Bruce Manning Metzger was born in Middletown, Pennsylvania, and earned a BA from Lebanon Valley College in 1935. Metzger had strong training in Greek before entering Princeton Theological Seminary, having read through the Bible twelve times prior to his matriculation.
In 1938 after receiving his first seminary degree he began teaching at Princeton Theological Seminary. Two years later he began instructing in the New Testament and earned his PhD from Princeton University with a thesis entitled, Studies in a Greek Gospel Lectionary.
Among his many distinctions Metzger was the chief editor of the 1952 Revised Standard Version of the Bible. He was a visiting fellow at Clare Hall, Cambridge and Wolfson College, Oxford. In 1971 he was elected president of both the Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas and the Society of Biblical Literature. In 1978 he was elected corresponding fellow of the British Academy, the highest distinction for persons who are not residents of the United Kingdom. In his career he wrote twenty-six books, offered five translations of the Bible, and produced scores of scholarly articles.
These are just a few of his distinctions. When he retired at age 70 it was said that, “Metzger’s unrivaled knowledge of the relevant languages, ancient and modern, his balanced judgment, and his painstaking attention to detail has won him respect across the theological and academic spectrum.”
The reason I mention all of this is because this week’s sermon, “The Way Forward”, the third in our series, “A Charge to Keep”, reminds me of him. You see, when I was at Princeton Theological Seminary (1982-1984), Dr. Bruce Metzger was not only a frequent professor of mine, but my academic advisor. The year I graduated was the year he retired from Princeton. (Maybe I did him in!)
But you know what I remember most about Dr. Metzger? More than his fame and erudition was his extraordinary humility, evidenced most clearly in his prayers. Unlike many other professors, Metzger would never begin a lecture without prayer. Rather than a stern, high-brow prayer, he’d stand before the class, bow his silver-haired head and begin, “Father, we give you humble and hearty thanksgiving this day…” And from there it was as if every one of us was given total access to his private prayer closet. I remember with wonder the intimacy of those prayers. It was as if no one was with him, but Jesus.
If you have read this Sunday’s text then you know where I am going with all this. The second command of Christ, the one we will consider this week, comes directly out of the intimate prayer life of Jesus. It’s one of the few places in all the Gospel where we have a verbatim of Jesus’ prayer. And it’s in this prayer that Jesus utters some of the most precious words ever spoken to the believing heart. It’s an extraordinary invitation and command.
In preparation for Sunday’s message you may wish to consider the following:
- What prompts Jesus’ prayer in Matthew 11:25-30?
- What is Jesus declaring about His Father?
- What is He saying about Himself?
- What is He saying about those to whom He chooses to reveal Himself?
- Why does Jesus call His Father’s will “gracious” in verse 26?
- What is necessary for us to have in order to accept Jesus’ invitation in verse 28?
- What is this “rest” of which He speaks?
- What is the connection between “coming to Him” and taking on His yoke?
- What is His yoke? Why does He call it “easy” and “light”?
- What does wearing His yoke look like?