Almost a year ago Gordon-Conwell asked if I would contribute to a weekly e-devotional celebrating 20 years of ministry at the Charlotte campus. I was honored to have this opportunity to reflect on how my studies at Gordon-Conwell transformed the way I see Jesus. The devotional was released today, but you can read it right here:
[Jesus said], "As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." Having said these things, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he [smeared over] the man's eyes with the mud and said to him, "Go, wash in the pool of Siloam." So he went and washed and came back seeing.... They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. So the Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, "He put mud on my eyes, and I washed, and I see." Some of the Pharisees said, "This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath." But others said, "How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?" Then they turned again to the blind man, "What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened."...Then the man said, "Lord, I believe," and he worshiped him. Jesus said, "For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind."
John 9:1-39, selected
I first saw Jesus in 3-D at Gordon-Conwell—Charlotte. Just as Jesus appears to be stepping right out of "The Sower" fresco and into the chapel, so he stepped off the pages of Scripture during my studies.
Again and again I found the key to understanding him was the Old Testament. Most of Jesus' life and teaching is unintelligible without it. With the Old Testament close at hand, Jesus' identity comes into sharp focus. He intentionally does things to fulfill prophecy and signal that he is the long-awaited Messiah. Not only that, he does what God alone is expected to do!
An example is found in John 9. The story there is familiar—Jesus heals a man born blind and the Pharisees are disgruntled. How does the Old Testament help us understand this event?
Jesus announces that he is the light of the world.
We know from Isaiah that Yahweh is the light dawning (Isaiah 60:1-3).
Jesus smears mud on the blind man's eyes.
Isaiah, too, was told to besmear the eyes of Israel as a picture of God's judgment (Isaiah 6:9-10).
The blind man sees.
Isaiah tells us the blind will see when God's kingdom is established (Isaiah 35:5).
In this event we encounter Jesus as a prophet who brings judgment on unbelieving Israel. But he is more than a prophet. He inaugurates the kingdom of God the prophets only foretold, and claims to do what Yahweh alone can do: illumine the world.
Our response can go one of two ways. We can accuse him of blasphemy like the blinded Pharisees or we can worship him like the man who can now see.
May we have eyes to see Jesus clearly today!