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John 18:1-12

When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the Kidron Valley, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples. So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, "Whom do you seek?" They answered him, "Jesus of Nazareth." Jesus said to them, "I am he."Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesussaid to them, "I am he," they drew back and fell to the ground. So he asked them again, "Whom do you seek?" And they said, "Jesus of Nazareth." Jesus answered, "I told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go." This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken: "Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one." Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest's servantand cut off his right ear. (The servant's name was Malchus.) So Jesus said to Peter, "Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?"


So the band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound him. (ESV)

Real Presence


21 July 2014

Often in theology there has been an ongoing battle between what God could do and what God did do. When someone says, "Couldn't God...?" The answer is: "Yes, of course. But He hasn't done what He could do; He has actually done what is best for us." Those, such as Duns Scotus, who are interested in touting what God could do have been called "voluntarists," that is, that God is able by an act of His will (voluntas) to count the world righteous in His sight without the countervailing weight of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ hefted in the balance against human sin. Is He able? Yes. So what? That's not what He did. What He actually did is far more important than all the "coulda, woulda, shoulda" in the world.


Voluntarism separates the believer from God's gracious work in Christ and calls into question the value of the personal fellowship which He desires to have with us humans. If God just sat in heaven and willed the world to be made right without His intimate involvement, then much would be lost; both for us and for Him. A rich man anonymously gave large sums of money to support the work of an urban homeless shelter, but that didn't seem to him to be doing enough. So he also went to the shelter to clean and serve meals to the needy one day a month. As he reflected on his habits of giving and service it was quite clear to him that he was much more completely fulfilled by working in the shelter than by offering financial support. He had a relationship with those who needed him. He learned the names of those who sought refuge from the mean streets. He saw the sacrifices made by staff and other volunteers to carry of the mission of caring for people in need. His personal service meant that he knew what he was about. He knew intimately the needs of the people he helped with service and money. He found that he cared personally for those whom he helped personally and those whom he helped knew it.


The Arians argued that God could will the world to be made righteous apart from His personal involvement through the incarnation of His Son. They were early "voluntarists." The first reply of Athanasius to this contention is just, "He could have. But he didn't." What God actually does is the best for us, no matter what we might think is better according to our lights. If the Arians were correct and Christ is not fully God, and God chose to speak us right without the incarnation, it becomes a kind of salvation by high altitude drone. It is hardly personal. It is not fellowship. A high altitude drone can wreak destruction, but it cannot bring help.


Unfortunately, we humans often think we know better than God what would be good for God to do, but it won't necessarily be better for us if God takes our advice. Our God is not like the inattentive father who is too busy to go to his son's little league games, but buys the boy all the best in baseball equipment and sponsors uniforms for the team thinking this makes up for his absence. We don't have an absentee God. He is personally and intimately involved in our situation. He puts on the uniform of our flesh and gives us Himself in His body and blood by real presence.


Athanasius of Alexandria


"The Arians say, 'Even if the Savior was a creature, God was able to speak the word only and undo the curse.' And so another will tell them in like manner, 'Without His coming among us at all, God was able just to speak and undo the curse' But we must consider what was expedient for mankind, and not what simply is possible with God. He could have destroyed, before the ark of Noah, the transgressors of those days; but He did it after the ark. Without Moses, He could have spoken the word only and have brought the people out of Egypt, but it profited to do it through Moses. God was able without the judges to save His people, but it was profitable for the people that for a time judges should be raised up for them. The Savior too might have come among us from the beginning, or on His coming might not have been delivered over to Pilate, but He came 'when the fullness of time had come' (Gal 4:4) and when sought for said, 'I am He' (Jn 18:5).


"What Christ does is profitable for men, and was not fitting in any other way. What is profitable and fitting, that He provides. Accordingly He 'did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many' (Mt 20:28) and might work our salvation. Certainly He would have been able to speak the Law from heaven, but He saw that it was expedient for men for Him to speak from Sinai. He did this that it might be possible for Moses to go up, and for those hearing the word near to them the more to believe." 


Athanasius of Alexandria,
Four Discourses Against the Arians, 2.68

Lord Jesus, You have become incarnate to condescend into our world and take upon You our sins. You have shared Yourself with us to grant us again perfect fellowship with You. Keep us from intellectual pride and self-righteousness that we might never doubt Your incarnation. Set us in the midst of Your grace that we might live in peace always. Amen.


For those suffering from challenging weather, that they might be kept safe, and that crops would be protected for the benefit of our food supplies so hunger would not stalk the land


For Pastor Harold Heckmann, that the Lord Jesus would be with him in his weakness


For John Hatteberg as he undergoes surgery for a heart pacemaker, that he might recover fully


For the board of the Luther Academy, which is seeking a new executive Director of the Academy, that the board would be blessed in its labor to support the mission of spreading confessional Lutheranism
Art: Dürer, Albrecht  The Adoration of the Trinity (1515) 

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