The Altar: Jesus Christ: Four Shockers

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We are building a spiritual temple within which the believers sees the true God and worships as we were made to do. At the center of such a space is the altar whereon the life of Jesus was played out and still affects us, the one who is appropriately the center of the witness of the New Testament, and of the church who hears it.

Best to grasp what its claim about Jesus, consider four truths about him which familiarity has obscured. First, rabbi Jesus, according to all the Gospels, forgave sins. This was reserved for God - who is this Jesus to claim such a power to himself? (Equally surprising was his tendency to claim nothing to himself - ‘can no one ‘father’..., ‘ no one knows the hour...’ He shows utter audacity and humility.

Secondly, he dies a cursed and shameful death, one in which he cries out to his God with the alienated words of Psalm 22. This was at best a ‘minority report’ in messianic expectation. No one supposed the anointed would ‘become sin who knew no sin’ (II Cor 5:21).

Thirdly, he is raised, but ahead of schedule. This was to happen at the last day, the ushering in of the Kingdom of God. Here too the prophecies are fulfilled, but in a shocking way. What does it mean both to enter and await that kingdom?

Fourthly, and as a result, the early Christians worshipped Jesus. But this was reserved for God. What it meant to do so was what five centuries of churchly reflection on the Trinity and Christology would clarify over time.

Fully God and fully human, bearing our sins, asking us who we believe to be, but doing so in the mode of surprise: that is where these four too-customary shockers should lead us.

Read Philippians 2:6-11 in this light and discuss.