Systematic theology 2, Lecture 4

  1. Understand why Jesus is described as the Suffering Servant (Sect. 10).
    •    The Suffering Servant of the Lord
    • After being asked by Jesus who his disciples think he is, Peter replies, “You are the Christ” (Mk. 8:29b). Doubtless, they thought that this meant that he is the anointed messianic ruler who will defeat the Romans and restore Jewish sovereignty, ushering in the golden age promised by the prophets.Jesus turns this upside down, pouring new content into the promise of the messianic king. He now identifies himself as the Suffering Servant of the Lord (Isaiah 53). This was spoken by the Father’s voice at his baptism; now it is Jesus’ destiny to fulfill that call and go to Jerusalem to suffer and die. Mark in the last half of his Gospel, paints a bitter picture. Jesus prophesies his coming passion with more and more detail three times, starting immediately after Peter’s confession: “He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again” (8:31, compare 9:31; 10:33-34).  Peter rebukes him for this and Jesus responds: “‘Get behind me Satan!’ he said, ‘You do not have in mind the things of God but the things of men’” (8:33). Again, the battle is joined. Jesus sees right through Peter to the enemy, who would keep him from fulfilling his destiny to restore God’s creation by breaking his rule over it.As Jesus journeys to his destiny in Jerusalem, he suffers – he suffers the competition and misunderstanding of his disciples as they rebuke the children and jockey for position in his kingdom.He now suffers the rejection of his call to discipleship, (the rich young ruler refuses to sell all that he has to follow Jesus).  He suffers Judas’s plot, selling him out to the religious leaders. He suffers Judas’s betrayal followed by his subsequent arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane.He suffers his disciples fleeing his captors into the night. Then he suffers Peter’s denial and his trials by the Jewish high court and Pilate, the Roman procurator. Now sentenced to death by crucifixion, the most horrible form of “justice” under Roman law, he faces a humiliating, long drawn out death.  Finally, as our sin-bearer, he suffers abandonment by the Father, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mk. 15:34, cf. Psalm 22:1).
  2.  Understand the importance of Jesus being the Davidic Warrior King and the Suffering Servant (Sect. 11.1, 11.2).
    If Jesus had been only the Davidic Warrior King and lived to an old age, we would have temporary deliverance from Satan with the perfect revelation of the kingdom, continue to live in bondage and go to Hell. But for us to be delivered from our ultimate enemies, the Warrior King had to become the Suffering Servant. Only in this way would sin, Satan and death itself be conquered, and subject to his kingdom. On the cross Jesus carried our sin, paying our penalty, dying the death we deserve. On the cross he also disarmed the devil and in his resurrection, conquered death.
  3. Understand the historical context of Crucifixion and its usage in the Roman world (Sect. Scholar’s Box: Crucifixion).
    1.       Scholar’s Box: CrucifixionFor the Romans, crucifixion was the highest form of capital punishment; normally, it could not be administered to citizens. Rome used this despised death (which included torture and humiliation) to control its slaves and aliens. After Spartacus’ slave-revolt was crushed, 6,000 captives were crucified on the Appian Way, leading into Rome (Spartacus died, 71 BC). This massive execution warned against further uprisings.  Later, when the Jews revolted against Rome and Jerusalem was under siege, Titus, the Roman commander, crucified captives daily around the city until he ran out of wood for the crosses. This was primitive psychological warfare – a similar fate awaited the defenders of the city unless they surrendered. Jerusalem fell, AD 70.No one in polite Roman society would even mention crucifixion; it was vulgar and tasteless. As Cicero writes, “How grievous a thing it is to be disgraced by a public court; how grievous to suffer a fine, how grievous to suffer banishment; and yet in the midst of any such disaster we retain some degree of liberty. Even if threatened with death, we may die free men. But the executioner, the veiling of the head and the very word ‘cross’ should be far removed not only from the person of a Roman citizen but from his thoughts, his eyes, his ears.  For it is not only the actual occurrence of these things or the endurance of them, but liability to them, the expectation, indeed the very mention of them, that is unworthy of a Roman citizen and a free man.” In this world, the apostles proclaimed Christ crucified. As Martin Hengel reports, it is the Gospels which give us the most detailed account of crucifixion in the ancient world. The church shoved the cross in the face of Rome, and gloried in it (cf. Gal. 6:14).The Stoic philosopher Seneca asks, “Is it worthwhile to weigh down on one’s own wound and hang impaled on a gibbet in order to postpone something which is the balm of troubles, the end of punishment [i.e. death]? Can anyone be found who would prefer wasting away in pain and dying limb by limb, or letting out his life drop by drop, rather than expiring once for all? Can any man be found willing to be fastened to the accursed tree, long sickly, already deformed, swelling with ugly welts on shoulders and chest, and drawing the breath of life amid long-drawn-out agony?” These rhetorical questions demand the answer, “No, no one can be found.” But Seneca is wrong. One man can be found, Jesus of Nazareth, the Suffering Servant of the Lord. As Isaiah prophecies, “Surely he took our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.  We all like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:4-6, compare I Peter 2:21-25). Hengel comments: “The heart of the Christian message, which Paul described as the ‘word of the cross,’ ran counter not only to Roman political thinking, but to the whole ethos of religion in ancient times and in particular to the ideas of God held by educated people…. To believe that the one pre-existent Son of the one true God, the mediator at creation and the redeemer of the world, had appeared in very recent times in out-of-the-way Galilee as a member of the obscure people of the Jews and even worse, had died the death of a common criminal on the cross, could only be regarded as a sign of madness.”[1]___________________________________________________[1] Martin Hengel, Crucifixion (Fortress Press, 1977   
  4.  Recognize the dualism of how the preaching of the resurrection would have been received in ancient times (Sect. 12.2, 12.3, 12.4, 12.5, 12.6, 12.7).
    He receives his “spiritual body,” a body animated by the Spirit. As Paul says,       “…flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable” (I Cor. 15:50).Thus, in Christ, we have the beginning of the new heavens and the new earth (II Peter 3:13; Rev.21:1). As Paul says, “For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God” (Rom. 8:20-21).Not only was the preaching of the cross offensive to Jewish and Gentile ears, the preaching of the resurrection was almost universally held to be absurd (except for a minority of Jews).  In the Hellenistic world the body was viewed as evil. Why would one want it to be resurrected? Salvation (Gnosticism, dualism) means to be free from the body so that, at best, the soul may fly heavenward.  After studying the ancient world, Wright concludes, “Christianity was born into a world where its central claim was known to be false. Many believed that the dead were non-existent; outside Judaism, nobody believed in resurrection.” 4Now here come the Christians holding the offensive cross before the Roman world and insisting that Jesus has been physically raised from the dead, another absurdity. Even more offensive, he is now Lord of the universe and Caesar is not. Jesus rules as King; Rome is dethroned. His kingdom has come and the kingdoms of this world are now subject to him. What was given in creation, stolen in the Fall, contended against by Satan and the powers of darkness, reversed in the call of Abraham, and revealed in the history of Israel, has come and will come in King Jesus, “the ruler of the kings of the earth” (Rev. 1:5).Now the Risen Lord sends his disciples to preach his message and bring his (kingdom) ministry to the nations. As a fragment attached to Mark’s Gospel records, “He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands, and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well” (16:15-18 – these verses are not original with Mark, but are canonical, and are a part of the floating Jesus tradition of the early church, which was largely oral before written. If they do not come from Jesus, they represent the mind and mission of the apostolic church in continuing his kingdom ministry. See also Luke 10:19, “I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.”) Moreover, Jesus fulfills God’s purpose for Israel. As Luke records, “Then he [Jesus] opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, ‘This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised [the Holy Spirit], but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high” (Lk. 24:45-49).4 N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God (Fortress Press, 2003, p. 35
  5.   Recognize the Spirit’s role in Jesus’ and the disciple’s earthly ministry (Sect. 13.1.4, 13.1.5, 13.1.6).
    What they are to know is their commission to the nations, empowered by the Spirit. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). This command/promise is still in process, we are still going to the ends of the earth. Thus Acts is often called the (continuing) works of the Risen Lord through his Spirit. Luke’s emphasis on the Spirit operating in Jesus’ earthly ministry (Luke 6:19; 8:46; 10:21; 11:20) is now operating in his disciples and his church. Along with the coming of the Messiah and kingdom warfare, the pouring out of the Spirit is a central part of the End Times (he is the eschatological gift as well as the Third Person of the Trinity).Thus after the Risen Lord ascends to heaven, the disciples and their circle pray and replace the fallen Judas, completing the Twelve Apostles. They then wait for Jesus’ promise of the Spirit to be fulfilled. This happens at the Feast of Pentecost, ten days after the Lord’s ascension. While the disciples have met him, knowing that he is alive, they are still the church behind closed doors. When the Spirit falls upon them, as he did at Jesus’ baptism, they are empowered and break out to evangelize Jerusalem and the crowd of pilgrims from the nations gathered there.  The church explodes, continuing Jesus’ power ministry: “Everyone was filled with awe and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles” (Acts 2:43). This manifestation includes the gift of tongues (here in known languages), and a kind of ecstasy which provokes the charge that they are drunk (Acts 2:13).
  6.   List in 1 sentence Romans 8:38-39. (Sect. 14.1.6).
    “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-39).
  7. Learn the spiritual warfare history in the General Epistles (Sect. 15).
        In the remaining letters of the New Testament, the warfare worldview is explicit.  As we read in James 4:7: “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” Likewise, Peter exhorts the young men in his churches, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings” (I Peter 5:8-9). John knows we are in the battle: “Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work…. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother” (I John 3:7-10).Behind these scattered references is a whole worldview, the structure of reality.  As we have seen, two kingdoms are in conflict: the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan, and in this age the conflict rages. Like Paul and John, Jude warns against those who have slipped into the fellowship with the plan to undermine it. They are “dreamers” who “reject authority and slander celestial beings” (verse 8). He continues, “But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you’” (verse 9). Again, in Israel’s history spiritual warfare is thematic. Jude here does not hesitate to appeal to it. 
  8.   Textbook- Recognize how the Spirit manifests as the church moves ahead (Ch. 16, Start Here).  
  9.  Textbook- List the elements of Worship (Ch. 20, Start Here).    
  10. Textbook- Recognize how the Kingdom’s beginning and ending is manifested (Postscript, Start Here).
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Systematic theology 2, Lecture 4
Systematic theology 2, Lecture 4