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“There Is No Other Way To Be A Disciple Of Jesus Than To Be In Communion With Other Disciples Of Jesus” (via Fleming Rutledge)

An observation from Fleming Rutledge about the Gospel of John and how it demonstrates that while Jesus was relating to individuals, he was creating a community, a family, a body, branches joined to a common vine.

Taking the Gospel and the Epistles of John together, no writings in the New Testament are more concerned with the church than John. You wouldn’t necessarily notice this, however, if you read the Gospel without looking for it. Our typical American individualism tends always to focus on the single, supposedly autonomous person, so we typically read the Bible through that lens. And it’s true that for the first two-thirds of the Gospel, John features a striking number of personal, intimate conversations between Jesus and single individuals: the Samaritan woman, Nico- demus, the man born blind, Thomas, Martha of Bethany, Mary Magdalene. These stories stand out because they are beautifully crafted by John, a master dramatist. So, most people tend to read the Fourth Gospel that way. But the overwhelming emphasis in John is not on individuals, but on the organic connection that Jesus creates among those who put their trust in him. This theme reaches its apex in chapters 15 and 16, during the last hours of his life on earth, when he teaches, “I am the vine, you are the branches” (John 15:5).
There is no other way to be a disciple of Jesus than to be in communion with other disciples of Jesus. Why do you suppose the Lord didn’t separate out each one of his followers, stand us up separately, pronounce us each a unique individual, and then bid us go off and create ourselves?
He did the opposite; instead of making us independent and self-centered, he makes us mutually interdependent and other-directed.

Fleming Rutledge, Three Hours, Eerdmans, 2019, pgs 31-32.


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No Common Criminal’s Death (via Fleming Rutledge)

Fleming Rutledge observes that the execution method which Jesus suffered was one that was carried out upon those guilty of a particular crime against the state.
His execution marked him as an enemy of the state.
It served as a warning to any who might resist its authority.
This is the means by which Jesus demonstrates that he overcomes the world.

In this saying from Luke’s Gospel, the two — Luke and John — show a similarity: Jesus is pinned to an instrument of torture, completely helpless, at the mercy of sadistic torturers and mocking passersby, and yet he is reigning from the cross as a King.
A King, and yet crucified between two thieves. The traditional word is thief, but that’s misleading. This is not Jean Valjean stealing a loaf of bread. These are bandits, brigands — lawless, full-time professionals who were a serious threat to the famous Roman rule of order. Crucifixion was the supreme penalty (summum supplicium, Cicero called it) for a particular type of criminal, guilty of the impermissible offense of sedition (rebellious disorder, in the archaic sense of the word). These men have often been described as “common criminals,” but that’s not quite right. The Romans didn’t waste their time crucifying small-timers. These two men were a serious threat to the system. So they’ve been tried by the Romans and condemned by their laws, presumably with justification, for one of them actually admits that he was justly convicted for being an insurrectionist, for the term used by Pontius Pilate “perverting the people’ (Luke 23:14).

Fleming Rutledge, Three Hours, Eerdmans, 2019, pgs 17-18.