04 Apr Ten Important Insights Into the Life of Christ Part I
By Doug Bookman
The child of God is much advantaged to come to grips with the life lived by his Savior. As we approach the Easter season, it behooves us to ponder anew the life of the Savior we celebrate. I would suggest that the insights to be listed here are essential to a proper understanding of that most wonderful of all lives, and thus that the believer is well advised to consciously and deliberately include these realities in his conception of that life.
I In His incarnation, Jesus did not in any sense, to any degree, at any time, or for any season surrender any whit of deity (Col 2:9); indeed, the very notion of “surrendering” deity is incongruous to the point of nonsense. Jesus did, however, take upon Himself genuine human nature (Phil 2:6-8). There is ineffable mystery in the proposition that “the Word became flesh” as it is presented and developed in the Gospel narratives. But the stewardship of the believer is to bow the knee to all that the Scriptures make clear, even if there are dynamics or ramifications of revealed truth which ultimately transcend his ability to fully comprehend. And the Scriptures make clear that Jesus’ humanity – albeit unfallen humanity – was genuine and entire. Thus, as we read the Gospel narratives of Jesus’ life it is important to remember that except at those occasional and relatively infrequent times when the Holy Spirit directed Jesus to access and employ the superhuman capacities which are a function of His divine attributes, He lived out His life under the actual and real limitations intrinsic to unfallen humanity.
II Jesus’ ministry of three and a half years is best conceived as including two distinguishable emphases. The first 2½ years are characterized by Public Presentation; during this period Jesus is presenting Himself to Israel as her Messiah, saturating the land village by village and synagogue by synagogue with His claims, working countless miracles to authenticate those claims. This initial period collapses only after Israel had demonstrated her determination to reject Jesus’ claims no matter how compelling the evidence He offered for those claims (see insight #5 to come). This was followed by a period of Private Preparation; Jesus’ changed His tactics remarkably (quit Jewish territory, was reluctant to do miracles or to be spoken of openly) because He was seeking solitude with His disciples in order to reveal something to them that He knew was going to be very difficult: the reality of His coming death and resurrection. That latter focus dominated during the last year of Jesus’ life, though He returned to a focus of public presentation in Judea and Perea during the months just before departing for the Passover at which He would die.
III Throughout His public ministry, Jesus made two explicit claims concerning Himself: He claimed to be the Messiah of Israel (the Christ), and He claimed to be God come in the flesh (Mt 16:16; Jn 11:27; Mk 14:61). This two-fold claim is the essence of the message which Jesus challenged men to believe concerning Himself (Jn 20:31). It is difficult for us to imagine how difficult it was to accept these claims: the claim to Messiahship was difficult because in so many ways Jesus disappointed the self-serving but rabinically endorsed messianic ideals cherished by His contemporaries; and the claim that He was God come in the flesh was at once incongruous and scandalous. On the other hand, because Jesus lived out perfectly His command to His disciples to be “as wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (Mt 10:16, see insight #9 to come), His claim to Messiahship (i.e., to be King of Israel) was cleverly encoded in Old Testament figures and passages so that the claim would be unmistakable and compelling to Jews but appear innocuous to the Roman overlords. (This because had Jesus more explicitly claimed Messiahship/Kingship, He would have enabled His enemies to be rid of Him easily; Rome had no patience for pretender Kings in her domain.) Likewise, the claim to deity – scandalous to the Jews but to the Romans less incendiary than the claim to be king – was couched in ways especially telling to Jewish hearers. For instance, the Scriptures insist that only God is eternal; thus when Jesus claimed pre-existence (Jn 8:56) He was understood by His Jewish auditors to be claiming deity.
Part II to come shortly