I’ve met some friends lately who have challenged my thinking and faith. I’ve met all of them at Coffeehouse On Cherry Street (CHOCS), and I’m thankful for them. that being said, let’s start this blog.
To begin, let’s talk about the first three words that are at the front of this blog. TOHU VA VOHU. This is pronounce Toe-Who Vaw Vo-Who. TOHU VA VOHU. This is my favorite set of words in the Hebrew language except possibly LAYELAH (law-ya-law) which means evening or night. I think that’s a beautiful word. But the thing about TOHU VA VOHU is that this little Hebrew phrase shows up in the first two verses of the Bible. This is how it goes from Genesis 1
1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and void, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. 3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.
TOHU VA VOHU is the phrase formless and void. It refers to something with no shape and no definition. Another translation might call it chaos. There’s a lot of nothing that has happened although something has begun. And then God said, “Let there be light.” God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening and there was morning–the first day. I love the poetic nature of evening and morning in the creation poem. It really is beautiful.
So what was Jesus doing from early childhood on? We have a cool manger scene. Some shepherds. Later on some magi. Then we have a prophesy or two made about Jesus. Then Joseph and Mary lose Jesus when he is twelve years old at the temple, which is either a story of humor in the Bible, or a story to remind us how easy it is for us to get on with our lives and forget that Jesus is supposed to be with us. You don’t just lose the Son of God once you have him.
After age 12, there really isn’t a whole lot about Jesus. Actually, in my Bible…there’s nothing. Until he’s 30. So what was Jesus doing all that time? I suggest he was doing carpentry and studying, maybe even from John the Baptist, who was possibly his rabbi. Check Ray Vanderlaan on that point. A guy I was talking to a week or so ago thinks Jesus was traveling globally, and learning from the wise men all over the world. Maybe. I don’t have a historical record there. But the world is big, and unless Jesus zipped up a Harry Potter like broom, or just decided to use some superpowers to get back and forth, I’m guessing he just lived in Israel. So what was Jesus doing? We don’t seem to know. We can guess, but we don’t know. Probably carpentry and learning.
I wonder if this was a bit of a let down for some people who heard a bit of the hype about Jesus. After Simeon and Anna had spoken over Jesus in the temple, it seemed like he had a super bright future, and now he’s just working with wood and studying. One day though, things change. Jesus life seems to be getting a bit more meaning. And this is how it happened.
Jesus came from Galilee and told John he wanted to be baptized. And John said you should baptize me. But Jesus said, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.
Now, as soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighthing on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
Sound familiar? Think back to creation. What is present in the beginning?
Water. The Spirit of God. The Voice of God.
What is present when Jesus is baptized?
Water. The Spirit of God. The Voice of God. (I think I heard this from N.T. Wright. What a genius.)
So it appears that there is a strong similarity to Creation and Jesus. So what is Jesus doing? Re-creation. New creation. A new thing. God’s new thing is being done through Jesus. All the symbols of creation are there, and now Jesus is being immersed, he’s being baptized into the process of creation. Suddenly, Jesus life has meaning. It has purpose. Or maybe it had meaning all along, we just didn’t notice until God spoke those words over him.
God starts with TOHU VA VOHU, but he doesn’t stop there. Because the creation poem is taking the chaos, the formless and void and bringing order to it. Filling it with purpose and giving it meaning. This is the work of God in the universe, and specifically our world from the beginning.
Here is a quick illustration I saw Rob Bell do in Everything is Spiritual (which you should watch).
Now, Jesus is called in Colossians 1:15, “The firstborn over all creation.” And 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” And Paul would even say in 2 Corinthians 3:18, “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” The idea of ever increasing glory is that of PI. It just continues on and on and on. It doesn’t stop. God has worked a new creation in your life through Christ and he takes the places in you that are formless and void, and continues to work His new creation. And he’s bringing new creation to this earth. To everything. Because he is making all things right. He is making all things right. He is making all things right.
This is what happens in baptism. We enter the new creation that Christ has begun, and become for all. And we don’t make ourselves a new creation. God does. It is His work. We simply submit to Him, and His Spirit as He powerfully works in us a new creation taking the TOHU VA VOHU places of your life, and giving them purpose and meaning. All glory goes to God for it is ALL him!