beliefs 3 – Jesus…

and so on to part 2 of the trinity…(slightly edited…21/12 3.30pm)

I believe that Jesus was/is the son of God. I believe that he gives us the best idea of what a life lived completely connected to God looks like, and yet at the same time shows us the reality of what a life of faith means. Being the son of God didn’t save him from poverty, from misunderstanding, from loneliness, from betrayal and from savage torture and eventual death. If we take seriously what the gospels tell us, we realise faith isn’t designed to be nice and easy, wrapped up in a consumable package.

I believe that Jesus is God crashing into our everyday reality and letting us know that we are not alone. I believe this is all about heaven touching earth and not retreating into the background but demanding the headlines. Jesus is heaven here and now. The kingdom has come. He launches us in the mission that God has invited us to be part of.  He is the messiah…the anointed one, the King who has come to rescue his people.

I believe that Jesus was/is the son of man – in other words that, as the old creeds say, he was fully God and yet fully man. Sometimes we seek to downplay this in our desire to point out the importance of the Christ. We miss the beauty of what this means – that we’re not aspiring to imitate some impossible, untouchable divinity, but a man. A man who was born in a grotty hole in the ground somewhere in an occupied country…a man whose parents were refugees for the first few years of his life. A man who as a boy probably got into all kinds of scrapes and got told off. A man who got angry, who seems to have been captivating and yet lost most of his friends as the going got tough.

When we read about his miracles, about the way in which he taught and lived, we can all too easily allocate this to his divinity. What if these were actually signs of what it means to be fully human? I struggle with this – because it holds us up to a much more challenging standard. It means I can’t shrug my shoulders and say “well, it was ok for him because he was God”…I don’t think we have quite grasped the depths of what this means to us.

I believe in the historical Jesus. The real, actual, the tangible. I’m not sure whether he knew the cross was his end destination from the beginning, or whether it was something that became inevitable because of what he was up to. I believe that he was killed, and that he was brought back to life as the first example of what fully bodily resurrection will look like in the future heaven and earth.

I believe Jesus cannot be claimed by any political tradition – right, middle, left. As much as I want him to be a first century Che I know he wasn’t. But I do know he was radical, revolutionary, dangerous to know. My instinct is that he would spend most of his time outside of the church as we understand it today, and that his teaching about Pharisees would be directed at us more often than we were comfortable.

I believe that at times Jesus is incredibly hard to understand, despite a couple of millennia of trying to interpret his teaching, but then that’s what makes him so compelling. Bonhoeffer talks about ‘costly discipleship’ – part of that cost is being misunderstood, misinterpreted, mocked, being written off as irrelevant. We are enticed to follow despite this cloud of mystery, despite the doubt this might bring – actually embracing the doubt and uncertainty is all part of faith for me.

You’ll get by now that for me faith isn’t about certainty – about everything being simple and easily digestible. The tension, the grey, is where my faith flourishes, where I feel beckoned onwards. The questions about why when I pray in faith, nothing happens. About whilst totally believing in the miraculous I feel strongly at times that we expect God to do stuff that we’re not willing to do anything about ourselves (but I’ll explore that in the next post, about the Spirit).

What I do know is that I want to follow Jesus, to live by his example in life, death and resurrection. I want to be identified as one of his, whatever that costs. I want to challenge the world’s view of Christians and point them to Jesus and say that this is what it’s all about, not what we in the church have made it to be. Maybe another post will explore that in more depth…

Jesus was, is and will always be utterly captivating. His life calls us to follow. He turns our world upside down. Read the gospels. Look at the best of what he’s inspired his people to be. Explore the worst of what the church has done through those lenses. Forgive us for when we’ve got it so, so wrong…even today.

Don’t expect it to all fall into place, for the world to suddenly become understandable. Expect confusion, uncertainty, doubt. Embrace it.

Jesus sums it up best when he tells us that faith is all about this: “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and all your strength” and “love your neighbour as you love yourself”. That’s where to start. The rest follows.

Jesus is love personified.  Jesus is hope personified.  That’s the Jesus I believe in.

So…what have I missed out?

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9 thoughts on “beliefs 3 – Jesus…

  1. Hey man, interesting series. For me, being influenced by N T Wrights work, I don’t think you can talk about Jesus and not talk about messiahship.

    1. Spot on – I’ve been reading a bit of Wright (Surprised by Hope) and totally agree that Jesus as Messiah is central to our understanding of who he was/is and the life he led. Bit of a big one to miss out…but that’s what happens when you’re bashing out your thoughts in a coffee shop! So, what would you write about that?

      M

    1. Hey man. I’ve just had chance to reread. Funnily enough there was a bigger oversight that I missed.

      (I haven’t read on yet, so might be covered later) you mention Jesus gets killed, but don’t go into much about what that means.

      You talk about the resurrection and new creation, but not much about the significance of his death.

      You do say it’s an example, And combined with the ‘love god, love neighbour’ being the place to start, it seems that you favour quite a works based faith.

      Is the key to understanding Jesus that we have to follow his example and do what he says?

      1. Thanks, Phil – really enjoying the dialogue!

        I think I do cover this generally elsewhere, but probably not sufficiently. It’s great to have someone calling me back to think a bit more about what I’m writing.

        Jesus’ death is something that I get a little nervous writing about – I guess because of the way it’s been hijacked by the penal substitution brigade. I think that there is an immense amount going on here, with many theological implications – but that fundamentally what’s happening is that God is taking decisive action to start to make all things right once again.

        I do think that our faith has to be lived out (my latest post covers this in more depth, I hope) – so although the eternal implications of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection are hugely important, for me the implications of what that means here and now in terms of the mission of God is vital.

        I don’t think that we work our way to salvation, far from it. I get the saved by faith/grace thing – but I think that faith without action is not faith.

        Does that help? Please do come back at me…I appreciate it!

  2. Couple of discussion points for you here. Regarding faith as being uncertainty, I’d have to disagree with you on that. Faith is the solid ground amid the unstableness of uncertainty: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrew 11:1) But I do agree that it’s faith that beckons us on and helps us grow and flourish when we’re in those grey areas, it’s faith that leads us through.

    Next, I believe that Jesus’ death is as significant as his resurrection. It’s very easy to emphasise one over the other, but they’re intrinsically linked and not just because he’d have to die to be resurrected. His message is controversial to the point of Him needing to be killed by the Jews, but that’s still not it. “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)

    His death brought salvation and redemption for us in this life and also in death. It also set the tone for the Kingdom, when you’re willing to sacrifice self out of love anything’s possible!

    1. Hey Dave,

      Great to hear from you brother…I thought you might weigh in at some point or the other.

      I think what I’m attempting to say here is that uncertainty doesn’t contradict faith. In fact, we believe despite the evidence, if that makes any kind of sense. Far too many people around us tell us that there can be no God because we cannot prove it. My argument is that this is exactly what faith is about – going beyond reason and logic. Absolutely.

      The verse that you quote can, I think, point us in the same direction. Faith is being certain of what we hope for. Hope is the crucial word. There is certainty in our hope, but actually, in terms of what we know of God, what we’ve spent the last two thousand years trying to theologise about – actually, that’s just scratching the surface. So although there are many things about which I am certain (I’ve tried to express this throughout the posts) there are many things about God that I’m completely uncertain about…and that’s the point of my faith. Despite uncertainty I believe. In fact, because of that uncertainty, I am beckoned on to believe, to search, to live it out.

      Does this make sense?

      On your second point – totally…the death is vital, and in some ways I’m guilty of underplaying my theology on this – slimy because I want to focus on what the resurrection is all about. The resurrection without the death makes no sense, but I also struggle with the focus on penal substitution that many make. The cross, the death, is so much more than that…I’m uncertain how much more, but I’m sure that it is. So instead of keeping Jesus nailed on the cross, or lying on the tomb, I look to the glorious resurrection morn, as do we all.

      Again, does that make any sense?

      Hope all is well with your beautiful family.

      Peace, brother,
      M

      1. Sounds spot on to me. Faith isn’t knowing everything, it’s about being comfortable not knowing everything and having a mechanism to learn more. Sometimes all we have is faith and hope!

        Absolutely agree, we DON’T want to keep Jesus on the cross or in the tomb. That job is done and he rose again. As Christians we often struggle to see the big picture – Christmas needs Easter, the resurrection needs the death. We tend to focus on one thing at a time, because that’s how our calendar works, but sometimes we need to just look back and see that the entire work is done.

        Interesting series, I’m enjoying slowly working my way through! 🙂

  3. Pingback: Missiome

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