Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Inauguration of Jesus' Ministry Part VI The Resistance

The Inauguration of Jesus’ Ministry Part VI The Resistance
(Luke 4:16-30)
By Dr. Dave Johnson
Assemblies of God Missionary to the Philippines

[To read the previous blogs in this series, please go to www.drdavejohnson.blogspot.com.]

“Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” intoned Jesus in Luke 4:21.  A more provocative statement and audacious claim has never been made and, as Jesus well understood, the proof was in the pudding. As Jesus surely expected, his hearers were not receptive to this statement.  The question is what was it that so deeply irritated them? Was it that he claimed to be the Christ? Was it the way that he handled the passage from Isaiah?

To understand their response we need to remember that Nazareth in Jesus’ day was a hotbed of Jewish nationalism.  They were looking for a Messiah who would lead a revolt against Rome, establish the kingdom of God on earth, and execute justice against their enemies. In their estimation, the son of a local carpenter, whose family they knew well, did not quite fill the bill, but this may not have been the deepest cause of their irritation? Kenneth Bailey (Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, 162ff) takes issue with the translation of Luke 4:22, saying that the people bore witness against Jesus, not for him.  While Bailey’s thoughts fit the context well because they did turn against him, his implication that the Bible translators made such an egregious error is a bit difficult to swallow.  But even if they were for him in the beginning, they quickly turned against him.

But what was it that rubbed them the wrong way? In Luke 4:19, Jesus quoted Isaiah 61:2 about proclaiming the acceptable year of the Lord, but does not go on to complete the parallelism by stating that the day of God’s vengeance had also come. Bailey is excellent on this point.  Instead of calling for rebellion against Rome, Jesus advocates compassion and mercy and cites the widow of Zarephath and Naaman, who were both foreigners, one of them being a sworn enemy of the Israelites.  He is saying that if they would follow him as the Christ, they would need to love the Romans, not hate the—an announcement that didn’t exactly thrill his audience.  This is one of many examples of how countercultural the gospel message really is. But there is more.

According to Bailey, the Jews of Jesus’ day believed that the Isaiah 61 passage from which Jesus quote promised material blessings to those who were believers.  Jesus turns this expectation on its head in the verses that follow with the stories of Elijah and the widow at Zarephath and Elisha and Naaman. As Bailey notes, both the widow and Naaman responded in faith and that faith, not ancestry, was the key to following the Messiah.  He would not be the Messiah for the Jews alone, but for whosoever believes in him.  To the nationalists sitting before him, these statements were outrageous and blasphemous.  With their anger at a fever pitch, they rioted and tried to throw him over a nearby cliff, but he eluded them.

But the question as to whether Jesus of Nazareth did in fact fulfill the claims of the Isaiah passage remains to be answered.  For this we turn to a story in Matthew 11:1-6.  John the Baptist, by now sitting in a Roman jail for labeling Herod as an adulterer, had some doubts about Jesus and sent some of his disciples to verify if Jesus really was the promised Christ or if they should wait for someone else.  When John’s disciples asked Jesus about his Messianic claims, he replied in vv. 5-6: Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me. Sound familiar? In other words, Jesus was telling John that he had, in both word and deed, fulfilled the claims of the Messiah outlined in Isaiah 61:1-2.             

*All Scripture references are from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted.

PLEASE NOTE: Permission is hereby given to forward, print, and post this blog as long as it is done as a complete blog, and its authorship is acknowledged. Thank you for your cooperation.  For automatic notification of future blogs please visit www.drdavejohnson.blogspot.com and click on “follow.”

Copyright 2011 Dr. Dave Johnson 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Monday Morning


Yesterday we had our last missionary service at Central Family Worship Center in Coopersville, MI.  We are looking forward to wrapping up itineration once our fundraising is complete.  We still need $448.32 in monthly support and more in cash.  We are praying that all of the pledges will be in by this Wednesday, our formal deadline, even though we can continue raising funds by phone and email after this date. 

Today, I'm planning to pack a couple of large boxes for shipment to the Philippines.  We don't leave Grand Rapids until September 15, but we are trying to avoid waiting until the last minute to get everything done.  The harder we work now, the less we have to do in the last few days before departure.  We will be in the Pacific Northwest (Bellevue, WA, with a few days in British Columbia) before leaving for Manila on September 29.

Talk to you soon!


Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Dear Friends,
I'm writing from Bloomington, IN, where I have been spending the last few days.  Tonight is our next-to-the last missionary service before wrapping up itineration in Coopersville, MI, this Sunday. Debbie is working in our home office in Grand Rapids to help pave the way for a smooth transition back to the Philippines.
God has been moving and another $115.00 a month has been pledged since I wrote last.  Only $686.32/month to go.  We are confident that God will take care of this.  If you can be a part of this miracle by picking us up for support or increasing your pledge, we would certainly be grateful.  A pledge form can be dowloaded from our website, http://www.daveanddebbiejohnson.com/.  It would help if you can act now.
Many thanks,
Dave and Debbie
Assemblies of God Missionaries to the Philippines
PS If you are interested in theology, missions, and spirituality, please check out http://www.drdavejohnson.blogspot.com/.
For a free chapter of my book, "Led By the Spirit: The History of the American Assemblies of God Missionaries in the Philippines," please visit http://www.daveanddebbiejohnson.com/ to read online or download.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Inauguration of Jesus' Ministry Part V: The Year of God's Favor (Luke 4:16-30)

The Inauguration of Jesus’ Ministry Part V: The Year of God’s Favor (Luke 4:16-30)
By Dr. Dave Johnson
Assemblies of God Missionary to the Philippines

[This blog is the fifth in its series.  To read the first four, please visit www.drdavejohnson.blogspot.com.]

In this blog, we move to the fourth parallelism that Jesus quoted in Luke 4:19 from Isaiah 61:2, “to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.  Isaiah’s parallelism, however, does not end there.  He goes on to say “And the day of vengeance of our God.”  That Jesus did not quote this is significant.
The “acceptable” year of the Lord can also be translated as the year of the Lord’s favor.  This phrase was understood by the Jews as a reference to the Year of Jubilee, which was set in place by God through Moses in Leviticus 25 and was to be held once every fifty years.  Consistent with the theme of liberation that runs through the passage we are considering, the year of Jubilee called for rest, relief and release that had both economic and social implications. There were four requirements:

1. The land was to lie fallow for one year, giving the land a Sabbath rest. (Leviticus 25:11-12)
2.  All debts were cancelled (Leviticus 25:31, 40-41, 54)
3.  Any Israelite who had become an indentured servant to another Israelite was freed (Leviticus 25:40-41).
4.  Ancestral lands that had been sold were returned to the original owner, serving as a reminder that the land was ultimately God’s (Leviticus 25:27-28) (m/gospel-jubilee-luke-4-19-bible-commentary-for-the-new-baptist-covenant-cms, accessed 15 August 2011.)

Practicing this would bring two positive results.  One, poverty would be greatly alleviated, if not eliminated altogether as no family would lose their most valuable asset—their land.  Two, all Israelites would live on approximately the same economic level, with no one having the economic leverage to oppress others.  Like the other commands that God had given to the children of Israel, the Year of Jubilee had been forgotten or ignored over the years.  Jesus’ statement in Luke 4:21 that this passage was being fulfilled strongly suggests that he was unilaterally instigating a Year of Jubilee as he spoke.

But what kind of Jubilee would it be?  Jesus’ hearers certainly would have expected it to be a Jubilee much like the ones in the past of which they had heard.  In order to enact a Jubilee, they would first have to get rid of the Romans and establish their government. That Jesus never lifted even a finger against Rome’s rule suggests he had another kind of Jubilee in mind. 

The Jubilee Jesus had in mind involved the cancellation of sin’s penalty and power.  Mankind would indeed be released from slavery—the slavery to sin.  At the Cross, as the old hymn goes, “mercy there was great and grace was free, pardon there was multiplied to me.”  By finishing the reading of the text here, he was emphasizing what the focus of his ministry would be.  But there is a deeper reason why he did not finish the parallelism.

In I Peter 1:9-12, we learn that while the Old Testament prophets did understand part of their prophecies, they did not know the time or manner in which they would be fulfilled.  This is especially true in regards to Messianic prophecies where the prophet could not tell the difference between the first coming of Christ and his second advent and would often mix the two in one prophecy. They saw the two advents of Christ like mountain peaks.  From a distance the peaks appeared to be right next to each other.  From the prophet’s vantage point, they could not see that there was a wide valley in between them.

The implications of this for all of Jesus’ followers in our generation should be abundantly clear.  We are still living in the Jubilee, the time of God’s favor.  Now is the season or day of salvation.  Now is the time to redouble our efforts in taking the gospel to the ends of the earth.  What we must do, we must do quickly, because judgment is coming. When Christ returns he will come as King of Kings and Judge over all the earth. Just as sure as he can the first time, he shall remain.

The fact that Jesus did not include the last part of this parallelism was undoubtedly part of what irked his listeners.  Ardent nationalists that they were, they longed for the Messiah to come and throw off Rome’s oppressive rule. But this part of the story, as well as a summation of Jesus’ claim to be the expected Messiah, are still ahead of us. 

*All Scripture references are from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted.

PLEASE NOTE: Permission is hereby given to forward, print, and post this blog as long as it is done as a complete blog, and its authorship is acknowledged. Thank you for your cooperation.  For automatic notification of future blogs please visit www.drdavejohnson.blogspot.com and click on “follow.”

Copyright 2011 Dr. Dave Johnson 

An Appeal For Partners

Dave and Debbie Johnson
Assemblies of God Missionaries to the Philippines
 (616) 558-1889

August 18, 2011

Dear Friends,   

For many years now Debbie and I have been serving with the Assemblies of God World Missions in the Philippines.  For some time now, we have been home itinerating and plan to return to the Philippines in late September 2011.  Our vision is to share the gospel with all of the four to five million Filipinos in the Bicol region of the Philippines where we live and plant a church within walking distance of every one of them. Raising up and training Filipinos to accomplish this vision is at the core of our strategy. For more information on our ministry, please visit http://www.daveanddebbiejohnson.com/.  Among other things, you can download a copy of our latest ministry video and get a copy of our bio-data.

Our vision is two pronged.

First, direct evangelism.  Over the last 17 years we have conducted approximately 700 evangelistic crusades in conjunction with local churches.  Many new churches have been planted and others have seen increased attendance at either church services or Bible studies.  We conduct about 45-50 outreaches every year, each crusade lasting three nights.  Except for Debbie and me, all members of the team are Filipinos, as are all of the pastors with whom we work. While the Filipino churches do partner with us in sharing the expenses of this ministry by shouldering the expenses over the dollar figure given above, the nature of this type of work is finance intensive and more help is needed.

Second, in 2007 God gave Debbie a vision to plant house churches.  Working hand-in-hand with Filipino church leaders in our region and one other missionary couple from another organization, three house church planting schools were started and about 12 house churches were started.  Today, this movement has grown to include 15 house church planting schools and at least 191 house churches have been started.  The possibilities for expansion are almost limitless.  God’s blessing on this effort is obvious, and we are anxious to see this movement grow. We foresee the need for expanding the level of training and are excited about participating in it.    

I am writing today to ask for your help.  First, your prayers.  I have taken the liberty to add your name to our email list, which we use for sending out prayer requests.  If you do not wish to receive it, please let me know.  Second, we also send prayer requests over Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin, and you can easily find me there. 

Second, we need financial support.  Our deadline is August 31, 2011.  Here are the details of what we still need:

Monthly Support Still Needed:  $801.32

Cash Still Needed:

General Cash Budget: Completed!

Evangelistic Crusades: $28,000.00

House Church Planting:  $5,000.00                  

Cash Reserve Fund: $8,011.00            

If you can commit to monthly support, you can download a pledge for from our website, http://www.daveanddebbiejohnson.com/, fill it out, and follow the instructions given for sending it in.  Your CASH offerings can be sent to AGWM
1445 Boonville Ave. Springfield, MO, 65802
, designated for Dave and Debbie Johnson, Philippines, acct 2256006, or you can donate online at http://www.daveanddebbiejohnson.com/.

If you have any questions, please feel free to call on my cellphone at (616) 558-1889.

Thanks considering partnering with us,

Dave and Debbie Johnson

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Inauguration of Jesus' Ministry Part IV: Healing (Luke 4:16-30)

The Inauguration of Jesus’ Ministry Part IV:
Healing (Luke 4:16-30)
By Dr. Dave Johnson
Assemblies of God Missionary to the Philippines

[This blog is the fourth in this series.  To read the first three blogs, please visit www.drdavejohnson.blogspot.com.]

Jesus continued to read the Messianic prophecy in Isaiah 61:1-2. His listeners, knowing that the text included poetry where the second line reinforced the meaning of the first line, listened intently. He came to the third parallelism which began with, “To proclaim liberty to the captives.”

The phrase “liberty to the captives” must be understood within Israel’s historical context.  The Jewish nation had been forged in the bondage of slavery in Egypt and had been liberated only through God’s miraculous intervention.  The theme of deliverance from Egypt runs throughout the Old Testament.  Also, by Jesus’ time, the remnant of Jews had returned home from Babylonian exile.  As Bailey notes, this phrase carries the idea of captives longing to return home.  Since I have lived outside of the United States for most of the last seventeen years, albeit voluntarily, I understand something of this desire.  On many days, I have longed for home. 

When Jesus spoke these words, the Jews were under the authority of Rome—an oppressive master.  While they were in their own homeland, they were not free.  The common understanding of the Messiah in Jesus’ day was rife with political overtones, especially that the Christ would lead a revolt against Rome.  This led Jesus to avoid the use of the term among the Jews, although he had no qualms about it among the Samaritans (John 4:26). I agree with Kenneth Bailey (Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes)here that to interpret this passage solely in spiritual terms is to ignore history.  And there will certainly come a day when the Messiah will establish his Kingdom on earth, a Kingdom of righteousness and justice and to which there shall be no end (Isaiah 9:6).

At the same time, the spiritual connotations cannot be denied.  From Genesis to Revelation the Bible speaks of mankind being enslaved to sin. As one of my theology professors once said, “sin is so terrible only God can deal with it.” Jesus announced here that the day of God’s salvation was at hand. This was the essence of the Good News that he preached—a message that would be sealed in his own blood on a Roman cross.

The second part of this parallelism reads “To set at liberty those who are oppressed,” which carries the same meaning as the first part of the parallelism that we have already considered.  But before reading this phrase Jesus inserted the words “And recovery of sight to the blind.”  This phrase does not appear in Isaiah 61:1-2 but is drawn from Isaiah 42:7, another Messianic prophecy.  Jesus’ inclusion of another passage here posed no ethical problem for his hearers.  According to Bailey, adding in bits of other passages to the synagogue readings was a commonly accepted practice.  But why did he do so? Bailey goes on to note that the Qumran community, a sect of Judaism known as the Essenes that lived near the Dead Sea, believed that the coming Messiah would heal the blind, suggesting that this expectation may have been common in Jesus’ day. But this reason alone would not have been sufficient for Jesus as he was not trying to win a popularity contest.

Isaiah’s reference to healing in 42:7 is similar to that of another well known Messianic prophecy which also flowed from his pen, Isaiah 53:5 “And by His stripes we are healed.” Isaiah and Luke both well understood that sickness entered the world through the Fall of Adam and Eve, making a connection between sin and sickness.  In both Messianic prophecies here, Isaiah also makes the connection between forgiveness and healing.  In this case, both forgiveness and healing are alluded to in the same parallelism here.  Liberty to captives comes from forgiveness and is consistent with Isaiah’s theology of forgiveness through vicarious suffering. 

While the passage comes from the prophet Isaiah, one cannot help but wonder if Luke included it here because, as a medical doctor, he had a deep interest in medical issues and mentions them throughout his gospel.  Blindness was a common malady in first century Judea. In some cases, it seems to have been carried by flies, although there were also cases of congenital blindness (i.e. John 9) (Blindness in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia accessed 4 August 2011).  Because blindness was common, it can be seen as representative of all illness and, therefore, indicates that the Messiah would heal all manner of disease.  Additionally, the term is used as a figure of speech to carry the connotation of spiritual blindness.

The hermeneutical question that needs to be addressed here is how Luke, the author of the account, intended for this reference to be understood.  Also, how did Jesus himself understand it? At first glance, the concept of spiritual blindness would appear to be in view because it fits the immediate context well.  Reflecting deeper, however, it is clear that Jesus himself understood this passage to refer to all manner of physical healing (Matthew 11:1-6). On a broader theological plane, the concepts of healing from both sin and sickness are linked throughout Scripture.  It seems clear, then, all three shades of meaning of the term are in view here, with the strongest interpretation being general physical healing because that this way Jesus himself understood this text. 

The implications of this parallelism and the phrase inserted by Jesus are astounding in what the Messiah would do.  Surely he would have a ministry like no other before him.  Whether Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled this prophecy is a question not yet totally answered.  But before this question can be dealt with as well as the reaction of his hearers to his claim to be the Messiah can be considered, there is one more parallelism that needs to be taken into account.  This and the reason that Jesus only quotes half of it will be the subject of the next blog.

*All Scripture references are from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted.

PLEASE NOTE: Permission is hereby given to forward, print, and post this blog as long as it is done as a complete blog, and its authorship is acknowledged. Thank you for your cooperation.  For automatic notification of future blogs please visit www.drdavejohnson.blogspot.com and click on “follow.”

Copyright 2011 Dr. Dave Johnson 

Monday, August 8, 2011

Update on Our Situation

Hello Friends,
As the days countdown to our August 31 deadline, I just wanted to let you know that we have received some more pledges and the need for monthly support now stands at around $860/per month.  If you can help us, please get a pledge form from http://www.daveanddebbiejohnson.com/, fill it out and send it in.
We did ask our mission leadership if they felt that we should stay longer to raise more funds, but they did not feel the Lord's leading that way and asked that the August 31 deadline that they had given us to remain in place, and we received their direction gladly.  We believe that divine order means submitting to godly leadership, so we are certain that it is God's time for us to return to the Philippines and trust him to bring in the remainder of the budget which, after all, is His problem because its His Kingdom!
We recently shipped over 500 pounds of personal effects to the Philippines and purchased our tickets to leave Grand Rapids on September 15 for Seattle to take care of some personal matters and spend time with Debbie's family before leaving for the Philippines on September 29.
We are looking forward to getting back to our labor of love for Jesus in our adopted homeland.
Remember that all giving should be channeled through your local church.
Again, if you have already informed us of your decision regarding support, please just take this as an appeal only for prayer.
May God give you his best today!
Dave and Debbie Johnson
Assemblies of God Missionaries to the Philippines