I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father."
There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. Many of them said, "He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?" Others said, "These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?"
At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, "How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly." Jesus answered them, "I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one."
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Thursday of Pentecost 18
1 October 2015
The question goes something like this, "So when Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane praying in agony, who is He praying to? If He is God, then who is He addressing when He prays? Himself? His Father? But then this is God praying to God." The implication in this question is that there is something either schizophrenic in the doctrine of the incarnation or deficient in the doctrine of the holy Trinity. Such questions are not new. They have been flung at the Christian church since at least the fourth century of our era by those who want to mock the incarnation and the Trinity. Sometimes the question even comes from those who think of themselves within the church. Pious liberals doubt God's ability to do what He says He can do. He must conform Himself to their standards of judgment. How easy it is to say, "That's impossible, because I cannot understand it."
Certainly, the question might be honestly expressed by someone who is legitimately trying to sort out the meaning of the incarnation and the Trinity. In this case, the person should ask as many questions as needed. Our heavenly Father welcomes our questions, as long as we welcome His answers. However, many of these interlocutors think they have found the perfect case by which to deny the holy Trinity. They have figured out how to stump God. Unfortunately, they are using human standards with which to judge God and His ways. This is a dangerous situation in which we make ourselves the judge of God, rather than His being our judge. This is an issue of the first commandment; a self-deification (Job 38:4
While they are at it they could ask, how could He be conceived, born, weep, grow, suffer, be crucified, and die? This minor business about praying is hardly hitting the center of the mockery bull's eye. How could He be born of a Virgin who is Himself eternal and the Creator of the world? How could He who created the womb of the little mother also reside in her womb for nine months? The incarnation of Christ does not lessen His godhead, but through the incarnation He assumes manhood. He puts on what He was not. He united humanity to that essence by which He was equal to God the Father, and combined both natures in a union so close that His humanity was not consumed by receiving glory, nor His divinity diminished by assuming humble humanity. Here is a mystery that is not susceptible to your judgment. And in this mystery is salvation.
Gregory of Nazianzus
"Do you want to list for me the expressions which make for your ignorant arrogance, such as 'my God and your God' (Jn 20:17
), or greater, or created, or made, or consecrated (Jn 10:36; Acts 2:36
). Add, if you like that He is called servant (Phil 2:7
), obedient (Phil 2:8
), gave (Jn 1:12
), learned (Heb 5:8
), was commanded (Jn 10:18
), was sent (Jn 4:34
), can do nothing by Himself, either say, judge, give, or will (Jn 5:19, 30
). And what about these? His ignorance (Mk 13:32
), subjection (1Co 15:28
), prayer (Lk 6:12
), asking (Jn 14:16
), increase (Lk 2:52
), and being made perfect (Heb 5:9
). If you prefer, even more humble things than these, such as the passages that speak of His sleeping (Mk 8:24
) hungering (Mt 4:2
), and being in an agony (Lk 22:44
). Or perhaps you would make even His cross and death a matter of reproach to Him. His resurrection and ascension I assume you will leave to me, for in these is found something to support our position. A good many other things too you might pick up, if you desire to put together that equivocal and intruded god of yours, who to us is true God, and equal to the Father.
"Every one of these points, taken separately, may very easily, if we go through them one by one, be explained to you in the most reverent sense, and the stumbling-block of the letter be cleared away (that is, if your stumbling at it is honest, and not willfully malicious). Let me give you the explanation in one sentence: What is lofty you are to apply to the Godhead, and to that nature in Him which is superior to sufferings and is incorporeal; but all that is lowly to the composite condition of Him who for yoursakes made Himself of no reputation and was incarnate. Yes, for it is not a worse thing to say, was made man, and afterwards was also exalted. The result will be that you will abandon these fleshly and groveling doctrines, and learn to be more sublime, to ascend with His Godhead, and not remain permanently among the visible things, but to rise up with Him into the world of thought, and to come to know which passages refer to His divine nature and which to His assumed human nature.
"For the One whom you treat with contempt was once above you. The One who is now Man was once the uncompounded. What He was He continued to be; what He was not He took to Himself."
Gregory Nazianzus, Third Theological Oration, 18-19
Lord Jesus, send Your Spirit to us that we might confess you as the God-Man, who conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary, came to bear the sins of the world, even our sins. Amen.
For all Lutheran teachers whose schools are suffering from enrollment losses, that they would remain true to the mission which the Lord gives and that God's people would properly treasure the gift of Lutheran education
For Paul Lodholz, that the Lord Jesus would be with him in his illness
For our troops serving far from home, that they would know of the support from the home front
Art: Dürer, Albrecht The Adoration of the Trinity (1515)
© Scott R. Murray, 2015