Delivering Jesus PDF Print E-mail
Written by Toby Sumpter   
Tuesday, 23 February 2010 08:51

As Christians, we seek to ground all that we do in the Word of God. From the littlest, most peripheral concern down to our central doctrines and practices, we want to conform all that we do to the words and patterns of Scripture. This is no less true of passing on the most important things. This process of passing on, handing down, delivering, we commonly call “education.”

The New Testament word paradosis is the word for “tradition,” that which has been handed down from fathers. The verb form of this word is paradidomi, to hand over, to deliver. The apostles faithfully taught and delivered that which they received from Jesus (e.g. 1 Cor. 11:2, 2 Thess. 2:15, 3:6, 2 Pet. 2:21). This is the “the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). And Jesus says that He received all of this from the Father: “All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him” (Mt. 11:27). And at the end, Jesus will deliver the consummated kingdom back to God the Father (1 Cor. 15:24).

Of course we know from the New Testament that not just anything handed down from fathers is good or faithful. Just because something is old doesn’t mean it’s good. Paul was zealous for the traditions of the fathers (Gal. 1:14), but many of these were the traditions of men (Col. 2:8) which had set aside the commandments of God (Mt. 15:3). Another way to illustrate this contrast is found in another frequent use of the same word: “betray.” Jesus foretold that He would be “betrayed/handed over/delivered” into the hands of men (Mt. 17:22). In the final two chapters of Matthew’s gospel, the word is used fifteen times, twelve of which are describing the person and actions of Judas Iscariot “the betrayer” of Jesus.

Wound through these Scriptures a striking image appears. And there are a couple of aspects to this image. First, the act of education and learning is highly personal and physical. It takes place as one person “hands over” or “delivers” to another person some matter. But we can take this one step further. In most of the uses of the word, the “matter” which is handed over is a person. Jesus is the one who is “handed over” by Judas to the Jewish authorities and later to the Roman officials. But the “traditions” that Paul and Peter and the other apostles faithfully “hand over” should not be divorced from the person of Jesus either. There is no impersonal, abstract “faith once delivered to the saints.” There is only the One Faith, the One Jesus Christ. We see this in Galatians where Paul seems to refer to Jesus as “The Faith” arriving in the world (Gal. 3:23, 25). In a historical sense, “The Faith” is the person of Jesus come to bring us to maturity. Jesus is The Faith which was once delivered to the saints. And this is explicit in Ephesians where Paul says: “This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But you have not so learned Christ if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus…” (Eph. 4:17-21, emphasis mine).

Paul is contrasting two educational systems broadly, the one of the Gentiles who walk in the “futility of their mind,” who have their “understanding darkened,” because of the “ignorance that is in them,” etc. Notice all the educational buzz words: mind, understanding, and ignorance. The other educational system is the educational program of Christ. But notice that Paul does not say that the Ephesians learned about Jesus. No, Paul insists that they “learned Christ.” But in case we didn’t catch that, Paul underlines the point by insisting that they have even “heard Him and have been taught by Him.”

Of course the Ephesians had never met Jesus in person. They lived far away from Palestine, and Paul was writing some years after the ascension of Jesus. But gathering the rest of the Scriptures together, it is not difficult to recognize Paul’s point. The act of “handing over” or “delivering” is always an act of handing over a person. And in the New Testament, the person is almost always Jesus. And Jesus is either being handed over in betrayal or He is being handed over in discipleship.

Beginning in the Garden of Eden, we learn the lesson that knowledge is never neutral. Knowledge is always covenantal. It is always received and imparted under the blessing of God or under His curse. Knowledge is potent and charged with life and death and is never to be underestimated. The action of handing over, passing down, delivering is fraught with potential dangers and glory. And this is because at some fundamental level, all things exist and consist in Christ Jesus (Col. 1:17). All knowledge and understanding and wisdom is found in the person of Jesus.

Mathematics is not neutral; spelling is not benign. Reading and writing and science are not safe. All of life, every educational enterprise is playing with fire. We are either delivering Jesus (with numbers or letters or stories) under the blessing of God or under His displeasure. We are either betrayers or disciples.

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Last Updated on Friday, 26 February 2010 22:04