June 6, 2016 • Life for Leaders
He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
As we draw near to the end of the book of Revelation, we find a simple, three-word prayer: “Come, Lord Jesus.” This prayer might be simple, but its implications are profound. In today’s Life for Leaders devotion, I will begin to reflect with you on ways in which “Come, Lord Jesus” can make a significant difference in our faith and life.
Our belief that Jesus is Lord and God is consistent with the experience, expressions, and prayers of the very earliest Christians as their lives were transformed through the life, teaching, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
For the most part, Life for Leaders makes connections between Scripture, God, and work. Every now and then, however, the text of the day deserves a comment that isn’t obviously related to work. Today is such a day. I want to explain how “Come, Lord Jesus” can strengthen your faith in a world that increasingly denies the lordship and deity of Christ. Tomorrow I’ll begin to make connections between “Come, Lord Jesus” and our work.
I expect you have heard a common objection to Christian faith that runs something like this: “Jesus was just a good man, even a holy man. But he was not God. His earliest followers did not think he was God. Belief in divinity of Jesus came much later, as Christians were influenced by paganism in the Greco-Roman world. Because there were so many other gods in their culture, later Christians began to think of Jesus as a god. Plus, they needed to compete with other religions for followers, so they turned Jesus into a god. But this was a late cultural add-on. It was never part of early Christian belief.”
The prayer, “Come, Lord Jesus,” provides persuasive evidence that this objection to the deity of Christ fails on historical grounds. In addition to appearing in Revelation 22:20, a version of this prayer can be found in 1 Corinthians 16:22, “Come, Lord!” In the original text of 1 Corinthians, the Greek letters actually represent Aramaic words, marana tha, “Lord, come!” This shows that Paul, writing to the Corinthians about twenty years after the death and resurrection of Jesus, was intentionally quoting one of the prayers used by the Aramaic speaking church, the earliest congregation of Jesus’ followers.
Much could be said about why this matters. (Indeed, I’ve written extensively about it in a blog series, Was Jesus Divine?) But two points stand out. First, the earliest believers in Jesus, who were Jewish, called Jesus “Lord,” a sacred title they reserved for God alone. Second, these earliest Jewish Christians prayed to Jesus as they prayed to God. So, it’s highly likely that many of the very first Christians did indeed regard Jesus as divine in some strong sense, since they addressed him with the sacred name reserved for God and prayed to him as if he were God.
Obviously, I’ve only begun to scratch the surface of what is a much more complex conversation about early Christian Christology. I’ve done this today because I know that many Christians feel unsure when they hear popular objections to their faith, especially when delivered by apparent experts in the field. Sometimes these objections make it into the workplace, offered up by a colleague who says, “Hey, did you see that latest book by [add scholar’s name here]? It shows that Jesus really isn’t divine after all.” In my experience, and I’ve spent a good bit of my life studying these things, the more we examine carefully the real evidence before us, the more we can have confidence that Christian claims about Jesus are not just fantasies. Our belief that Jesus is Lord and God is consistent with the experience, expressions, and prayers of the very earliest Christians as their lives were transformed through the life, teaching, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
Tomorrow, I’ll begin to reflect on ways in which the prayer in Revelation 22:20, “Come, Lord Jesus,” matters for our work. For now, let me encourage you to reflect on the following questions.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
Do you ever encounter objections to Christian faith that are troubling to you? What do you do when this happens?
Do you ever ask Jesus to come in your prayers? If not, why not? If so, what do you mean by this prayer?
Come, Lord Jesus!
It’s good to be reminded that when we pray this simple prayer, Lord, we are joining the chorus of your followers, even from the earliest days of the church. We echo their desire for you to come. And we reaffirm their conviction and ours that you are not just human, but also God.
Help us to have confidence in this truth, Lord. Show us, we pray, how we can live each day, in every situation of our lives, in light of the fact that you, Lord Jesus, are indeed God in the flesh, God with us, Immanuel. Amen.
Explore online Bible commentary: The Meaning of Revelation for Our Work at the Theology of Work Project.
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.