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rise, rather than rise--> fall). Simeon is perhaps not talking only about people being cast down and others taking their places (as Mary says in Luke 1), but about the fall and subsequent resurrection of many in Israel. Jesus will not only be responsible for division within Israel, but for ultimate resurrection of Israel. Peter Peter 9:33:00 PM 106126759586475439 Sunday, August 17, 2003 The exhortation from August 17, 2003:

Ancient heretics tried to deny it, and modern heretics do the same, but Luke could hardly make it clearer that Jesus is the human God. Throughout the first chapter of Luke's gospel, Luke uses the word "Lord" to describe the God of Israel. Gabriel is an "angel of the Lord," and he tells Zacharias that John will "turn back many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God." Gabriel tells Mary that "the Lord God will give" Jesus the throne of David, and Mary's soul "exults in the Lord." As shepherds watch their flocks by night, "an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them." Lord, Lord, Lord: every time it's used it means Yahweh, the God of Israel.

And then the bombshell: "There is born to you this day in the city of David is born a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." Against every heretic, we must insist that this baby lying in a manger is God. The God from whom all things were born has Himself been born in Bethlehem of Judea. The boundless God is bound in swaddling clothes. The God whom heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain spends nine months in Mary's uterus and is then placed in a manger.

At the same time, we must not allow this central confession of Christian faith to become an abstract theological point. When Luke talks about the Lord who has been born in Bethlehem, he doesn't present it as the solution to a metaphysical puzzle about finitude and infinitude; he doesn't talk about it as a kind of cosmic "squaring of the circle."

Rather, Luke tells us that the Lord has been born to save, to be a light to the Gentiles, to topple every tyrant from his throne, to tear down the fortresses of the arrogant and the rich. When Luke talks about the Lord born in Bethlehem, he is talking about Yahweh, the Creator God who spoke the worlds into existence, who gave promises to Abraham, who brought Israel out of Egypt, who raised up David and cast down the temple of Solomon. He is talking about Yahweh, who bares His arm to defend His beloved; who laments over the unfaithfulness and rebellion of His people; who rejoices over His people with singing. That God, not some passionless Deist deity, has come to earth. That God has been born.

There are things in this story to make us ponder, marvel, and wonder. Many who hear the news become afraid. But the dominant response to the good news of Christmas is joy. Nowhere in the NT is there more singing than in the early chapters of Luke, nowhere is there more rejoicing, nowhere is there more spontaneous praise. Gabriel is a herald of joy. John leaps in the womb for joy, dancing like David in the presence of the glory of God. Angels announce good tidings of great joy. Simeon and Anna rejoice that they have seen the salvation of Yahweh. We mustn't be so afraid of being mistaken for charismatics that we miss this truth: The joy of Christmas looks a lot like giddiness, just as the joy of Pentecost could be mistaken for drunkenness.

The incarnation is far less a metaphysical puzzle than a joke. Jesus is born as the true Seed of Abraham, the true Isaac, whose name means laughter. How should we respond? By all means, we should ponder and marvel; by all means, we should fear. But don't forget that the deep response of faith is to join in the song of the angels, and to share in the laughter of our heavenly Father. Peter Peter 8:09:00 AM 106113296607352395 Researching for a commentary on Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, I came across the intriguing theory that Shakespeare's Roman plays are as concerned about 16th-century Rome as ancient Rome. In Shakespeare's day, of course, Rome was the center of Roman Catholicism, which was seen by Elizabethan Englishmen as the great global threat to their way of life. Julius Caesar gestures toward Papal Rome by talking about relics, but making Caesar's death Christlike in several respects (or Antichristlike), by setting up Caesar's opponents (especially Cassius) as a "Puritan" opponent of games and music.

It has been suggested that the same thing can be applied to Hamlet. Though king of Denmark, Claudius bears the name of a Roman Emperor, and it's perhaps no accident that his nephew has just been studying at the University of Wittenberg. Peter Peter 6:13:00 AM 106112602000836637 Saturday, August 16, 2003 Sermon notes for August 17, 2003:

Savior and Lord, Emperor and King, Luke 2:1-52

Luke dates the story of John by reference to the reign of Herod the Great, king of Judea (1:5). But he dates the birth of Jesus by reference to the reign of Caesar Augustus, who has the authority to take a census of the "inhabited earth" (2:1). John's ministry is confined to Judaism; but with Jesus, Luke's story enters the world of the Roman empire.

"And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. . . ." (Luke 2:1-52).

Scripture has much to teach us about empires, and the responsibilities of those who live under them. Israel was first organized as a collection of tribes, then as a kingdom, and finally as a subject people under a series of Gentile empires. The ancient Gentile empires were generally favorable to Israel. Nebuchadnezzar protected godly Jews and Yahweh used him to punish ungodly ones. Cyrus the Persian is presented in Isaiah as a Messianic figure who will deliver Israel from captivity. Luke's portrait of Rome is in keeping with this: Throughout Acts, Rome is favorable to the church, the true Israel.

Empire, however, comes with a temptation: For Jews in the post-exilic period, under the lordship of Gentiles, the great temptation was intermarriage -- literal intermarriage with Gentiles and spiritual intermarriage or compromise. Daniel is careful to refuse the food of the Babylonian king (Daniel 1), and Ezra and Nehemiah both struggle to teach the people not to intermarry with the "people of the land." The same problems of sexual confusion and pressure to compromise and toleration face us in the age of the American Empire.

There is an obvious contrast between the Roman Emperor and Jesus. Jesus' parents were subjects of a foreign power, not rulers; he was laid in a manger; his "attendants" were shepherds; and his parents were too poor to offer a lamb at the temple during the rite of purification (2:24; cf. Leviticus 5:11-12; 12:1-8).

At the same time, Jesus is also a rival to Augustus. His connection with David is emphasized repeatedly (2:4, 11; cf. 1:27). His birth is announced by an army ("host") of angelic heralds, and the angels use terms that were familiar from the imperial cult: Augustus's reign was hailed as the good news that a new era had dawned, but the angels announce the "gospel" of Jesus' birth. Augustus was believed to be both "Savior" and "Lord," and His Pax Romana had brought "peace on earth," but the angels identify Jesus with these titles, and say that He is the one to bring peace. At all these points, Luke makes it clear that Jesus is the true world Emperor, the only one who can bring peace.

The circumstances of Jesus' birth illustrate the great reversal that Mary sang about: "He has brought down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted the lowly" (1:52).

Jesus is also the fulfillment of all the hopes of Israel, as both Simeon and Anna recognize. Through the Spirit, Simeon prophesies several things about Jesus. He is the salvation of His people, has come to bring light to the Gentiles, and this will occur through a process of division and conflict (1:29-35). And Anna recognizes that Jesus is the one who bring "redemption for Israel."

The final episode in this chapter is another of Luke's stories that foreshadows the whole gospel. Jesus and his parents journey from Galilee to Jerusalem (2:41), as Jesus will later journey from Galilee to Jerusalem with His disciples (9:51). In both cases, Jesus makes the journey for Passover (2:41; 22:1). After Jesus celebrates Passover, he is "lost" (2:43-35; 22:47-23:56), and is "found" three days later (2:46; 24:1-49). People are confused by the whole thing (2:48; 24:19-24), but Jesus explains that it is "necessary" for these things to happen (2:49; 24:50-53).

If Gentile hope for peace and Israel's hope for salvation are going to be realized, it is "necessary" for Jesus to be "lost" and "found," to die and rise again, at Jerusalem during the Passover.

For Further Study

1. In the light of Isaiah 1:3, why is it important that Jesus is laid in a manger? "Bethlehem" means "house of bread." Does this shed further light on the sign that the angels give? See 1:53.

2. An argument to try on a Jehovah's Witness: Jesus is called "Savior." Yet, Isaiah insists that only Yahweh is Savior (43:3, 11, 15). Therefore, Jesus is Yahweh. (This might be especially effective since Isaiah 43:10 is one of the JW's most beloved texts.)

3. Why is it important that Jesus was lost and found at the age of twelve (1:42)? Peter Peter 8:08:00 AM 106104650926253800 Friday, August 15, 2003 There is a fascinating article in the current Atlantic Monthly about terrorism, business, and piracy on the high seas. William Langewiesche, who did a series of articles for the Atlantic on the aftermath of 9/11, tells some harrowing stories about the chaotic world that occupies a sizable portion of our planet. Peter Peter 9:33:00 PM 106100842442813249 I had the opportunity this week to listen to a series of sermons by Warren Gage of Knox Theological Seminary in Fort Lauderdale. Gage is an Assistant Professor of OT, but he did his doctoral work at the University of Dallas on the politics of John and Revelation, and did a lot of structural analysis of the two books in the process. The talks I heard concentrated on the structure of John and Revelation, and here are some of the salient points:

1) John and Revelation function like Luke-Acts, with Revelation completing the story that was begun in the gospel. Gage pointed out the various ways that the opening chapters of John "gesture" toward the end of Revelation. Early in John, Jesus is presented as a Bridegroom, but there is no bride until the end of Revelation. John begins his gospel with explicit allusions to Genesis 1 ("in the beginning"; imagery of light/darkness, etc.), and this is completed in the Genesis 2 imagery of Revelation 21-22. The word tabernacles with men, and at the end of Revelation this same imagery appears again. He connected the prediction to Nathaniel (Jn 1:51) to the vision of angels and the appearance of the son of man in Revelation 18-19; the angels are "ascending and descending" on the Son of Man, who is revealed as the rider on the white horse at the "peak" of the vision in Revelation. In this sense, then, John-Revelation tells one continuous story.

2) Gage also argued that both John and Revelation are chiastic, and that they run parallel. John 12 is the center of the gospel, and Revelation 12 is the center of Revelation. Jesus is lifted up on the cross in John 12, and in Revelation 12 he is exalted to rule with a rod of iron. Jesus says that the prince of this world is judged in John 12, and Satan is cast from heaven in Revelation 12.

3) One of the main themes of Gage's talks was the identity of the whore of Babylon. His talks were radically preterist, as he described the theme of Revelation as the transformation of the whore into the bride, of the fallen old Israel into a beautiful new Israel. He did some wonderful riffs on the theme of wisdom as the "choice between two women," a sapiential theme found in the patriarchal narratives, Solomon's reign (the two whores), Proverbs, and so on.

4) The connection of John 4 with the patriarchal narratives is obvious, but Gage offered some fresh insights into the significance of the allusion. As Jesus comes to a well, any Jewish reader would recognize a marital setting, and the question would be, "What bride has the Lord chosen for the true Bridegroom?" The bride Jesus meets there is not the spotless or beautiful bride we expect, however, but a Samaritan woman with a checkered marital history. She is the first image in the Johannine literature of the whore that is to be transformed into the bride.

5) Mary Magdalene functions in the same way in John's gospel. She had seven demons (like Israel in Jesus' parable!), but by the end of the book has become a new Eve, recognizing Jesus as the New Adam in the garden of the resurrection. Since she is new Eve, it is entirely appropriate that Jesus call her "Woman."

6) When we set John's gospel alongside Revelation, Judas's betrayal of Jesus matches the beast. This confirms that the beast (false prophet) arises from within the church, and also points to the typological significance of Judas, the prototype of the Judaizers.

7) Again matching John and Revelation, John 15 matches Revelation 14. The branches that are bearing fruit in John 15 are the same as the fruit-bearing vines of Revelation 14. This confirms Jim Jordan's interpretation of Revelation 14 as a harvest of saints, rather than a judgment on the world.

This only scratches the surface of Gage's rich treatment of John's writings. A number of his studies are available at the Knox web site, and I trust he will someday have a more complete treatment in print. I await it eagerly. Peter Peter 9:26:00 PM 106100796449042623 -->