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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Immanuel: "God With Us" - Part 5 - Paul

Our opening hymn this morning is "Christ Is Made the Sure Foundation", sung to the haunting tune by Henry Purcell. You may find the words and listen to musical accompaniment as you sing at this web site: http://www.hymnsite.com/lyrics/umh559.sht


Immanuel: "God With Us"
Its Theological Treatment in Paul’s Writings

If you had asked Paul what the term Immanuel "God with Us" meant to him, he would have told you that

  1. God was "with" us fallen human beings in the person of Jesus, who emptied himself of his divine privileges and independence and assumed the nature of a servant in order to be obedient to his Father's will and take the place of sinful humans and receive on our behalf God's judgment on sin.
  2. But—he would add—that is not all that "God with Us" means to believers after the resurrection: God the Holy Spirit together with the risen and exalted Jesus resides in believer's bodies, making them the temple of God, and empowering them to holy living.
In keeping with this twofold understanding of Paul's point of view, let us subdivide our study this morning into (1) Paul's remarks about the Incarnation of God the Son in Jesus, and (2) the indwelling of Christ by the Holy Spirit in believers together with the advantages this gives us.


Part One: The Incarnation of God in Jesus

Direct Statements about the Son's Preexistence and the Incarnation

Of the gospel writers, only John directly makes statements about the preexistence of God the Son and his incarnation in Jesus.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning…The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1-2, 14 NIV)
But Paul in Philippians chapter 2 either quotes an already existing Christian hymn on the subject, or composed one himself, when he writes in verses 5-8

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:5-8 NIV)
Depending on your Bible translation, you may have a different wording: instead of the NIV's "being in very nature" you may have "though he was in the form of God" (NRSV, ESV). Here is the ESV's version:
“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:5-8 ESV)
The Greek word rendered "form" (morphē) implies an inner as well as an outer character, hence the NIV's translation "nature" is not too free: in fact it gets at the essence and avoids the suggestion that English "form" gives of an external form.

Even if this hymn is not Paul's own composition, he would never have quoted it—almost like he quotes Old Testament scripture—if he didn't agree with it fully. So we can say that Paul's view of "God with Us" in the birth of Jesus was that God the Son (John's Logos) existed eternally in the divine nature (morphē) and on fully equal terms with God the Father, but that he willingly gave up for a time this privileged existence in equality with God in order to accept the limitations of life as a human servant of God.

This is what is meant by the phrase "he made himself nothing", which the RSV, NRSV, NASB and Holman Bible, following the KJV and ASV translate as "he emptied himself." It is this Greek verb (kenoō) to which we owe the theological name of this act by God the Son: kenōsis. Some theologians used this literal rendering "emptied himself" to justify their claim that in becoming human in Jesus, God the Son lost his divine powers. It is true that during his earthly ministry Jesus admitted that only God the Father knew the time of the Second Coming.
““No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Matthew 24:36 NIV)
We also assume that as a human child Jesus had to acquire skills—learn to walk and talk, read and write, do carpentry, etc. Hence, Jesus was not omniscient as a human, in the strict sense of that word. But however you may choose to explain it—Jesus possessed divine powers that were his not as a gift from God but by right as God.

In any event, the point of the phrase "made himself nothing" (Greek ekenōsen "emptied himself")) is not to account for Jesus' supposed human limitations in knowledge and power, but to express the sacrifice made by God the Son in forgoing continuing his pre-human existence as God with all its privileges and with no suffering involved, in order to suffer as a human to redeem a lost human race. The downward movement expressed in verses Philippians 2:5-8 is not a movement of degradation but of humble service.

Some modern translations render “servant” as “slave.” Now it is true that Greek doulos can have that meaning. But that does not seem to be the intended meaning here. A slave has no choice but to obey. Jesus was first and foremost God’s servant. And his obedience was not obligated, but freely and voluntarily given.

Instead, the "servant" metaphor is intended to recall the Servant of Yahweh in Isaiah 53—even though the Greek word used in LXX is the synonym pais. So in spite of the conclusion drawn by some interpreters, through comparing the picture of Jesus girded with a towel to wash his disciples' feet (John 13), the "nature of a servant" referred to in Philippians 2 is one who primarily serves God by accomplishing the task that God sent him to do. This is so beautifully expressed in Hebrews 10:5-7

“Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, ‘… I have come to do your will, O God’.””
The New Testament author of Hebrews 10:5-7 is quoting a passage in Psalms 40:6-8
"Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but my ears you have pierced; burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require. 7 Then I said, “Here I am, I have come—it is written about me in the scroll. 8 I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.”
The author of this psalm expresses his desire to serve Yahweh his whole life long, using an imagery taken from the law of Moses about a slave who may refuse liberation at the end of a period of indentured service in order to continue a life-long slave in exchange for retaining the wife his master procured for him while he was a slave (see Ex 21:6; Dt 15:17). As the author of Hebrews uses it, the verse has a beautiful application to Jesus, because it shows that not animal sacrifices availed to purge our sins, but Jesus' own perfect obedience in the body that God prepared for him.

Son of God, son of Dav id, Christ,
As God's servant, taking the very nature of a servant (of God), Jesus was Immanuel, "God with Us," in that he acted for God—the Father, Son and Holy Spirit—to be "with" us in saving us from our sins. As a servant in the sense of that word in Isaiah 53, he represented God acting to save us. Just as David and the Davidic kings, as servants of Yahweh, represented Yahweh by executing his will among their subjects.


Part Two: Jesus' Titles According to Paul

According to Paul, how was God with us in the earthly life of Jesus, and how is he even more with us in Jesus exalted to the right hand of God?

Unlike the gospel writers, Saint Paul's letters did not re-tell stories of the deeds of Jesus or quote his claims. But as we have seen, like the gospel writers, Paul had definite convictions as to who Jesus was. One the ways he expressed these views was by statements like the one we have studied in Philippians 2. But he also used various titles and metaphors to describe him. In many ways, these are just as powerful and expressive as the hymn in Philippians 2. We will consider them in three categories: those that express his relationship (1) to God, (2) to humanity, and (3) to the Church. First …

1. Jesus in relation to God

Son (of God)

The first of these titles describes him in relation to God the Father. It is the title "Son of God". An equivalent phrase often used by Paul is simply "his Son", referring to God.
A representative passage in which Paul uses the term is Romans 1:1-4 (Question 1).
Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God— 2 the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures 3 regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, 4 and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.

Matthew 28:19 gives a baptismal formula to be used in making disciples of all nations. They are to be baptized "in the name (singular) of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit". It has often been observed that this is one name, not three. But it has provided the Church with a convenient nomenclature for our Triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Trinitarian references also occur in Paul: “Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father”” (Galatians 4:6 NIV).

Yet though all three Persons of the godhead are equal and in essential oneness, the term "Son" in the title God the Son, identifies him primarily not with the Spirit, but with the Father. For the world "son" is a term of relationship that requires a point of reference in a parent. Accordingly, although Paul clearly regarded all three Divine Persons as "God', he tends to use the term "God" in his letters for the Father (see in Galatians 4:6, parallel to John's use in John 3:16), and the term "the Lord" for the Son. A fairly typical example is found in the opening verses of Romans (1:7), where he writes:

To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Here in Romans 1:1-4, as in the Philippians 2 hymn, Paul references both the divine and human natures of Jesus. The movement in Philippians 2 was exalted preexistent state to humble service to glorious exaltation. Here it is human nature as "son of David" that has an intended mission to rule, followed by a revealing of the divine Sonship in the resurrection. The two views do not contradict, but they enrich each other.

Notice that Jesus was "son of David" in his human nature which began at the miraculous virginal conception in the womb of Mary of Nazareth. Paul stresses that "according to the flesh [his human nature] Jesus was son of David, but as to the title Son of God he was "declared" to be such by his resurrection. The resurrection was God's official statement that Jesus was his Son and the one through whom he would judge the world (see also Acts 17:31— “because [God] has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed [same Greek word as "declared" in Romans 1], and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead”” (NRSV). The passage does not mean that Jesus only became God at his resurrection. But by the resurrection it became clear to all with eyes to see that this "son of David" was "Son of God" in a much more profound sense than that term was used for the Davidic kings.

Notice also that in v. 4 the full name with titles is given as: "Jesus Christ our Lord". Jesus is his human name—Y'shua, but it has a meaning: announcing his conception and future birth to Joseph, the angel Gabriel said: “you are to give him the name Jesus [Y'shua], because he will save his people from their sins.”” (Matthew 1:21 NIV) .

"Christ" is of course merely a transliteration of the Greek word khristos "the Anointed One", which is the Greek translation of Hebrew-Aramaic Messiah. Hence, Y'shua is the Messiah promised in OT scriptures. And finally he is "our Lord." "Lord" is the translation of Greek kyrios, which in the NT has a whole host of implications.

At the very least, and most conservative, it means "master" or "owner" of servants/slaves, or even "sir" as a form of polite address. We are Jesus' servants, and he is our master.

At the most, this may be a reference to the use of Greek kyrios in the Greek translation of the Hebrew OT to render the Divine Name Yahweh. But since there is no evidence that the name Yahweh was ever modified by a possessive pronoun ("our Yahweh"), the first interpretation—reflecting Hebrew ădōnēy-nû "our Lord" which is used of God in Neh 8:10; 10:29; Psa 8:1, 9; 135:5; 147:5 —is more likely. Paul is not here stressing Jesus deity, which elsewhere he certainly does. Here he simply wants the Roman believers to know that they share with him faith and obedience in one Master, Y'shua the Messiah and Savior.

2. Jesus in relation to Humanity

The Second/Last Adam

But "Son of God" and "Christ" by no means exhaust the titles and metaphors Paul uses for Jesus.In Romans chapter 5 and 1 Corinthians chapter 15 he regards Jesus as the Second (or the Last) Adam. this is a particularly rich theological statement, that Paul spins out in some detail. In Romans he writes:

Rom. 5:12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned— 13 for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come.
“For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For he “has put everything under his feet.” Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.” (1 Corinthians 15:21-28 NIV)
“So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So it is written:“The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.” (1 Corinthians 15:42-49 NIV)

Just as through his disobedience to God's command Adam brought death and alientation from God upon all those who were descended from him by being in him genetically, so through his perfect obedience which included becoming "obedient unto death, even the death of the cross," Jesus the Second/Last Adam destroyed death and alienation for all those who by faith are "in Christ"—to use Paul's favorite term for Christians. So for Paul every human is "in Adam", but only believers are "in Christ". "In Adam" all die, but all those "in Christ" will be made alive (1 Cor. 15:22), both spiritually and even physically in the bodily resurrection that awaits us at the end of time.

It has often been noted that Paul and the other NT writers consider Jesus the "Second Adam." But what is less widely known is that these same NT writers extend the Second Adam metaphor to all believers. For Adam was the first in the line of sons of God. Luke calls him that in the genealogy of Jesus: "Adam, the son of God." And by faith all believers become "sons of God" (Galatians 3:26). And Paul—for whom the present, groaning creation is due to the sin of the First Adam—waits eagerly for its freedom at the revealing of—not just Jesus, the Son of God, but—the sons of God, that is to say, the glorification of all believers (Romans 8:14, 19).

Paul also writes that believers are a "new creation" (2 Corinthians 5:17), which literally means more than just that God has made us over in Christ, but that we constitute a new Genesis 2 product, we are all "Second Adam"s. A second way that this theme shows itself is in the fact that Paul calls us all "sons of God." In the OT Adam was the "son of God," and Davidic kings were also allowed this title. But otherwise it was used—only in the plural—for angels.

The Image of God

Related to the concept of Jesus as the Second/Last Adam is that of the perfect Image of God.

“The first man [Adam] was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.” (1 Corinthians 15:47-49 ESV)

In this verse Paul doesn't say believers bear the image of the "man in heaven" now, but that "we shall … bear" it. Is that image of Jesus in heaven the same as the image of God given to the First Adam restored? We do not know. It is tempting to say so, since the theme of the "image of God" given to Adam and borne successively by all humans is so prominent a theme in the Old Testament.

However, because the Second Adam is more than just an unfallen version of the First, but something much greater, his image is also much grander and more glorious than that borne by Adam unfallen. So it is that Paul can write elsewhere of the exalted Jesus as —not just possessing, but being—the glorious image of God:

“And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:3-4 ESV)
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” (Colossians 1:15-20 ESV)

As a result, Paul can exhort believers, who by faith have been baptized into Christ, and are now "in Christ," to put on that same pure and true image of God that is Christ's:

“But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:20-24 ESV)
“In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” (Colossians 3:6-10 ESV)
3. Jesus in relation to the Church

Head of the Body

Another of Paul's favorite metaphors for the relationship between Christ and the Church involves the image of a human body. In that image Christ is the head and believers are members of his body. It is not certain that ancients understood that all direction came to the body's members from the brain. But it is likely that that is the import of what Paul writes here. Furthermore, the imagery draws upon the picture in the Book of Daniel of the great image in the dream God gave to Nebuchadnezzar, where it is explained to him by Daniel that the head of gold on the statue represented himself and his kingdom, and the rest of the body those kingdoms that would follow—Persians, Greeks and Romans—that would be inferior to him (made of silver, iron and clay). The Hebrew word for "head" rōsh always implies "chief" or "ruler" as well as "first (in time)". So Paul writes of Christ:

Eph. 1:22 And [God] put all things under [Christ's] feet and gave him as head over all things to the church,
Eph. 4:15 … [by] speaking the truth in love, we [believers] are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,
Eph. 5:23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.
Col. 1:18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. [Notice how here Paul plays on the meaning "first" embedded in Hebrew rōsh. Notice too that he makes it quite explicit that by "head" he means preeminence and rule.]
Col. 2:19 [Christ is] the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. [Here he elaborates what he meant in Ephesians "and is himself its Savior".]
“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:27 NIV)


Bridegroom of the Bride

Another metaphor, which Jesus himself used of himself in relationship to the citizens of God's kingdom, is the Bridegroom and the Bride. According to Jesus, the final eschatological Kingdom of God would consist of a great wedding feast with joy, singing, dancing and feasting. Paul seized upon this known metaphor to make an ancillary point. When he wrote to the Corinthian believers:

“I feel a divine jealousy for you, for I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.” (2Corinthians 11:2 ESV)

it was to remind them that, since by faith they have become the fiancées of Jesus, they are now his bride and must remain faithful to him. In the OT idolatrous Israel was described as committing spiritual adultery. Paul warns the Corinthians that dallying with sin of any kind was spiritual adultery against Christ the Bridegroom.

Resident in the Temple of God

The final metaphor we shall consider this morning has no clear OT antecedant. It is true that Israel viewed God as their Rock and salvation. But nowhere do we find the image of Israel, God's people, as a temple that he inhabited. Instead, God's OT temple was the physical structure on Mt. Zion.

Jesus did use a similar image, when he said to Peter: "You are Peter [petros, a little stone], and upon this rock [petra, a large stone, meaning either himself or faith in him] I will build my church" (Matt. 16).

Peter himself uses the imagery in his first epistle.

“As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”” (1Peter 2:4-6 NIV)

But Paul develops it in ways unique to his pastoral and teaching ministry.

I don’t know if you have noticed, but there is here a twofold manner in which Paul says we are the temple in which God dwells. First, he says that individually our bodies are temples in which God dwells, so that we should live pure and holy lives. This is the emphasis of the Corinthians references.

“Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17 NIV)
“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NIV)
“What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” “Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.” “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.” (2 Corinthians 6:15-7:1 NIV)

But secondly—as Peter’s mention also stresses—we are corporately a single temple in which God dwells. This is the emphasis of Paul’s later letter to the Ephesians.

“Consequently, you [Gentiles] are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people [believing Israel] and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple [eis naon hagion] in the Lord [en kyriō]. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling of God [eis katoikētērion tou theou] in (his) Spirit [en pneumati].” (Ephesians 2:19-22 NIV).

Here the “whole building composed of believing Jews and Gentiles, from all over the world, is “joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord [Jesus].” We as members of the worldwide Church of Jesus—in Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas—are “being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit”. That the entire Triune God lives in this temple of his holy people is made clar by the three terms “God [the Father], Lord [Jesus], and Spirit.

Here the pastoral thrust of Paul—his “application,” if you will—is not for individual purity of body and mind, but of solidarity in the worldwide Church. Do you consider your closest association to be with this worldwide brotherhood of believers? How do you show it? With your prayers, with your e-mails of encouragement to overseas believers, with gifts to needy Christian communities and individuals? Just how much of a worldwide fellowship with others who make up the temple of God do you have?

And how much do you know about the needs of other fellowships in DuPage County? Do you every pray for other churches and their ministries, or just for College Church?

This is the rich texture of Paul’s concept of Immanuel: God With Us. He is with us in Jesus’ birth, ministry, death and resurrection. He is with us in the new birth, the gifts of the Spirit, and above all in the presence of the Triune God living in us individually—demanding purity and holy living—and corporately—requiring a family spirit of mutual helpfulness around the world among those who share our faith.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Immanuel: God With Us - Part 4 - Gospels


Immanuel

"God with Us"
in the Old and New Testaments
A College Church Foundations Course
Autumn 2008
Week Four

"Theological Treatment of the Unique Incarnation in the Gospels"



Immanuel as our Theme

The theme of this course is "Immanuel: God with Us in the OT and NT". To follow all the back and future lessons online in blog form, click on this word.
When we define each of the three components of the title Immanuel, there is specificity in the first—"God" is not just any god, but the God of Creation and the God of Israel, Yahweh. But with the second and third components there is a certain ambiguity that in a way is quite helpful. For it fits the various ways in which we see this happening in both testaments. In the OT the "us" is Israel, God's covenant people, and God showed himself to be "with" Israel:
  1. through promises to Abraham partially fulfilled in the exodus and the founding of the nation Israel,
  2. through the exodus itself as liberation from Egyptian bondage,
  3. through the giving of the law at Mt. Sinai,
  4. through the conquest of the Promised Land under Joshua, and
  5. through the institution of Davidic kingship and the Dynastic Covenant given to David in 2 Samuel 7.
But we saw last week that God still promised a much deeper realization of the "God with us" commitment in the future, in connection with Isaiah's prediction (7:14 ) of the virginal conception of a "son" whose symbolic "name" would be Immanuel, "God with us." This virgin-born Immanuel would be "with" an "us" that was first of all Israel ("he will save his people from their sins" [Matthew 1:21]; "to the Jew first" [Romans 1:16; 2:9-10]) and subsequently all peoples ("make disciples of all nations" [Matthew 28:19]).
Now that we have arrived at the lesson dealing with the unique incarnation of God—the unique and true action of God literally taking on flesh in Jesus—we need to guard against a premature collapsing of the idea of "God with us" in Jesus to the birth event itself, as marvelous as that was. Only Matthew and Luke give birth narratives. John gives a powerful prologue in which the pre-existence of the Son is described and a very clear statement is made of this member of the triune godhead "becoming flesh" (John 1:14). Although Mark undoubtedly also believed in the birth miracle, he chooses to say nothing about it. For him, and probably also for the other three gospel writers, Jesus being Yahweh incarnate showed itself in many ways other than in the events surrounding his birth, ways that should not be overshadowed by the birth narratives.
What were some of these other ways in which gospel writers conveyed the truth that in Jesus God took on flesh? Does Mark—and for that matter, also Matthew, Luke and John—convey this truth in more indirect ways? Do the very actions of Jesus reveal that he is the God-Man? And—also of great importance—how is the Deity portrayed in ways that he could be recognized as the same God who made Israel his firstborn son and cared for this people like a father throughout the Old Testament.
A claim made indirectly through allusions to the familiar content of the OT was every bit as clear and emphatic to Jesus' listeners as a prosaic statement "I am God." And a conclusion that you draw as a hearer—a puzzle that you solve on your own from reading scripture—makes a much deeper impression on you than if you were simply told "the answer." ("Aha! So what you're saying is that you're the messiah!") This was why Jesus so often taught with questions instead of statements. He wanted his hearers to come up with the correct answer themselves through reflection.
You may have noticed that I did not title this week's class "The Unique Incarnation in the Gospels," but "The Theological Treatment of the Unique Incarnation in the Gospels". We aren't just interested in the assertion that God took human form in Jesus, but what significance of that fact we are supposed to draw from the gospels. Why was the incarnation necessary? And how did it manifest itself to achieve God's ends in the life and ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth?
In other words, we are not just interested in what the Twelve saw and heard from Jesus, but the significance of those actions and words that the Holy Spirit conveyed to them after the resurrection. In fact, John tells us that this is precisely what happened (John 2:18-22):
Then the Jews demanded of him, "What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?" Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days." The Jews replied, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?" But the temple he had spoken of was his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken."

Jesus as the God-Man in the Gospels

We all know that such reflections on the significance of Jesus being the God-Man exist in the rest of the New Testament (the preaching in Acts, the argument of Paul's letters and the Book of Hebrews come to mind). We will focus on those in the next two weeks.
But we don't usually think of the gospel narratives as being interested in anything more than simply telling us what happened. Nothing could be further from the truth. The gospels were composed after Paul wrote his letters and by men who were just as interested in theology and able to think in theological terms as Paul was.
Of course, they faithfully record what historically Jesus said and did. I do not agree with those liberals who believe the early church and the gospel writers distorted or added anything extraneous to what Jesus actually said or did. But it is clear, even if we limit the consideration to the sequence in which a particular gospel-writer places events in Jesus' life, that he has an interpretation in mind that the Holy Spirit gave to him.
So we will find in the four gospels not only the assertion that Jesus was God as well as Man, but an exploration of the ramifications of this fact. What did he do, say or experience differently because he was both God and Man, not just a God-empowered or God-inspired man? What in his life showed that both his deity was real? I am not convinced, as some are, that the gospels are already engaged in countering the view of later Gnostics and Docetists that Jesus was true God but his humanity was only illusory. So we will leave that issue aside.

Jesus as Yahweh Incarnate

A second question we are interested in is what in his behavior, his words, his actions not only showed he possessed unique divine power—but also the very same concerns that Yahweh, the God of Israel, regularly showed in the Old Testament? Concerns that go beyond what ordinary prophets and holy men reflected.
For the point of the gospel writers, as well as the point of Jesus' own claims about himself, was not just that he was "God" in a generic sense, not even "the one God and Creator," but that he was Israel's God, Yahweh, in indissoluble union with a human man born from a Jewish woman in the line of David. For we saw last week that in addition to his title Immanuel, which contains ʾel the more generic Hebrew word for "god", the messiah also had the title "Yahweh ṣidqēnu "Yahweh, our Righteousness" (Jeremiah 23:6; 33:16). The messiah was to be the incarnation of Yahweh, the God of the entire Old Testament scriptures: the God of creation, of the Flood, of the patriarchs, of the exodus, of the conquest of the land, of the Davidic kings and of the prophets of Israel.
Where shall we begin? How about at the beginnings of the four gospels? Authors often tip their hands in the opening words of their texts as to what they want to show and how. I asked you this week:

1. How do the openings of three gospels (Mat. 1:1; Mk. 1:1; Jn 1:1-5, 9-14, 17-18) differ in what they claim concerning Jesus? AND 2. Why do you think Luke makes no claim concerning Jesus in the opening verses of his gospel? How do we know that Luke presents Jesus as God in the flesh (see Lk 1:30-37 ; 4:12, 34, 41; 5:21; 12:8; 18:19; 22:69-70)?

Since most NT scholars today think Mark was written first, let's start with him. How does he begin his gospel? First, he calls his composition a "gospel." None of the other three use this term in their opening lines. Literally, the word means "good news", but it has theological freight, even in Jesus' days. In the pagan Roman world, there were compositions recording the birth of Roman emperors, that were called "good news." So even though Mark has no birth narrative, his use of this term may imply his view that Jesus was born to be king of Israel.
Secondly, it is "good news" about Jesus (Hebrew Y'shua), who was the messiah ("anointed one", Greek khristos). So although Mark doesn't cite fulfilled prophecy as much as Matthew does, he clearly states his belief at the outset that Jesus was the Jewish messiah.
Finally, some of the earliest manuscripts include "the Son of God," which can be taken several ways. It could emphasize the deity of Jesus, or it could be another way of saying he was the messiah promised to David in 2 Samuel 7, whom God said "will be to me a son, and I will be to him as a father." Most Christians would affirm both ideas here. There is nothing in any of the four gospels to suggest that their writers did not believe in the full deity of Jesus.
How about Matthew?  Like Mark, he calls Jesus khristos "the anointed one," the messiah, who has dual sonship: son of David, son of Abraham. Matthew's opening words may describe only the material in the first chapter, depending on how you understand the words "the book (biblos) of the genealogy." Does Matthew consider the genealogy that follows to be a "book" in itself? Or is he characterizing his entire composition by the opening genealogy? That is, the royal descent of Jesus colors and sets the theme of all that follows? I am inclined to the second view. And if so, then the placing of this genealogy at the very start is intended to guide how we read all that follows. As the genealogy is a royal one, going back to David and beyond that to Abraham, the preeminent ancestor of Israel, Jesus is to be seen in what follows as the ultimate Israelite (the true Abraham) and as Israel's preeminent ruler (the true David).
3. Where in the four gospels do we find the clearest statement of God becoming flesh in Jesus? (Clue: It’s in the assigned readings above!) How is it implicit in what some of the other gospels say?
John's "opening" (John 1:1-5, 9-14, 17-18 ) is the longest of all, comprising a virtual hymn to the preexistent "Word" (the Logos), which is his term for the Second Person of the Trinity. Only once in this hymn does he use the word "son" to describe Jesus, but not to relate him to David or Abraham, but as "the special son (Greek monogenēs) from the Father" (v. 14). John's presentation of the implications of Jesus' identity with Yahweh, the God of Israel, is not as subtle as in the other three gospels. The lyricism of his writing makes it hard to follow his train of thought in this long hymn. But it is crystal clear that he affirms preexistence for the divine side of Jesus. He uses the language of the opening verse in the Bible, Genesis 1:1—"in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth— to show the eternity of the Word and his identity with Yahweh, the God of Israel and the Creator of all that exists. What he says about the activities of the preexistent Word he will also say about the activities of Jesus later in his narratives.
Luke gives his statement about the nature of the Jesus, not in an opening verse, but in the annunciation and birth narratives in his first two chapters. There it is declared by Gabriel independently to Joseph and Mary, by Spirit-ispired songs of Mary and Elisabeth and Simeon, and by the angel chorus from the skies over Bethlehem.
When it comes to the details of the Gospel-writers' claims about Jesus as the Coming Promised One, they tend to compare him with the same three OT characters that we have used in the past three weeks: Adam, Moses and David.

Jesus as the Second Adam

4. The gospel writers do not use Paul’s term “the Second Adam” of Jesus. But in what ways do you see them comparing him to Adam (not explicitly, but implicitly)? Use your memory of the content of any of the gospels. For example, in the temptation scene of Mark 1:12-13 (very concise) and Matthew 4:1-11 and Luke 4:1-13 (both much fuller). Or in Luke's genealogy of Jesus (Luke 3:23-38).
Let's take the Luke 3:38 passage first, as it is the simplest—at least on the surface. In Luke's genealogy of Jesus the chain stretches all the way back to Adam, who is called "the son of God." This may seem to you rather meaningless, since each one of us can assume that our ancestral lines go through Noah back to Adam! But there is more afoot here than meets the eye.Notice how the end of Luke's genealogy of Jesus, which ends with the word "Adam, the son of God" leads directly into his narrative of Jesus' temptation by Satan in chapter 4.
Luke's point can only be understood against the backdrop of Paul's "Second Adam" motif, which he probably knew from having been Paul's traveling companion. Jesus is no different from me in being physically a son of Adam, but he is unique in being the fulfillment of that status of "son of God" that had originally been conferred on Adam. The First Adam failed to fulfill it, but the Second Adam succeeded. That is why Luke writes in this genealogy what otherwise would be not only self-evident, but trivial.
Now let's look at the temptation narrative. It is relevant, because the First Adam was tempted by Eve, as she was tempted by the serpent, and both succumbed. But Jesus as the Second Adam, the Messiah, was "tested in all points as we, yet without sinning," as the author to Hebrews (4:15 ) puts it.

But there is also the business that Mark adds, which also links this event to Adam. Mark says that during the 40-day period Jesus "was with the wild animals" (Mark 1:13). Again, this remark cannot be there just to paint a vivid picture of desert life. One recent commentator tried to use it to portray Jesus as the "green" friend of nature, a point utterly foreign to the mentality of the gospel writers. No —  we must see it as showing his ability—also promised to Adam—to "rule over the birds, fish, and wild animals" (Gen 1:26). The rule over the fish is also illustrated several times in the miraculous catches of fish on the Lake of Galilee (John 21:3-7). A preview of this ability of the Second Adam was given in the Book of Daniel, where Daniel is thrown into a den of hungry lions, but God causes them not to kill him (Daniel 6). Some even think that outside the garden of Eden, the pre-fall world was populated by wild animals that killed much as they do today, and that it was part of the mandate God gave to Adam to control and domesticate them.1 If so, then Christ's control of wild animals in Mark's version of the temptation in the desert would be part of his image as the successful Second Adam who overcomes temptation and then fulfills his Adamic mandate with regard to ruling over the wild animals. I tell you this only because it is interesting. For this theory faces serious objections which we cannot go into here.

Jesus as the Second Moses

In our second week—"Immanuel: God with Us in the Exodus and the Davidic Kingship"—we saw that a major advance in God's being "with" his people in the OT was in the deliverance from Egyptian slavery and the giving of the law on Mt. Sinai. It isn't surprising therefore that Jesus is presented in the gospels as a Second and Greater Moses.
Modern theologians have argued that the Moses image is expressed in numerous parts of the gospels. But it will suffice us today to focus on the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) as commentary on and enlargement of the laws of Sinai.
Jesus begins his commentary of God's law given at Mt. Sinai in Matt. 5:17-20 with these significant words:
"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven."
This shows that, despite the many occasions when his opponents accused him of breaking the Sabbath laws, Jesus was a staunch upholder of the laws God gave to Israel on Mt. Sinai. His program was not to break them, but fulfill them completely.
Yet, when we read further in Matthew 5 we see a repeated pattern of sayings that show Jesus considered himself authorized by God to give a definitive interpretation to these laws. The first way in which this impresses us is in the formula "you have heard that it has been said … but I say to you" (Matt. 5:21-22, 27-28, 33-34, 38-39, 43-44), where Jesus "raised the bar" on what it meant to obey the laws of God. Forbidden was not just murder but hatred, not only adultery but lust, not only breaking oaths but not taking them at all, not just loving the neighbor but also the enemy.

Some of the formulations in the "you have heard" category represent rabbinic interpretations and enlargements of the law of Sinai. They are analogous to other places in the ministry of Jesus where he explicitly corrected the rabbinic interpretations and abuses that arose from this. An example of that is the discourse about the Qorban laws (Mark 7:7-13)—Hebrew qorban means "something given to God." 
And he said to them: "You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! 10For Moses said, 'Honor your father and your mother,' and, 'Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.' 11 But you say that if a man says to his father or mother: 'Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is Corban' (that is, a gift devoted to God), 12 then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother. 13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that."
In other cases in Matthew 5 Jesus was not specifically correcting current rabbinic interpretations, but was merely showing the full God-intended force of the original commandments. In doing this he acted as the God-authorized interpreter of the laws of Sinai.
But it is also clear that Jesus showed that he was authorized to even modify the laws given at Sinai. The clearest examples concern the laws about clean and unclean foods:
“When he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about the parable. He said to them, “Then do you also fail to understand? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile, since it enters, not the heart but the stomach, and goes out into the sewer?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) And he said, “It is what comes out of a person that defiles. For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”” (Mark 7:17-23 NRSV).
Matthew tells us what the cumulative effect of this commentary on the law of Moses was upon the listeners:
“Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes” (Matthew 7:28-29 NRSV).

Jesus as the Second David

We saw in the second and third weeks that the term "son of David" in the OT—and even the term "David" in predictions of the future kingdom of God—was equivalent to a "Second David," the ultimate fulfillment of what David was meant to be, but never actually succeeded in being. (Just as the Second Adam, and Second Moses realized what the first ones never did.) So we are not surprised to see the crowds of Jesus disciples hailing him as "son of David." This meant much more than just a recognition of his genealogy. It was a messianic title with a particular emphasis.
We saw when we studied the Dynastic Covenant with David in 2 Samuel 7, that the king was to be related to Yahweh-God as a son to his father; so that God would both love and protect and care for him as his son and never disown him—never cast him out of his family, but would discipline him as a father does a son (v. 12-16). This same Father-Son relationship of the Davidic king to God is reflected in Psalm 2:7, which was also a messianic psalm finding its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus (Acts 13:33; Heb. 1:5; 5:5).
In its Old Testament context the term "Son of God" was not so much a title as a metaphor. We never read of its being used as an address to the Davidic king by his subjects. Nor did it have any overtones of deity, as it did in Egypt of the Pharaohs. Egyptian kings, as well as some Babylonian ones were considered divine even during their lifetimes. Hittite kings were considered to "become" divine only upon their deaths, in the sense that they became recipients of corporate worship and sacrifices. None of these things were true of Israelite kings.
But with Jesus, "Son of God" has become more than a metaphor, it is a title. This is the way Mark uses it in the opening words of his gospel (Mark 1:1), and Peter used it in his confession in Matthew 16.
"Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ [= the Messiah], the Son of the living God." 17 And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven." (ESV).
It is indicator of Jesus' status as God's king in the Davidic line. But it goes much deeper than that. In its reference to Jesus' identity "Son of God" clearly expresses a divine origin. Even without this title, Jesus and the NT writers clearly claimed his deity. As Larry Hurtado argues so persuasively in his book Lord Jesus Christ,2 it is not just what is said about Jesus that shows his claim to deity, but what he did—actions that only God could do. So let us turn to an examination of some of these things.

Jesus Acting as God

5. How was God's power exercised in Jesus' actions and words to benefit needy and suffering people? and to judge evil? Benefit:
When the men came to Jesus, they said, "John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, 'Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?'" At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. So he replied to the messengers, "Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me."
6. How was God's power over inanimate things active in Jesus' actions?
  • Turning water into wine (John 2:1-11)
  • multiplying loaves and fishes (Mark 6:35-43)
  • stilling the storm: "he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, 'Peace! Be still!' And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, 'Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?' And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, 'Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?'" (Mark 4:35-41)
7. How was God's power over Satan shown?
  • healings;
  • exorcisms: (for example, in the synagogue of Capernaum. There he began to teach. The people were amazed at his teaching. He taught them like one who had authority. He did not talk like the teachers of the law. Just then a man in their synagogue cried out. He was controlled by an evil spirit. He said,) "What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are. You are the Holy One of God!" Mark 1:23-27
  • driving the demon-possessed swine into Lake of Galilee: 
  • victory over the tempter;
8. How was God's power over life and death shown?
Do the actions of Jesus that required supernatural, divine power—i.e., his miracles—always serve the particular concerns of Yahweh, the God of Israel? Give examples: "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" John 10:10-11.

Summary and Conclusion

The four canonical gospels present the miracle of God becoming Man in a wide variety of ways. Some of these ways are shared by all four. All four acclaim Jesus as the "Son of God" and "the Christ [Messiah]". All four use his words of wisdom and authority to link him to Moses and to Solomon. And all four report his power over nature, over Satan, and over sickness and death as effects of the Fall to show him to be the God of Creation and of Israel. There can be no doubt that those who knew Jesus best were enabled by the Holy Spirit to understand clearly who he really was: God's Immanuel. We should celebrate this thrilling fact not just at Christmas time—although we should certainly do so then—but every day of our lives. The God of Creation and of ancient Israel has redeemed us and lives in us to do the same kind of miracles of guidance and deliverance that he did for Israel in the exodus and the desert wanderings, and the same kind of miracles of healing and teaching that he did when Jesus walked the roads of Galilee. This is our God, and he is with us. Hallelujah!

Endnotes
1 See 1. L. E. Wilkinson, 'Immanuel and the purpose of creation', Doing theology for the people of God : studies in honor of J.I. Packer (ed. D. M. Lewis, A. E. McGrath and J. I. Packer; Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1996) 245-61.
2 1. L. W. Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2005).


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Immanuel: God With Us - Part 3 - Prophecies

"Prophecies of a Unique Incarnation"

Introduction: Living in Hope

In all ages, God has intended his people to live in hope. Adam and Eve lived in hope of the "seed of the woman." Noah lived in hope of a new and righteous world after the flood. Abraham lived in hope of the fulfillment of God's promises to him. Moses lived in hope of his people's living in the Promised Land that he himself was not permitted to enter. David lived in hope of the fulfillment of God's promise to him of a permanent descendant ruling over Israel (2 Sam. 7). Even after the Cross and Pentecost, we Christians live in hope of the return of Jesus. The earliest believers regularly prayed the corporate prayer marana tha "Come quickly, Our Lord" (1 Cor. 16:22). Only with Jesus' return and the establishment of God's eternal kingdom in a New Heavens and a New Earth will we no longer live in hope, but in complete fulfillment.
This week we want to investigate what hopes guided the Israelites during the periods of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, the exile, and the return to Zion under Ezra and Nehemiah.
By using the word "hopes" instead of "prophecies" I do not mean to convey the idea of wishful thinking. ("I hope I get a raise this year"). In biblical terms "hope" never means that. It means living in view of and in anticipation of what is promised and certain. In Hebrew it is ha-tiqvah. In NT terms (Hebrews 11) it is "faith."

A Comprehensive Hope

Much has been written and preached about "messianic prophecy." I don't object to that term, but I think it encourages us to think too narrowly about what scripture tells us that Israel heard from God and hoped for. What I see in OT scripture is the promise of a perfect kingdom vastly superior even to what Israel was intended to be and never achieved, and headed by a king like David but exceeding him in meeting God's standard and ideal of kingship. An ideal kingdom and an ideal king, all based upon the picture of the kingdom and the king for which God's laws were given to Israel through Moses. Nevertheless, in today's class we will focus on the prophecies of the Coming One who will usher in and rule over that kingdom by first suffering for humanity's sins caused by Adam's fall.

How is the messiah pictured?

Jews in Jesus' day called this person the messiah—Hebrew mĕšîaḥ, Greek christos—both meaning "the one whom God has anointed." This term was used very sparingly in the OT of this one future king. Normally, the word "anointed" designated the king of Israel, in particular David. It is true that God commanded the Israelites to anoint other figures. The high priest Aaron was anointed, as were the articles of the tabernacle furniture. This was to set them apart from profane use for the exclusive service of God. Elijah was once commanded to anoint Elisha to be his successor as prophet. But clearly the figure normally associated with being anointed was the Davidic king, and this is presumably how the word came to be reserved for the coming ruler, whom we call the messiah. BUT most of the prophecies of this coming one in the OT do not use the term at all.

How does one know if a passage of the OT is a prophecy of the messiah?

The surest way is to see if it is claimed for Jesus in the NT. But traditionally Christians have claimed many more than those explicitly quoted in the NT. 
What makes it so difficult to identify messianic prophecies is the fact that what in many cases began as predictions of historical kings and prophets who were ideal embodiments of God's will and purpose had a logical application to the messiah. If the messiah was to be the perfect king, prophet and Melchizedekian priest, then what was promised about ideal kings, prophets and priests, but never fully realized in Israel's history, could rightly be expected of the messiah.

Looking at a Selection of Prophecies, Most Likely to Be Messianic

1. Which of the assigned passages appears to you to relate to the birth of the Messiah? Micah 5:2; Isa. 7:14

Micah 5:2 is actually quoted by Matthew (2:6) as a prediction of the messiah's birth in Bethlehem. Usually the NT authors quote the OT from the Septuagint, the ancient translation into Greek. but here Matthew quotes the Jewish Bible scholars advising Herod as not following the LXX at all. In fact their rendering is even rather free from the standpoint of the Hebrew text. If you use two identical Bible versions and open them side by side to Micah 5:2 and Matthew 2:6, you can see what I mean.
Yet this rendering quoted by Matthew does not falsify Micah's text: it merely hits the high points. Someone is to "come forth from Bethlehem" (that is, to be born there) who is to become God's ruler. 
Herod's Jewish advisers—quoted here by Matthew—do not quote the second half of Micah 5:2. His "origin(s)" (NRSV, NIV; ESV "coming forth") are "from ancient times" (Hebrew ʿôlām). The KJV translated that last part as "from everlasting," which would fit the deity of the messiah well. But Hebrew ʿôlām is not quite so definite, as witness the various evangelical Bible translations as "from ancient times". What is meant by his "origin" being in "ancient times"? This could be a hint at his pre-existing his human birth, which would point to his deity. But another possibility is that it refers to the origin of his kingly line in the time of David. After all, Micah prophesied throughout the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, roughly 735–700 BC, three centuries after the time of David (around 1000 BC), which to him would be "ancient times."
Isaiah 7:14  is also quoted by Matthew (1:23) as a prediction of Mary's virginal conception of Jesus: not the place of the messiah's birth but the manner of his conception. This prediction is taken out of its original context, which was a "sign" given to King Ahaz, to reassure him that two threatening kings—of Israel and of Syria—would not succeed in conquering him, but would perish (see especially verse 16, where before the child Immanuel is old enough to distinguish good from evil the Assyrian army acting for God would conquer both kings). Matthew's use is confined to two points: (1) the child will be conceived and born by a woman who was a virgin at the time, and (2) he will be called Immanuel, a name never given to Jesus, but which encapsulates his nature as "God with Us". 
The name Immanuel, so far as we know, was never actually given to any Israelite newborn—not even to Jesus. It is a symbolic name, not a real one. It represents his nature as the embodiment of the promise to Ahaz. If Judah would hold out against these two kings for just the few years until the child reached the age of discretion, the truth that God was "with" them to protect them would be fulfilled by the Assyrian armies overwhelming Syria and Israel.

2. Which of the assigned passages appears to you to relate to the messiah's kingship? 2 Sam. 7:11-16

2 Samuel 7 records God's promise and covenant with David. The "son" who would rule after David and from whom God would never remove his love and commitment was—in the first instance—the immediate son of David, Solomon as well as his successors. This is indicated by God's warning that he will chastise such a descendant at the hands of human opponents.
“I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men,” (2 Samuel 7:14 ESV)
These "sons" of David would be imperfect fulfillments of the intended figure. The messiah would not be. For this reason, in the centuries after David and continuing into the lifetime of Jesus, the messiah was preeminently thought of as "the son of David" (see Matt. 12:23; 21:9; 22:42). 
Matt. 12:23 All the people were astonished and said, “Could this be the Son of David?”
Matt. 21:9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest!”
Matt. 21:15 But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple area, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant.
Matt. 22:42 “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?”   “The son of David,” they replied.
In fact, in the OT prophets the messianic "son of David" is sometimes referred to simply as "David"1 or as "the shoot of Jesse." In the prophetic picture there is a merging of the figure of David with that of his messiah "son."

3. Which of the assigned passages appears to you to relate to the messiah's deity? Isa. 9:6-7; Micah 5:2

We have seen how the end of Micah 5:2 might be understood as a statement of the messiah's existence long before he was born. But we have also seen that the words can be interpreted as referring to the beginning of the messiah's kingly line in ancient times with David.
Isaiah 9:6, on the other hand, does seem to predict a divine messiah. In 9:1-5 the setting of this verse is the end of the sufferings of Israel at the hands of foreign armies and conquerors. Two reasons are given for this: (1) verses 4 and 5 each begin with "for" (because)—God has "broken the yoke" of servitude that the foreign nations had laid upon his people and burned in fire the equipment of the attacking armies, and (2) a child is born to Israel.
Isaiah doesn't say that this child will be the agent for breaking the yoke of foreign rule, but that he will rule on the throne of David and that his kingdom's growth and prosperity/peace will be endless. He will establish that kingdom and uphold it forever. In these dual roles he mirrors God himself who promised to do just this in 2 Samuel 7. 
But who is this mysterious ruler? Like Immanuel, he is given a symbolic—not a literal—name. It is actually a kind of titulary consisting of many titles, and we find it in v. 6. As early as the LXX this "name" was badly misunderstood. The LXX translates it as follows: "A messenger of great counsel am I. For I will bring peace to the rulers, peace and health to him." We won't go into how they may have come up with this strange translation from the Hebrew text.
  • Wonderful (miraculous) Counselor stresses his divine wisdom.
  • Mighty God (or "El the Mighty Hero") stresses his deity.
  • Everlasting Father ("Father of Eternity") stresses his lordship over time and history.
  • Prince of Peace (ruler bringing prosperity and peace) stresses his role in inaugurating God's final era of righteousness and peace.
  • This, you will agree, is quite a picture of the coming messiah.

4. Which of the assigned passages appears to you to relate to his priestly role? To his sacrificial death? Psa. 110; Isa. 53; [Psa. 22]

Jesus himself did not claim to be a priest, but the author of the Book of Hebrews invokes the promise to the Davidic king given in Psalm 110 "you are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek" (Psa 110:4; Heb 5:6, 10; 6:20; 7:11, 17) to call Jesus "our great high priest" (Hebrews 4:14); see also Hebrews 2:17; 3:1; 4:14-15. But by qualifying this priesthood as Melchizedekian—Judahite and not Aaronic, Hebrews makes clear that the messiah was never conceived of or predicted to be a priest of the type that Aaron or his descendents were. 
Hebrews not only qualifies the messiah's priesthood as Melchizedekian, but in Hebrews 5:5 links it to the David kingship, saying it was given by the one who called the Davidic king "my son" in Psalm 2. The messiah's priesthood is the kind of priesthood that only the Davidic royal messiah could exercise, not that of the descendants of Aaron.
Since the publication of the Dead Sea scrolls there has been quite a bit of controversy as to whether some Jews in the time of Jesus already believed that the messiah would suffer and die. It has not been proved that they did, but if so, that is no problem for the veracity of the NT, which does not claim that no one anticipated this. What was totally unanticipated was the Jesus was that messiah. And if some Jews believed the messiah would die, no one anticipated that he would be delivered up to death by his own people's leadership, nor that he would die the ignominious death of crucifixion.
Two of the passages I assigned to you for study—Psa. 110, and Isaiah 53—predicted that the messiah would have a priestly role and that he would die for the sins of his people. A third which I did not assign—Psalm 22—describes that death in remarkable detail and was actually quoted from our Savior's own lips as he hung on the cross" "My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me?"
But the most striking OT prediction which found its fulfillment in Jesus does not use the normal terms associated with messianic prophecy. The figure is not called prophet, priest or king. He is simply called "my servant" (Hebrew ʿavdî). I refer to Isaiah 52:13-15; 53:1-12. Biblical scholars refer to the figure as the Suffering Servant
That term "servant of the LORD" could just as easily refer to Job, who is also proudly referred to by God himself as "my servant Job," and whom we all remember suffered excruciatingly, both physically with the loss of his children and possessions and mentally-emotionally by the rebuke of his wife who told him to "curse God and die" and his so-called "friends" who preached to him incessantly that he was suffering because of his own sins.
But Job's suffering—although undeserved, and therefore bringing him exaltation and praise from God in the end for his faith and honesty in the midst of it all—was not on behalf of others and for their sins. The "servant" in Isaiah 52 and 53 suffers in the place of others (vv. 5, 6, 8), makes intercession for them (vv. 11-12), and brings them forgiveness.
If this is the messiah, why is the term "my servant" particularly appropriate? It is important to note that David and each of his successors, whom we have seen were true types of the messianic king, were also called "servant of the LORD (i.e., Yahweh)". This was the model of Israelite kingship. And since 2 Samuel models the messiah on Israelite kingship, viewed in the ideal, he will also legitimately be called "my servant." In fact, in the sermons of the apostles recorded in Acts, the exalted Jesus is often referred to as God's "servant" (Greek pais in Acts 3:13, 26; 4:25, 27, 30). In prayer to God, the disciples in Acts 4:27 and 30 refer to Jesus as "your holy servant Jesus whom you anointed." The British scholar Larry Hurtado (Lord Jesus [2003], p. 190) sums up the significance of this title used of Jesus in the NT: 
"I contend that … these applications of [Greek] pais to Jesus carry a specifically Israel-oriented and royal-messianic connotation".
The song of the "Servant of Yahweh" actually begins in 52:13ff. It begins with a statement of the Servant's success (13). He will "act wisely (yaskîl, 13). He will be exalted threefold:  "See, my servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted" (yarûm wĕnissāʾ wĕgāvah mĕʾōd, 13). 
In v. 14 the NIV and ESV give the impression that the Servant will "sprinkle" many nations as a priest might consecrate or purify them. But the NRSV is right to render this verb "startle". Verses 13 and 14 are a pair, as their introductory conjunctions "just as … so" indicate. The point is that, although the Servant's appearance startles those who see him in a way that they expect nothing of him, after he has accomplished his mission he will leave everyone—Israel as well as the nations—dumbfounded with admiration. From a NT point of view that either happens when individual Gentiles are impressed by the gospel message, or will happen when Jesus returns in glory.
Chapter 53 proper commences what can only be called a lament of repentant Israel. "Who (of us) believed what we heard? To which of us was the arm of the Lord revealed?" These are rhetorical questions, because Isaiah's point is that none of them understood that the messiah was to come in humility and be thought a sinner who deserved to die.
Verse 3 summarizes the tragic misapprehension of Israel: "He was despised and rejected … and we esteemed him not." Like Job's three "friends", Israel would misjudge Jesus, consider him a blasphemer and a Sabbath-breaker, one whose fate on a Roman cross was a punishment from God himself. 
Verses 4-6 are the "Holy of Holies" of this beautiful prophecy. Here the prophet, speaking for a future repentant nation of Israel, expresses their horrified discovery of the true nature of what happened on the Cross, what a popular Christian songwriter called "the great exchange"—"he was wounded for our transgressions" and "Yahweh has laid on him the iniquity of us all." 
The Servant's death in this manner was no accident, no horrible unforeseen tragedy to be deeply regretted. It was planned by God himself: verse 10 says "Yet it was Yahweh's will to crush him and cause him to suffer … and to make his life/soul a guilt-offering".
And, as amazing as it may seem, this prophecy even predicts the resurrection of the Servant—although admittedly indirectly. In verses 10b and 11 we read: "he will see his offspring and prolong his days" and "after the suffering of his soul he will see the light (of life) and be satisfied". The more recent (correct) translation of that last phrase is due to the better text preserved in the LXX and the Dead Sea Hebrew manuscripts. 
There is also a prediction of Gentile inclusion. Up to this point the beneficiaries are understood to be Isaiah's people, Israel. But in 11b and 12 the "many" spoken of are in contrast to Israel, and refers to the nations. He will "bear their iniquities" is in contrast to "our iniquities" in 4-6 and the "transgression of my people" in v. 8.

5. Which of the assigned passages appears to you to relate to his being the source of forgiveness and righteousness to believers? Jer. 23:6; 33:16

In Jeremiah 23:5-6 and 33:15-16 we read:
“The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: Yahweh ṣidqēnū, The LORD Our Righteousness" (Jeremiah 23:5-6 NIV).
Like Immanuel, and the fourfold titulary of Isaiah 9:6, this "name" is actually a statement about the coming King who is the "righteous branch" from David's trunk. But although it makes a statement about him, it need not be read as a sentence, as the NRSV does "the Lord is our righteousness," but can with NIV, ESV and others, be taken as a title: "Yahweh, our Righteousness." 
In the Gospel of John, Jesus claimed the divine name Yahweh in its meaning explained to Moses (Exodus 3:13-15), when he said "before Abraham was born, I AM" (John 8:58-59). And he is the source of our righteousness.

Summary

Did these messianic hopes actually play an important role in the lives of OT saints? Were they in some sense nourishment for their hopes and their faith? We get only fleeting glimpses of this in the OT. But it is likely that their major effect was felt in the Babylonian captivity and the return to Zion under Ezra and Nehemiah. It is no coincidence that during the exile they were without a real functioning king of their own (as opposed to the Babylonian or Persian kings), and that after the return their only king was Zerubbabel, who is titled only as a "prince." When physical and contemporary political kingship was lacking, the hope for the eschatological kingdom and its king was more keenly felt. 
The prophecies of Isaiah—not just Isaiah 53—are replete with messianic visions. As Christians we are familiar with the Christmas prophecies (Isa. 7:14 Immanuel born of virgin, Isa. 9:6-7 his name will be Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace). But there are also the descriptions of the perfect kingdom of righteousness and peace and the messiah's rule over his people like the perfect shepherd.
All of these prophecies were God's way of encouraging his people, suffering not only under foreign invasions, but under the godless and inept rule of the later pre-exilic monarchs of David's line. I like to think that the similar hope we have of the Second Coming of Jesus can encourage you and me, as we live in a world replete with dangers from without and within. We do not trust in human rulers. We trust in the Lord who will some day establish his eternal reign of justice and peace over the New Earth, with the only human worthy to rule, the God-Man Jesus of Nazareth.
1 “I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. … My servant David shall be king over them; and they shall all have one shepherd. They shall follow my ordinances and be careful to observe my statutes.” (Ezekiel 34:23; 37:24)