Categories
aphorisms bible Christians jesus theology

Jesus is the Question

Share

Jesus is the Answer.

Popular Christian saying

This saying has always troubled me. It’s not that I doubt its truth; I do believe that Jesus is the answer to all our most intractable problems, because our worst problems are caused by human selfishness. It is rather the finality of the sentiment that I find troubling, the way it forestalls all further discussion and brings dialogue to an end. Once you say, “Jesus is the answer,” there seems to be nothing left to say. Oh, you could say, “No, he isn’t,” and I could say, “Yes, he is,” but that kind of interchange doesn’t even rise to the level of argument, let alone dialogue.

Saying “Jesus is the answer” is like saying “Science is the answer.” Either may well be true, but neither gets you one whit closer to a solution to the particular predicament we are in at the moment, whatever it may be.

In the stories of the bible, God rarely answers questions. In fact, he’s usually the one asking the questions. From the poignant “Where are you?” in the Garden to the overwhelming barrage of unanswerable questions with which God brow-beats Job to the plaintive cry of Jesus on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” God appears as someone who asks rather than answers questions.

John begins his gospel portraying Jesus as the Word that became flesh and lived among us. We are accustomed to think of that word as a declaration, an announcement of divine purpose. But what if Jesus is not the answer? What if he is the question? What if God became a man to ask us what we want? Do you want to get well? What do you want me to do for you?

Share
Categories
jesus law religion righteousness salvation sin spiritual life

Fulfilling the Law

Share

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.”

Matthew 5:17-18

One of the charges leveled at the early church—and indeed at Jesus himself—was that they taught people to ignore the demands of the Torah, referred to here as the Law and the Prophets. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus contrasts the behavior expected of his followers with the behavior demanded by the Law. He makes it clear at the outset that his intention is not to get rid of the Law or supersede it. Instead, he is going to fulfill the Law and the Prophets.

What does it mean to fulfill the Law and the Prophets?

Of course, the immediately obvious answer is that the Old Testament contains numerous references to a coming Messiah, so Jesus could be proclaiming himself to be that Messiah. But Jesus doesn’t refer only to prophecy. He refers also to Law, to the rules God gave through Moses for governing human behavior. He claims that he has come to fulfill those rules. What can it mean to fulfill the Law?

One of the repeated themes of the Old Testament is that no one is righteous. Paul summarizes it in Romans 3 where he quotes eight Old Testament passages about the universal depravity of human beings. No one, Paul claims, keeps the Law. Is it because the demands of the Law are too difficult to be kept? Is it because, as many of the poor in Jesus’ day apparently believed, only the wealthy can afford to meet the Law’s demands? Regardless the reasons, the Torah is clear that everyone is guilty of not keeping the Law.

Despite these warnings from the Torah, the Pharisees and religious leaders in Jesus’ day thought of themselves as keeping the Law. They were confident that by keeping the commandments and doing pious acts, they were meeting the requirements of the Law and would be saved. Jesus again and again exposed their hypocrisy and pointed out that they were deluding themselves. In fact, far from being righteous enough on their own merits, they were actually in worse shape than the “sinners” they so despised.

Jesus fulfilled the Law by keeping it, not as the Pharisees kept it by assiduously following the rules to the letter while gratifying their own lust and greed and desire for power. No, he kept it as it was intended: as a guide to loving God and other people. He kept it by doing good. In the end, he fulfilled the Law by meeting its demands for justice in his own body, a blameless, unblemished Lamb sacrificed for human beings’ inability to fulfill the Law on their own. To those who by trusting in him accept his sacrifice, he gives the ability by his Spirit to see him as he is and become like him, doing good wherever they go.

Share
Categories
about me pride self sin theology

Protected: Me Supremacy

Share

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

Share