Mass Study Notes for Sunday, 11-22-2015
Welcome back to the Sunday Mass notes for 11-22-2015. This week we will see the rulership of Jesus from three different angles in the readings from the Mass. The first reading is an Old Testament prophecy about His dominion and kingdom being an everlasting establishment. The second reading, from the book of Revelation in the New Testament, confirms the eternal dominion and power that Jesus has, but also adds a sense of personal tenderness towards us who believe in Him. The last reading, from the Gospel of John, chronicles the self-revelation of Jesus as King, recognizing that His kingdom was not of this world. Although his kingship was misunderstood and missed by many in His first advent, it will not be misunderstood at His second advent.
Introduction to the First Reading:
The first reading is from the Book of Daniel Chapter 7. The first six chapters of the Book record mostly historical events with some prophecy. However, as we move into chapter seven, Daniel records visions given to him from God concerning future events. These prophetic messages were given to Daniel by God during various times during his life. The context of Chapter 7 was a message given to Daniel “In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon” (Daniel 7:1), meaning it was before the overthrow of the Babylonian Empire by the Medo Persian forces under Cyrus the Great. There is some debate as to the identity of Belshazzar, who was most likely an overlord that reigned under the authority of the King. In examining historical sources it is also likely that Belshazzar was either the son or grandson of the famous King Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel’s visions in the first 12 verses of chapter 7 are of four successive empires beginning with Babylon depicted by a lion (v 4). The second is Medo / Persia depicted by a bear. The third is the Greek Empire pictured by a leopard, King Alexander, with four wings picturing his four generals to whom his kingdom was divided after his fast and furious life. Finally, the last empire is a “dreadful and terrible beast” depicting both the Roman Empire in the shorter term and in the long term a restored Roman-like empire corresponding to Babylon the Great in the Book of Revelation. Daniel said about this one, “After this I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrifying and extremely strong; and it had large iron teeth. It devoured and crushed and trampled down the remainder with its feet; and it was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns” (Daniel 7:7). Another ruler called the “little horn” (v. 8) will arise from among the last empire with a “mouth uttering great boasts” (v. 8f). This “little horn” was prefigured by King Antiochus IV Epiphanes who tormented the Jews in the third century BC as recorded in the book of 1 Maccabees. This “antichrist of the Old Testament” is a type of the person that will exist during the end times. This is the person spoken of in Revelation 13:2 – 10 with language very similar to that of the Prophet Daniel.
This introduction brings us to today’s reading in which we see a vision in heaven that pictures the kingdom of Jesus being presented to Him by God the Father. At the end of the age after four world empires have controlled the world with the last one devouring the ones that came before it, God will finally claim the kingdom that is rightfully His after putting down the evil rulers that had come before.
Daniel 7:13-14 NAS95 13 "I kept looking in the night visions, And behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, And He came up to the Ancient of Days And was presented before Him. 14 And to Him was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom, That all the peoples, nations and men of every language Might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion Which will not pass away; And His kingdom is one Which will not be destroyed.”
Daniel clearly saw a revelation of the Lord Jesus Who was to come, as Jesus used this same terminology in referring to Himself in Matthew 24:30, “And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory.” Jesus also called Himself the Son of Man in John 5:27. When Jesus returns to set up His kingdom on earth, “His dominion [will be] everlasting . . . [and] one which will not be destroyed.”
From this passage in Daniel we find out a few very important details about the future that should inform us for our lives today. The first detail is the description of Jesus as the Son of Man. This was Jesus’ most common way of referring to himself as recorded in the Gospels. Why would He describe Himself as such (and not choose Son of God as His preferred self-reference)? It may be that He knew we would be able to revere Him as the divine Son of God, but realized that we may have trouble picturing Him as a man. Jesus’ identity as fully God and fully man is a mystery to us, but is nonetheless important. As the second Adam, He fulfilled (as a man) the righteous requirements of the law (Romans 8:3-4), what the first Adam could not do. And in that, He provides salvation for us if we unite ourselves with Him. A second key point, is that Jesus is given dominion, glory and a kingdom for all people to serve Him. If this is the case for eternity (and this is good for us in the future), then our servanthood to Jesus the King should be good for us today. Some people agonize over the “sacrifice” it is to be a Christian. Well, really, the sacrifice is only toward the self-ruled life, which is destructive to our soul anyways. In reality, Jesus’ is a good King, so when we let Him rule in our life each day, we are living the life we were designed to live. Jesus said that He came to bring life and that more abundantly (John 10:10). Can we trust Him to do this in us even now?
In these days of chaos before Jesus returns, we can look with confident hope that one day Jesus will return to set up His perfect kingdom on earth in fulfillment of this promise in Daniel. Jesus will take the dominion and kingdom back from Satan that was given to him for a short time (2 Corinthians 4:4), in light of eternity. As we encounter disturbing events in our world today, we can live with an eternal perspective which banks on the fact that God wins.
Introduction to the Second Reading:
The reading is from the Book of Revelation. The context of the reading is the beginning of the Book, in which John introduces Jesus as the rightful Ruler of the earth in very similar language to what we just read from Daniel.
Revelation 1:5-8 NAS95 5 and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood-- 6 and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father--to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. 7 BEHOLD, HE IS COMING WITH THE CLOUDS, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen. 8 "I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty."
In the reading we see John’s testimony about the identity of Jesus as “the faithful witness” (one who tells the truth and who’s words are reliable, John 18:37); “firstborn of the dead” (the first and preeminent of all those who will rise from the dead, Romans 8:29); “ruler of the kings of the earth” (the highest power); the One “who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood” (He created a way for us to be made free from the slavery of sin and death by His great love, Romans 6:1-23); and Who “made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father” (His goal is to make His followers into a united people group who serves God the Father with our lives) (vv. 5 – 6). In verse 7 we see the return of the Lord Jesus as we read in Daniel, the One Who will come in the clouds to fulfill the prophecy given by the angels in Acts 1:11 regarding how Jesus would return where they said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.” Furthermore, John quoted from an important prophecy of Zechariah which predicted the ultimate acceptance of Jesus by His people the Jews. Zechariah predicted the events regarding Jesus return: “I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn” (Zechariah 12:10). Finally, John describes Jesus as the first and last, the “Alpha and Omega,” a statement which forms a bookend in the Book of Revelation where it is repeated in the closing section in Revelation 21:6 and 22:13. This is a way of saying that Jesus is A to Z and everything in between. He is everything we need.
We can be confident that one day Jesus will return to establish His rightful place on earth as the Ruler of the universe. He released us from our sins by His blood—a great sacrifice on His part. What a wonderful Savior. May we live in the freedom He has granted us, giving our lives back to Him as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2).
Introduction to the Gospel Reading:
The Gospel reading is from Saint John chapter 18. The context is just after Jesus was betrayed by Judas and arrested in the garden across from the Kidron Valley (John 13:1). Jesus was bound and led first to Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas the high priest that year (John 18:13). Annas was the one who had prophesied that it would be better for one man to die than for the rest of the nation to perish (John 18:14). Jesus was interrogated by Annas, with Peter following at a distance (vv. 15-17). Next, Jesus was led to Caiaphas the high priest (v. 24), then finally into the Praetorium where He appeared before Pontius Pilate. While Annas and Caiaphas were the Jewish rulers, Pilate was the Roman ruler, who could sentence a prisoner to death.
John 18:33-37 NAS95 33 Therefore Pilate entered again into the Praetorium, and summoned Jesus and said to Him, "Are You the King of the Jews?" 34 Jesus answered, "Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about Me?" 35 Pilate answered, "I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered You to me; what have You done?" 36 Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm." 37 Therefore Pilate said to Him, "So You are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice."
In the reading Jesus affirmed His rightful rulership of the world, although He had not yet established His kingdom on earth as it already was so in heaven. Jesus’ kingdom was at this time a kingdom not on earth, but rather one in the hearts of the people who believed. Jesus said, “Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” (v. 37). The subjects of His kingdom are those who come to Him in faith who follow His truth. As we see in 1 John, “We will know by this that we are of the truth, and will assure our heart before Him” (1 John 3:19). Just as Jesus’ rulership and kingdom were mocked and discarded, we as His followers face similar persecution because of our belief in Him. Jesus said, “In this world you will have tribulation, but take heart, for I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). We must learn how to live in the tension of the now as we wait for the “not yet”—our future with Him. The fact that He endured the mistreatment of those in power gives us hope and strength to endure the mistreatment of the world as it mocks and marginalizes the Gospel message. These are opportunities to walk by faith not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7) and be a citizen of heaven (Phil. 3:20), thus showing the veracity of Christ’s rulership in our lives.
What does this mean for us today? The readings today have shown us that Jesus truly is the Alpha and Omega, the rightful ruler of the universe. One day He will return to His rightful place to rule and reign on the earth. Until then we can trust in the promise of His return and look forward to the salvation of our souls. Second, we can trust that once we believe in the Lord Jesus for our salvation and not in any “good” works that we do (Ephesians 2:8-9) we can have assurance that we have eternal life. God tells us that if we believe, then we can presume that we have eternal life. “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13). Finally, we as we continue to study and understand the prophecies about Jesus’ return, we can begin to see the events of the world taking shape as Jesus’ coming becomes more imminent. These events should not cause us alarm but rather give motivation to expand our ministry efforts to reach lost people with the saving message of the Gospel.
Bottom Line: Questions for Reflection
1. There were several descriptions of Jesus that were shared in the Mass passages this week. Take some time and reflect on one or two from the list below and make a connection between the description and how that can impact your perspective:
- Ruler of an everlasting Kingdom
- Son of Man
- Faithful witness
- First born of the dead
- Ruler of the kings of the earth
- The one who loves us and released us from sin by his blood
- The one who made us to be a kingdom
- The one who made us to be priests, to serve God
- The one who was pierced
- The Alpha and Omega
- The one who is and was and is to come
- The King of the Jews
- The one who’s kingdom is not of this world, but of another realm
2. If Jesus is King, how is His kingship displayed in your life? Are there ways that you are intentionally surrendering your self-rule in order to be ruled by Him? What areas does His kingship make sense in your life and motivate you to order your life around His values and priorities? Take time to reaffirm your desire to see Jesus’ will override your self-will. What areas of your life need to be surrendered to His kingship? Take time to confess these areas of resistance to His rightful reign and ask Him to help you surrender, even in these war zones.
Note: For a listing of readings for the Roman Catholic Mass, visit this web site:
Online Scripture verses for most Bible versions can be found at: http://www.biblegateway.com/