Eleven Appearances of Jesus

In an effort to make our faith secure, Jesus appeared to his disciples on eleven distinct occasions. Here they are:

1. Mary Magdalene alone (Mk 16; Jn 20.14)

2. The woman returning from the tomb (Mt 28.9-10)

3. Simon Peter alone (Lk 24.34)

4. Two disciples on the way to Emmaus (Lk 24.13-35)

5. Apostles at Jerusalem, without Thomas (Jn 20.19)

6. Apostles at Jerusalem, a second time, with Thomas present (Jn 20.26-29)

7. Sea of Tiberias, seven disciples fishing (Jn 21.1)

8. To the Eleven, on mountain in Galilee (Mt. 28.16)

9. To 500+ disciples (1Cor 15.6)

10. To James alone (1Cor 15.7)

11. To the Apostles on Mt. Olivet at his Ascension (Lk 24.51; Acts 1.6-11)

This is mere speculation and devotional in nature, but I thought I would share it. As you may know twelve symbolizes perfection or completion. Could it be that Christ reveals himself through his Word to you and to me as the Twelfth appearance. Blessed are those who have not seen with eyes of flesh, yet see with the eyes of faith. After all, isn’t this what Luke is attempting to do in his gospel and sequel (Acts)? Isn’t he attempting to give an account to most excellent Theophilus (“Lover of God”)? By giving such an account, he wants to make our faith certain that not only these things happened, but they cause ripple effects into our own space and time.

Christ truly is walking amongst us through the power and illuminating power of his Spirit.

A Challenge to My Expositional Preaching Friends

I am convinced that expositional preaching should be the steady diet in the local church. I think it helps people read their Bibles well (if preached well!), unfolds the storyline of the exegeted book better, rounds out the jagged edges of a preacher’s hobby horses, and it forces the church to have to deal with every word of Scripture (particularly the thorny ones).

With that said, I have a challenge. I have been preparing for a message on the grace, mercy, and patience of God this past week and have found myself caught up in moments of worship. Of course, this message will be a topical one. That is my challenge: Do some topical sermons. This is not to say that worship shouldn’t well up in our hearts as we prep an expositional sermon–that most definitely be the case whenever we open the Book.

Rather, the reason I think this specific way of preaching (again, not on a regular basis) has affected me in a profound way is due to my having to thumb through ALL portions and genres of Scripture. I have been reading in the Pentateuch, the Wisdom literature, the Gospels, the Epistles. . .scouring the pages to see how God has dealt in this particular way with his creatures.

Further, I have found myself OVERWHELMED with what to say. This has been good for me since I have found that, at times, in expositional preaching I can come to a place where I feel as though I have mastered or exhausted a passage. I have never felt that way when I am doing a topical sermon. It would be a good reminder for us to proactively fight this tendency by laying the Bible in our laps and saying, “Have a go.” You will be gloriously overwhelmed. There are infinite ways to mine the treasures of Scripture in a topical sermon.

In light of that, I have also been humbled as such a study has reminded me that there is no one way to execute such a task as topical preaching. God has been kind to remind me that just as many preachers there are in the world, so there are sermons on any given topic.

So, my friends, give yourself a few weeks out of the year to be overwhelmed by God’s riches. To be humbled by your lack of knowledge. To worship at the goodness of God in giving you a book with infinite value.

Better than Solomon

“Something greater than Solomon is here!” (Jesus; Matt 12.42; NET Bible)

This past Sunday a brother was leading Sunday School through the book of 1Kings 8–Solomon’s prayer of dedication of the Temple. Our time was spent in breaking the prayer up into seven petitions Solomon prayed (all circling around the blessings and curses in Deuteronomy). The seven pieces are as follows:

1. Sin against neighbor (1Ki 8.31-32)
2. Defeat by an army–due to sin (33-34)
3. Heaven’s rain ceases–due to sin (v35-36)
4. Famine & siege by enemy–due to sin (37-40)
5. Welcoming a foreigner (41-43)
6. Victory against enemy (44-45)
7. Captivity–due to sin (46-51)

While we were going through the blessings and curses in Deuteronomy as the foil for this prayer of dedication for the Temple, I couldn’t help but think of Jesus’ own prayer of dedication of his own body (the True Temple). Solomon was well aware that God would not be encased in the Temple he constructed (albeit magnificent). Heaven itself did not set boundaries for the Almighty. “Heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house I have built” (v. 27). All of the hearing that Solomon requests from God is that done with reference to the Temple–the symbol of God’s presence on earth. Forgiveness is granted when someone comes under the stipulations. That is, when someone stops asserting how things ought to be and submits himself to the manner which God has ordained.

We do not come to God with a list of how we think the world should be. We do not come to him thinking that we have the authority to dictate who is right and wrong–justifying our sin and condemning the mis-intentions of others. Rather, we listen FIRST. We listen to the way he has ordained the world to be ordered. We listen to him and how he has revealed himself. How proud we are when we determine what is right and wrong. What we see in this narrative is the responsibility of each person to confess his own sin.

Further, Jesus confessed that his body was the True Temple (Jn 2.19). Our repentance must then be in reference to him–not some mere Higher Power. When we confess our sin without reference to Christ, we denigrate God’s means by which forgiveness is offered. Jesus teaches us that we can go to the Temple of Ba’al and offer sacrifice. We can go to Dionysius’ vineyard and inebriate ourselves with self-righteous religion. But there is no forgiveness there. If you want to receive forgiveness. If you want to be heard, you MUST GO TO JESUS. Like it or not, that is the means he has ordained. Disagree? You need to give an account as to why this is false.

In John 17, Jesus echoes Solomon’s prayer. He has given them the Father’s teaching (vv. 7-8)–namely, that they must come to him for eternal life. We will find no other well that will satisfy us (Jn 4).

HOWEVER, one key difference between Solomon’s prayer of consecration and Jesus’ prayer. The end goal is that God’s people would be with Jesus and the Father. We do not stand afar off from the Temple, but are invited to come in and eat the fellowship offering. We do not drop our sacrificial goat at the door to the Temple only for the Levites to eat. No, we enter into the Holy Place and fellowship with Jesus. It is not a mere forgiveness, but a deep abiding and fellowship that is offered to us…if we will but humble ourselves and enter through the One Door.

The Bible is Beautifully Consistent

Lately there has been some buzz about a graphic that appears to magnify contradictions and inconsistencies in the Bible. Most people who have a proclivity to disregard the Bible will glance at it and wag their heads in approval. The challenge to be thoughtful and not drink the kool-aid comes in the actual looking at the facts that feed the inconsistency graphic.

Hermeneutics is the discipline of reading well. The person who put these verses together did not read well. He is missing the forest for the trees. When I was an atheist, I suffered from epistemological laziness. So does this fellow.

I would direct you to Matt Perman’s post on this issue that will help you in defending the veracity of the Bible. {With a helpful follow-up post on The Opposable Mind}

Also, here is a contrast of the two graphics. The first is the graphic that touts the inconsistencies in the Bible. The second is an answer to the Bible’s consistency.

I would go so far to say that the difference in the attitude of the artists can be contrasted by looking at the graphics. The one on the top is stark and monolithic. This corresponds to a flat reading of Scripture. The one on the bottom is colorful and full of wonder–recognizing the diference in genre and vivid imagery the Bible conveys. This is the way one ought to read the Bible.

First, realize that apparent contradictions are apparent. Augustine challenged his students to bend their minds before they break the Scriptures. When there is something difficult to understand, don’t be quick to assert your finite mind over the Scripture.

Second, recognize the multitude of authors that write. Moses doesn’t write like Paul–however, they complement each other. The gravity of the Law is contrasted with the freedom of the Gospel–complementary. The one Spirit that inspired does not contradict. He paints the same work with many colors on one canvas.

Third, don’t make a prophecy a poem. That is, appreciate the beauty of the Psalms and the poignancy of the Proverbs. Don’t make Revelation chronological like Exodus.