ST ANDREW'S UNITING CHURCH
Chapter 4: Jesus Christ
In order to eliminate Sin in our world God could have taken back the free wills given to humans, but has not done so for the reason previously mentioned. To live as God intends, morally imperfect humans would need a very strong motivation or attraction which exceeds the desire to serve themselves. If we were actually to see God, ie pure Goodness and Love, that would be very strong motivation to live for God, to say the least. Sin would not get a look in at all.
Christians believe that the caring God initiated such an attraction to help humans out of the mess they had got themselves into. The initiative was for God to be embodied in a single human being, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus was a real person, documented mainly in the Bible but elsewhere also. He was both human and divine, and the evidence for this is in the New Testament, in the claims he made about himself, such as the authority to forgive sins, in the accounts of healings and other miracles he performed, as well as in his death and resurrection. God was showing humans what God is really like when faced with the struggle and strife that we humans face every day. Would this palpable Goodness and Love draw humans away from their foolish and fatal attitudes and behaviours towards others and God? For some the answer is yes. But for others there are obstacles. One is that people may not even recognise or acknowledge a God-Man when they see him. Another is that people actually resist any change to their current comfortable way of life, because dealing with Sin certainly will mean change. These obstacles may reflect the infection of Sin in our lives, clouding our vision of Reality.
Jesus was not meek and mild as sometimes portrayed. He could be gentle with those who were poor and suffering but he strongly denounced the proud and self-serving religious authorities. Because of his popularity with the ordinary people these criticisms represented a threat to those authorities, so they could not be ignored. A God-Man could not back down, with the consequence that those evil forces inevitably led to his being unjustly put to death by the authorities. It looked like Evil had prevailed. But in killing Jesus, only the human aspect could be killed, and God in him raised him out of the tomb in which he had been placed. The risen Jesus later met with some of his shattered followers, who were of course absolutely incredulous at first, but later became incredibly confident of what they now knew as Reality. The infancy of the Christian Church had begun.
What was the point of Jesus? His Death and Resurrection are central to Christian belief. There are many theological ways of looking at it, one being the idea that Jesus was a sacrifice to deal with Sin, a ritual common in the ancient world and the Old Testament. Another is that Jesus’ death fulfilled the death penalty that humans had incurred by their Sin. Another points out that whilst Adam brought Sin and Death into the world, Jesus brought Life by dealing with Sin and Death. All these theories are just metaphors to try to understand what was actually transacted. Whatever the formula the central meaning is that somehow the death of Jesus enables the relationship between God and humans to be restored. However for each person this enabling represents only a potential for such reconciliation. Making reconciliation with God a reality in their lives means recognising the implications and consequences of it. It means taking on new attitudes to people and life. This includes what Christians call “repentance”. It means learning and growing more like Jesus. We are helped in this development by God’s Spirit working with our own spirits within us.
It is for each individual person to decide whether to appropriate that potential, or not to appropriate it. Knowing that God the Loving Creator allowed himself in Jesus to be exposed to the effects of the world’s Sin to enable the possibility of reconciliation is mind-boggling. Such vulnerability shows what God’s love is like, as it faces and overcomes Sin and Death. If God did that for us, we need in gratitude to strive to show the divine love for others. In this way God’s intention for Creation will be achieved as more and more people become convinced of this saving love of God in Jesus.
We sometime hear of persons who die whilst trying to save another person from danger, and our breath is taken away by such sacrifice, even if it were made on the spur of the moment. The person rescued would be extremely grateful to and moved by their saviour. It is like that for Christians too, perhaps more so since the rescuer is God in Christ himself, who acts with absolute and inexorable purpose.
The death and resurrection of the God-Man Jesus also shows that whilst our physical bodies do die, they will be “raised” beyond death, just as Jesus was, provided we have been reconciled with God in this life. The New Testament makes clear that the “raising” of Jesus is not just a resuscitation of a physically dead person. Nor is it a ghostly apparition that you could walk through, nor an hallucination. The raised body of Jesus was a different form of life again, able to eat food and be touched.