Saturday, October 20, 2007


Comic Art

We've talked about him before, but no consideration of "The Omnipotents" would be complete without considering Galactus. Please do not confuse the Galactus of this past summer's FF movie with the comic character. That thing that they tried to pawn off as one of the most visually stunning and fascinating characters in the history of comic books should not be allowed in the room with a serious discussion of Galactus. Movie budgets force compromise....

Again, not truly omnipotent, for comic books seem to inherently avoid religious conflict by coming up to the edge but not crossing it, Galactus is an anthropomorphic force of nature, destruction in a person. As literature, I find the idea incredible. If one considers destruction as a part of existence, then to personify it and make it an enemy....

Although, as with all great bad guys, people like 'em enough, they try to soften the edges. Recently, the FF managed to revert Galactus to mere human stature (Galen) in an effort to put him in touch with his essential humanity so he would lose his compulsion to eat inhabited planets.

But for my money, and the reason the movie got it so wrong, the best thing is how Galactus looks. From the drafting table of Jack Kirby, the master and designer, it just does not get any better.

Kirby is the template upon which all modern comic art is based. There is a currently a move away from the Kirby template/source both in artistic temperment and in the new technology moving the artists away from the traditional pencil, ink, color of the newsprint days. In many cases, the results are quite admirable - but as far as I am concerned, Galactus will never be done better than by the original. In all these years, they have messed with his look very, very little, and with good reason - some designs are timeless and cannot be improved upon.

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Friday, October 19, 2007


Quoting Bonhoeffer

Few things will get my attention faster than quoting Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and that is precisely how Mark Daniels opened a sermon a few weeks back. Unsurprizingly, Mark's sermon is on discipleship, which he summarizes in this way:
Discipleship is “using” our faith in Jesus Christ in the best sense of that verb. It entails:
  • surrendering to Christ;
  • practicing our faith in Christ;
  • flushing our lives of all that distracts us from following Christ;
  • spending time with Christ; and
  • sharing our faith in Christ with others.
Mark is right on in saying that these five things are what it takes to do discipleship. Because of my admiration for Mark's work, I am loathe to add a "yes, but...," so how about a "yes, however...."Innocent

Mark's sermon makes it sound so easy. He makes only passing reference to Bonhoeffer's own martyrdom - talk about "flushing our lives of all that distracts us from following Christ," and yet, that is precisely the level of committment discipleship to Christ demands of us.

I remain troubled by what we as the church call people to. We call people to a good life, in fact the best life, but it is not a life of ease, or even necessarily pleasure. My heart hurts for all the disillusioned souls there are in the world, people that signed up for one thing, got there and found that it was something entirely different.

Mark makes a call to true and abiding discipleship here, I do not deny that, but I wonder if in glossing over the true cost of that discipleship (that Bonhoeffer guy...) we do not actually create an impediment to some accomplishing that discipleship.

The greatest obstacle, one with which I still struggle, in my discipleship journey has been overcoming the disappointment in finding so little of the real deal out there. So few people willing to drop their nets and follow Christ, or even to ask me to do so.

We call people to sacrifice. The other side of that sacrifice is glory beyond comprehension, but we are not permitted a glimpse of that glory until the sacrifice is made, so it is the sacrifice to which we issue the call. When we try to hint at the glory, it is too easy for people, ourselves included, to believe that there are shortcuts. Besides, part of the glory is that it is received, not grabbed for.

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Friday Humor

The gags - tried and true, the timing - perfection, and those takes that cannot be beat! A Tex Avery directed Droopy cartoon is simply the best:

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Thursday, October 18, 2007


What Are You Reading?

The Constructive Curmudgeon links to a post on an "intellectual crisis" in Christianity by Sarah Scott as measured by what Christians are reading.
Are there this many brand new Christians out there? I do not believe so. I believe at issue is the presence of unchallenged Christians who are under the delusion that reason is bad and faith is good. Faith and reason are mutually exclusive to the anti-intellectual movement. Believing this false dichotomy produces spiritually stunted Christians who are nearly incapable of maturing in not only faith, but discernment and understanding as well! An army of this kind can hardly be expected to hold its own in the world while the battle goes on unencumbered by thinking, mature Christians.
Boy, she is right on about "unchallenged Christians." Her point about the belief that faith and intellectual activity are mutually exclusive is limited though. Yes, there is indeed that strain of thought, but I find it only in smaller corners, and far from the numerical mainstream. Rather, what I find is lazy Christians, of every stripe and contour. I am reminded of Chesterton
"Christianity has not been tried and found wanting, it has been found difficult and left untried."
Intellectual activity is an important part of our the transformative process that is a faith journey. Yet it seems like we hope it will happen by osmosis. Like the vain attempt in college to learn a foreign language by playing tapes while sleeping - listening to music that is labeled "Christian" and filling the house with trinkets upon which we place talisman-like significance will affect us on the surface, but it will not produce the fundamental changes the Holy Spirit demands of our lives.

Now, having said that, there are dangers in intellectual activity as regards faith in Christ. We can indeed "overthink." Our reason is not the ultimate arbiter, God is. We must learn intellectual activity subject to God's sovereignty. That is no small task. It means we cannot limit our faith journey to the intellectual either - it must be wholly consumptive.

The other danger is simple snobbery. As difficult as this may seems for some of us to grasp, C.S. Lewis' essays, as but a single example, are inaccessible to more people on the planet than they are accessible. God simply has not granted such individuals with talents in that area. That does not make their faith any lesser.

It is the subjegation of intellectual activity, at whatever level, not the subject, that matters. We are called to exercise our intellects in service to God's greater plan. Whether that be with grand eloquence, or ineloquent stuttering. whether is be carefully reasoned, or shotgun thoughts, it is Who we think about, and the role we give that Who that matters most.

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Illuminated Scripture

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Wait A Minute - I Thought...

Jesus tore up the temple for profiteering on worship practice. This links to a story from MMI about a church-owned shopping mall in Florida, the proceeds of which go to mission work.
Kingdom Plaza at the Normandy Mall is part shopping mecca and part Christian mission. The freshly refurbished mall is owned by the Potter’s House Christian Fellowship, a non-denominational mega church on the Westside. The for-profit mall is geared toward religious fundraising: any profits left over after paying mall expenses will be rolled over into the church’s missionary projects.
A unique fund-raising exercise, to be sure. On the surface I cannot argue that it is de facto a bad thing. The devil is, of course, in the details - How much is the staff making? Who are the partners? How was the capital raised? Who holds the notes? What are the collection practices? Of course, we know none of that from the story.

But this bit I find very bothersome:
The mall’s stores are a mix of local and national tenants, but the place has an overwhelmingly Christian vibe, including a Rite 2 Life nutrition shop (slated to open in October) and the Kingdom Kuts barber shop.
I am sorry but that just cheapens the gospel. Am I more holy if I get my hair cut at "Kingdom Kuts"? And if they claim I am, how precisely is that different than the sellers and moneychangers in the Temple courtyard?

The gospel is transformative, and it does so by going deep, not wide. Repainting the room is nice, but it is still the same room. God wants to build a whole new building. Dressing up the stuff of our daily existence in God-clothes may create the illusion that the gospel is at work, but the foundation is still rotten and crumbling.

We divert ourselves from the real work of the gospel with this kind of skim-the-surface, paint over the imperfections, man-centered stuff. I almost physically ache when I read stuff like this, our God is so much better than this.

Please, I beg of you, the next time you are tempted by this kind of stuff, take a minute and think. Withdraw from the busyness just long enough to see what is really happening. Devote that time you would spend buying that happy little gee-gaw to prayer, and watch your life change in real, deep, and meaningful ways.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Well, We ARE Sinners

Jollyblogger wrote a great post a while back that began:
God's greatest gifts can become curses and His highest virtues can become vices. So it is with grace and humility.
And ended:
Don't get me wrong. Even if I were to become the most disciplined person in the world I understand that at the end of the day I would only have God's grace to thank for anything I have. Yet, grace can't be an excuse for irresponsibility and humility is improperly used if it becomes an evasion of responsibility.
David makes a heck of a point about grace and humility in this post, but I am enamored with the larger question - how overemphasis on any aspect of our doctrine or church, or anything else warps that overemphasized thing into a sinful consideration.

Think about it. I know people that worship scripture instead of Who scripture is about. I know people that worship doctrine instead of that which doctrine was designed to define. I know people that worship the church instead of He whom the church was built to worship. I know legalists and I know do nothing gracists. I know people that worship the Holy Spirit and forget the rest of the Trinity. I could go on like this for hours, but you get the point.

This is why I am increasingly less enamored with calling myself an "Evangelical." There is much to admire in that label, but behind it is also a tendency to overemphasis on some aspects of the faith, in some instances to the point of idolatry.

The ministry of the Holy Spirit, enabled in our lives by the ministry of Christ, is nothing short of a total transformation. We are so afraid of that that we warp our very understanding of He that wrought that transformation. And yet what are we afraid of? Losing our identity? We have no identity to begin with!

My heart simply hurts when I realize how much we get in the way of God's good works, on ourselves and others, and that we do it with the tools that He has given us to further His name. The same hammer that can build a house can tear it down.

I think the world would b transformed beyond our imagining if we simply quit using the hammer to tear things down - if we just got out of God's way in the construction.

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Kitty Kartoons

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Monday, October 15, 2007


What Makes A Church?

MMI Links to an article in the Tennessean about church expansion through franchising.

This is, needless to say, a radically different model for church expansion. How is it different from denominational expansion you may ask? Well, it's in the package of what the larger organization provides for the local congregation. Franchising is a business model that sells marketing services to individual operators. The marketing is provided through branding, advertising, and insuring a consistency of product. It then becomes up to the franchisee to produce the product according to specifications while the franchiser delivers the customers through its advertising efforts and advice on local efforts as well. Good franchisers also work to limit competition, protect territories, that kind of thing.

On the surface, this does not sound so bad as a model for church growth does it? It avoids many of the pitfalls of the more traditional approaches; that can't be bad, can it? Well, yes it can.

The first thing we have to remember is that we live in the "already, not yet." Whatever we do is going to have problems, pitfalls, and failures. Radical changes in direction to avoid foreseeable ones will simply result in new ones. Change for change sake is not an option. If something is the best, even if the imperfect way, then we should work that towards perfection instead of trying to reinvent the wheel.

So why then is the older model better? It is simple. The franchising approach seeks to build the church - it's about the organization. The older models come with organization, to be sure, but those organizations are designed to build people, and theoretically propogated through building people. Traditional denominational models work through building clergy that in turn builds laity that comprises the church and brings in new laity.

Simply put, this franchising model abandons the true mission of the church for the sake of building the organization. It smacks of circuit preachers working for a percentage of the plate, it is the root of religious hucksterism.

Better to make one genuine disciple...

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Sunday, October 14, 2007


Sermons and Lessons


Lewis Bayles Paton, Professor of Old Testament exegesis and criticism, and instructor in the Assyrian language in Hartford Theological Seminary; born in New York City, June 27, 1864; educated in the high schools of Des Moines and Keokuk, Iowa, and in Parson’s College, Fairfield, Iowa; graduated from the University of New York in 1884 with the degree of B.A.; spent three years in study and travel in Europe; student in Princeton Theological Seminary, 1887-90; Old Testament fellow of the same for two years which were spent in Berlin, Germany; Ph.D., University of Marburg, Germany, 1897; D.D., University of New York, 1906; director of the American school of Oriental Study and Research in Jerusalem, 1903,4; author of “The Early History of Syria and Palestine,” “Jerusalem in Bible Times,” “Esther” in “International Critical Commentary,” editor of “Recent Christian Progress.”


“Who say ye that I am?“ - Matt. 16: 15.

Christ’s question, “Who say ye that I am? “is so familiar that we do not always realize its extraordinary character. Why should He ask His disciples who He was? Was not that perfectly apparent to everybody? So thought the Jews in His day, when they said, “We know this man whence he is”(John 7:27). “Is not this the carpenter‘s son? Is not his mother called Mary? - and his brethren, James, and Joseph, and Simon, and Judas? And his sisters? - are they not all with us?” (Matt. 13:55 f.). Other religious teachers and leaders have not felt constrained to ask this question of their disciples. In spite of their genius and the dignity that their message conferred upon them, they have understood that they differed so little from the rest of mankind that it would be absurd for them to ask, Who say ye that I am? But Jesus was conscious of a mysterious something about Himself that differentiated Him from all other men, and that made it imperative for Him to put this question; and so, from beginning to end of His ministry, we find Him directing the attention of His disciples not so much to His doctrine as to His person. He does not say,” Come to my way of thinking,” but, “Come unto me“; not, Follow my rule of life,” but,” Follow thou me “; not, “What say ye of my doctrine?” but, ”Who say ye that I am?”

No less extraordinary than the question of Jesus is the way in which men everywhere have felt compelled to answer this question. If other men should put this question to us, we should pay no attention to it. We are under no compulsion to define the other great teachers and leaders of humanity, and to come to a decision in regard to their claims; but there has always been a strange power about this question of Jesus. Men cannot escape it, they cannot ignore it. Those to whom it first came were obliged to give it an answer of some sort, and throughout the succeeding centuries, wherever the story of the gospel has been told, men have been constrained to say to them¬selves, Who is this Jesus of Nazareth, what is He, and what is His claim upon me?

The gospel narrative shows us four answers to Jesus’ question that were given by the men of His own day. They are representative of the answers that men have been giving ever since.

First, there was the answer of the scribes and the Pharisees. They were the religious leaders of the nation, the makers of public opinion. They had long been considering this question of Jesus, and their minds were fully made up as to the answer that they should give to it. They said, He is an impostor, “He deceiveth the people.” They were sure that they were correct in their ideas about religion, and when they learned that He differed from them, they at once pronounced Him a heretic. They laid emphasis upon the ritual commandments of the law, but Jesus emphasized the message of the prophets, “ I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the love of God rather than burnt offerings “; and He denounced the scribes and the Pharisees as hypocrites, who bound heavy burdens around the necks of other men, but who would not touch them with one of their fingers. This was enough to convince them that He was a dangerous character, who ought to be put out of the way lest He should pervert the minds of the people. When their attention was called to His healings of those diseased in mind or in body, they said, “He casteth out devils through Beelzebub, the prince of the devils“ (Matt. 12 : 24).

This answer of the religious authorities of Jesus’ day to His question concerning Himself has been the answer of official Judaism ever since. The Talmud, that huge repository of Jewish thought during the first six centuries of our era, has only scorn for Jesus as an arch-heretic who caused a great apostasy from the religion of Moses. Down to our own day the common Jewish name for Him has been the contemptuous title “he who was hung,” which expresses the thought that He suffered justly as a deceiver of mankind. In modern times, however, Judaism has come for the most part to take a higher view of Him and, outside of Judaism, the view that He was an impostor has been exceedingly rare. Two centuries ago, at the time of the French “illumination,” there were some who regarded all religious teachers as impostors, Jesus along with the rest; and who were ready to say of Him with Voltaire, “ Crush the wretch” There may be some today who hold this view; but if there are such, they exert little influ¬ence in the world of thought.

Second, there was the answer of a few of the Jewish leaders. Men like Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea were not willing to pronounce Jesus an impostor, but regarded Him rather as a great religious teacher. When Nicodemus came to Jesus by night, he said to him,” Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God.” That is to say, he regarded Him as an expounder of the law like himself, and was willing to admit that He possest both genius and truth in His views concerning religion and ethics.

This has been the attitude of the heathen world in general. The Greeks and the Romans would have been quite willing to admit Jesus to a place among their own wise men, philosophers, and poets, and to have adopted many of His teachings, if the early Church had made no higher claim for Him than that He was a teacher, like the world ‘s other great teachers. The people of India, China, and Japan are willing today to accept Jesus on the same basis. They will put Him alongside of Buddha and Confucius, but they will not accord Him a higher place. This is the attitude also of modern liberal Judaism. It regards Jesus as a great and a good man, one of the rabbis, like Hillel or Gamaliel, who taught men how to keep the law of Moses, and who did not differ essentially from other teachers of Judaism. This is also the common opinion of most men who today stand outside of the Christian Church. They have no doubt of Jesus’ purity or of His sincerity. They think that He uttered many noble ethical maxims which are worthy of obedience, but they can see no essential difference between Him and Socrates, or Plato, or Mohammed, or Dante, or Shakespeare.

Third, there was the answer of the mass of the common people in the time of Christ. When Jesus said to Peter, “Who do men say that the Son of man is?“ Peter replied, “Some say, John the Baptist; some, Elijah; and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” The Book of Malachi had predicted that Elijah should return, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to the fathers; and many of the people thought that this prediction was fulfilled in Jesus. Others noticed that He came with the same message as John the Baptist, “Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” and they concluded that John had come to life again. Others thought that He most resembled Jeremiah, and still others did not try to identify Him with a particular character of the Old Testament, but said simply, He is one of the prophets; that is, they recognized in Him a divine inspiration that lifted Him above all ordinary teachers, but they could not see that He differed in any essential way from Moses, or Elijah, or Isaiah, or any of the other prophets of the Old Covenant.

This view concerning Jesus has been widely prevalent at different times in the Christian Church. It is the view of our Unitarian brethren, and of large numbers in other denominations. They see that Jesus is more than an ordinary sage, that a special divine illumination must be recognized in Him, but they can see no fundamental distinction between Him and other prophets whom from time to time God has raised up to bring a message to men.

Fourth, there was the answer of Peter and the other apostles. When, after asking, “Who say men that I am?“ Jesus continued, “But who say ye that I am?“ Peter as the spokesman of the Twelve replied, “Thou art the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” That is to say, he recognized in Jesus the fulfillment of all the Old Testament predictions concerning the coming of a glorious personage, endued with the sevenfold spirit of God, who should appear in the name and in the majesty of God to overcome the enemies of Israel, to destroy sin, and to establish the kingdom of righteousness, peace, and truth for evermore upon earth; and more than this, he recognized in Him such a unique relation to God, that it was possible to speak of Him as “the Son of the living God“ in a sense in which it was possible to speak of no other man.

This was the view of the early Church when it went forth to conquer the world for Jesus. It was the view of Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles, and it has been the view of the great multitude of Christians in all ages since.

These, then, were the answers that men gave to Jesus’ question, “Who say ye that I am?“ at the time when that question was first put; and they are the answers that men have been giving ever since. The fact that there are so many different replies cannot fail to perplex the thoughtful mind. If even the men of Christ‘s own day could not agree in regard to Him, and if ever since men have not been able to agree, how can we hope in these latter days to answer this question with certainty for ourselves? The problem is formidable, but much light is shed upon it when we consider who the people were that gave these different answers to Christ ‘s question, and observe that those who gave the lowest defini¬tion were those who knew least about Him, and that those who gave the highest definition were those who knew most about Him. Let us look at each of the answers from this point of view.

Those who pronounced Jesus an impostor were the scribes and the Pharisees who knew little or nothing about Him except that He did not agree with their views. They would have scorned to have stood with the common crowd in the market-place, or on the sea-shore, and to have listened to His words. That would have been as strange as for an archbishop to sit at the feet of a street preacher of the Salvation Army. They would not follow Jesus about from town to town to hear all that He had to say and to see all His wonderful works. It was enough for them to know that He did not agree with them for them to condemn Him; they did not find it necessary to look more closely into His doctrine. They had their paid spies out watching Him, and they sent some of their number from time to time to propound questions through which they hoped He would be entrapped into saying something that could be construed as blasphemy or treason; but, beyond the garbled stories that these emissaries brought back, they had no knowledge of Him. These blind, prejudiced men, who had no first-hand knowledge of Jesus, and whose sole effort was to destroy Him, were the only ones who pronounced Him an impostor. Their opinion is of little importance in the matter.

Those who pronounced Jesus a great teacher were the men who knew a little more about Him. They felt that it was unfair to condemn anyone without a hearing, and they resolved to investigate the young teacher of Galilee on their own behalf. Men like Nicodemus came to Him by night to learn more about His doctrine; and as they listened to Him, and saw the nobility of His thought and the sincerity of His purpose, they became convinced that, whatever else He was, He was not an. impostor. No man could teach as He taught unless He were good and true. Accordingly, with their more perfect knowledge, they felt compelled to give up the theory of their associates that Jesus was a deceiver, and to advance the theory that He was a pious rabbi sent by God to help men understand and keep the law.

Those who pronounced Jesus a prophet were the multitude that accompanied Him from town to town. They had heard all of His sermons, they had seen all of His mighty deeds, they knew Him far more completely than the timid rabbis who came to Him only occasionally by night. They knew Him better than any others, except the inner circle of the Twelve; and, in the light of that fuller knowledge, they saw that they could not stop short with the theory that He was only a great teacher. No man could speak as He spoke, no man could do the miracles of healing that. He did, unless God were with Him in a peculiar way. They saw that He spoke with authority, and not as the scribes; that they could not classify Him among the rabbis whose business it was to expound an already given law, but that they must at least recognize Him as standing on an equality with the prophets of the Old Covenant as one enlightened in peculiar measure by the Spirit of God.

Those who pronounced Jesus the Messiah, the Son of the living God, were the Twelve, who knew Jesus with an intimacy that is without a parallel in the history of human rela¬tionships. They were His constant companions throughout the whole of His ministry. Together they trudged with Him over the dusty roads of Syria, beneath the blazing light of an unclouded sun. Together they watched with Him on the lonely mountainside in the cold Syrian nights. They saw Him in the hour of triumph and in the hour of apparent defeat. They saw Him at the wedding-feast and by the bedside of the dying, in joy and in sorrow, in strength and in weakness, in health and in sickness, by day and by night. Every phase of His thought and character was familiar to them, and through all, the wonderful impression was made upon them that He was a sinless man. One of them speaking of Him said,” He was holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners “; and another said, “He was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin.” Other men may have been saints to the world at large, but never to their intimate associates. The members of their families, their close companions, their servants, have been only too well aware of their shortcomings. But these associates of Jesus, who had the opportunity to watch Him so closely, could find no flaw in Him.

We cannot say that they esteemed Him thus highly because their standards of judgment were low. They were Jews, who had been trained in the righteousness of the law and of the prophets, and that was no low sort of righteousness. Besides, they had been under the tuition of Jesus Himself, and no one ever set the standard of conduct so high as He. He taught that righteousness consisted in the inner state of the heart, rather than in the outer act, and He said to His disciples,” Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees, ye shall in no wise see the kingdom of God.” Judged by His own lofty standard they found Him faultless.

Nor can we say that the standard of the age in which the first disciples lived was a low one, and that, judged by the higher standards of our own day, Jesus does not stand the test. This is true of many other teachers of the Church. Luther, in spite of all his glorious service, was a rough, violent man, for many of whose acts his followers need to apologize. Calvin, in spite of all the good that he did, burnt Servetus at the stake; and many a loyal Calvinist of today would give his right hand if he could blot that deed from the page of history. But in the life of Jesus there is nothing for which His followers need to apologize. The ages have come and have gone, mankind has progressed wonderfully in. the arts and the sciences, but no higher moral ideal has been attained than that exprest in His life. Far from being left behind by the advance of civilization, He still remains the unattained ethical ideal toward which the world is struggling. The verdict of the first disciples has been the verdict of each succeeding age. As we study closely the story of His life recorded in the gospels, we are constrained to acknowledge with those who knew Him so intimately that He was a sinless man.

Recognizing the sinlessness of Jesus, the Twelve were forced to give some explanation of this fact, and they saw clearly that all the other theories that were held in their day were inadequate to explain the personality of their Master. A sinless man could not be an impostor. A sinless man was more than a great teacher, more even than a prophet of the Old Testament, for the prophets were men of like passions with ourselves. The unblemished purity of Jesus they could explain only by recognizing that He stood in a relation to God different from that held by any other man, that God was manifest in Him in a unique way, that He was one with the Father in a unique sense; and, therefore, when Jesus solemnly put the question to them,” Who say ye that I am?“ the only answer that they could give was, “ Thou art the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Intimate as was the relation of the Twelve to Jesus, there was one who knew Him even better than they, and that one was Jesus Himself. Long before the mystery of His sinlessness had dawned upon them it had dawned upon Him, and had prest for an interpretation. From earliest childhood He had been conscious of an unbroken fellowship with God, which enabled Him to look up and say,” My Father,” in a way that none of us can say, who bear in our consciences the burden of sin. At His baptism in Jordan He had heard a voice saying, “Thou art my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” In the wilderness He was subjected to the three chief temptations to which men fall a prey, and was victorious. Throughout His life He never once knew an interruption of perfect communion with His Father, and He was able to pray,

Father I know that thou hearest me always.” Many of Jesus’ prayers are recorded for us in the gospels, but in no one of them do we find the note of contrition that is so fundamental in the prayers of all other holy men. Judged by His own lofty standard of character, He could find no sin to confess. Other religious leaders have prayed often with their disciples, and have taught them by example how they ought to pray, but there is no record that Jesus ever prayed with His disciples. He could not do so, because He could not join in the cry of penitence that must be the first word of the petition of other men. To His disciples He said, “After this manner pray ye, Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors,” but He never joined in that prayer, for He knew that He had no sin to confess. Even at the end of His life, when the shadows were closing in about Him, and He knew that the cross stood immediately before - even then we see no sign of contrition. In the presence of death, if never before, other men are constrained to cry out, “God be merciful to me a sinner“; but, instead of that, we find Jesus praying, “I have glorified thee on the earth, I have finished the work which thou gayest me to do. And now, 0 Father, glorify thou me with the glory which I had with thee before the world was“ (John 17:4).

It was this consciousness of sinlessness that forced home upon Jesus the same question that He put to His disciples, “Who say ye that I am?“ and, long before they had been able to give an answer to that question, He had answered it for Himself. He knew that His sinlessness and unbroken fellowship with God could have no explanation except that, in a unique way, true of no other man, He was one with the Father. Long before the confession of Peter He had said to Himself,

Thou art the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” But He did not force this conviction upon His disciples. Faith that rested merely upon His authority would have little value. He wished rather to have His followers reach this conclusion for themselves on the basis of their own observation; then their faith would be a possession that could not be taken from them. Accordingly, He waited until the very end of His ministry before He called upon them to decide who He was. After they had heard all His gracious words, after they had seen all His miracles, after they had come to know Him under every circumstance of life, then, when all the evidence that He had to offer was in, He turned solemnly to them and said, “Who say ye that I am?“ and when Peter as the spokesman of the Twelve replied,

Thou art the Messiah, the Son of the living God,” that answer came as no surprise to Jesus. We do not find Him putting it away from Him as a temptation, and saying to Peter, “No Peter, you must not speak of me in that way.” Nor do we find Him dallying with the thought, as something in regard to which He Himself was in perplexity, and saying to Peter, “Do you really think that I am so great a personage as that?” Instead of this, we find only the prompt and glad acceptance of the confession, as of something that He had long hoped to hear,” Blessed art thou Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. . . . Upon this rock I will build my Church and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”

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