Posts Tagged With: experience

Matthew 17: The Transforming Word

This chapter is maybe best known for the Transfiguration.  N. T. Wright does something nice here in his translation by avoiding the archaic word “transfigure” in 17:2 and he uses the more common word for the Greek word metamorpho here, “transformed.”  Jesus was “transformed.”  This is the same word in Romans 12:2 and 2 Corinthians 3:18, two popular verses.

Interestingly, the experience of the Transfiguration did not transform the apostles understanding about John the Baptist.  Jesus used the prophetic image of “Elijah” coming again in the last days (17:11-12), but maybe because Peter, James and John has just seen the real, historical Elijah they were stuck on that one.  It was not their incredible experience that changed their understanding, it was the words of Jesus that helped them realize he was really talking about John the Baptist as a “new Elijah.”

But let me tell you this. . . . Then the disciples realized that he was talking to them about John the Baptist. (17:12-13)

They were changed by words, not just an experience.

We saw this back one chapter ago, too.  Jesus had told the disciples to be careful of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees (16:5) and they thought he was talking about bread.  They had had a lot of experience with bread around that time with the two miraculous feedings, but they didn’t realize what Jesus was really talking about until he spoke an explanation to them.

Then they understood that he wasn’t telling them to beware of the leaven you get in bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. (16:12)

I am enough of a postmodernist to really appreciate experiences.  I am a Bible student by training, but I want more than just words.  I was right there in the late 1990s putting down J. I. Packer’s Knowing God and picking up Henry Blackaby’s Experiencing God because I wanted more than just knowledge of God.  I experience God in special ways in praise and worship, in service to the poor, and in the laughter and intimacy of true fellowship with believers.

Still there are many times that full understanding only really comes for me from the words of Jesus.  My heart is made tender by experience, but the words are what create true transformation.  For us today, that means an open Bible.  I am so appreciative that you have decided to be a part of this reading community.  I learn from you as you share, and simply the knowledge that you read (most importantly) your Bibles and (secondarily) this blog keeps me accountable and on track.  Then, God does with His words what only He can do: He transforms you and me by the “renewing our our minds.”

What struck you in this chapter?   

Categories: Matthew | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Hebrews 5: Experience Required

Although he [Jesus] was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.  When he had been made complete and perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, since he has been designated by God as a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek. (5:8-10)

Maybe it was because of the discussion I had with Umm Muhammad on yesterday’s post that I was especially drawn to these verses today.  Let me anticipate the questions: If Jesus is God, can God learn to obey (and does he need to)?  Was Jesus not already “complete and perfect” before the cross?  Are these verses somehow diminishing the moral quality of Jesus?

In his popular level commentary on Hebrews in the For Everyone series, N. T. Wright explains this passage using a story about a rich business owner and his son who has just graduated from college and is now ready to take his spot in the family business.  One might expect the father to place the son in a posh corner office with a high position and the pay grade to match.  But the father does not.  He puts the son at an entry-level position and has the son rise through the ranks learning the business as he goes.  As a result, when the son does rise to upper management he is a far better leader who understands his trade and his workers better.

Wright said it this way: blood made the man a son, but experience made him a boss.

"Christ in Gethsemane" by Michael O'Brien

Many scholars think the Hebrews author is thinking about Jesus’ Gethsemane experience when he or she writes this.  Jesus’ ultimate act of submission was to face the reality that within hours he would drink the cup of God’s wrath and to humbly accept this propitiatory role though he wished otherwise.  When he had “completed” the journey to that point or finished the course, he had arrived “perfectly” at the point of pure obedience.  Perfect in this context means everything was in place and nothing was lacking, not that Jesus was somehow imperfect or morally deficient before this point.  Furthermore, the Hebrew author emphasizes the point that obedience is a “learning” experience, even as it was for Jesus.  Through a lifetime as a human, Jesus was learning the ins and outs of obedience: that it truly is the best route; what it means to obey in a fallen world; what humans must face to faithfully obey; to feel the true temptation that comes with humanity but also the transformation that comes with obedience.  Can an omniscient God know these things?  That would seem logical.  So it seems the knowledge that comes through experience was still required, at least for Jesus.

To mimic Wright’s conclusion above, blood made Jesus a son, but experience made Jesus the perfect high priest.

Personally, I am ever so thankful that my Savior truly understands in the most intimate ways what my life is like.  That actually makes me love him and respect him all the more.

What caught your eye in this short chapter?

Categories: Hebrews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

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