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William Atkinson: Jesus before Pentecost

Atkinson concludes this chapter poignantly:

What the feeding of the five thousand represented was further recalled and highlighted at the last supper. … While there was no miraculous multiplication of the bread on this latter occasion, his words pointed forwards … to the cross that lay soon ahead. … Perhaps he foresaw that countless thousands, not just five thousand, would benefit from the breaking of this latter bread. He was to give his life for the world (78).

Healer. In this chapter, Atkinson informs the reader that not only does he write as a Pentecostal but also as a medical doctor (Edinburgh), before entering ordained ministry (80). Here he engages with scholars and leaders of his own denomination.

What might be gained by looking at Jesus through Pentecostal eyes?

Pentecostals, Atkinson writes (as a medical doctor as well as a divine), believing as they do in supernatural healing, bring a helpful perspective to the miraculous healings performed by Jesus. Ever cautious (some might say to a fault), Atkinson does not claim that Pentecostals are “better” at reading the healing accounts, but that “they come to the task with a particular set of equipment” (80). He believes that there is “sufficient likelihood” that healings occurring today are analogous to the healings that occurred in Jesus’s ministry, thus it is reasonable that some trust “be placed in the light that shines on the text when the eyes reading it are Pentecostal” (80).

This chapter goes on to discuss in brief but substantial ways the very claims of miracles in Jesus’s ministry, the origin of sickness in Jesus’s thought, Jesus’s authority over evil spirits, and the role of the subject’s faith and to whom it should be directed.

However, the last two sections were the most interesting and meaningful. First, he discusses healings and the identity of Jesus. Noting that Jesus acknowledged that there were other exorcists around (Mark 9:8), he did not see his ministry as simply continuing their good work,

but as uniquely eschatological in character (Luke 11:20)… . Satan’s defeat had begun … repentance—a return to God the king—should follow. …

Jesus regarded his healings as signs and expected people to look beyond the healings themselves and to look at him, Jesus, in their light. He is the one prophesied by John. … Healings should in this sense incite faith that Jesus was acting on behalf of Israel’s God (John 11:42). (104, 105)

Finally, Atkinson lays out the case that Jesus’s healing ministry, ironically, led to his death (107). Jesus healed on the Sabbath, and to the consternation of the temple leaders who confronted him, deliberately continued to do so. According to John, the raising of Lazarus from the dead “led directly to Jesus’ being arrested and executed (John 11:53)” (108). The Sabbath healings in Galilee and Jerusalem and the “climactic healing of Lazarus near Jerusalem would seal those earlier thoughts and plans: Jesus would have to die” (113).

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Category: Biblical Studies, Fall 2018

About the Author: Robert W. Graves, M. A. (Literary Studies, Georgia State University), is the co-founder and president of The Foundation for Pentecostal Scholarship, Inc., a non-profit organization supporting Pentecostal scholarship through research grants. He is a Christian educator and a former faculty member of Southwestern Assemblies of God College in Waxahachie, Texas, and Kennesaw State University (adjunct). He edited and contributed to Strangers to Fire: When Tradition Trumps Scripture and is the author of Increasing Your Theological Vocabulary, Praying in the Spirit (1987 and Second Edition, 2017) and The Gospel According to Angels (Chosen Books, 1998).

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