Editorial | Christ is Real
“Christ is real”; so Robert Roberts opened his biography of the Lord. And so He is. Beyond the steely silence of the skies, there really is Jesus. He is there. He who was born on this earth, who had our nature and experiences, really did die for us. Two thousand years ago, on a day in April, on a Friday afternoon, on a hill outside Jerusalem, a perfect man died... and after three days, the graveclothes stirred, a young man walked out into the early morning mist, with the lights of Jerusalem shimmering in the distance... then 40 days later He ascended up vertically into the sky and somehow got taken to Heaven, the very centre of the cosmos... yes, it demands faith to grasp the personal, actual, concrete, historical reality of it all. It's so much easier to shrug it all off, to walk away from the challenge of faith, by saying that this is myth or that actually, He was God.
First century Israel stumbled at the humanity of Jesus. “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James? And they were offended at him” (Mk. 6:3). In essence, the same is happening to those like Trinitarians who respond: ‘But could a man have done all these things?’. They just can’t hack that Jesus, Son of God, perfect human being... was truly human, with a human mother and relatives. And so they have stumbled off into various wrong theories and theologies about Jesus to try to rationalize and spiritually legitimise their lack of faith in Him as a human person. The early Christians must likewise have struggled with the questions- how could a man have done all this? How could this be true of a man? Could one of us really have pulled this off? And so in time, they took the easy way out, flunked the issue, by deciding that Jesus must’ve been God. Likewise there is the challenge of the fact that Jesus is explained in Scripture as our representative; but that requires a lot of faith from us, and so Christianity generally has ditched that demand and replaced it with a pagan notion of substitution. Yet the Lord Jesus set us a pattern- humiliation and suffering, followed by glorification. Yet the common conception of Jesus gets this all the wrong way around — pre-existent glory in Heaven followed by humiliation, then a return to glory. But the Bible clearly teaches that the glory of the Lord Jesus was earned, it was His reward, and we with all our hearts say “Worthy is the lamb that was slain!” to receive that glory- knowing that we too have embarked upon a similar path to glory, with every experience of humiliation in this life understood in that context.
Don’t underestimate the act of faith you have taken in believing that the Lord Jesus was indeed one of us, a man amongst men, with our very same flesh, blood, and plasm… And thinking about these things can make us start to feel strangely uncomfortable. It’s perhaps why so many of us find prolonged contemplation of His crucifixion- where He was at His most naked and most human- something we find distinctly uncomfortable, and impossible to deeply sustain for long. But only if we properly have in balance the awesome reality of Christ’s humanity, can we understand how one man’s death 2,000 years ago can radically alter our lives today. We make excuses for ourselves: our parents were imperfect, society around us is so sinful. But the Lord Jesus was perfect- and dear Mary did her best, but all the same failed to give Him a perfect upbringing; she wasn’t a perfect mother; and He didn’t live in a perfect environment. And yet, He was perfect. This is why we find sustained reflection upon His humanity so challenging- for it bids us quit our excuses and follow Him.
But His reality and humanity is also the profoundest comfort. In his time of dying, Stephen saw the Lord Jesus standing at the right hand of God (Acts 7:55). But about 13 times in the New Testament, the point is made that the Lord sits there, unlike the Mosaic priests who stood (Heb. 10:12). The Lord Jesus was passionately feeling for Stephen; He stood up, genuinely engaged with the situation on earth and the life of His servant Stephen. And He just as emotionally and passionately feels for us in our struggles. This alone should lift us out of the mire of mediocrity. Prayer will have meaning and power. It won’t just be the repetitious conscience-salver it can descend into. For we have in Heaven the Lord Jesus interceding with the Father for us. His intercession isn’t merely a disinterested translation of our words from one language to another. His intercession involves appealing to the Father for us on His own agenda, seeing our needs better than we do ourselves. Thus He prayed for Peter, that Peter’s faith would not fail (Lk. 22:32)- at a time when Peter was assured that such prayer was unnecessary. In our hard times and low moments, we need to remember that the Lord Jesus is passionately interested in us. He is on our side. And He is now the King of the cosmos. The King of the world… is our friend. On our side. Truly nobody and nobody can touch us without His express planning and permission.
It can be that we are interested in the Bible on an almost hobby level. Understanding its background, fascination with its interpretation, attendance at Bible study meetings within a culture and ethos we find comfortable and have perhaps grown up with… this is all one thing. But the whole purpose of the Bible is to bring us to Jesus as a person; for He is the “word made flesh”. We must give full weight to the Lord’s warning to the ecclesia of His day: “You search the scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of me; but you will not come to me, so that you may have life” (Jn. 5:39,40). The tension is between ‘searching the scriptures’ and on the other hand, ‘coming to Me’. They were Bible centered; but not Christ-centered. It is of course far easier to “search the scriptures” than it is to forge a living relationship with the Lord Jesus, with all that it requires. But this is what we shall eternally be involved in- not an eternal Bible study, but an eternal relationship with a person, Jesus, the real Christ.
| Duncan Heaster