowledge, then I am charismatic." The word "manifest:" is crucial here. It is the ability to sense the Presence of the Father through His Spirit that indwells us. Praise and worship, seeking Him, receiving Him, and our love and affection are all ways that we have to come close to Him and enjoy Him "in the land of the living."

If you have enjoyed this series, you might enjoy this paper by Greg Herrick: The Faceless Deities of Our Culture and Seeking the Face of God.

Tuesday: The Upper Room Discourse

<>< Test everything. Cling to what is good. ><>

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