Sunday, 20 March 2016
Who is Jesus to you?
"In understanding how discipleship to Jesus Christ works, a major issue is how he automatically presents himself to our minds. It is characteristic of most 20th century Christians that he does not automatically come to mind as one of great intellectual power: as Lord of universities and research institutes, of the creative disciplines and scholarship. The Gospel accounts of how he actually worked, however, challenge this intellectually marginal image of him and help us to see him at home in the best of academic and scholarly settings of today, where many of us are called to be his apprentices."
Elsewhere he also writes:
"Today is often spoken of as the age of information. Information is vital to all we do, of course, but then it always has been. What distinguishes the present time is that there is a lot more information (and misinformation) available than ever before, and a lot of people are trying to sell it to us.
What happens to Jesus in the crush of the information pushers? Unfortunately he is usually pushed aside. Many Christians do not even think of him as one with reliable information about their lives. Consequently they do not become his students. What does he have to teach them? It is very common to find Christians who work hard to master a profession and succeed very well in human estimation, while the content of their studies contains no reference at all to Jesus or his teaching. How could this be?
A short while ago I led a faculty retreat for one of the better Christian colleges in the United States. In opening my presentation I told the group that the important question to consider was what Jesus himself would say to them if he were the speaker at their retreat. I indicated my conviction that he would ask them this simple question: Why don't you respect me in your various fields of study and expertise? Why don't you recognize me as master of research and knowledge in your fields?
The response of these Christian professionals was interesting to observe, to say the least. Some thought the question would be entirely appropriate. Many were unsure of exactly what I was saying. Quite a number responded with: "Are you serious?" The idea that Jesus is master of fields such as algebra, economics, business administration or French literature simply had not crossed their minds--and had a hard time finding access when presented to them.
That brings out a profoundly significant fact. In our culture, and among Christians as well, Jesus Christ is automatically disassociated from brilliance or intellectual capacity. Not one in a thousand will spontaneously think of him in conjunction with words such as "well-informed," "brilliant," or "smart."
Far too often he is regarded as hardly conscious. He is taken as a mere icon, a wraith-like semblance of a man living on the margins of the "real life" where you and I must dwell. He is perhaps fit for the role of sacrificial lamb or alienated social critic, but little more.
But can we seriously imagine that Jesus could be Lord if he were not smart? If he were divine, would he be dumb? Or uninformed? Once you stop to think about it, how could he be what Christian's take him to be in other respects and not be the best informed and most intelligent person of all: the smartest person who ever lived, bringing us the best information on the most important subjects.
What lies at the heart of the astonishing disregard of Jesus found in the moment-to-moment existence of multitudes of professing Christians is a simple lack of respect for him. He is not seriously taken to be a person of great ability. But what then can devotion or worship mean, if simple respect is not included in it.
By contrast, the early Christians, who took the power of God's life in Jesus to all quarters of the earth, thought of Jesus as one "in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." (Col. 2:3 NAS) They thought of him as master of every domain of life."
John 2:24-25 says_ "But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man."
The point to drive home is that Jesus can be trusted with not only telling us the truth but telling us all we need to know about how to live life well, and find fulfilment and contentment in what we do. This is because he knows everything and is the most intelligent person we will ever know. We can go to Jesus as one who knows what we need, who knows about life. But how often do we see him in that light? As Dallas Willard says we seem to see him as an icon or figurehead, or even a on a cross. He is wraith-like and insubstantial and his life rarely impinges on the majority of our lives unless it is the rarefied atmosphere of religious expertise. Outside of that he has little or no influence and is assumed to have little or no knowledge about the fields we work in. He exists mainly on the margins of our lives, only touching the fringes of what we are doing unless of course we pray or we are facing danger or disaster.
So how we think of Jesus is really important because it will affect our confidence in what he says. Do we believe that he knows what he is talking about, or do we have take it or leave it attitude to what he says? Will we take what he says seriously or not? Depends on how we view him.
The following is a sermon I gave in response to some concerns raised about our application for a Lottery Grant to renovate our church and ch...