Thursday, July 8, 2021

The Messianic Mystery: Our God Is A Faithful God

Sometimes we latch onto easy answers. Easiness doesn't make an answer incorrect. The latching on, nonetheless, makes an answer tired. It happens naturally in Sunday school. We keep raising the same questions and keep affirming the same answers. The curriculum repeats. Here's an example.

Why did Jesus command the disciples not to tell anyone he was the Messiah? Because his mission would look so drastically different from their messianic expectations. That is the correct answer. Or, I'm convinced that idea is one part of the correct answer—especially in Luke 9, where the command underscores the contrast between two different kinds of king, Herod and Jesus. We encountered that question yet again in Sunday school recently, and someone offered to nuance the answer a little.

Jesus wasn't less than the people's expectations. They wanted a ruler for sovereign Israel. Jesus was and is the Sovereign Ruler of Creation.

Now, anyone complaining of tired answers should welcome any reasonable nuance, but I don't think this angle best reflects the messianic mystery in the gospels. Here, I'll appeal to Walter Brueggemann.

When the christian tradition got translated into Greek categories in the third and fourth centuries, we lost that Jewish accent on fidelityand we settled for Hellenistic categories of omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresencethat requires us to give up the notion that God is basically defined by powerthat God is basically defined by fidelity not power.

In the above quote, Walter kinda loses track of his thats. In context, he's clearly saying:

The Old Testament emphasizes God's fidelity more so than his power.

Therein lies the misunderstanding of many Jews in Jesus' day. They were looking for a messiah who would demonstrate God's power rather than his fidelity. The difference between their expectations and Jesus' inauguration of his kingdom is not a difference of degree, but a difference in kind. (Or, as Luke might tell us, a difference in king!)

The post-Covid world will bring new questions, needing new answers. Some will be easier than others. Regardless, the big question stays the same—and so does its answer. Lord, give us grace never to find it easy or tired. How can we be reconciled to our Creator? Because God is faithful.

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor 5:21)

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