This is the third week of a series entitled, “a light shines.” We have been looking at Jesus the light of the world, a light that shines that the darkness cannot overcome. We have seen Jesus is a presence in the world and through him a light is shining that brightens all who come to him.
The Christmas season has concluded and the story of Jesus moves to his public ministry. It begins with his Baptism by John. Jesus had a public ministry that lasted three years, with three trips to Jerusalem for the Passover as documented in John’s gospel. Jesus taught, healed and lived an example that he hopes we will follow. In fact it is the words he used when those first disciples after his Baptism see him and ask where he lives, “Come and you will see.” (John 1:39) Following Jesus in life makes life better, it makes you better at life. Jesus is the light that shines, we should follow his light.
The readings from two weeks ago centered on light, it is a light that draws the magi to the new king, it is light that restores radiance to Jerusalem and attracts pilgrims and visitors, it is the light that Paul speaks about to communities as one selected to announce the gospel message of light. Light is needed to see and we see it brings life. But, the light comes as a person, one who will share a message of love, a light who is the shepherd of all people, a shepherd who cares for his sheep, who thinks all people are his sheep and he will do everything to keep his sheep. The week focused on the coming of light who is the shepherd of Israel.
Last week we read that the chosen of God is coming as a servant. God has selected a chosen people to tell us of the light to come, Jesus has selected leaders to expand the light to all people, showing no partiality and letting all people know they are beloved. God also proclaims his Son is the beloved, who pleases God. This beloved Son calls us to be like him and we become beloved and adopted son and daughters.
This week we focus on Jesus as Son of God. The gospel message speaks oh John the Baptist proclaiming Jesus is the Son of God as he was called to proclaim. The first reading highlights a servant, chosen to bring salvation, while the second reading we read about a call, that we are all called, called ultimately by the Son of God to be a reflection of the light that shines. Jesus Son of God is that light, bright as the sun with clothes dazzling white. If we are near him we will reflect his light.
The readings this week are from the Lectionary for the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time; Isaiah 49:3, 5-6; Psalms 40:2, 4, 7-8, 8-9, 10; 1 Corinthians 1:1-3 and John 1:29-34. This week we look at Jesus Son of God who has come to be a light that shines.
Last week the reading from Isaiah told of a servant who was coming, once chosen from God, he is the chosen messenger of God, that his mission is to liberate the exiles. This week the servant speaks, addressing the coastlands, people from afar and he is conscious of having been chosen by God from his mother’s womb to carry out God’s plans for salvation even in those distant parts. We see two aspects of his mission. First, he is to play a leading role in the recovery of the tribes of Jacob and repatriation of the exiles. Second, he will extend salvation to the ends of the earth. Everything the servant does is grounded in what the Lord has told him; “You are my servant, Israel.” We get to see how God works, he is using this servant song to prophecy to the community of chosen people, Israel and we as Christians are able to see the Messiah in the passage hundreds of years later. Israel was a servant for God and God also had prophets and as we believe the Messiah come to share his message and proclaim salvation for the entire world. It is a passing of the workload from Israel, to prophets, to Messiah. A message valid at the time it is spoken to the people who hear it and prophetic when the new servant the Messiah arrives to pick up the work begun by Israel. The Messiah we know is the Son of God, given the yeomen’s load of the work to bring salvation to the ends of the earth. We see that God has called his only Son to be salvation, and the Son is the servant of his Father, the one to do God’s will.
In the second reading from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, we see the opening of the letter an conventional greeting. Paul is telling the reader he is called by Jesus through the will of the Father. He tells them he is writing to them along with another, a brother in Christ, Sosthenes and he tells them to call on the name of Jesus. Calling on Jesus name indicates a belief in his divinity. As calling on the name of God invoked God’s name and a unity of the people, Calling on Jesus name does the same for Christians. Paul gives honor to Jesus in the opening, but he does not call him the Son of God. We know he believes in Jesus Christ and says he is an Apostle for Jesus Christ, the one true Son of God. He is also relaying a message that we are all called by Jesus to be holy and to perfect holiness whereby the Father is holy and perfect as is his Son Jesus.
In the gospel message from John we witness John the Baptist recalling his testimony about Jesus. He saw Jesus walking by and said, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” He goes on to say he did not know him but Jesus was the reason John came baptizing with water that Jesus might be made known to Israel. He shares what happened at Jesus baptism, that a dove descended upon him indicating to John that Jesus will baptize with the Spirit. Then John speaks the punch line, “Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.” This could be the first public pronunciation of Jesus as the Son of God. We do know from reading scripture that Jesus was announced to Mary as the “Son of the Most High.” We also recall from last week that the voice was heard that announced this is my beloved Son. But is it possible these were both private announcements?
At Jesus Baptism we have this pronouncement, “And a voice came from the heavens, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 1:17) It is not clear that anyone other than Jesus heard this voice and pronouncement. John the Baptist in this gospel reading doesn’t reference a voice pronouncing Jesus as the Son of God. Rather John references the physical sign of a dove descending on Jesus as the means by which he, John, knows that Jesus is the one he has made known in Israel. John received a message prior, essentially saying the one the Holy Spirit comes down and remains upon is the one. We read John saying, “I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the holy Spirit.’”John references the physical sign of a dove descending on Jesus as the means by which he, John, knows that Jesus is the one he has made known in Israel. Click To Tweet
It could be this is what John is meant to do, announce that Jesus is the Son of God. We sometimes think he was announcing a Messiah, but in fact these early testimonies from John are all about Jesus being the Son of God. What is not cpatured is how John knows, and the reaction of the people hearing John announce this Lamb of God is the Son of God.
We know from Jesus’ Baptism (see last week’s reflection) that he is the Son of God based on the voice heard from above. This week we hear John announce Jesus is the Son of God, the one whom John is to make known. But there isn’t many places that Jesus as Son of God is made known. In fact when Jesus speaks about himself he calls himself the “son of man.” Yet through faith we see Jesus as God’s only Son, the light that shines.When Jesus speaks about himself he calls himself the 'son of man.' Yet through faith we see Jesus as God’s only Son, the light that shines. Click To Tweet
Son of God
Prior to Jesus arrival the term “son of God” was used as a title given to angels, the Chosen people, the children of Israel, and their kings. For example one passage speaking of the children off Israel, reads, “You are children of the LORD, your God. You shall not gash yourselves nor shave the hair above your foreheads for the dead.” (Deuteronomy 14:1) We seen divine beings, literally meaning sons of God in, “When the Most High allotted each nation its heritage, when he separated out human beings, He set up the boundaries of the peoples after the number of the divine beings;” Deuteronomy 32:8) We may also read, “The number of the Israelites will be like the sand of the sea, which can be neither measured nor counted. Instead of being told, ‘You are Not-My-People,’ They will be called, ‘Children of the living God.‘” (Hosea 2:1)
We can read about a parent, “When Israel was a child I loved him, out of Egypt I called my son.” (Hosea 11:1) Speaking about the death of the first born Egyptian sons, “For though they disbelieved at every turn on account of sorceries, at the destruction of the firstborn they acknowledged that this people was God’s son.” (Wisdom 18:13) “This people” referred to in the passage are the Israelites. Finally in Exodus we read God speaking to Moses, “So you will say to Pharaoh, Thus says the LORD: Israel is my son, my firstborn.” (Exodus 4:22)
In the case of the angels we have a passage from Job, “One day, when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, the satan also came among them.” (Job 1:6) Satan was an angel who was cast into darkness, but we can read there were others who presented themselves, many angels presented themseleves possibly.
God tells Nathan to speak to King David, and in the prophecy God speaks about David’s offspring the next king, “I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. If he does wrong, I will reprove him with a human rod and with human punishments;” (2 Samuel 7:14)
We can see many uses for children or son of God in the scriptures prior to Jesus. It signifies an adoptive sonship that establishes a relationship of particular intimacy between God and his creation. So when the promised Messiah is called “son of God,” it does not necessarily mean the people will see the Messiah as more than human, or that there is an expectation that the Son of God will literally be the Son of God.
But, as we see from the passage cited above about Jesus Baptism and the pronouncement of John the Baptist about the Son of God, Jesus’ relationship is not an adoptive relationship. This person Jesus is not Israel, or an angel or a king even, he is human. We know from the Annuciation passages that the Holy Spirit came upon Mary and her son is to be named Jesus. The true Father of Jesus is God. We have other opportunities to understand Son of God differently from scripture.The true Father of Jesus is God. Click To Tweet
We see Jesus declared son of God when Peter an apostle is asked by Jesus, who do you say I am? Peter responds in part, “the Son of the living God. Jesus said to him in reply, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.’” (Matthew 16:16-17) Paul after his conversion also proclaims Jesus is the Son of God. We read in Acts of the Apostles, “He [Paul] stayed some days with the disciples in Damascus, and he began at once to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.” (Acts 9:19-20)
The apostle John closing out his record of Jesus life says, “But these are written that you may [come to] believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31) So from the beginning there is an acknowledgement of Jesus divine sonship and it becomes central to the faith, as we see in the early creeds. Creeds where used to profess faith and progressed for the first several hundred years, being adopted at church councils like the Nicene Creed which was adopted at the first Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. The creed has at its heart the belief “In Jesus Christ, His only Son, Our Lord.” Although it took hundreds of years for the early church to finalize the Nicene Creed, there are earlier creed principles that are likely used to feed each other. We have the Apostles Creed which finds most of its language in Scripture. Prior to the Apostles Creed there is an Old Roman Creed which first appeared in the second century. Each of these creeds are Trinitarian in nature, and have Jesus Christ God’s only Son at the heart of the message, including his birth, death and resurrection.
Besides the Baptism of Jesus where the voice from heaven declares Jesus as beloved Son, we also have a gospel description of another incident in the life of Jesus witnessed by Peter, James and John, three of his closed disciples, called the Transfiguration. In this event Moses appears with Elijah, the Liberator and the Prophet, Jesus is transfigured before the eyes of his apostles, his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. We read similarly to Jesus Baptism, “a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.’” (Matthew 17:5) We are again given the idea that it is God speaking but this time those present are said to have heard, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid.
Usually, in fact approximately eighty times, Jesus refers to himself as the “son of man”, which denotes mankind or man. But, there are times when Jesus seems to indicate he is God’s Son. We can see Jesus referring to the Son of God when he is speaking to Nicodemus, in the often quoted verse from John, “For God so loved the world that he gave* his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” (John 3:16) The passage continues referring to the Son of God a couple more times.
At one point Jesus is defending himself against the Jews when they asked him to declare if he was the Messiah or not. He tells them that he and the Father are one. He refers to a passage from a psalm using it to prove to them that the one to whom the word of God is addressed can fittingly be called “god” and seems to declare outright he is the Son of God, we read, “Jesus answered them, ‘Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, ‘You are gods’? If it calls them gods to whom the word of God came, and scripture cannot be set aside, can you say that the one whom the Father has consecrated and sent into the world blasphemes because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?’” (John 10:35)
One of the most profound proclamations of Jesus is God is found on the lips of a Roman Centurion who witness the crucifixion till death of Jesus. “When the centurion who stood facing him saw how he breathed his last he said, ‘Truly this man was the Son of God!’” (Mark 15:39)
After Jesus resurrection when his disciples are proclaiming his deeds and works, they declare he is the Son of God. Paul in an address in a synagogue says, “We ourselves are proclaiming this good news to you that what God promised our ancestors he has brought to fulfillment for us, (their) children, by raising up Jesus, as it is written in the second psalm, ‘You are my son; this day I have begotten you.’” (Acts 13:32-33) Paul makes it clear in his opening to the letter to the Romans that Jesus is God’s Son, “Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised previously through his prophets in the holy scriptures, the gospel about his Son, descended from David according to the flesh, but established as Son of God in power according to the spirit of holiness through resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 1:1-5)
We have many quotes from these eye witnesses, who have written the story of Jesus, all declaring Jesus is the Son of God. There is a common message through the writings about Jesus beginning with his birth announcement through his death and resurrection that he is the Son of God. We even have witnesses hearing God declaring his sonship. This is in contrast to those early scripture writings that have human creation, kings and angels as children of God. We are able to contrast the difference and claim faith in Jesus as God’s Son.
A light shines
Jesus is proclaimed the Son of God, beloved in whom God is well pleased. We also see that Jesus is transfigured into a light like the sun and bright white clothing, his inner light coming forth. Jesus is a light that shines and attracts, we must pull close to the light that shines, God’s Son. We see Jesus is the Son and we are adopted sons and daughters. As we draw near the light that shines we reflect that light so it may shine on others. Our reflection draws people to the light, so they may come to know that true light that shines. We should accept our adopted son or daughter calling from God and let Jesus’ light reflect from us. Ultimately we will be the light that shines too!