March 18, 2013
Jesus is alive--still!
Some expressions of Christian teaching tend to minimize this stunning, vital truth. Jesus is not a mere historical personage. Jesus is not a concept. Jesus is alive--still!
Discussions about Christian living often emphasize that we should model our lives after Jesus--"live like Jesus lived" or "walk as Jesus walked," we say. But in making such statements are we overlooking the reality that Jesus still lives?
Christian teaching often memorializes Jesus rather than focusing on the reality of his ongoing incarnate life, which includes his ongoing presence with us through the Holy Spirit. A theologian friend once challenged me on this point by asking, "Does Jesus still have new thoughts?"
Think about that for a moment. Is the way of Jesus only a past record of how Jesus used to think and act--one that we should remember and memorialize?. Or is it a living way--a present, active, reality--one that we are called to share?
Certainly, we should remember the past thoughts and actions of Jesus. The gospels are a wonderful, reliable record that facilitates such remembering. But the purpose of the remembering is not that we should live life looking in the "rear-view mirror," but that we should be able to recognize the present thoughts and actions of Jesus and then share actively in them.
Indeed, in his essential character and purpose, Jesus is "the same yesterday and today and forever" (Heb 13:8). Because that is so, the gospels accurately show us what Jesus is like today. That objective biblical record helps us avoid "all kinds of strange teachings" (v9) that would lead us astray from the way of Jesus. It also helps us to recognize the present activity of Jesus so that we might participate.
What we have to be careful about is to not think that being "the same yesterday and today and forever" means that Jesus has no new thoughts--that he is bound to think and act in exactly the same way that he did 2,000 years ago. That would mean viewing Jesus as "stuck" in a former cultural context--stuck inflexibly to the tactics that he used in first-century Judea.
Limiting Jesus that way would "freeze" him in the past in a now non-existent cultural setting. Doing so would not be true to Jesus, who (and I'll say it again) is very much alive! He has new thoughts--not because his essential character and purpose have changed, but because the world, in which he is presently ministering, has changed (is changing and will change).
It seems to me that we Christians are often more bound up with tradition, past methods and strategies than is our living, active, Savior Jesus. He is creative, flexible, innovative--he will do whatever it takes, using whatever tactics work in today's world, to accomplish his settled purpose (to seek and save what is lost), which is an expression of his unchanging character (love).
This Easter, thank God that Jesus rose and still lives. And thank the Father, that through the Spirit, that life is being shared with us and with all humanity. Dive in!
Posted by Ted Johnston