Seated at the Right Hand of God

Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” Jesus said, “I am,and you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Mark 14:61b-62

After Jesus was arrested he was brought before the high priest and the ruling council to stand trial. Many made false accusations against him, but notably no two witnesses agreed. The law required that two or three witnesses must provide the same testimony in order to convict a person, particularly in death-penalty cases. (Deuteronomy 17:6, 19:15)

Finally, the high priest asked Jesus directly. “Are you the messiah?” Any kind of affirmative answer would have resulted in Jesus’ conviction, not his acquittal. The high priest wasn’t looking for a reason to believe.

To the high priest’s amazement, Jesus didn’t just say, “Yes, I am the messiah.” He claimed much more than that. His response had the high priest tearing his clothes at what he could only hear as blasphemy. Who did Jesus think he was?

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The Wedding at Cana

John 2:1-11

Jesus’ first sign in the Gospel of John takes place at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. Although the wedding occurs at the beginning at John’s gospel, it takes place “on the third day,” immediately putting us in mind of post-resurrection realities.

The wedding feast, then, is not just a wedding. As we find in the writings of the prophets and throughout New Testament, marriage is a symbol of Israel’s covenant relationship with God and the wedding banquet is a metaphor for the joy of the age to come. For John, the eschatological wedding feast has already begun when Jesus appears on the scene.

So how does one participate in the eschatological banquet with Jesus? As I have written previously, the Gospel of John is the most sacramental of the four gospels. The waters of baptism and the wine of holy communion are both prefigured here. The servants plunge their vessels into the waters of purification and withdraw vessels filled with wine to gladden the heart. Something similar happens to baptized Christians, whose lives are filled with the joy only Christ can give.

Like the wedding feast, the fruit of the vine is a stock image in the prophetic canon. Good wine is both God’s gift to his people and what he looks for from his people. God blesses the land of promise with the fruit of the vine. But Israel is also God’s vineyard; God looks for good wine but too often finds bloodshed. Just as the wine the servants found in their vessels was meant to be shared with all the guests, so the wine of Jesus is not for me alone; it, too, is to be poured out for others. 

In the Gospel of John, Jesus proclaims that he is the true vine; only those who abide in him bear fruit that glorifies God. And in John 6, we learn that abiding in Jesus is nothing less than eating his flesh and drinking his blood.

The wine that Jesus gives is something new and unexpected in a thousand-year old religion. One typically sees movements filled with inspiration and enthusiasm at their beginnings evolve into staid and stable institutions as they age. Could God have saved the best wine for Israel’s second millennium? Jesus says, “Yes.”

At one level, this is a wonderful story of Jesus’ power and his compassion for a newly married couple about to be greatly embarrassed by a social faux-pas, perhaps engendered by poverty. It’s also the story of Mary’s faith, even when she didn’t fully understand what Jesus was up to. “Do what he says” is good advice for all of us. For John, however, it is also a sign of another banquet, another cleansing and another kind of wine.

Wesley’s Eschatological Optimism Explains it All

John Wesley believed the evangelical awakening taking place in and around the Methodist movement signaled the beginning of the end of human history. The movement of God’s spirit would continually grow stronger and more expansive until Jesus returned. Borrowing a phrase from the Puritans. Wesley described it as God’s “latter day glory.” Unlike previous outpourings of the Spirit, Wesley believed this one would persist until all the world encountered the warmhearted, holiness-oriented Christianity being experienced in the awakening. The Holy Spirit would spread scriptural holiness not only to nominally-Christian Protestants, but to Catholic and Orthodox as well. Convinced by the power of the Holy Spirit and the evidence of truly transformed Christian lives, even Muslims, indigenous people, and followers of other religions would come to believe in Jesus. It was Christian unbelief, disobedience and hypocrisy standing in the way of their conversion. The movement might be slow, face setbacks and often be hidden from view, but God would not stop until the whole world was awakened to true faith and holiness.

As it grew, the movement would transform society as well. Love, honesty, sobriety, chastity, prudence, generosity and health would flow from hearts transformed by the love of God. Changed people would change the world. Scriptural holiness would spread across the land. Even nature itself might be affected; one of Wesley’s sermons states that earthquakes are the result of human sin. When the whole world knows the true love of Jesus, and people live accordingly, then the world will become the place God intended it to be from the beginning of creation. And then Jesus will come again.

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Do You Expect to be Made Perfect in Love in this Life?

All the healing, provision and deliverance for which I now pray is just a brief preview of the great age to come when Jesus appears in power and majesty. Every manifestation of the kingdom in this age is temporary, local and incomplete.

So I recently wrote in Awaiting the Day. Does this apply as well to the Wesleyan doctrine of entire sanctification? In my mind, it does.

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Awaiting the Day

This body we commit to the ground, awaiting the day when our Lord Jesus Christ shall appear in power and majesty. The earth and the sea shall give up their dead, and those who sleep in the Lord shall rise in the glory of their redeemer.

Last month I stood beside the grave of my mother-in-law and pronounced these words, a paraphrase of language found in older versions of the Book of Common Prayer.

It seems to me all my prayers ought to express a similar thought, “awaiting the day.” Everything for which I pray in this age is but a shadow or a foretaste of the age to come.

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