How do we respond to Jesus? When he comes to us, forgives us of all our transgressions, and offers us life that is full and healed from the wounds of the sin sickness that has infected us to the core, how do we react? How does it change us? How do we respond to him?
To phrase these questions another way: what does it mean to have faith in Jesus?
Faith it’s self is a nebulous word. At it’s core, it’s all about trust. Trusting something (someone) enough to put movement and deed to that trust. In the end, faith turns out to be nothing more than trust fueled action and believing words at face value. This concept has given heartache and headache as we involved with humanity have struggled to hear something worth believing, wrestled to believe what we hear. These wounded hearts of ours don’t dare and flat-out refuse to believe something as simple as, “believe and be saved”
But This is what Jesus says.
Believe Jesus: who he is, what he does, what he says… Believe Jesus and be saved.
So… who is Jesus? What does he do? What are these words he speaks? What are we in need of being saved from? These are the questions recurring and being worked through in these letters we call the Epistles, these letters to the early Christians who gathered together in a faith in Jesus. These questions are the same in the heart of every human what has faced Jesus. These questions and some of the answers build the last third(ish) of the Christian bible. These questions are part of the human experience of relationship with Jesus. They are normative and important. They are also questions about ourselves. In asking these questions about Jesus, we see into our own hearts, discovering our needs, our un-trust, and our willingness to either accept or reject what Jesus offers.
Christian faith has little to do with sets of doctrine and intellectual understanding. It’s not about some group of secret teachings lifted from the pages of scripture and passed down to the chosen few who can understand. Christian faith is not about accepting some academic theology as the only truth. It’s not about fighting to preserve some sort of “biblical” bubble we construct around our selves. It’s not some pure philosophy that harmonizes the cosmos and stands up as somehow more complete than every other competing thought.
Christian faith is all about how we relate to one specific person in history. Jesus: a first century Jewish carpenter turned traveling teacher. It is this man, this figure in history that we Christian call lord and savior. His identity, person, message and purpose has been discussed and divided over for 2000+ years now. Yet, Christians still believe him supremely important, central to our beliefs, and singularly unique among all people throughout history.
In his letter to the believers in Colossae, Paul/Saul proclaims Jesus to be “The image of the invisible God”. The writer of Hebrews says the same thing a different way: “He [Jesus] us the reflection of God’s own glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being.” Jesus holds such a unique place because he is God. The God that we can not see (but desperately want to catch a glimpse of) is made visible in the person of Jesus. Everything that Jesus is, God is.
To see Jesus, to know him, is to see and know the invisible creator and sustain of the universe we dub “God”.
To know God, to see him, is to see and know to fullness of his exact reflection and image made flesh in Jesus.
This invisible God of glory, who’s presence causes the earth to tremble, mountains to melt like candle wax… this divine creature that we can not wrap our heads around, who is utterly other from you and I… this trinitarian being who crafted creation and is deserving of all praise and worship… The God who’s name is “I AM” and who is love… this is the who of Jesus, and he is utterly honest about everything he is so that we might know him as he truly is. This is a reality that I believe we miss much of the time. We think “Jesus as God” and all we see is this gap between himself and us. He is someone greater than I, something more than I could ever be. I can not grasp him and his otherness.
Jesus’ self identification as divine is not so much about his status as something greater than us. Rather, it is about someone we can’t truly understand coming near and explaining who he is. In Jesus the fullness of God is fully unveiled… to you and I. We cannot hope to comprehend the who of God, so Jesus shows, tells, and helps us experience who he is. The full reflection and exact image of the everything the being God is (God’s self) became flesh and made his dwelling place among us so that we might come to know him personally.
This is why our speech about Christian faith must begin, end, and revolve around Jesus. Thorough all the people of history, people who achieved world altering events, people who shaped the course of human development and discovery, scientists, artist, kings, philosophers, warriors… among all these people, Jesus is the single human that can legitimately claim to embody and fully be completely God. Therefore he alone is the only one who can tell us who this invisible God we long to know is.
Having faith means we start trusting Jesus alone to paint us the picture of God.
Having faith means that we start accepting Jesus’ words as the very voice of God spoken to us.
Having faith means we accept the invitation to come to his table and feast, to be forgiven and completely accepted, to become really alive just like he is.
Having faith means we trustingly step into the great unknown dream of doing with justice (just like Jesus does), loving mercy (exactly like Jesus), and walking humbly with Jesus, our God.