In Spite of 100,000 Seminarians
07 September 2011 by Frank Turk
In spite of being a blogger, with the reputation of being a little rabid, you'll be relieved to know that I suspect that most of you who are reading are Christians -- that is, like the people in Antioch who were first called by that name, you have heard the Gospel even if it's only the Gospel a guy like Barnabas would preach as opposed to an apostle like Paul, and you believed it, and you have been trained up in some way. And you're might be in something like ministry, right? Maybe it's not full time, but you're at least committed to your church and your elders or pastors to try to do what's right for people. And let me say that if you're not one of the people I just described, you should be.
But why? Why should you be anything in particular rather than someone who is doing what is right in his own eyes, and then calling that "Christian" or "Christian Ministry"? My opinion here is that it's not because I have a really clever argument, or that 100,000 Westminster seminarians and professors can't be wrong. It's because Jesus of Nazareth is a real person.
But hold on -- I know that sounds obvious, OK? But here's what I'm thinking: at some point, everything that we do which is clever or confessional has to get put in the same box as the man Jesus, who was crucified.
My brother-in-law David tells a story about the first time he visited Boston. David's ex-military, and he says that he can remember all through school people told him about American history -- about the events that happened that caused us to be a country, the list of facts. But in Boston, he found himself out in the harbor looking down into the water, and when he looked into the water and out at the harbor he realized: "Wow. This is were they dropped the tea into the harbor." And at that moment, all those men and all the stories about them weren't just facts or true statements anymore: the real people became obvious to him, and it changed the way he thought about our country and his part in it.
It reminds me of the end of the story of Job, after all the boils and marauders and donkeys and friends telling Job how it was all his fault, Job tells God, "I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you, and I repent." For My brother-in-law David, American history became real when the facts weren't just facts; for Job, God stopped being a story when he finally saw YHVH with his own eyes.
That's why we have to see Jesus as a real person. I mean, Jesus is God, but he didn't try to remain equal with God. Instead he gave up everything and became a slave, when he became like one of us. Jesus was humble the way only God can be humble. He obeyed God and even died on a cross. And when we say this, and we must say that Jesus died on a cross, when we tell people this, they should get it -- as if we said something like, "this is where they dropped the tea into the harbor."
Jesus is not just some icon of spiritual truth; his story is not just a story about truth: he's the one guy who understands our weaknesses because he has suffered through them, and then he died for them.
It wasn't just a game-changer when the angels sang, "Glory to God in the Highest! And on Earth, peace to men on whom his favor rests!" It was God becoming man. It was something bigger than we can ever imagine, but that we can in fact receive and rejoice in. And now it's our problem to catch up with that -- to live as if that really happened, so we can make much of this Jesus, and enjoy him forever.
If we forget that, the rest of this stuff is just a hobby that makes us look pathetic -- or worse, a way we make ourselves look good and feel good in spite of who we really are. But the people in Antioch, when they heard about the real Jesus according to Barnabas, they stuck with it. They wanted to know more, and Barnabas had to send for Paul -- a guy who knew the Scripture, and knew the real Jesus -- to teach about this real guy, and to live as if he really did walk out of the grave and now sits at the right hand of the father -- because the simple proclamation was not enough. They needed someone to teach them well, so that in Antioch the disciples could be first called Christian.
Those aren't just big words: that's the way God changed the game for the whole world, and now you and me have to do something about it -- because he's real.
-- Edited and republished from 2010, The Nines
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