Shepherd Group 8/26

Hello! My Shepherd Group started meeting again last night. I told them I’d post what we talked about here the day after. We read Matthew 3:13-4:2, and then I tried to address what I thought would be the inevitable consequence in a study on prayer. Here’s what I said.

I think there are three things to be gleaned from this passage. First, the Father’s pleasure in the Son (v. 17). Jesus is the Son of God’s love. This statement gives us a window into the Trinity before time, when there was nothing but Father, Son, and Spirit eternal existing in mutual and infinite joy, knowledge, and love. This reminds us that our God is inherently a happy God, not a miser. And it reminds us that as goes the Son, so go we ourselves. If God is pleased with Christ, then he is pleased with us, being in Christ. Second, the Son’s obedience in suffering (v. 1). Jesus obeyed the Spirit in difficult circumstances. He knew the Spirit was leading him into trial, and he went willingly. The Apostle’s Creed says that Jesus “descended into hell,” and this is partly what that meant. He was hungry. He was alone. He was tempted. Our great High Priest can sympathize with our weaknesses because he felt them himself. I think the third insight can only be observed in reading 3:17 and 4:1 together, without the chapter break. “And behold, a voice from heaven said ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’ Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” The big observation here is that verse 1 follows verse 17. How often do I question the love and delight of God in me as his adopted son because of fierce trials? “God, why are you doing this? I thought you loved me!” I cry, and all the while God is saying “yes, I do love you, and this is how I prove my love” (cf. 2 Corinthians 1:8-11). This is my point. For the next 16 or 17 weeks, we’ll be talking about prayer, and it is my earnest hope and prayer that we will be praying. And with the little life experience I have, I know that when Christians get serious about prayer, Satan attacks. We’ll be talking about the willingness of God to answer prayer, and daily experience may testify otherwise. It will be hard. And Jesus knows. He knows the gravity of wanting to hear from God and only hearing Satan instead. He knows our hardship, and he provided an example so we might know that the temptations of Satan cannot cancel out a Father’s love.


So Many Implications

Good morning!

Have you ever thought about the word “so?” It has many different usages, but one in particular is inferential, or subsequent. In other words, it can be used to indicate that the statement following logically follows the statement preceding, as in “I was hungry, so I went to the kitchen.”

Particularly interesting is the use of it in John 11, where Jesus is told that Lazarus is ill. John says “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. SO, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was” (John 11:5-6). Did you catch that? I would have expected a different conjunction, like, “however,” or “regardless,” or something that would highlight the seeming disparity between Jesus love for this family and his hesitation to go an heal Lazarus. But nope. We get “so.” (In Greek the word is oun, often translated as “then,” or “therefore”).

Obviously there’s a point to this. Jesus loved Martha and Mary and Lazarus so much he let Lazarus die, because, as he said a verse earlier, “it is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (John 11:4).

God loves you. And so, he will bring you grief and pain. But he does not willingly afflict, nor will his hand be heavy forever. He loves you. Mysterious though it is why God should act in this way, it is as Cowper wrote, “Behind a frowning Providence/He hides a smiling face.”