Jesus and Christ

February 11th, 2019 by Dave Leave a reply »

Christ Is Risen
Sunday, February 10, 2019

I am making the whole of creation new. . . . It will come true. . . . It is already done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. —Revelation 21:5-6

Who is speaking here at the very end of the Bible? Is this Jesus of Nazareth or Someone Else? Whoever is talking is offering an entire and optimistic arc to all of history. This is much more than a mere “religious” message; it is also a historical and cosmic one. It declares a definite trajectory where there is a coherence between the beginning and the ending of all things. It offers humanity hope and vision. History appears to have a direction and a purpose; it is not just a series of isolated events.

This is the Universal Christ speaking. Jesus of Nazareth, the humble carpenter, did not talk this way. It was Christ who “rose from the dead.” Resurrection is hardly a leap of faith once you realize that the Christ never died—or can die—because the Christ is the eternal mystery of matter and Spirit as one. Jesus willingly died—and Christ arose—yes, still Jesus, but now including and revealing everything else in its full purpose and glory. (Read Colossians 1:15-20 so you know this is not just my idea.)

When these verses in Revelation were written, sixty to seventy years had passed since Jesus’ human body “ascended into heaven.” The author is describing a fully available presence that defines, liberates, and sets a goal and direction for life. Largely following Paul, who wrote in the 50s CE, Revelation calls this seemingly new and available presence a mystery, “both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36) more than just “Jesus.”

The Risen Jesus is the divine presence beyond any confines of space and time. The Eternal Christ appeared in a personal form that humans came to know and love as “Jesus.” The Resurrection is not so much a miracle as it is an apparition of what has always been true and will always be true.

Such divine presence had always been there, as we know from the experiences of “Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” (Luke 20:37-38). But through Jesus, this eternal presence had a precise, concrete, and personal referent. In Jesus Christ, vague belief and spiritual intuition became specific—with a “face” that we could “see, hear, and touch” (1 John 1:1).

Primordial Template
Monday, February 11, 2019

Is Christ simply Jesus’ last name? Or is it a revealing title that deserves our full attention? How is Christ’s function or role different from Jesus’ role? What does Scripture mean when Peter says in his very first address to the crowds after Pentecost that “God has made this Jesus . . . both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36)? Weren’t they always one and the same, starting at Jesus’ birth?

To answer these questions, we must first go back and ask: What was God up to in those first moments of creation? Was God totally invisible before the universe began? Or is there even such a thing as “before”? Why did God create at all? What was God’s purpose in creating? Was there any divine intention or goal? Or do we even need a creator “God” to explain the universe?

Most religious traditions have offered explanations, and they usually go something like this: Everything that exists in material form is the offspring of some Primal Source, which originally existed only as Spirit. This Infinite Primal Source somehow poured itself into finite, visible forms, creating everything from rocks to water, plants, organisms, animals, and human beings. This self-disclosure of whomever we call God into physical creation was the first Incarnation (the general term for any enfleshment of spirit), long before the personal, second Incarnation that Christians believe happened with Jesus. Creation is the first Bible, and it existed for 13.8 billion years before the second Bible was written (see Romans 1:20).

Franciscan philosopher and theologian John Duns Scotus (1266–1308) tried to express this primal and cosmic notion when he wrote that “God first wills Christ as God’s supreme work.”[1] In other words, God’s “first idea” and priority was to make the Godself both visible and shareable. The word used in the Bible for this idea was Logos, taken from Greek philosophy; I would translate Logos as the “Blueprint” or Primordial Pattern for reality. The whole of creation—not just Jesus—is the beloved community, the partner in the divine dance. Everything is the “child of God.” No exceptions. When you think of it, what else could anything be? All creatures must in some way carry the divine DNA of their Creator.

The Incarnation, then, is not only “God becoming Jesus.” It is a much broader event. “Christ” is a word for the Primordial Template (Logos) “through whom all things came into being, and not one thing had its being except through him” (John 1:3; my emphasis). Seeing in this way has reframed, reenergized, and broadened my own religious belief, and I believe it could be Christianity’s unique contribution among the world religions.


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