Wednesday, May 4, 2016


The head of Christ - Edouard Manet
Jesus Christ -- Eduard Manet (1864)
Just who was Jesus? This is the question that the disciples had to grapple with following the Resurrection, and that we too are left to grapple with on our own account. Up to the first Easter morning they knew him to be a highly charismatic preacher, a teacher with a radical interpretation of the Jewish law, and a person possessing remarkable gifts of healing. These aspects to his personality made him the kind of person who could either attract intense loyalty, or generate envy and hatred.  If this is what he was, then Jesus’ life repeated a pattern found in the lives of many other prophets. 
When he met a painful and humiliating death, it seemed that for all his charisma, Jesus had been a failure.
The Resurrection dramatically altered this estimate. Now he was special to the point of being unique. But how special, and in what way? John’s Gospel is far more centered on this issue than the other three. Most especially, it records long speeches where Jesus talks at length about who he is, and what his relationship to God is. It is plausible to think that these speeches in the first person – “I am” --  look back on the historical Jesus with the benefit of Resurrection hindsight. They record the profound theological insights that a follower of Jesus was compelled to come to in his struggle to understand the full significance of Christ.
Christ Blessing - Antonello da Messina
Christ Blessing -- Antonello de Messina (1475)
This week’s readings include two of these ‘first person’ passages, one from John’s Gospel and the other from Revelation, a book that tradition attributes to the same writer. They record what might be called the final verdict on the question ‘Who was Jesus?’ and they affirm a truth central to the Christian faith.  Jesus is the “the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star” who has brought the faith of David to a perfection in a way that no other human being ever has. To express this truth, John has Jesus declare “You, Father, are in me and I am in you’. Christ is fully human and God filled, so that despite all their imperfections, human beings now have the chance to “become completely one” with the God who made them, who loves them and who will be their judge.

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