20-19 The Same Yesterday And Today
The relevance of all this is that Jesus Christ is the same today as He
was yesterday. The Jesus of history is the Christ of faith. The same
Jesus who went into Heaven will so come again in like
manner (Acts 1:11). The record three times says the same thing.
The “like manner” in which the Lord will return doesn’t necessarily refer
to the way He gradually ascended up in to the sky, in full view of the
gazing disciples. He was to return in the “like manner” to what they had
seen. Yet neither those disciples nor the majority of the Lord’s people
will literally see Him descending through the clouds at His return- for
they will be dead. But we will ‘see’ Him at His return “in like manner”
as He was when on earth. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and
forever. The Jesus who loved little children and wept over Jerusalem's
self-righteous religious leaders, so desirous of their salvation, is the
One who today mediates our prayers and tomorrow will confront us at judgment
day. Perhaps the Lord called the disciples His “brethren” straight after
His resurrection in order to emphasize that He, the resurrected Man and
Son of God, was eager to renew His relationships with those He had known
in the flesh. It’s as if He didn’t want them to think that somehow, everything
had changed. Indeed, He stresses to them that their Father is His Father,
and their God is His God (Jn. 20:18). He appears to be alluding here to
Ruth 1:16 LXX. Here, Ruth is urged to remain behind in Moab [cp. Mary
urging Jesus?], but she says she will come with her mother in law, even
though she is of a different people, and “Your people shall be my people,
and your God my God”. This allusion would therefore be saying: ‘OK I am
of a different people to you now, but that doesn’t essentially affect
our relationship; I so love you, I will always stick with you
wherever, and my God is your God’.
And there’s another rather nice indicator of the Lord’s conscious effort
to show His ‘humanity’ even after His resurrection. It’s in the
way the risen Lord calls out to the disciples at the lake, calling
them “lads” (Jn. 21:5). The Greek paidion is the plural
familiar form of the noun pais, ‘boy’. Raymond Brown comments
that the term “has a colloquial touch…[as] we might say ‘My boys’
or ‘lads’ if calling to a knot of strangers of a lower social class”(1).
Why use this colloquial term straight after His resurrection, something
akin to ‘Hey guys!’, when this was not His usual way of addressing
them? Surely it was to underline to them that things hadn’t changed
in one sense, even if they had in others; He was still the same
Jesus. The Lord was recognized by the Emmaus disciples in the way
that He broke the bread. How He broke a loaf of bread open with
His hands after His resurrection reflected the same basic
style and mannerism which He had employed before His death.
Not only the body language but the Lord's choice of words and expressions
was similar both before and after His passion. He uses the question
" Whom are you looking for?" at the beginning of His ministry
(Jn. 1:38), just before His death (Jn. 18:4) and also after His
resurrection (Jn. 20:15). And the words of the risen Lord as recorded
in Revelation are shot through with allusion to the words He used
in His mortal life, as also recorded by John.
Significantly, both Luke and John conclude their Gospels with the risen
Lord walking along with the disciples, and them ‘following’ Him (Jn. 21:20)-
just as they had done during His ministry. His invitation to ‘Follow me’
(Jn. 21:19,22) is the very language He had used whilst He was still mortal
(Jn. 1:37,43; 10:27; 12:26; Mk. 1:18; 2:14). The point being, that although
He was now different, in another sense, He still related to them as He
did when He was mortal, walking the lanes and streets of 1st
century Palestine. Elsewhere [Chapter 15, The Disciples] we have
pointed out that the fishing incident of Jn. 21 is purposefully framed
as a repetition of that recorded in Lk. 5- again, to show the continuity
between the Jesus of yesterday and the Jesus of today. It’s as if in no
way does He wish us to feel that His Divine Nature and glorified, exalted
position somehow separates us from Him. When the Lord awoke, He would
have immediately been aware of the carefully wrapped graveclothes and
the anointing oil. He would have then realized the care shown to Him by
His sisters. Some of the very first thoughts of the risen Lord were of
His brethren. There was no gap between His mortal awareness of His brethren,
and His feelings for them after resurrection.
The Lord will essentially be the same as the Gospels present Him
when we see Him again. This is why Jesus even in His earthly life
could be called " the Kingdom of God" , so close was the
link between the man who walked Palestine and the One who will come
again in glory. “They see the Kingdom of God come” (Mk.
9:1) is paralleled by “They see the Son of man coming”
(Mt. 16:28). Indeed it would seem that the references in the Synoptic
Gospels to the ‘coming’ of the Kingdom are interpreted
in the rest of the New Testament as referring to the personal ‘coming’
of the Lord Jesus (e.g. 1 Cor. 16:22; Rev. 22:20). In that very
context of referring to Himself as "the Kingdom of God",
the Lord speaks of His return as 'the days of the Son of man'- the
human Jesus. And yet He also speaks in that context of how after
His death, men will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man,
i.e. how He had been in His mortal life (Lk. 17:20-26). As He was
in His mortal days, so He will essentially be in the day of His
final glory. It just isn't true that He came as a meek, gentle person,
but will roar back as an angry lion. At His second coming, He will
reveal " the wrath of the lamb" . Can you imagine an angry
lamb? Yes, lambs can get angry. But it's a lamb-like anger. He came
as the lamb for sinners slain, and yet He will still essentially
be a lamb at His return. The Jesus who loved little children, sensitive
to others weaknesses, desperate for their salvation, is the same
one who will return to judge us. Even after His resurrection, in
His present immortal nature, He thoughtfully cooked breakfast on
the beach for His men (Jn. 21;9,12). And this is the Lord who will
return to judge us. After His resurrection He was recognized by
the Emmaus disciples in the way that He broke bread. The way He
handled the loaf, His mannerisms, His way of speaking and choice
of language, were evidently the same after His resurrection as before
(Lk. 24:30,31). The Lord is the same today as yesterday.
Our tendency to value, indeed to worship, human works leads to
great frustration with ourselves. Only by realizing the extent of
grace can we become free from this. So many struggle with accepting
unfulfilment- coping with loss, with the fact we didn’t make
as good a job of something as we wanted, be it raising our kids
or the website we work on or the book we write or the room we decorated…
And as death approaches, this sense becomes stronger and more urgent.
Young people tend to think that it’s only a matter of time
before they sort it out and achieve. But that time never comes.
It’s only by surrendering to grace, abandoning the trust in
and glorying in our own works, that we can come to accept the uncompleted
and unfulfilled in our lives, and to smile at those things and know
that of course, I can never ‘do’ or achieve enough.
Realizing that we are in the grace of God, justified by Him through
our being in Christ, leads us to a far greater and happier acceptance
of ourselves as persons. So many people are unhappy with themselves.
It’s why we look in mirrors in a certain way when nobody else
is watching; why we’re so concerned to see how we turned out
in a photograph. Increasingly, this graceless world can’t
accept itself. People aren’t happy or acceptant of their age
[they want to look and be younger or older], their body, their family
situation, even their gender and their own basic personality. I
found that when I truly accepted my salvation by grace, when the
wonder of who I am in God’s sight, as a man in Christ, really
dawned on me… I became far happier with myself, far more acceptant.
Now of course in another sense, we are called to radical transformation,
to change, to rise above the narrow limits of our own backgrounds.
This is indeed the call of Christ. But I refer to our acceptance
of who we are, and the situations we are in, as basic human beings.
Jesus is right now " quick to discern the thoughts and intents of
[our hearts]" in mediating for us (Heb. 4:12 RV). But this is how
He was in His mortal life here- for then He was " of quick understanding"
too (Is. 11:3). He would have had a way of seeing through to the essence
of a person or situation with awesome speed- and this must have made human
life very irritating for Him at times. But who He was then is who He is
now. It's the same Jesus who intercedes for us in sensitivity and compassion.
Note carefully the tense used in Heb. 4:15: " We have not an high
priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities"
. It doesn't say 'which could not have been touched...', but rather "
which cannot [present tense] be touched" . It's as if He is now
touched with the feeling of our infirmities. Which opens a fascinating
window into what having God's nature is all about. When we by grace come
to share it, it's not just that we will dimly remember what it was like
to be human. We will somehow still be able to be touched by those feelings,
in sympathy with those who still have that nature during the Millennial
reign. The only other time the Spirit uses the Greek word translated "
touched with the feeling..." is in Heb. 10:34, where we read of how
the Hebrew Christians " had compassion of me" , the writer of
the letter. The link, within the same letter, is surely to reflect how
they had been so compelled by their Lord's fellow feelings toward them,
His fellow feeling for them right now, that they in turn came to feel
like this for their suffering brother. A related word is found in 1 Pet.
3:8: " Having compassion one of another, love as brethren"
. The wonder of the fact that Jesus feels for us, that He can enter into
our feelings, should result in our seeing to get inside the feelings of
others, empathizing with them, feeling for them and with them.
It's this feature of the Lord Jesus which enables Him to be such a matchless
mediator. Stephen saw Him standing at the right hand of the throne
in Heaven, when usually, Hebrews stresses, He sits. The Lord
was and is so passionately, compassionately, caught up in the needs of
His brethren that this is how He mediates for us. And it's the same Jesus,
who walked round Galilee with a heart of compassion for kids, for the
mentally sick, for oppressed and abused women...even for the hard hearted
Pharisees whom He would fain have gathered under His loving wings, such
was His desire for others' salvation.
“The Kingdom of God” was a title used of Jesus. He ‘was’ the Kingdom
because He lived the Kingdom life. Who He would be, was who He was
in His life. At the prospect of being made “full of joy” at the
resurrection, “therefore did my heart rejoice” (Acts 2:26,28). His
joy during His mortal life was related to the joy He now experiences
in His immortal life. And this is just one of the many continuities
between the moral and the immortal Jesus. Pause for a moment to
reflect that the Lord’s resurrection is a pattern for our own. This
is the whole meaning of baptism. “God has both raised the Lord and
will raise us up through his power” (1 Cor. 6:13,14). Yet there
were evident continuities between the Jesus who lived mortal life,
and the Jesus who rose again. His mannerisms, body language, turns
of phrase, were so human- even after His resurrection. And so who
we are now, as persons, is who we will eternally be. Because of
the resurrection, our personalities in the sum of all their relationships
and nuances, have an eternal future. But from whence do
we acquire those nuances, body languages, etc? They arise partly
from our parents, from our inter-relations with others etc; we are
the sum of our relationships. And this is in fact a tremendous encouragement
to us in our efforts for others; for the result of our parenting,
our patient effort and grace towards others, will have an eternal
effect upon others. Who we help them become is, in part, who they
will eternally be. Job reflected that if a tree is cut down,
it sprouts (Heb. yaliph) again as the same tree; and he
believed that after his death he would likewise sprout again (yaliph)
at the resurrection (Job 14:7-9,14,15). There will be a continuity
between who we were in mortal life, and who we will eternally be-
just as there is between the pruned tree and the new tree which
grows again out of its stump.
If who we are now is who we will eternally be, in essence... then
some of life's most crucial questions are begged of us. If we don't
know what to do with ourselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon, if we
go back to work on retirement sheerly for something to do, if our
hours are spent on endless soap operas and crossword puzzles...
is that what we wish to spend eternity doing? I don't say
that some element of relaxation is somehow disallowed for the believer;
but if who we are now is who we will eternally be... is our yearning
for some future existence motivated by a desire to love and serve
God and His Son, or is it simply the normal response to the fear
of death which each of us has? It was exactly because of who the
Lord Jesus was in His mortal life that it was just, rightful, purposeful...
that He should be raised from the dead and live eternally. By reason
of our being in Him and living life for and through and in Him (and
for no other reason) , there becomes a point and purpose in our
resurrection to eternal existence likewise.
The Lord had such a wide experience of human life and suffering so that
not one of us could ever complain that He does not know in essence what
we are going through. This is my simple answer to the question of why,
exactly why, did Jesus have to suffer so much and in the ways that He
did. Take one example of how His earthly experiences were the basis of
how He later administered “grace to help in time of need” for a believer.
The Lord’s one time close friend Judas is described as " standing
with" those who ultimately crucified Jesus in Jn. 18:5. Paul says
that none of the brethren 'stood with' him when he was on trial, but "
the Lord [Jesus] stood with me" (2 Tim. 4:16,17). It seems to me
that the Lord knew exactly what it felt like to be left alone by your
brethren, as happened to Him in Gethsemane and at His trials; and so at
Paul's trial He could 'stand with' him, based on His earthly experience
of being left to stand alone. In our lives likewise, the Lord acts to
help us based on His earthly experiences; He knows how we feel, because
He in essence went through it all. John maybe has the image of Judas and
Peter standing with the Lord's enemies in mind when he writes that the
redeemed shall stand with Jesus on Mount Zion (Rev. 14:1), facing the
Who the Lord Jesus was is who He will be in the future; in the same way
as who we are now, is who we will eternally be. For our spirit,
our essential personality, will be saved in the day of the Lord
Jesus (1 Cor. 5:5). “Flesh and blood” will not inherit the Kingdom (1
Cor. 15:50); and yet the risen, glorified Lord Jesus was “flesh and bones”
(Lk. 24:39). We will be who we essentially are today, but with Spirit
instead of blood energizing us. It’s a challenging thought, as we consider
the state of our “spirit”, the essential ‘me’ which will be preserved,
having been stored in Heaven in the Father’s memory until the day when
it is united with the new body which we will be given at resurrection.
For in all things the Lord is our pattern; and we will in that day be
given a body like unto His glorious body (Phil. 3:21)- which is still
describable as “flesh and bones” in appearance (Lk. 24:39.
Note that whilst flesh and BLOOD cannot inherit the
Kingdom, the risen, immortal Lord Jesus described Himself
as flesh and BONES (Lk. 24:39). In fact, we find that " flesh
and bones" are often paralleled (Gen. 2:23; Job 10:11;
33:21; Ps. 38:3; Prov. 14:30), and simply mean 'the person', or
as the Lord put it on that occasion, " I myself" . We
ourselves will be in the Kingdom, with similar personalities we
have now [that's a very challenging thought of itself]. " Flesh"
doesn't necessarily have to refer, in every instance, to something
condemned. Who we are now is who we will essentially be in the eternity
of God's Kingdom. Let's not allow any idea that somehow our flesh
/ basic being is so awful that actually, the essential " I
myself" will be dissolved beneath the wrath of God at the judgment.
The Lord is " the saviour of the body" and will also save
our " spirit" at the last day; so that we, albeit with
spirit rather than blood energizing us, will live eternally. Understanding
things this way enables us to perceive more forcefully the eternal
importance of who we develop into as persons, right now. The Buddhist
belief that we will ultimately not exist, that such 'Nirvana' is
the most wonderful thing to hope for, appears at first hearing a
strange 'hope' to be shared by millions of followers. But actually,
it's the same essential psychology as that behind the idea that
'I' will not exist in the Kingdom of God, I will be given a new
body, person and character. It's actually saying the same- I won't
exist. And it's rooted in a terribly low self-image, a dis-ease
with ourselves, a lack of acceptance of ourselves as the persons
whom God made us and develops us into. Whilst of course our natures
will be changed, so that we can be immortal, it is we who
will be saved; our body will be resurrected, made new, and our spirit
" saved" in that day, reunited with our renewed and immortal
bodies. We have eternal life in the sense that who we are now, in
spiritual terms, is who we will eternally be. Our spirit, the essential
us, is in this sense immortal; it’s remembered with the Lord.
In this sense, not even death itself, nor time itself, can separate
us from the love of God which is in Christ (Rom. 8:35-39). Just
as we still love someone after they have died, remembering as they
do who they were and still are to us, so it is with the love of
God for the essential us. Hence 1 Pet. 3:4 speaks of how a “gentle
and calm disposition” or spirit is in fact “imperishable”
(NAB)- because that spirit of character will be eternally remembered.
This is why personality and character, rather than physical works,
are of such ultimate and paramount importance. How we speak now
is in a way, how we will eternally speak- I think that's the idea
of Prov. 12:19: "The lip of truth shall be established for
ever: but a lying tongue is but for a moment". Our "way"
of life and being is how we will eternally be- and for me that solves
the enigma of Prov. 12:28: "In the way of righteousness is
life; and in the pathway thereof there is no death".
The continuity between
the mortal, human Jesus and the exalted Lord of all which He became
on His ascension is brought out quite artlessly in Heb. 4:14: “Our
great high priest, who has passed through the heavens”. The picture
is of “this same Jesus”, the man on earth, passing through all heavens
to ‘arrive’ at the throne of God Himself to mediate for us there.
His ascension to Heaven was viewed physically like this by the disciples,
and is expressed here in that kind of language of physical ascent,
to bring home to us the continuity between the man Jesus on earth,
and the exalted Lord now in Heaven itself. The same Jesus who once
experienced temptation can thereby strengthen us in our temptations.
We need to realize that nobody can be tempted by that which holds
no appeal; the Lord Jesus must have seen and reflected upon sin
as a possible course of action, even though He never took it. And
for the same reason, several New Testament passages (e.g. 1 Tim.
2:5) call the exalted Lord Jesus a “man”- even now. Let’s not see
these passages merely as theological problems for trinitarians.
The wonder of it all is that Jesus after His glorification is still
in some sense human. He as “the pioneer of our faith” shows us the
path to glory, a glory that doesn’t involve us becoming somehow
superhuman and unreal. Charles Hodge marvelled: “The supreme ruler
of the universe is a perfect man”(2).
Charles Wesley caught some of this in his hymn:
Of our flesh and of our
Jesus is our brother now.
The Glory Of The Lord
The continuity of personality between the human Jesus and the now-exalted
Jesus is brought out by meditation upon His “glory”. The glory of God
refers to His essential personality and characteristics. When He ‘glorifies
Himself’, He articulates that personality- e.g. in the condemnation of
the wicked or the salvation of His people. Thus God was " glorified"
in the judgment of the disobedient (Ez. 28:22; 39:13), just as much as
He is " glorified" in the salvation of His obedient people.
God glorified Himself in redeeming Israel, both in saving them out of
Babylon, and ultimately in the future. Thus He was glorified in His servant
Israel (Is. 44:23; 49:3). There are therefore both times and issues over
which the Father is glorified. He was above all glorified in the resurrection
of His Son. Each of these 'glorifications' meant that the essential Name
/ personality of the Father was being manifested and justified. The glory
of the Lord Jesus was that of the Father. He was glorified in various
ways and at different times within His ministry (e.g. Jn. 11:4); but He
was also glorified in His resurrection and exaltation (Jn. 7:39). As the
Lord approached the cross, He asked that the Father's Name be glorified.
The response from Heaven was that God had already glorified it in Christ,
and would do so again (Jn. 12:28). At the last Supper, the Lord could
say: " Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him"
(Jn. 13:31). And yet various Scriptures teach that the Son of man
was to be glorified in His death, in His resurrection (Acts 3:13), at
His ascension, in His priestly mediation for us now (Heb. 5:5), in the
praise His body on earth would give Him, in their every victory over sin,
in every convert made (Acts 13:48; 2 Thess. 3:1), in every answered prayer
(Jn. 14:13), and especially at His return (2 Thess. 1:10)... So the glorification
of the Lord Jesus wasn't solely associated with His resurrection, and
therefore it wasn't solely associated with His nature being changed or
His receiving a new body. In each of these events, and at each of these
times, the Name / glory / personality of the Father is being manifested,
justified and articulated.
The Lord Jesus had that “glory” in what John calls “the beginning”, and
he says that he and the other disciples witnessed that glory (Jn. 1:14).
“The beginning” in John’s Gospel often has reference to the beginning
of the Lord’s ministry. There is essentially only one glory- the glory
of the Son is a reflection or manifestation of the glory of the Father.
They may be seen as different glories only in the sense that the same
glory is reflected from the Lord Jesus in His unique way; as a son reflects
or articulates his father’s personality, it’s not a mirror personality,
but it’s the same essence. One star differs from another in glory, but
they all reflect the same essential light of glory. The Lord Jesus sought
only the glory of the Father (Jn. 7:18). He spoke of God’s glory as being
the Son’s glory (Jn. 11:4). Thus Isaiah’s vision of God’s glory is interpreted
by John as a prophecy of the Son’s glory (Jn. 12:41). The glory of God
is His “own self”, His own personality and essence. This was with God
of course from the ultimate beginning of all, and it was this glory which
was manifested in both the death and glorification of the Lord Jesus (Jn.
17:5). The Old Testament title “God of glory” is applied to the Lord Jesus,
“the Lord of glory” (1 Cor. 2:8; James 2:1). It is God’s glory
which radiates from the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:6). Jesus is the
brightness of God’s glory, because He is the express image of God’s personality
(Heb. 1:3). He received glory from God’s glory (2 Pet. 1:17). God is the
“Father of glory”, the prime source of the one true glory, that is reflected
both in the Lord Jesus and in ourselves (Eph. 1:17). The intimate relation
of the Father's glory with that of the Son is brought out in Jn. 13:31,32:
" Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him; and
God shall glorify him in himself, and straightway shall he glorify him"
What all this exposition means in practice is this. There is only “one
glory” of God. That glory refers to the essential “self”, the personality,
characteristics, being etc. The Lord Jesus manifested that glory in His
mortal life (Jn. 2:11). But He manifests it now that He has been “glorified”,
and will manifest it in the future day of His glory. And the Lord was
as in all things a pattern to us. We are bidden follow in His path to
glory. We now in our personalities reflect and manifest the one glory
of the Father, and our blessed Hope is glory in the future, to be glorified,
to be persons (note that- to be persons!) who reflect and ‘are’
that glory in a more intimate and complete sense than we are now, marred
as we are by our human dysfunction, sin, and weakness of will against
temptation. We now reflect that glory as in a dirty bronze mirror. The
outline of God’s glory in the face of Jesus is only dimly reflected in
us. But we are being changed, from glory to glory, the focus getting clearer
all the time, until that great day when we meet Him and see Him face to
face, with all that shall imply and result in. But my point in this context
is that there is only one glory. The essence of who we are now in our
spiritual man, how we reflect it, in our own unique way, is how we shall
And so the Man who walked dusty Galilee streets is the very same one,
in essence, whom we will meet in judgment day. The ultimate question for
each of us, is whether we will be accepted by Him. In the Gospels, we
see the Son of man, Son of God, so acceptant of others, so patient with
their weaknesses, passionately dying for our salvation. Will He turn as
it were another face on us at the day of judgment, showing Himself suddenly
and unpredictably to be someone else? Like people we know, who suddenly
surprised us one day by showing a completely different aspect to their
character? I believe He won’t. Because integrity and consistency of character,
sharing His Father’s characteristic of not changing, is what He is essentially
about. He won’t show another face then, that we’ve not seen now. The same
basic Jesus, who so wished and wishes to eternally save us, will be the
One whom we meet in the final day.
If we truly love the Lord, we will fantasize about our moment of meeting
with Him. I suspect that His very appearance of ordinariness and evident
human aspect will impress me in that first moment of meeting. Perhaps
it will be that He appears to me in the midst of everyday life, when I’m
desperately consumed with doing something, and interrupts me. And He’ll
seem like an ordinary local person, speaking with the same accent, wearing
normal clothes, just as He did after His resurrection. And then He’ll
say with a very slight, cultured kind of smile: “Duncan, I’m Jesus…”.
Who knows how it will be. But if you love Him, you’ll fantasize of that
moment, as you love His appearing.
(1) Raymond Brown, The Gospel According
To John (New York: Doubleday, 1970), Vol. 2 p. 1070.
Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids:
Eerdmans, 1946 ed.) Vol. 2 p. 637.