Stockholm was an easy and comfortable 5-hour train ride on the SJ X2000 (with in-train wifi) from Copenhagen.
The interior architecture of Stockholm C (Stockholm Central Station) was a good indicator of how the rest of the city would be: not ostentatiously design-conscious, but sort of like that conservative relative who has kept their understated 1970s stuff so well that it is ready for the return of the trend.
Chatted with S over very good fried herring (no excess oil or batter; fresh fish) at Nystekt Strömming (just outside Slussen station, Södermalm), about life as a Swede. Was very glad to hear about how instrumental the Nordic Chinese Christian Church summer camps had been in her coming to faith. Still, it’s not just starting the race that is important, but persevering and ending well. This comes not by clinging on to some historical commitment doggedly, but in learning more and more about this Jesus in whom we have put our trust. And his trustworthiness shines through very clearly in the Bible, but poor preaching and teaching unfortunately often obscures this!
An inspirational verse for the day here and a verse-hop through Scripture there to find back-up for my latest crackpot-or-not theory makes use of the Bible for our own ends rather than letting it show us the character of God and Jesus. Which is why expositional preaching and teaching (that is, working systematically through a book of the Bible) and a good grasp of biblical theology is important.
After lunch, we paid a visit to Drop Coffee Roasters a few streets away. It was crowded and hot, but both the flat whites and almond pastries were excellent. And I guess tasting that the Lord is good and trustworthy and glorious is just as plain from reading any bit of the Bible.
So, take the second bit of chapter 1 of John’s Gospel:
19 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” 22 So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord’, as the prophet Isaiah said.”
24 (Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) 25 They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26 John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, 27 even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” 28 These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
29 The next day he saw Jesus coming towards him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”
35 The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. 40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). 42 He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).
43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming towards him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree’, do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” 51 And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
It amazes me how big the Bible is on giving more than sufficient evidence to enable us to trust that what Jesus claims of himself is true. After all that mindblowing stuff in the first part of John 1, you’d be waiting for John to back-up that bluster. Here, he names three incredible witnesses:
- John the Baptist (a big historical figure, mind. Josephus wrote about him in Antiquities of the Jews) – Herod might have perceived him as a threat, but missed the bigger threat to whom John the Baptist was pointing: Jesus. The whole aim of John’s ministry was to prepare people for the arrival of the king, “the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord” (as prophesied by Isaiah, oh, maybe 700 years before. See Isaiah 40:3 and Malachi 4:5.).
- God the Father himself – now part of John the B’s witness was to observe and proclaim that God the Father himself had borne witness that Jesus was the Son of God, by the visible descent of the Spirit on him (this again had been prophesied by Isaiah. See Isaiah 42:1.)
- the Old Testament – not only did were these events prophesied by Isaiah. It was clear that the Jews had already been waiting for the fulfilment of other prophesies in the Old Testament (Moses and the prophets): the coming of the Lamb of God, the Prophet (Deuteronomy 18:15), the anointed one (the Messiah, Christ), the Son of Man (Daniel 7).
As we end this passage in John, Jesus says rather tantalisingly to Nathanael,”…you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”, a reference to Jacob’s dream in Genesis 28:10-12 where he saw angels going up and down from heaven on a ladder. So Jesus is promising to be the one who links earth to heaven, who is the path to God, who enables the fulfilment of God’s covenants.
But we’ll need to read on in the Gospel of John to see how all this panned out! Exciting stuff.