Biblical Reflection 1: The Father
A basic philosophical problem is “how is individuality possible”? How can who I am make any sense against the vast panorama of time and eternity?
On the one hand, there are universals that make sense of the world by providing generally intelligible reference point but which lack the identification of the particular. Relationships then take the form of a contract that is then concluded according to the mutual self-interest of the contracting parties. This paradoxically reduces or removes the possibility of individual uniqueness, since the individual then just becomes an atom in a mechanically constructed matrix, and in which the possibility for relationship, other than tangential encounter, is reduced and finally excluded. As human beings, we are historically specific, whether we like it or not.
On the other hand, if individuals are particulars, they have local reference, but lack the universal application Post-modernism is, ironically, a form of localism. Any attempt to define a universal “self” is deconstructed. A local identity is constructed artificially with a disclaimer of any attempt at universal relevance. Post-modernism in this respect is the modern form of ancient Cynicism, where anything of universal significance was disclaimed.
It is only as the role of the Father is the life of the world is distinguished and recognised, can individuality – the respect accorded to each unique entity can properly be understood.
In the encounter of Jesus with his opponents in Mark 11:28-29 we see these elements being worked out:
MK 11:27 They arrived again in Jerusalem, and while Jesus was walking in the temple courts, the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders came to him. 28 "By what authority are you doing these things?" they asked. "And who gave you authority to do this?" Jesus replied, "I will ask you one question. Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. 30 John’s baptism–was it from heaven, or from men? Tell me!" 31 They discussed it among themselves and said, "If we say, `From heaven,’ he will ask, `Then why didn’t you believe him?’ 32 But if we say, `From men’ . . . ." (They feared the people, for everyone held that John really was a prophet.) 33 So they answered Jesus, "We don’t know." Jesus said, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things." 12:1 He then began to speak to them in parables: "A man planted a vineyard…..
Jesus indicates that he is not coming in his own authority but in the authority of the Father. Because he comes in the authority of the Father, this is something that his hearers cannot ignore. They cannot be neutral. Either they reject Jesus’ claim to be speaking on behalf or with the authority of the Father, or else they accept the full import of what Jesus is saying for themselves and their lives. Jesus claims for himself the Father’s glory on the basis of his having glorified the Father (John 17:4, 5: Philippians 2:8,9).
Knowledge of by what authority Jesus was acting would lead to responsibility of the hearers to act on their knowledge (i.e. to believe in Jesus) and so respond to the Father’s calling of Jesus and by the same token to the Father’s calling of them.
Here we see the close relationship between authority and authenticity: by accepting the authority of the Father and acting truly on it from the heart, only so are we acting authentically. This is the new heart of Deuteronomy 30:14 and Jeremiah 31:33.
The challenge of the Father cuts deep into us – strips way pretence and excuses. Through the acknowledgement of our relationship with the Father and our acting out of it, our stance becomes prophetic. The prophetic stance is that which authentically (i.e. which stands in full consciousness of the calling of the Father and responsibility to him) addresses the truth and hope of the situation which we are placed.
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
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