Monday, June 02, 2008

Plain speaking...

Very often we distance ourselves from Jesus. We say, "What Jesus knew we cannot know, and what Jesus did we cannot do." But Jesus never puts any distance between himself and us. He says: "I call you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have learnt from my Father" (John 15:15) and "In all truth I tell you, whoever believes in me will perform the same works as I do myself, and will perform even greater works" (John 14:12).

Indeed, we are called to know what Jesus knew and do what Jesus did. Do we really want that, or do we prefer to keep Jesus at arms' length?

Henri Nouwen, from Bread for the Journey
I've been thinking a bit about this, lately. Jesus said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children." (Matthew 11.25 NIV) I love these words, and the liberation they bring us from the burdens of intellectual one-upmanship and anxiously elitist gnosticism.

Of course we need to keep awake when we read the Bible, and we need to be sufficiently aware of the different literary forms (poetry, prophecy, historical narrative, and so on) it contains, and the immense cultural differences between the Israel of the Judges, first century Jerusalem, and our own time. But Jesus' own words are better attested than any other Biblical character's, and better than any classical author's.

As Nouwen says, our pretence of scholarly agnosticism is just that, a pretence. Jesus' teachings are plain; and he said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8.31-32 NIV)

Yes, Jesus is the Son of God. Yes, he is the Christ, the Anointed of God. But he was born of woman, and he walked the earth as a man, just as human as you or I. Of course we can know him. He is the way, the truth and the life - and any attempt to evade the possibility of knowing him evades this truth.

1 comment:

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

I think about the incarnation a lot, but I hadn't thought of it exactly in this way. Thanks.