Who is Jesus to me?
He’s a mystery.
If we accept for a minute that this will be a personal testimony, you should know some things about me. Raised in a fairly strict Evangelical church, and then a Baptist congregation when I was a teenager, I began attending Aldridge Parish Church at the age of 17, and got involved through Simon Jolly and Pete Kelsall with the Methodist church in Aldridge about the same time.
I have been immersed since I was a small child in the Bible, the stories of God and His people. I have witnessed people being generous, quiet, angry, repentant, loud, happy, strong and meek, all in God’s name or for His glory.
And yet in all this, I see one thing which keeps me in great comfort. Jesus is a mystery.
I’m well educated; regarded at work and in my circle of friends as a fairly smart cookie. I pick things up quickly, turn ideas over in my head and have a decent grasp of most things I need to learn. For years I have worried that my knowledge of the Bible is inferior, and that to study in real depth might take my entire lifetime. I know that this study is worthwhile, but it can never be a path to full understanding.
If you ask my son how Daddy’s car goes, he’d probably talk about me turning the key and pressing the pedal. If you asked him to explain how it works and the specifics, he’d either give up or admit he doesn’t know the answers.
If you ask me how my car goes, I can tell you that fuel is burned in the engine which creates a series of very small explosions, which are harnessed to create movement that spins a shaft in the engine. This rotary motion is transferred via the gearbox and drive train to the wheels, and the car moves. If you want to talk about the fuel being burned, I can start to discuss oxygen and hydrocarbon reactions, but if you were to press me for details at the atomic level, I’d happily admit I’m completely clueless. Even with all my knowledge, I’m no closer to a full understanding than my seven year old boy.
We are not separate from this universe – we are born into it. Regardless of our level of understanding in any field, there comes a point where we have to admit we don’t know or can’t grasp the “How” or the “Why” or the “What” of things.
Jesus was there when this universe was created. God made us, and all that is (seen and unseen) without our aid or support. We are born into this creation. Is it any wonder the Bible tells us that God’s foolishness is wise beyond our wisdom? It is not reasonable to expect that we will ever fully understand God, or his son.
And so we look at our reading [Mark 8:27-33] and see that Jesus is interested in how he is perceived. Who is he? And more importantly, who do his disciples say he is? It’s a very important question, one that lots of people get wrong in their attempt to make sense of the answer. Jesus is God’s son, his ambassador in the world. Jesus shows us the full glory of God in person – full of grace and truth, to quote John’s Gospel.
Who do we say he is? Jesus is quite clear on this point, that he is the Christ, but he warns his disciples not to tell anybody. Why? I have no idea. Whatever you think is unlikely to be more or less valid than what I think. We can look, and assess, and guess, but the answer is forever beyond our grasp.
This is the Jesus who clears the temple in righteous anger, but warns that saying “you fool!” to a person puts you in danger of the fires of Hell. He can raise the sick and dead, and honours the faith of a Roman centurion by doing healing at a significant distance, yet cannot or will not save himself when the time comes. A carpenter’s son who debates with leaders and elders, a man who acknowledges his true divine title and nature but goes to his death robbed of all dignity and status. Even the name of Jesus, the Christ, is reserved and set aside. When arrested, he confirms his name, and the words “I AM” bring everyone present to their knees. He is a sacrificial offering – blameless and free from sin. This is true holiness. How could we hope to understand him?
When Jesus talks to the people around him, he uses language and images and stories they can understand. He talks about farming and eating, families, wealth and disease; and directs these conversations to reflect on God and his nature.
Food, for example, appears everywhere. We understand food.
Jesus talks of faith in terms of a mustard plant. He delivers the parable of the sower, and discusses this image as a way of talking about spiritual food. There is talk of his people being salt in the world, and miracles such as the feeding of the thousands from loaves and fish. He provides wine at a wedding in Cana, cooks his disciples a fish breakfast after his resurrection, eats with the most inappropriate people he can find. Mary and Martha are one such pair. Martha invites Jesus to her home, and opens it to him. Jesus eats with Zaccheus the tax collector. Two thousand years later, we’re still using the food based things that Jesus said and did to understand him more. Our stomachs are something we comprehend.
Jesus institutes the Eucharist – the last supper as celebrated in Communion. This act spreads our faith from a brain and heart activity to include a physical one. The breaking and sharing of bread, drinking the wine, creates a different kind of experience which touches a different part of our selves. I have no idea how it works, or why, but I know it works. Just like the man himself, it’s a mystery.
You can look at the Gospels as a whole and the acts and sayings of Jesus and ask many questions. The hardest is usually anything beginning with “Why”, although “How” can be tricky too. At least with a “How did he do that?” question, we can point to the evident working of his Father’s power and Spirit.
Even the Gospel writers sometimes add little notes to explain for themselves why Jesus is doing a particular thing or to put something he says in context. It’s not until the Cross and Resurrection we see the overall plan in action – The “How” of the resurrection is a mystery to me, but I understand “Why”.
Jesus Christ died a vicious and prolonged death to take the punishment I deserved. I don’t believe being God’s son made it any easier for him to endure it. Jesus died and then rose from death, to save me from myself and the death I should receive for the things I have done wrong.
This beating of death proves he is rightful King over all creation, and able to save me through his sacrifice. This same thing he did for everyone who was and is and will be.
He may be a mystery, but this doesn’t mean I can’t accept these truths and go from there. Jesus saved me and has already saved you. You only need to accept this gift, and the grace by which it is given.
My Jesus is a mystery, but I know he is the Christ, and I trust that he is my saviour.
This is my good news.
This is my Gospel.