Eliana had big news to share this afternoon after school. On her bus ride home she sat beside a first grader who said that her mom was a student. Eliana said her mom was in school, too, studying the Bible. The first grader didn't know what the Bible was! Eliana was quite excited to tell her about it. "It tells about how God made the world and everything in it. He even made you and me!" Her seatmate didn't know who God was either.
As we talked about it after school we realized that this little girl might know all about God and the Bible but just not know the English words to talk about it, because though her English is good, she's hispanic. Eliana must have a bit of the apostle Paul in her, because that was disappointing news to her. She was thinking she was the first one to tell this gal about Jesus! (Rom 15:20)
While she was still at school, I was meeting with 2 Jehovah's Witnesses in our home. They have offered to come weekly for a Bible Study. And while they are hoping that I will "see the light", I'm hoping to be one. I shared with them what I was discovering this morning as I studied John chapter nine. Probably the biggest difference between us (I'm guessing, from what I know of their beliefs) is our doctrine of the Trinity. And while they are right that the word "Trinity" never occurs in the Bible, and the church did not set down a clearly articulated trinitarian confession until the fourth century, I have expressed that I'm struck by how strongly John portrays his understanding of Jesus' divinity. For those who have eyes to see and ears to hear, it's right there!
The example I shared today is from John 9:5 where Jesus says "I am the light of the world". We could assume that He is simply hunting for an analogy that would express how His teaching brings understanding. OR we could search the Scriptures for the background of this image so that we approach Jesus' statement with the right expectations. Isaiah, which echoes throughout John 9, had a lot to say about the light that is to come. Check out these highlights (pun intended):
"The people walking in darkness see a bright light; light shines on those who live in a land of deep darkness." (Isaiah 9:2 NET) In the context Isaiah is describing what will happen when "the son" reigns on David's throne forever.
Later Isaiah reports what God says to "The Servant" (a name which initially applies to Israel but later is given to the Messiah): "I will make you a light to the nations, so you can bring my deliverance to the remote regions of the earth." (Isaiah 49:6) This is the mission of His Servant.
But here's the best part:
"Arise! Shine! For your light arrives! The splendor of the LORD shines on you! 2 For, look, darkness covers the earth and deep darkness covers the nations, but the LORD shines on you; his splendor appears over you. (Isaiah 60:1-2)
"The sun will no longer supply light for you by day, nor will the moon's brightness shine on you; the LORD will be your permanent source of light– the splendor of your God will shine upon you. 20 Your sun will no longer set; your moon will not disappear; the LORD will be your permanent source of light." (Isaiah 60:19-20)
When Jesus says he is the light of the world, he is saying something very alarming! Not only is he claiming to be the Messianic Servant, sent to restore Israel and give light to all nations, but he is claiming to be God Himself!
Needless to say, my friends and I did not succeed in ironing out the doctrine of the Trinity. But it was a start. And I have lots more examples where that came from. And they're coming back next week! Meanwhile, Eliana is busy learning key words like "God" and "Bible" in Spanish so she can try them out on her friend tomorrow. We're thrilled!
Thursday, December 10, 2009
more unlikely witnesses ...
Dr. Carmen Imes is the Associate Professor of Old Testament at Prairie College in Three Hills, Alberta, and serves the broader church through teaching, speaking, and writing. She earned a PhD in Biblical Theology (Old Testament) from Wheaton College under Dr. Daniel Block, an MA in Biblical Studies from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (Charlotte), and a BA in Bible and Theology from Multnomah University. She and her husband, Danny, served as missionaries with SIM 15 years. They have three children: Ana, Emma, and Easton.