Sunday, 26 July 2009

The Richmond Briefing

A weekly Bible reading for Bridge Builders

The Richmond Briefing has been a weekly feature of the Reachout web site for five years and is now available on the blog. To find out more and read earlier briefings go here

Reading – Confessing Christ (Luke 9:1-22)

People don’t believe in miracles, not because they haven’t witnessed a miracle but because their world view will not allow them to accept that miracles are possible. Even though someone they respect and venerate should relate an account of a miracle many will not believe it but will reconsider the esteem in which they hold their friend. Showing them a miracle will not guarantee their conversion because they may make every effort to explain it away and we have seen this. So it was with the people who saw the miracles of Jesus and his disciples who drove out demons, healed the sick and preached the kingdom message. They saw Jesus feed five thousand and ate of this bounty but this did not guarantee their becoming aware of whom Jesus was.

When Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do the crowds say I am? They replied,

‘Some say John the Baptist

Others say Elijah

And still others that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life’”

In the last Briefing I said that a person’s response to God is a sort of tipping point in either coming to a deeper knowledge of the things of God or increasingly failing to understand at all. Jesus spoke plainly and demonstrated his authority but seeing, they did not see and hearing they failed to understand.

Some of course did see and understand and when Jesus asked, “’But what about you? Who do you say I am?’

Peter answered, ‘The Christ of God’” (The predicted Deliverer. Lk.9:19-20, c.f. Lk.2:11; Jn.4:25)

At Pentecost upwards of three thousand saw and understood (Acts 2)

This is crucial because those who see, confess and order their lives accordingly will go on to grasp the mature vision of Christ portrayed by Paul, for instance, in his letter to the church in Colossae. Here Paul places Jesus at the centre of Creation, its cause, keeper and purpose (Col.1:15-20) and of the New Creation. These verses are believed to be a quotation from an early Christian hymn and so represent how those first Christians thought of Christ as the God of Creation and of the New Creation.

Christ is:

· The image of the invisible God (Col.1:15a) and the beginning (Col.18b, c.f. Rev.3:14; Jn.1:1)

· The firstborn of all creation (Col.1:15b) and the firstborn from the dead (Col.1:18c, c.f. Ro.8:29)

· Preeminent because he is before all things (Col.1:17a) and the head of the body, the church (Col.1:18)

· The one who holds all things together (Col.1:17b) and who reconciles all things to himself (Col.1:20a)

· Everything in Creation is by him, through him and for him (Col.1:16b) and so everything in the New Creation (Col.1:20c)

This is mature teaching, requiring deep contemplation and those who accept Jesus as the Christ of God, the promised Deliverer and the image of the invisible God (Col.1:15) have much to ponder. But those who ascribe to Jesus the lesser role of prophet, teacher, great man, or exemplar fail entirely to see him at all and will fail to understand why Christians insist on his being God made flesh, Creator and Saviour.

Such blessings as are to be had from this great hymn in Paul’s letter are not accessible to them since such faith as they have is not in the Christ Paul preached or the disciples witnessed to. Jesus’ question and Peter’s answer place Christ in his rightful place and in our witnessing that is where we always seek to put him. Otherwise we rob people of that wonderful knowledge of him that awaits them as they trust him and grow in him. Any message that does not have Christ as the cause, keeper and purpose of all things is not the Christian message.

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