Thursday, October 20, 2011
Faith = (Matt11:5) + (Matt28:19-20)
Let's start with a pop quiz; why did God become incarnate in the person of Jesus of Nazareth?
Most likely, your answer is something along the lines of "he came to save us from our sins," or as the Nicene Creed puts it;
For us and our salvation he came down from Heaven
Fair enough, but what then are we to make of Jesus' earthly ministry? Does it have value on its own, meaningfulness, apart from the Passion? Does it stand apart or is it entirely an act of prophetic drama meant to give shape for interpreting the Easter story? In other words, is the life of Jesus just one long slog to the cross or is it also something more?
I am prompted to ask this, because, well, it hasn't really ever come up and that strikes me as odd. Confused? Well, let me give an example. When John the Baptist is in prison, his disciples come to Jesus and ask if he is the One or should they be looking for another. Jesus' reply is "Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me." (Matt 11:4-6, NRSV)
If Jesus life and ministry on earth is only a foreshadowing of his Passion, then these acts of Jesus are only signs pertaining to him and don't necessarily have any claim on us. And despite the claims of many Christians, I don't really believe that they do not have a claim on us. It is inconceivable to me that they could not. Now, if one spends a lot of time hanging out with St Paul, one might get the impression, that the only thing really going on is an overwhelming concern for the eschaton (the full emergence of the kingdom of God on Earth, the second coming, etc) and thus our only concern is that we orient ourselves to Christ right away.
But Paul is living in an anticipation of the imminence of the eschaton. Which is why when you delve deep into some Reformation treatises and confessions who are all very much influenced by the Epistles of Paul, you get them saying things suggesting that all human effort is bound to be wicked and promote evil, so maybe it's better not to try too much – Jesus will take care of it. By these lights, all that matters is the possession of faith (though how exactly one comes to possess it is a matter of some debate). Fast forward a couple of millennia and it is obvious that the urgency under which the Apostle Paul labored may be appreciated in another light. Our task, it seems is to figure out how to live faithful lives in the hope but not the imminent expectation of the eschaton. What do our lives look like if we begin living without fear, if we begin living as though the kingdom had come?
Because if Jesus really is just a lamb sent for the slaughter, then why bother telling anyone about it? Why bother with disciples and teaching and all the rest if we weren't meant to do something with those words and examples?
at 11:03 PM