Jesus’ Arms Outstretched: Tuesdays with Uncle Athanasius

Athanasius 5, Heretics 0

Athanasius 5, Heretics 0

Athanasius (c.297-373), my favorite early church father, fought heretics with all of his soul. I am brought to tears reading his glorious writings. Please indulge with me each Tuesday as we sit at the feet of our forefather in the faith – a warrior for Christ who relentlessly pursued truth in all the churches. I’ve been posting quotes from his magnum opus “On the Incarnation of the Word” each Tuesday so far. Please check out the past posts – they really are awesome to get into.

Uncle Ath?

Yes kids?

Do you see any significance in the outstretched arms of Jesus on the cross as He died?

Well…

…If any honest Christian wants to know why He suffered death on the cross and not in some other way, we answer thus: in no other way was it expedient for us, indeed the Lord offered for our sakes the one death that was supremely good. He had come to bear the curse that lay on us; and how could He “become a curse” otherwise than by accepting the accursed death? And that death is the cross, for it is written “Cursed is every one that hangs on tree.”

Again, the death of the Lord is the ransom of all, and by it “the middle wall of partition” is broken down and the call of the Gentiles comes about.

How could He have called us if He had not been crucified, for it is only on the cross that a man dies with arms outstretched? Here, again, we see the fitness of His death and of those outstretched arms: it was that He might draw His ancient people with the one and the Gentiles with the other, and join both together in Himself.

My favorite uncle.

A little allegorical, yes, but wow – think of the image painted there. The Word of God made flesh, a perfect Man – perfect in love, grace, and purity – being murdered ruthlessly and with mockery. He was suffering not only the incredible pains of torture, but also the shame of nakedness and disfigurement before His nation… and in the midst of this, His arms pinned to the wood, He was calling His Jewish family to Him with one bleeding hand, and His Gentile flock with the other, carrying each of us down into His death with Him so that we might rise again with Him in His resurrection.

Meditate, my friends. Before you go off to the next thing, meditate.

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

Athanasius, On the Incarnation, chap. 4, sec. 25, http://www.ccel.org.

Christ on the Cross was God Crucified: Tuesdays with Uncle Athanasius

AthanasiusAthanasius (c.297-373), my favorite early church father, fought heretics with all of his soul. I am brought to tears reading his glorious writings. Please indulge with me each Tuesday as we sit at the feet of our forefather in the faith – a warrior for Christ who relentlessly pursued truth in all the churches.

Uncle Ath?

Yes, kids?

Was it wise of the Father to let His Son Jesus be publicly humiliated and crucified? Did it really prove anything?

Well,

All these things the Savior thought fit to do, so that, recognizing His bodily acts as works of God, men who were blind to His presence in creation might regain knowledge of the Father. For, as I said before, who that saw His authority over evil spirits and their response to it could doubt that He was, indeed, the Son, the Wisdom and the Power of God? Even the very creation broke silence at His behest and, marvelous to relate, confessed with one voice before the cross, that monument of victory, that He Who suffered thereon in the body was not man only, but Son of God and Savior of all.

The sun veiled his face, the earth quaked, the mountains were rent asunder, all men were stricken with awe. These things showed that Christ on the cross was God, and that all creation was His slave and was bearing witness by its fear to the presence of its Master.

Thus, then, God the Word revealed Himself to men through His works. We must . . . consider the end of His earthly life and the nature of His bodily death. This is, indeed, the very center of our faith, and everywhere you hear men speak of it; by it, too, no less than by His other acts, Christ is revealed as God and Son of God.

My favorite uncle…

1,700 years later, the crucified Man who is God is still the very center of our faith – timeless, objective, and powerful. Be sure to meditate on these things without ceasing, my friends.

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

Athanasius, On the Incarnation, chap. 4, sec. 19, http://www.ccel.org.

Prophesy Fridays: The God of Israel will be Pierced

I am pretty sure the internet is devoid of commentary on prophecy, so I’d better throw in a dash of red-hot, mind-blowing prophetic power to scald the demons.

habanero peppers

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…the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. Rev. 19:10

Let’s strengthen our mutual faith together, brothers and sisters. Foresight and clarity of Bible prophecy is one of (if not the) greatest means of growing in our faith in the true God. Zechariah wrote his book of prophecy about 450 years before the crucifixion of Jesus, but when Yahweh, the God of Israel speaks His Word to Zechariah, you might think old Zech was time-traveling to be at the foot of the cross almost five centuries later.

Messianic Jams and Hebrew Lunches

Six years ago I had an internship with the New York State Department of Education in their Child Nutrition office. I worked in Albany, and on any given day of the week, was called upon to go out into the field to visit the locations that participated in our summer food program for kids. We had to show up unannounced (just like government thugs like to do 😉 ), and count the number of kids eating the summer lunches we funded, as an accountability for how much the locations were being compensated.

Anyhow, the great Jewish city of Brooklyn, New York empties out in the summer, and every tassled, bearded, kosher man takes his family north into the Catskill Mountains. There are Hasidic Jewish summer camps everywhere through those hills, and they just happen to be big time participants in the summer lunch program… so there I went throughout the summer to count kosher kiddies.

We would show up and shout Surprise! and then do a little dance with the Rabbi, and play the fiddle while singing about tradition. Oh wait… no, that was another thing. Actually, we would show up and sometimes sit around for a while as the staff at the camp was getting all the children together so we could count them and check their meals for program standards.

At one particular camp, we State workers had some time to mill around in the cafeteria before the kids showed up for lunch, and so I began to look around and explore. At the time I was getting pretty good at reading Hebrew, so I found myself reading a wall chart instruction guide on hand-washing. Two young Jews spotted me reading the Hebrew-only chart, and approached from behind. They were very curious if I were a Jew as well.

“No,” I replied, noticing they were about my age, “but I do try and read Hebrew.” We talked some about the language, and then I felt a bubble of confidence (or maybe it was just gas), but either way I asked them if I could run a Hebrew sentence by them, and they could “critique” my pronunciation… if you know what I mean 😉

Over the couple years before that I had been really digging Lamb (a messianic music group from the 70’s and 80’s). My favorite song from Lamb (which everyone who knew me was sick of to the point of death I think) is called V’sha Fac’ti – the first words of Zechariah 12:10. Now, Lamb sang it all in Hebrew to a very catchy, banjo-strumming beat – so I had the entire passage memorized in Hebrew.

As I began to recite the passage (song) to my new Jewish friends, one of them particularly seemed to cue in on my words. His eyes locked on mine, and as I spoke out the glorious picture of Jesus, he confirmed my Hebrew by translating into English:

Me: V’sha fac’ti al beit David 

Him: And I will pour out on the house of David

v’al yoshev Yerushalayim

And on the inhabitants of Jerusalem

ruach chen v’ta’a’cha’nu’nim

The Spirit of grace and of prayer

v’hi’bitu eli et asher

And they will look upon Me

dakaru

Whom they have pierced.

Alarm bells went off in his friend’s head. He chuckled at our little translation session. “I know what you’re doing.”

“What?” I asked, feeling outed.

He turned to his friend who had just recited Zechariah 12:10 with me, the gentile State worker.

“He’s going to convert you to Christianity,” he said, smiling knowingly. They both looked at me with humor in their eyes.

“We’re talking about your Bible” I replied.

Yahweh, Eternal God – Pierced and Mourned

And we were. And there He was – Jesus, doing what He always does: standing tall on the pages of His Old Testament. I didn’t win any Jewish converts that day in the Catskills, but without having to say anything about the meaning of the passage, they knew who we were talking about. Yahweh God of Israel, uncreated and supreme above all – speaking in the first person in Zechariah 12, states clearly that it is He who they will look upon when He is pierced.

Wow. Pierced. Where was God ever “pierced”? In the Person of His Son, on the Roman death cross, 400+ years after Zechariah wrote those words, and all for you and me. Jesus took on flesh, having been alive and co-eternal with the Father and the Spirit, and He humbled Himself to the point of death, even the desperately ugly, criminal’s death on the torture cross.

It’s no wonder this shows up in the Old Testament: it was the pinnacle of all cosmic history. The glorious, worthy Son of God bows His head to be murdered by His own creatures. Stop your internet schedule for a moment and ponder that. He did that to pay your sin debt. He loves you. Ponder it.

Decades after Jesus had risen from the grave and returned to His Father, the Apostle John saw a vision of God’s glory and Word, and introduced the book of Revelation with this in 1:7

Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen. (NKJV)

John quoted Zechariah’s prophecy, and saw in it the future fulfillment when Jesus returns to His earth in glory. Those who remain enemies of Jesus will look upon Him and mourn – mourning for their own doom and imminent destruction… but it does not have to be so for you, friend. Today is the day to look upon Him who was pierced for your transgressions, who suffered the death of an eternal separation from the Father in His holy wrath against sinners. I urge you, place all your eggs in this basket: while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us, and He did it in fulfillment of powerful, clear prophetic words which described how it would happen, even centuries before He was born. Oh, and pray for our Jewish friends; that they might see Him and yet not mourn any longer…

What a glorious Savior. Praise Him!

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

Tuesdays with Uncle Athanasius: Why did Jesus Die Publicly?

Athanasius

Athanasius, my favorite early church father, fought heretics with all of his soul. I am brought to tears reading his glorious writings. Please indulge with me each Tuesday, as we cozy up at the feet of Uncle Athanasius.

Uncle Ath?

Yes, kids?

Why did Jesus have to die publicly?

An excerpt from chapter 4 of On the Incarnation:

Have no fears then. Now that the common Savior of all has died on our behalf, we who believe in Christ no longer die, as men died aforetime, in fulfillment of the threat of the law. That condemnation has come to an end; and now that, by the grace of the resurrection, corruption has been banished and done away, we are loosed from our mortal bodies in God’s good time for each, so that we may obtain thereby a better resurrection.

Like seeds cast into the earth, we do not perish in our dissolution, but like them shall rise again, death having been brought to nought by the grace of the Savior. That is why blessed Paul, through whom we all have surety of the resurrection, says: “This corruptible must put on incorruption and this mortal must put on immortality; but when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is thy sting? O Grave, where is thy victory?'”26

“Well then,” some people may say, “if the essential thing was that He should surrender His body to death in place of all, why did He not do so as Man privately, without going to the length of public crucifixion? Surely it would have been more suitable for Him to have laid aside His body with honor than to endure so shameful a death.”

But look at this argument closely, and see how merely human it is, whereas what the Savior did was truly divine and worthy of His Godhead for several reasons. The first is this. The death of men under ordinary circumstances is the result of their natural weakness. They are essentially impermanent, so after a time they fall ill and when worn out they die. But the Lord is not like that. He is not weak, He is the Power of God and Word of God and Very Life Itself. If He had died quietly in His bed like other men it would have looked as if He did so in accordance with His nature, and as though He was indeed no more than other men.

But because He was Himself Word and Life and Power His body was made strong, and because the death had to be accomplished, He took the occasion of perfecting His sacrifice not from Himself, but from others. How could He fall sick, Who had healed others? Or how could that body weaken and fail by means of which others are made strong? Here, again, you may say, “Why did He not prevent death, as He did sickness?” Because it was precisely in order to be able to die that He had taken a body, and to prevent the death would have been to impede the resurrection. And as to the unsuitability of sickness for His body, as arguing weakness, you may say, “Did He then not hunger?” Yes, He hungered, because that was the property of His body, but He did not die of hunger because He Whose body hungered was the Lord. Similarly, though He died to ransom all, He did not see corruption. His body rose in perfect soundness, for it was the body of none other than the Life Himself.

My favorite uncle.

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

Athanasius, On the Incarnation, chap. 4, sec. 21, http://www.ccel.org.