Christianity 201

June 3, 2018

I Am

A worship liturgy by Ruth Wilkinson

In the gospel of Matthew, we read of Jesus asking his followers, “Who do you say that I am?

In the gospel of Mark, we read of Jesus asking his followers, “Who do you say that I am?

In the gospel of Luke, we read of Jesus asking his followers, “Who do you say that I am?

In the gospel of John, we read of Jesus giving us vocabulary to help us answer this question. To understand who he is.

Jesus told them, “I am the bread of life.
Anyone who comes to me will never be hungry, and anyone who believes in me will never be thirsty again.

Jesus spoke to them again: “I am the light of the world.
Anyone who follows Me will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life.

Jesus said again, “I assure you: I am the door.
Anyone who enters by me will be saved. They will come in and go out and find pasture.

Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth and the life.
Anyone who comes to the Father comes through me.

Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches.
Anyone who abides in Me, and I in him, produces much fruit.
If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown aside like a branch and he withers.

Jesus told them, “I am the good shepherd.
Anyone who knows me knows my voice. I know My own sheep, and they know Me. I lay down My life for the sheep.

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.
Anyone who believes in me, even if he dies, will live. Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die — ever.
Do you believe this?

✞ ✞ ✞

He tells us to see him:

As the good bread, and the living water: the one who satisfies the most fundamental needs of our souls;
As the light of life: the one who makes our path visible, who gives us understanding, who kills our fear;
As the door: the only way in – to shelter – and the only way out – to freedom;
As the way, the truth, the life: the one who gives us access to the Father;
As the vine: the one who gives us roots and certainty, identity and provision, growth and fruit;
As the shepherd: the one who provides protection and gives guidance;
As the resurrection: the one who gives us hope, not only in the forever, but today and next Monday and right now.

But as with all of God’s promises, there’s a flip-side.

His promises come with the expectation, the demand, that we choose to receive. That we choose to say yes.

Yes, I will hear your voice.
Yes, I will come.
Yes, I will enter.
Yes, I will abide.
Yes, I will produce your fruit.
Yes, I will live.
Yes, I will die.
Yes, I will live again.
Yes, I will believe.

April 20, 2014

The Divine One Became Human

God is not a man

Numbers 23:19 God is not human, that he should lie,
    not a human being, that he should change his mind.
Does he speak and then not act?
    Does he promise and not fulfill?

The “God is not a man that he should lie” text may seem out of place on Easter Sunday. I hope to show how it fits.

Two women were having coffee on the back deck of a home overlooking a ravine. The 7-yearold son of the hostess walked out from the woods covered in mud, holding a hammer and a piece of wood and sporting a small cut on his forehead. The woman who was a guest couldn’t help but laugh at the sight, prompting the hostess to remark, “What can I say, he’s all boy.”

So was the incarnate Christ all human or all divine?  I believe that scripture teaches us that the second person of the triune God was all human in that he entered fully into the human experience, but that he was supremely divine.

What does it mean to be human?

Gen 1:26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness…

We are somehow a reflection of God, but let’s not confuse that by thinking that God is not a whole lot different than us.  He is wholly different from us.  (See last month’s article on Transcendence.)

Next down the list of “beings” are the angels. And then we’re third on the list:

Psalm 8:4 what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
    human beings that you care for them?You have made thema little lower than the angels
    and crowned them with glory and honor.

This verse is reiterated in the New Testament:

Hebrews 2:7 You made them a little lower than the angels;
    you crowned them with glory and honor

So the hierarchy looks something like this:

  1. God
  2. Angels
  3. Mankind
  4. Horses
  5. Ants
  6. Cats

…well to some of you anyway. (I’m a cat-lover, but I know some of you feel the list is accurate!)

So the second part of God, who is three-in-one, doesn’t decide to enter our world as an angel — though some teach that this happens in what are called theophanies — but instead appears as a man.

And so we find this verse in Hebrews,

Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—

which many might quote to show the humanity of Christ, but the verse in full reads:

Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.

That’s what it means to be divine.

Which is why I believe I can state with authority that Jesus was fully human, but was (and is) supremely divine.

It’s in that context that I was struck by the passage in Numbers we started with today. It’s the nature of humankind to lie. So Jesus enters in the the human condition, which is a condition filled with the vulnerabilities that led Eve and Adam to disobey.  The text in Numbers, “God is not a man that he should lie;” which is a prophetic word from God given through Balaam, reminds me of two things:

  1. Though co-creator and sustainer with God the Father and God the Spirit of all that we see on this planet, it is contrary to the very nature of God to enter into the human condition.  It would be like one of us incarnating into the form of one of the beings lower on the above list.
  2. Despite this, it was in the nature of humanity, the nature of us, that when one such as Jesus appeared, we killed him. If you met someone who never told a lie, would your first reaction be to kill them? I guess that depends on what they were being honest with you about!

The reason that Jesus was the perfect sacrifice is that he was “yet without sin.”  Despite his humanity, despite a 40-day fast in wilderness conditions, Christ showed himself triumphant over the worst temptations his greatest enemy had to offer.

Christ became human, but God is not a man. “What if God were one of us?” is the wrong question. “How can we become like God?” is also the wrong question.  The question is, and always has been,

Matthew 22:42 “What do you think about the Christ?

You can go to church when the pastor is preaching from I Corinthians 13, and totally get the whole thing about love. You can go to church when the minister is speaking from Ephesians 5 and grab on to the idea of mutual submission in marriage.

But if you only go on Christmas and Easter, you’re picking the two most obvious markers on the Jesus timeline, but also the two most difficult topics. I will never grasp the intricacies of incarnation and atonement. The more I look at these, the more I am lost in the absolute otherness of God’s ways and plans.

I stand in total awe and wonder at Amazing Love.

June 19, 2012

Now Versus Then

This appeared earlier this week at the blog at Blue Letter Bible, an online Bible search engine, where it was titled, As-He-Is vs. As-He-Was.

  1. As He is. He is walking in majesty in the midst of the Churches. “…who walks among the seven golden lampstands” (Revelation 2:1).
    As He was. He was seen in humiliation, and in the midst of two thieves, crucified. “There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them” (John 19:18).
  2. As He is. He is seen in garments of glory, representing the glory of His person. …clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest” (Revelation 1:13).
    As He was. He was stripped of His garments, and made a spectacle to men, demons, and angels. “When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts” (John 19:23).
  3. As He is. His eyes are as flames of fire―reminding us of His all-seeingness. “His eyes were like a flame of fire” (Revelation 1:14).
    As He was. Those eyes lost their brightness in death, and closed under the load of sin. “…and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (John 19:30).
  4. As He is. His feet are as burning and polished brass―telling us of His durability and deity. “his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace” (Revelation 1:15).
    As He was. Those feet were nailed to the Cross. “See my hands and my feet…” (Luke 24:39).
  5. As He is. His voice is as the sound of many waters, reminding us of the power of His word. “his voice was like the roar of many waters” (Revelation 1:15).
    As He was. His voice was hushed in death. “…they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead…” (John 19:33).
  6. As He is. His hand is mighty to hold, and to help us. “In his right hand he held seven stars” (Revelation 1:16).
    As He was. Those hands were pierced, and nailed to the accursed tree. “…they have pierced my hands and fee…” (Psalm 22:16).
  7. As He is. Out of His mouth, goes a sharp two-edged sword―telling us of His power to destroy His enemies. “…from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword…” (Revelation 1:16).
    As He was. He opened not His mouth, but was smitten by the officer over the mouth. “…so he opened not his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7).
  8. As He is. His face is as the sun shining in his strength. “his face was like the sun shining in full strength” (Revelation 1:16).
    As He was. That face was marred, spit on, the hair plucked from, and the rude hand of man insulted. “As many were astonished at you— his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance…” (Isaiah52:14).