Thursday, May 17, 2007

Ascension Day

My reading plan this year comes to me via RSS from ESV Devotionals -- Book of Common Prayer:

8:1 O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
2 Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
you have established strength because of your foes,
to still the enemy and the avenger.

3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
4 what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?

5 Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings [2]
and crowned him with glory and honor.
6 You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under his feet,
7 all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
8 the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

9 O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

This juxtaposition of majesty and meekness, strength and wisdom and baby intellect shows the divine irony of the Incarnation. Jesus' favourite self designation seems to be Son of Man. He is embracing a "lower than the angels" existence though he is Sovereign of the Ages. By this lowering he is able to take the highest place. Because he bows the knee and takes on his vocation as servant of the New Creation, he is able to trule over all Creation and be the head of New Creation.

Last Sunday in preaching on Mark 1, I showed our people how the Christian life is a glory sandwich, since Christ's life was a glory sandwich. We name a sandwich by what's in the middle, not what is on top.

Here's how the sandwich goes together in Mark 1.9-13

Slice of Shame #1: from Nazareth in Galilee. Mark doesn't highlight Christ's shameful birth, but his first 30 shameful years. "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?"

Slice of Shame #2: Joins Repentant Confessing Sinners at the Jordan to be baptized by John. Some guys in my discussion group this week asked a question that comes up often: "If John's baptism was a baptism of repentance, what did Jesus have to repent of?" All of the images in the early verses of Mark are controlled powerfully by Isaiah. The wilderness is a spiritual picture and a historical picture of an unrepentant people who are outside the land. Israel after Egypt was in the wilderness because of unbelief and entered the land through YSHUA (Joshua). Isaiah paints a picture of God sending his Spirit so that the wilderness blooms. Repentance prepares the way of the Lord so that times of refreshing can come from on high. Jesus as True Israel, as the True Son called out of Egypt, gets in line with sons who are returning to God and entering into New Creation. As Psalm 8 shows, Jesus comes as Son of Man to take the throne. The path to the throne is from desert humiliation, lifelong humiliation, cursed crucifixion, powerful resurrection, and rightful Ascension to power that we celebrate today 40 days after our Resurrection Celebration.

Glory (the meat in the middle): In beautiful echoes of Isaiah 11, 42, 64, God rends the heavens and comes down upon Christ the dutiful son, the obedient well-pleasing one, who is publicly acclaimed as the Servant upon upon his favour and Spirit rest. Peace on earth and goodwill toward men upon whom his favour rests comes through the One upon whom the Spirit rests. John announces that though he himself baptizes with water, the Coming One will baptize with the Holy Spirit. Here we see that he is anointed with gladness above all his brothers. (Heb. 1) In his humiliation he is exalted. God has anointed his king in the wilderness and empowered him for what's next.

Slice of shame #3: Driven (literally "cast out" same word used of casting out a demon ekballo) by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan. This will mess with your theology of the Christian life!! The Father by the Spirit drives the Obedient Son into direct combat with the Prince of this World. This shows that Rightful King has come to make war with the Perceived King. But notice where the temptation takes place. Adam was tempted in a garden where there was no hunger and there was intimacy with God. The Second Adam is tempted in a wilderness with wild animals. It's not about environment people!! It's about delight. Just look at your life. How many data/pleasure inputs or options do you have on a per second basis? Yet you are insatiably hungry. The visual and real calories we ingest do not take care of our hunger. We don't delight in these things, yet we desire them all the more. Christ's delight was in his Father. His hunger was in perspective, and so when bread with a catch was offered to him, he feasted on God's promises. This Son was victorious, obedient to the Father.

Punch line: Christ was humiliated for us as Son of Man. Christ took the way of repentance for us, since apart from Christ repentance is impossible for us. Christ received the Spirit for us, to be our Messiah and God's King (Ps. 2, 8). Christ subdues Satan and wild beasts, like Adam never did. All this for us.

This means that if we are to bloom as God's New Creation in the wilderness, in the place of obscurity and shame, we must be in Him. Union with Christ by faith means we rule with him, yet it means in the meanwhile we suffer with him. If your theology of the Christian life is only about glorying in your adoption, you aren't eating the Glory Sandwich. You're doing what my kids do. Throw out the gourmet sourdough bun with butter lettuce, red onions and gourmet trimmings and eat the meat. Christ looked at the crusty sourdough bun of his life and said "My food is to do the will of him who sent me."

So as sent ones who are walking in New Creation as we see it unfold through Christ's reigning and the Spirit's work, we must have him, not just approximate his steps. We must swallow whole his whole person, his whole work, his whole message, and the whole concept of the Kingdom of the New Creation which has him on its throne. Hallelujah he is risen and is reigning and his kingdom shall have no end!!!

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