Foreknowledge of Christ

John presents us with a Christ who saw the cross as his destiny and who saw the glorification of God through that sacrifice. He knows he will be raised. For he sees his death glorifying God in the same way that the blind perosn’s sighltless glorified God — because God can overcome it. John also presents us with a Jesus who knows he is the Christ. Who takes on the label of messiah and the title Son of Man and lays claims to a connection with God that is complete and unequivocal.

This is a position embraced by orthodox Christianity but a position very hard to justify from the readings of the other three canonical gospels. There in Jesus the messiahhood of Jesus is hidden even from his closest disciples and Jesus’ divinity if only fully revealed in his death and resurrection.

Where do I take this?

Personally I tend to follow Mark. Jesus never claimed to be divine or even the Christ. That he was and is I accept — but accept that this belief evolved through prayer and reflection on the meaning of the passion and through the revelations given by the resurrected Lord.

For me John is reading the resurrection backwards into the earthly life to declare that what was hidden was always there.

But the task of believing is shaping us to God’s purposes. You must make every effort to support your faith with goodness (2 Peter 1:5). How does believing Jesus was and is divine form the very foundation of the world make me a better person, a better Christian, a better agent for God’s spirit on earth?

For me, paradoxically, it is the Markan Jesus who can do this. Mark gives us a Jesus in which the divine was present but hidden. And so presents us with a God who creates through self-emptying. We become more godly (God-like) not by becoming more powerful more glorious more more more. We become more God-like by setting aside ourselves for teh sake of others.

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9 responses

  1. Well said, David. Once again: “Was Jesus the Son of God? Yes he was, and so am I and so are you.”This of course confutes the traditional thinking, so our problem becomes to live in love and charity with those who think otherwise. This the 4th century Church unfortunately could not do. Nor could Calvin. Nor can many rigid types even today.

  2. Is Jesus completely divine as well as human … was he himself aware of that at the time … the answers to these two questions are important to me. The idea that he might not have been completely convinced of his messiah-ness lends him a certain vulnerability that makes him easier to relate to. As to whether he is God, my whole prayer life/experience is based on the idea that he is.

  3. And what if we overlay these two images of Jesus – the Markan image of Jesus and the image John depicts for us. Is this so different than how Quakers see themselves? John’s Jesus identifies his own Christ light within, just as we do. Mark’s Jesus moves as Christ moves, but humbly without overtly declaring his own divinity, just as we as Quakers do. Most of us as Quakers tend to be humble, just as Mark’s Jesus is, but we are led and move from the active Christ Light within us. In John, even though Jesus is more forthright in his claims to his own divinity, this is done in a rather cosmic way, where it seems that it is the voice of God being spoken through Jesus, and although this comes through him it is not Jesus’ own voice – not the humble voice of the man. It seems to me that this happens because Jesus himself gets out of the way. He suspends his own ego, and opens himself to be the voice and spirit of God. The invitation here may be: What would happen if we likewise were able to get ourselves out of the way, to empty and open ourselves, with heightened receptivity to become better agents for God’s spirit here on earth?

  4. Hi Merdith :-). You said …What would happen if we likewise were able to get ourselves out of the way, to empty and open ourselves, with heightened receptivity to become better agents for God’sThere’s a kind of prayer, centering prayer as done by Thomas Keating, that promotes this emptying of oneself to recieve God. Sigh – I don’t know why, but I really resisit that idea. I want instead to be more myself when I’m with God, I don’t want to get out of the way, I want to be very present. Not sure what this means, aside from the possibility that I’m going to end up in the bad place 🙂

  5. Crystal,I think perhaps we just have a difference in semantics here, for you say “I want to be more myself when I’m with God, I don’t want to get out of the way, I want to be very present…” and that is exactly what I am talking about, too. “Getting out of the way” refers to not having our self-serving self between us and our communion with God. To be very present we must really go to that quiet place, open ourselves fully to listen for that “still small voice.” We need to lessen the chatter of our small (self centered) lives in order to be fully centered and present to God. And this ‘small self,’ the one, for example, that worries about how you look or what someone else thinks of you or that gets sidetracked focusing on trivial details, is not who you really are. You are a much greater and deeper presence than this. All of us have this capacity within. In my work I do a lot of listening to people and their problems. I listen best when I put aside my own stuff, lay down my to-do lists, my irritations, and my own agenda, and become fully attentive to the person I am with. Although these conversations are not about me, without becoming fully present and my offering my full attention, I do not listen as well and I find myself less inclined to fully open my heart. For me, this is quite parallel to when I am spending time in receptive prayer, silent worship, or meditation. In experience, there is little difference. And it is here, in my listening mode with another individual or alone, that I most fully connect with that which is holy, divine, tenderly compassionate and loving. This… in utter simplicity, is connecting with God.PS I don’t believe in ‘bad places,’ only good ones.

  6. Thanks, Meredith 🙂

  7. “Was Jesus the Son of God? Yes he was, and so am I and so are you.”Yes but. . . You and I are sons (children) of God by adoption, not by nature. This means that, by adoption, we were saved from our natural course which leads to eternal alienation death. Without the adoption — and our acceptance of that great gift — we are lost.According to orthodox Christianity, Jesus was God’s Son by nature. He didn’t need to be redeemed. So, as with any adopted sibling relationship, we are equal to, but also different from, our natural-born brother.I don’t see any necessary inconsistency with Jesus’s self-understanding as a fully equal brother of all human beings while simultaneously aware of his unique relationship with the Father who sent him to us. He rejoices in our adoption, too.With this distinction in mind, we can explain why we can claim to be Children of God without being blasphemous or idolatrous.

  8. Hello Paul. Thanks for dropping by.The whole Jesus, son by nature, and us sons by adoption thing is important to my theology too. Larry takes another tack. Larry and I have already had the conversation on it.We’re both gambling that when all is over and done with the distinctions we make now about it won’t matter so much after all.

  9. blasphemy and idolatry are tricky words as their meanings depend on who is defining them. To me, the very act of using them leads us away from God’s commandment (through Jesus) to love our neighbors as ourselves.I’m a trinitarian but it took Larry to make me more of a Christian.

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