Identity Crisis?

The Seventeenth Day of Lent. We encounter in today’s reading the question which has occupied minds and inaugurated arguments since the time Jesus walked the roads of Palestine: is it possible that this is more than a man we are encountering? John 7:25-31:

25 Some of the people of Jerusalem therefore said, “Is not this the man whom they seek to kill? 26 And here he is, speaking openly, and they say nothing to him! Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Christ? 27 But we know where this man comes from, and when the Christ appears, no one will know where he comes from.” 28 So Jesus proclaimed, as he taught in the temple, “You know me, and you know where I come from? But I have not come of my own accord. He who sent me is true, and him you do not know. 29 I know him, for I come from him, and he sent me.” 30 So they were seeking to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come. 31 Yet many of the people believed in him. They said, “When the Christ appears, will he do more signs than this man has done?

It is doubtful that there is any more challenging a thought than to believe that a man is also God–not a spark of the divine, not a replica or approximation, nor merely the closest thing to a divine being that humanity could produce, but truly God, the visible image of the invisible God, in whom all the fullness of deity dwells. So much hinges on this belief that the early church leaders took several looks at it over the course of the first four and one half centuries, making certain to get it right. Contrary to the notion popularized by Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code, the doctrine of the two natures in one person was not the result of political force, but the unavoidable conclusion of a reality experienced by great numbers of believers and inexplicable except by this premise. And the premise itself is the only conclusion consistent with the scriptural record taken in its entirety.

It is easy for us to denigrate the people of Jesus’ time for their reluctance to accept the “obvious” identity of Jesus. It is hard to imagine that anyone would ever find it easy. So it was in the beginning, so it is in our own time as well; if there is a god at all, it certainly isn’t conceivable that we could find him in human form. We are tempted to downplay the doctrine for the sake of being acceptable; yet we give away more than we might expect when we do so. A person less than God does not know any more about God than can be learned by being in this world, and therefore cannot truly reveal him. I suspect that is the meaning of our Lord’s statement concerning where he comes from–beyond Nazareth, that is.

Of all the possible implications of this truth about Christ, one that has occupied y thinking for some time has been that when we see Jesus in the Gospel accounts, we see God. What that means is that being like him, imitating him, putting on godliness–whatever phrase best expresses our calling as Christians, we are not dealing with an esoteric command or unimaginable goal. We see how he handles opposition, how he handles those who haven’t got a clue or the time to find one in front of their faces. It’s never with an anger born of a need to convince oneself; it’s with the calm confidence in the one who sent him that speaks for itself when challenged.

As indicated, I believe there are multiple implications of the truth of who Jesus is. I’d welcome your insights into some of those.

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