Rebuilding Jerusalem

By / Apr 19

“Where is Jesus Now?”

By / Apr 16

The question that we’re asking today is “where is Jesus in the midst of the crisis” and “where is Jesus right now?” There are a couple answers that we can think of that are biblical in their understanding. The first: some people might say “well, he’s in my heart. Jesus lives in my heart and I know that he is in me and so Jesus right now is in my heart in the midst of the crisis.” That’s not a terrible answer.

If we look at Ephesians 3:16, it says that “according to the riches of God’s glory,” Paul is praying that “he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” You can see that Paul is saying that Christ dwells in our hearts.  But the caveat would be that that’s not exactly the question that we’re asking right now. Christ dwells in our hearts by faith through the spirit, so it doesn’t tell us where Jesus is physically, right now, in the midst of this crisis.

The second answer you might give is, “Well Jesus is present in the Lord’s Supper when we take communion. When we have the bread and the wine, he is present with us. We affirm that that is true. 1 Corinthians 10:16 says that “the cup of blessing that we blessed [that is, the communion cup] is it not a participation in the blood of Christ?  The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” Then Matthew quotes Jesus saying, “This is my blood of the Covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:28) We can see that that Jesus is present in the supper. He says “this is my blood,” “this is my body.” We participate in the blood of Christ. But again, not quite what we are asking because we would say that we are feeding on Christ by the spirit because he is not physically present in the communion in the bread or in the wine. We have not quite answered the question: “where is Jesus right now,” though we are trying to answer it with ideas and in ways that the Lord has given us in our heart and in the Word.

Another way we can answer is, “Well, he’s present with us in the Church.” “We are a spiritual house,” 1 Peter 2 tells us, a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. You might say, “Well, I’m with Jesus when I go to church. That’s where Jesus is. He is with me when I’m at church.” But again, it wouldn’t answer the question that we’re asking which is, “where is Jesus in the flesh, the human being Jesus, the God-Man, right now?”

A fourth answer, one we would not ascribe to, is the pagan view or the view that the original people who found the empty tomb thought was possible. They said, “His disciples came by night and stole the body away while we were asleep.” Whether they thought that was possible or not, they wanted to come up with a story for explaining how Jesus could be alive, so this pagan, or non-Christian, view would be that “He’s in a grave somewhere. We don’t need to ask where Jesus is because he’s in the grave somewhere in Israel.”

Those four answers I would say are answers that people might give. But the answer that the New Testament gives most clearly, and over and over again is that Jesus is at God’s right hand. Repeatedly throughout the New Testament, we can see that Jesus right now is at God’s right hand. Why does that matter? Why would it matter for us in the midst of a crisis that Jesus is in the flesh at God’s right hand? I think the more we meditate on this, the more we see the Bible wants us to meditate on Jesus at the right hand of God.

If you look at Colossians 3:1-2, it says, “If you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things that are above, not on the things of Earth.” Jesus is at the right hand of God and Paul tells us we should meditate on the fact that he is at the right hand of God. How did that happen? How did Jesus get to the right hand of God? Well, after he died on the cross, atoned for sin, and then resurrected, he at appeared to his disciples. He appeared to many people, even up to 500 once, and then he ascended. That is, he lifted up and went into heaven. Acts 1 tells us that while the disciples were gazing into heaven, he went and “behold two men stood by them in white robes and said, ‘men of Galilee why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus who was taken up from you into heaven will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.’” We see from the Ascension what happened when Jesus rose again and then rose up to his father’s right hand. The men who saw it happen standing there looking up into heaven, gazing up at the sky, as though they were looking at clouds or trying not to look directly at the Sun. But they were looking up into the sky. They were they were gazing into heaven.

When Paul tells us to set your minds on things that are above, he’s not telling us to get a telescope. He’s not telling us to look into the sky to gaze at the clouds. He’s telling us to set our minds on things that are above, to set our minds on the fact that Christ is at the right hand of God. When we ask the question, “Where is Jesus in the midst of the crisis,” the answer is: he is seated at the right hand of God reigning, interceding, and enlivening us in the flesh.  

How do we conclude that he is in the flesh? In Luke, at the end of Jesus’s time on earth, he says to Thomas, “look at my hands and my feet. It is I. Touch me and see a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have. After the resurrection Jesus had flesh and bones. He invites Thomas to touch him.  Then in 1 Corinthians 15, we see that that Jesus is now a life-giving spirit. After his resurrection and ascension, he is now in the flesh. A life-giving spirit enlivening his Church, that is, sending his Spirit. And not just enlivening his Church but reigning as a human and interceding on our behalf.

This is where we get to the heart of why it matters that in a crisis Jesus is at the right hand of God: He is a sympathetic high priest. The sympathetic God-man knows what it’s like for us to be in crisis on earth, and yet is outside this space-time continuum. You might say he is outside of this creation. He is the new creation. Christ is the new creation by merit of his resurrection, and he is at the right hand of God doing two things on our behalf. He is reigning on our behalf, the New Testament tells us, and he’s interceding on our behalf. When we look around the world and we don’t know who is in control, we ask questions: “When are things going to lift?” “When are we going to be allowed to go out?” “When are we going to no longer have to be stuck?” “Who’s making these decisions? The federal government? The state? The mayor?” It is extremely complicated to know who’s actually in charge right now.  Except, Jesus is at the right hand of God, reigning on our behalf.

Let’s look at some passages in the New Testament which outline this to conclude. Ephesians 1 says that “God raised Christ from the dead, and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places—far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named not only in this age but also in the one to come.” Paul is telling us is that Christ is ruling at the right hand of God, as we saw from the other passages, in the flesh, as a human, as the God-Man. And he is ruling over all levels of government. He is ruling over every power that we might see, or not see. An intimate, invisible spirit over every dominion and every realm, not only in this age but in this age to come. Beyond that, he is putting all things under his feet as head of the Church. He is ruling on our behalf.

First Peter 3 takes it a little bit farther. He says, “Jesus has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God.” He’s at the right hand of God with the angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.

Where is Jesus right now? He is in heaven, at the right hand of God.  When we set our minds on the things above, we meditate that we don’t have to know who’s in control. One who is like us is at the right hand of God, reigning on our behalf, in control and sovereign. His leading has all power and everything is under his feet. It’s not some ethereal ephemeral notion. It’s not some theoretical concept. It is a human being.

He says to Thomas, “Look at my hands and my feet. Touch me and see. A ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”  Now, Yes, Jesus’s body, as he rose is glorified, but it is still a body. It is still entirely a body. Thus, we know there is one like us reigning on our behalf at the right hand of God.

He’s not only reigning on our behalf. He’s interceding on our behalf. He’s interceding as a human in the flesh, glorified, on our behalf. When we are in crisis as we are now, we know the one who is reigning is also listening. The one who is controlling all things is awaiting our prayers. Romans 8:34 says “who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died. More than that, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. This was not something that God came up with suddenly. This was something that was the plan all along: for the God-man to sit at the right hand of the Majesty on High.

We can go to an Old Testament passage quickly to see this. Psalm 110, a psalm that gets quoted throughout the New Testament. The psalm reads, “the Lord said to my Lord, sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.” This Psalm is saying that the son of David would become the Lord of King David, would sit at the right hand of God, and would rule over all things. It was described in the Old Testament and planned in eternity past. It’s not just the past, it’s also the future. Hebrews 10:12 tells us that “when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.”

We know the last enemy to be defeated is death and Jesus is right now interceding on our behalf, reigning on our behalf, and sending the Spirit. He is enlivening us at the right hand of God, waiting until the time when he puts death under his feet. The way we grow in Christ right now is by contemplating, setting our mind, on the things above, that is, Christ, who is reigning, interceding, and enlivening us right now.

If we ask, “Man, where is Jesus? This is getting hard.” There are so many rich things to meditate on, it will calm our hearts. While we may not answer the question, “what’s going to happen in our world in the coming days and weeks and months and years,” we know who is in charge, and the one in charge is reigning on our behalf.

“Is God a Good Father?”

By / Apr 14

There is a whole series of Bible references that I have been going through the last couple of days, just looking at the question of “Is God a Good Father?” It’s a very interesting question because it’s recorded in Mark 10:18 when Jesus is confronted by a young man who comes to him and says “Good teacher,” Jesus challenges him and says to him, “why do you call me good? There is none good but one and that is God.” Now Jesus was not denying that he was good. He was getting the guy to think in a clear direction. Throughout the book of Mark, people have been directed to look on Jesus as God, and what Jesus is doing is get this guy to think. “If you’re calling me good, then you’re really calling me God, because only God is good in himself.”

There is a great phrase in Psalm 119:68 that says about God, “You are good, and you do good.” “You are good,” that is, you are goodness itself, and “you do good,” the things that you do exteriorly to yourself are always good.

Psalm 52 tells us that “the goodness of God endures continually.” I want to break down those two things that we’re told about God: One, that “you are good.” That means when we talk about God being good, we’re talking about God being essentially good. That is, God being good in himself. That’s what his nature is. We’re talking about God being perfectly good, lacking nothing. We don’t find good in our lives apart from him. We’re saying that God is lovably good.  That is, when we say “you are good” it means that God is more desirable than anything else. Any of the ‘goods’ that we have in our lives that we can think of—God is the supreme good. And that he’s good to us, of course, as an incentive. Second, we’re saying that God is infinitely good. That is, that he transcends all the categories in which we think. I think ice cream is good, but God’s not the same category as ice cream, is he? I think my family are good. But they don’t come into a category anywhere near God being infinitely good.

I think people who are naturalistic and materialistic as a result of enlightenment thinking, those people never see the world the way a Christian sees the world.  To the Christian, the world is an enchanted place, because we know that that it’s been made by God and that everything, including the very fact that it exists, is one of the great goods that God has done.

Infinity means not only that God is beyond all our conceptions—incomprehensibly good—but it also means that he’s good everywhere and all the time. Here’s what it says in Psalm 100:5 “for the Lord is good. His steadfast love endures forever. His faithfulness to all generations.”

Not only though, do we say about God that “you are good” but that “you do good.” He does good in giving us existence, for example. In him, we live and move and have our being so God has been good to us by giving us existence and being. He has been good to us Christians by giving us salvation and the things that he has planned for us: adoption into his family, our election or choosing us, his planning great things for us in the future. God the Father is good. God the Son is good to us by being our mediator, by standing in our place, by dying for us and redeeming us. He’s the good shepherd, and not only lays down his life for us, but he brings us into his fold, and he gives us pasture. God the Holy Spirit is good by bringing us to spiritual life, by being the life-giver, by being the love of God that’s poured into our hearts, by being our teacher, our comfort, our Sanctifier, and the author of every good work that we do. God is good and God does good.

But the question is, “Is God a Good Father?” The reality is we can’t separate these ideas. When Jesus answers that young man’s question and says, “There is none good but God,” he’s using the word “God” there in the absolute sense that includes the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  When we talk about God as being good, it is intrinsic to his nature as triune that he is good. When Jesus goes around and he does all these good works, he keeps telling people that he’s actually working the works of his Father. Whatever he does, which he does in himself, he’s doing by the Father. When the disciples in the upper room come to him and they say, “You’ve been talking a lot about the Father. Would you show us the father?” Jesus says, “I am the way to the Father. Nobody comes to the Father except by me.” But he also says “But the Father is in me and I’m in the Father, and if you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father and therefore when I come to you the Father and the Holy Spirit will come to you.”  

In all that Jesus does, we see the evidence of the Father’s love. We see the Father’s love for us when we see Jesus on the cross. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” When we see Jesus hanging in agony on the cross and crying out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” he’s not so much lamenting the departure of God, but he is drawing to mind Psalm 22, that the Holy Spirit has placed in his mind to comfort him right at that very moment when he most needs comfort. He comforts himself immediately after saying God has forsaken him, when he says “but you have never deserted your people and you are there with me. Here I am.” As that Psalm goes on, you know that it describes the very things that Jesus is seeing as he looks down from the cross: Sees them gambling over his clothing, he sees the wildness of their rage against him, he sees all of these things that very Psalm said was going to happen to him.

We can’t really say that there on the cross the Father loved the Son more than he’s ever loved him, because the love of the Father for the Son is eternal and there is no distinction. It can’t be magnified or minimized. It is one in the same. But there we see the Father loving the Sun because the Sun is becoming our sin bearer and that’s precisely what God wants to demonstrate on the cross. As Paul says in Romans, “God demonstrates his love for us in that Christ died for our sins.”

So, we see the goodness of God, which is the source of his love for us, his mercy towards us, his kindness, his long-suffering. In Exodus 33, when God comes to Moses, God says to Moses, “I’m going to pass all my goodness before you,” everything that follows then in that passage, displays this. We see when goodness confers happiness upon us, although we don’t deserve it, it’s called grace. When goodness confers happiness on us against all our demerits, we call that mercy. When goodness bears provocation from rebels, that’s God’s long-suffering. When goodness performs its promises, that’s God’s truth and truthfulness. And when goodness supplies all our needs when we are without, that’s God’s bounty and generosity towards us.

Goodness is intrinsic in God, and every morning we receive good things from God’s hands and supremely we see God’s goodness in the coming of Christ in his death and in his resurrection. Somebody once said this: “being and being good are all the same for God.” “Being,” that is, God existing, and God “being good” are all the same for God. It is his preeminent attribute.  When God says “I am,” when Jesus says “I am” he’s saying that he is the one who exists in himself. But he has not let us think of his existence without thinking of his goodness towards us. In the one God, the triune, the Father is good, the Son is good, the Spirit is good. There are not three goodnesses, but one goodness. If everything that exists in God is good, then God being good is who God is.

Through the Valley

By / Mar 29

Sound the Alarm: the Day of the Lord

By / Mar 22

Down to Business!

By / Mar 15

Thoughts on Coronavirus

By / Mar 4

As of March 2, close to 90,000 people worldwide have been affected with the novel corona virus, including about 100 cases in the US. As the virus continues to spread across the nation and world, Tenth’s leadership has thought and prayed about how we should respond. Thankfully, one of our Deacons, Dr. Jerry Jacob (Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine at Penn Medicine and the Director of Infection Prevention at Good Shepherd Penn Partners), was willing to provide his medical opinion. 

Dr. Jacob has recommended two categories for us to think about regarding the corona virus. The first relates to wisdom, and the second to mercy. When it comes to wisdom, Dr. Jacob lists six ways for us to protect members of our community from transmitting or acquiring the virus. First, he advises us to stay home from worship services when ill with fever or when we are experiencing respiratory symptoms (cough, congestion, shortness of breath) and instead to utilize the livestream. Second, we should wash our hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially before eating, after going to the bathroom, and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. If soap and water is not easily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Cleaning the environment around us is also important. We should regularly clean high touch areas in our church and home, such as tabletops, light switches, and doorknobs. Third, we should take extra effort to cover our mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. If a tissue isn’t easily available, use your elbow to cover your face rather than your hands. Along the same lines, we should generally avoid touching our eyes, nose or mouth to prevent any germs on our hands from getting into our body. Fourth, we should avoid close contact with people who are ill where this is reasonable. This is not simply to protect us from illness, but to protect our loved ones who come in contact with us regularly. Conversely, we should keep our distance from others when we are sick to prevent them from becoming ill. Fifth, prepare your household by planning for ways to care for those who might become sick, especially those at higher risk for complications (i.e., elderly), and for emergency operations/closures at your work or children’s school. Finally, if the virus becomes truly widespread in Philadelphia, we as a church will need to consider cancelling services and/or postponing events.

The second category to think about is mercy. Dr. Jacob gives four suggestions about how we as the body of Christ should respond with mercy should we encounter a public health crisis. First, we should pray for those afflicted with the virus, for the healthcare workers placing themselves at risk by caring for sick patients, and for the Christians around the world who live in highly afflicted areas. Second, we should consider what support we can provide for parts of the country or the world that are heavily afflicted, including financially or materially. Third, we should combat potential stigma towards people from afflicted regions through our words and actions. Fourth, we should offer the Good News of Jesus Christ to people who are fearful.

As a Christian and an infectious disease specialist, Dr. Jacob believes following these principles and practices will enable us to respond to this virus with wisdom and mercy, which is befitting for followers of Jesus Christ.