“Prayer and the Pastor’s Heart”

Today on Dan Dumas’ blog, I had the privilege of contributing a post on “Prayer for the Pastor’s Heart.”

The beginning:

Listening to sermons each Lord’s Day, while important and necessary, comes with a danger that must be faced and overcome by God’s grace. We already know that pews fill up with some people who may not respond to the sermon in a way that honors God, people who may be hearers only, and not doers, of the preached word (see James 1:22-24). But the pastor must keep in mind his own temptation during the sermon time. Because he is a herald of God’s word, he is also a hearer of it, yet he may leave the service a hearer only. Pastors face the weekly danger of not sitting under their own sermons.

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“Biblical Theology and Discipleship”

Today I’m over at the Boyce College blog discussing “Biblical Theology and Discipleship.

An excerpt:

The Bible calls you to a different kind of seeing. The biblical authors, across sixty-six books, give you a set of lenses through which to view the world. The Bible’s worldview allows us to see why we’re here, what went wrong in the world, what God has done to rescue us, and what will happen when Jesus returns. We need biblical theology because we need to live faithfully before God, walking in a manner worthy of the gospel and understanding that our struggle is not against flesh and blood. To be a disciple on this narrow road, we need to see the world and our lives as the Bible does.

The Question for Two Miraculous Feedings: How Many Baskets Did You Gather?

In Matthew 14:13-21, Jesus fed five thousand people with a small collection of fish and bread. Then in 15:32-39, he fed four thousand people with another small collection of fish and bread. Matthew 16 references these two stories and draws important lessons about the two feedings. My suggestion is that in Matthew 16, Jesus asks questions in a way that shows the significance of the numbers of baskets leftover in Matthew 14 and 15. I think those real numbers have a symbolic meaning.

In Matthew 16, the disciples are in a boat with Jesus and they’ve forgotten to bring the leftover bread (Matt. 16:5). Jesus warned them of the leaven (or teaching) of the Pharisees and Sadducees (16:6, 12), but the disciples were too distracted by the lack of actual bread in the boat (16:7-8).

Jesus helps them focus by asking some questions in Matthew 16:9-10. In 16:9 he asks, “Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered?” And in 16:10, “Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered?”

Notice the information Jesus supplied. He refers to both feedings (which are reported in Matt. 14:13-21 and 15:32-39), the number of loaves in each case (“five” in the first feeding, “seven” in the second), and the number of people who were present for each miracle (“five thousand” and “four thousand,” respectively). However, there is also a number Jesus omits in each question: “how many baskets you gathered” (16:9 and 16:10). The reader has already learned that 12 baskets of leftovers were gathered after the first feeding, and 7 baskets after the second (see 14:20 and 15:37). When Jesus was on the boat with the disciples in Matthew 16, he surely knew the number of baskets that were leftover in each episode, so he didn’t ask for those figures for his own information. The phrasing of the questions in 16:9 and 16:10 highlights the number of leftovers because it was the only number Jesus didn’t explicitly give in each question. Jesus wanted the disciples to recall the number of the baskets when he fed the 5,000 and the number of the baskets when he fed the 4,000.

Notice that the numbers of baskets are not random numbers like 9 or 17 or 22. The numbers are 12 and 7, which are significant numbers in Scripture. Some interpreters may be reluctant to ascribe symbolic significance to the number of baskets in Matthew 14 and 15, but I think the phrasing of Jesus’ questions in 16:9 and 16:10 invites the reader to consider a meaning to the numbers. If the numbers didn’t matter, why omit those details in the questions? Jesus clearly wants the specific numbers to be remembered. Because of the geographical areas where the feedings in Matthew 14 and 15 took place, the former was probably a “Jewish” feeding, reinforced by the “12” baskets of leftover bread (for Israel had 12 tribes in the Old Testament), and the latter was probably a “Gentile” feeding, reinforced by the “7” baskets of leftover bread (for Deut. 7:1 names seven nations in Canaan; and note too that Jesus had just healed a Canaanite woman’s daughter in Matt. 15:21-28 before the second miraculous feeding).

In the miraculous feedings of Matthew 14 and 15, Jesus was forecasting the great messianic feast, where Jewish and Gentile believers would fellowship with their God forever. He himself was the Bread of Life (see John 6:22-41), the true and better Moses. The two feedings showed that Jesus was reconstituting the people of God around himself. He was the one who would provide what they needed, no matter if they were Jews or Gentiles. He not only gave them bread, he would be bread for them. In the fields, he gave them loaves. On the cross, he gave himself.

Gender and the Resurrection of the Dead

The Christian worldview teaches that our future hope should affect our present lives. We shouldn’t lose heart because an eternal weight of glory awaits us (2 Cor. 4:16-18). We can endure mistreatment now because of a greater reward to come (Heb. 11:24-26). We can labor for Christ knowing that our work will not be in vain (1 Cor. 15:50-58).

The future is ever relevant for the present. Specific future hopes can even clarify commonplace confusion in the culture. Let’s take the doctrine of bodily resurrection and hold up to it the hot topic of gender. What might the future resurrection of the body teach us about gender?

First, the resurrection will be gender-specific. Jesus was born a male, died a male, and rose a male. Gender didn’t become inconsequential once his resurrection happened. His glorified body reflected gender. From the beginning God made us male and female, and he will raise us male and female too. Nothing we do to alter our physical body now will circumvent our resurrected state. People who are born men will not be raised as women, nor vice versa. Sex-reassignment surgery doesn’t change gender, and the resurrection of the dead will make this abundantly clear.

Second, the resurrection shows the eternality of gender. Since the resurrection of the dead will establish eternal physical states for believers and unbelievers, our gender is eternal. Not even marriage is eternal, because that temporal earthly covenant points to, and will be eclipsed by, the union of Christ and the Bride (Rev. 21:1-21), but gender will last forever. When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun, we will be there as men and women glorifying the Lamb who was slain. And in hell, those enduring the just wrath of God will be male and female rebels.

Third, the resurrection demands present bodily stewardship. If God will one day raise what dies now, then bodily resurrection vindicates the importance of the physical in life. Matter matters. We must not be practical Gnostics. The body is meant for the Lord, who will raise it up (1 Cor. 6:13-14). The term “stewardship” is apt, then, because we are not our own (1 Cor. 6:19; Rom. 6:12-13). God is sovereign over us, and we must faithfully steward what he has given us, including our bodies. A female body should be cared for and maintained as such, and a male body cared for and maintained as such.

Gender is not malleable like clay. Gender exists by the design of God and for the glory of God.