Under levitical law, touching anyone unclean would make you unclean too. But when Jesus touches people who are unclean, they get healed and become clean instead––it’s like his holiness is contagious. In this episode, Tim and Jon talk about the way Jesus uses his power and authority as the cosmic firstborn.
Jesus, the Son of God is going to use his cosmic authority to reach out to the people in the lowest statuses in his society and community––the poor, the imprisoned, the blind, the oppressed––and elevate them. That's the power of the divine firstborn at work in the world.
In part one (00:00-19:35), Tim and Jon pause before continuing in our exploration of the theme of the firstborn to reflect on the rivalries that arise among humans and between humans and spiritual beings because of how God chooses one from among many.
It’s a beautiful part of God’s character that he chooses the lowly and the latecomer as his representative, but it’s also his choosing that often creates rivalries among his creation. This rivalry can take many forms: a firstborn who is not chosen might envy his chosen second-born sibling, an unchosen sibling might make a power grab, or sometimes God’s own chosen one abuses their power to harm others. These rivalries are not limited to humanity, but infect spiritual beings too, who demonstrate an envy of humanity throughout the Bible. At root, we can trace all these rivalries back to a failure to trust God’s generosity and his abundance––that there will be enough blessing for everyone, even if God doesn’t distribute it in a manner or timing that makes that immediately obvious.
The biblical story is all about how God continues to create goodness from human behavior that creates hostility.
In part two (19:35-31:19), Tim and Jon pick up the story of Jesus where we left it in our last conversation. In the last episode, we left off with Luke’s gospel, specifically chapter 4, where Jesus reads from the Isaiah scroll in the Nazareth synagogue, revealing himself to be the long-awaited Messiah and God’s Son who will use his power not as other rulers do, to oppress, but to liberate.
The people in Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth refuse to believe that he could be God’s Son, choosing to see him only as Joseph’s son, and they try to kill him. Jesus leaves Nazareth, heads for Capernaum, and immediately encounters a man possessed by an “unclean” spirit, who becomes a stark contrast to the residents of Nazareth because he knows exactly who Jesus is.
In the synagogue there was a man possessed by the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, “Let us alone! What business do we have with each other, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!”
The demon’s designation as “unclean” could link it to the Nephilim (Gen. 6) or simply refer to the fact that spirits like these were associated with death and the underworld––everything associated with death was automatically unclean under Levitical law. This death spirit recognizes who Jesus is in a way that the people he grew up with wouldn’t. Jesus casts out this spirit and then continues to heal and cast demons out of other people.
While the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to Him; and laying His hands on each one of them, He was healing them.
Touching someone sick would make you unclean under levitical law––uncleanness was “contagious.” However, when Jesus touches the unclean, not only does he remain clean, but those people experience healing. It’s as if his holiness is contagious––more contagious than ritual impurity and death.
In part three (31:19-46:15), the guys discuss the Transfiguration of Jesus in Luke 9.
Jesus ascends a mountain to pray with Peter, James, and John. As readers, anytime a mountain is the location for an event, we should have Eden (pictured as a mountain garden) in our minds. In the presence of his disciples, Jesus’ appearance transforms, and he starts shining with light.
Moses and Elijah appear and begin talking to Jesus. In the Hebrew Bible, Moses and Elijah were the only people to ever ascend Mount Sinai, both encountered the presence of Yahweh in fire and cloud, and both speak with God on the mountain. They also represent the two largest parts of the Hebrew Bible, the Torah and the Prophets. Here, they talk with Jesus, in flashing glory, atop a mountain––the Transfiguration and the appearance of Moses and Elijah identify Jesus with the God of Sinai.
Then a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my chosen one; listen to him!”
Jesus’ identity is front and center in this passage: as God’s Son, he displays all the same cosmic glory and authority as the Father.
In part four (46:15-01:03:45), Tim and Jon wrap up their exploration of the gospel accounts with a look at the gospel of John.
And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw his glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
The word “son” is not here, but John is talking about Jesus’ identity as God’s Son. The Greek word Jon uses is monogenēs, which does not indicate Jesus being born in some way, but it communicates that Jesus is totally unique, the only one in his category.
This brings us full circle in our exploration of the firstborn theme. Throughout the story of the Bible, we've seen humans and spiritual beings fight over who will be in charge and who is worthy of power and authority. Here, we see that the only one worthy of true power and authority is the one with whom no one else compares––Jesus, the only Son of the Father. He models what it looks like to wield power and not let it go to your head, and in doing so, he makes a way for the rest of humanity to live in the way we ought to and receive God’s blessing as well.
In part five (01:03:45-01:12:51), Tim and Jon discuss Jesus’ prayer in John 17.
The glory which you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as we are one; I in them and you in me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that you sent me, and loved them, even as you have loved me.
The defining bond within the Trinity is the love among Father, Son, and Spirit, and here Jesus explains that because of the unity among the Persons of the Trinity, followers of Jesus get to experience oneness with him, oneness with the Trinity as a whole, and by extension, oneness with one another. Jesus so trusts the generous love of the Father that he is confident there is enough love for everyone in the world to share equally in that love if they want to.
Show produced by Cooper Peltz with Associate Producer Lindsey Ponder, Lead Editor Dan Gummel, and Editors Tyler Bailey and Frank Garza. Mixed by Tyler Bailey. Podcast annotations for the BibleProject app by Hannah Woo.
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