Tuesday, February 23, 2016

He Has Explained

. . . Him.

This peculiar phrase, which is borrowed for the title of this article, is found in the opening words  in the first chapter of the gospel according to John. The words refer to God whom no one has seen, but whom Jesus has explained.

There is a second and equally interesting phrase which appears immediately prior to that phrase. It is a brief summary which distinguishes between the Law which was given through Moses for Israel and grace and truth which were realized through Jesus.

What is the significance of how Jesus realized these things? What was it that Jesus explained about God for believers in Christ? Similarly, what is the significance for atheists, well represented in John’s gospel in Pontius Pilate, who look to see God, but who can not see him and would not know him or recognize him if he were in their presence?

the gospel according to John
Before looking further into these things

it may be good to note some other particular aspects about the gospel according to John. It differs sharply from the other gospel accounts on the life and ministry of Jesus. It opens in the most abstract manner with the introduction of the Word. John’s gospel is often cited for its simple yet profound message. The purpose of this article is not to delve into and rehash the familiar arguments which focus on and attempt to explain (the irony!) only to fail; the preexistence of the Word, or despite the clear wording of John’s message, of that Word as being God.

What I have observed is that these peculiar words of John concerning Jesus and his work are overlooked by saints as much as they are ignored atheists. Saints seek to proclaim Jesus without knowledge or appreciation of what it is that Jesus explained about God. Atheists are themselves laden with their own preconceived mistaken notions about God are blind to examine the most basic and fundamental realities of life. Christians believe in the deity of Jesus, his words and his works. This three aspects are true and powerful and while these constitute the means by which Jesus explained the Father merely listing these; deity, words and works, does not equate to an understanding of just what it was that Jesus explained.

a contrast between law and grace and truth
The interesting reference to the Law of Moses and the work of Jesus is that it highlights a contrast. It is a contrast between the impersonal nature of a law. It was given through Moses by which Israel was to live. Grace and truth were realized through the personal work of one individual, namely, Jesus. Yes, there was much joy and rejoicing for Israel living in covenant with God. But, they lived being ever mindful of the constant demands and requirements of the law in their daily lives.

Grace and truth are the starting point of this discussion because these two things stand out, more than the persons of Moses and Jesus, in sharp contrast with law. It is not my purpose to write up a list of items to contrast the law with grace and truth. The references to law are incidental merely because the purpose here is to focus on grace and truth. This is definitely not a drill down on the Greek language or what various scholars and other Christians have stated on these matters. It is my understanding that when Jesus realized grace and truth it was in this manner that he explained God. Further he realized grace and truth through his words and his works.

Those who listened to Jesus were able to see these things realized even if they did not see or understand it. Subsequently, they and the saints in Christ today, were to gain the understanding of the God they and no one has seen but who has now been explained by Jesus through such a demonstrative life.

The point of John’s words is not that Jesus became aware of grace towards or for himself or much less received grace for himself from others, but that Jesus realized, that is, he made grace happen. This was not something which was done by Jesus writing up a document on grace. Yes, grace is expounded at length by the Holy Spirit through the apostles. Those writings are themselves a further elaboration for the understanding and edification of the saints and are in no way to be diminished or put aside in favor of what Jesus himself said as though the Holy Spirit were opposed and different from the teachings of Jesus.

He touched the marginalized, despised and outcast in Israel. He forgave as easily and freely as he healed those who might not have even expected forgiveness or healing.

When he did not receive grace towards himself, he cried out, Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.

The apostle Paul was quite mindful that this grace had appeared in Titus 2. Grace was realized. It was Jesus who realized this grace. Paul also notes what this gift of grace has done for us in Ephesians 2. We have been saved by grace. This is not a matter about which the believer in Christ can boast. The gift of grace is not earned favor with God.

The gospel according to John more than any other gospel accounts records repeat instances where Jesus made these clear and bold declarations. Sometimes these declarations may appear in abbreviated form and include only one or two of the three declarations, but these relate and refer to the same single message and purpose of Jesus.

He came from the Father.
He was here to do the will of the Father.
He would return to the Father. (see John 14; 16:27-28)

This was a demonstrative perspective of past, present and future as a single unity of purpose and one very much alive and real in Jesus.

The myopic perspective from which Israel viewed history began with Abraham (past), then Moses (present) and then Messiah (future). What Jesus declared was radically far beyond their understandably myopic view. It was neither a distant nor impersonal perspective on history. The testimony of Jesus concerning the truth was of a personal presence with the Father and an intimate knowledge of the will of the Father. Even more, this declaration and view of the Father was, to borrow a modern term, in real time because the Son sees what the Father is doing and the Son does those things.

This declaration is the perspective which Jesus called truth.

This was the same declaration which baffled Pontius Pilate when he asked of Jesus: What is truth? There are accusations about error mistakenly espoused as truth. There are self-claim assertions of one’s own truth, but neither one of these reveals much about one’s willingness and ability to understand much less explain truth. Truth is not understood merely by running down a list and applying catchy labels of truth as logical, objective, subjective, relational, theological, rational, philosophical, or the favorite to trump all others; absolute. Understanding truth is to grasp the relationship of points such as between past, present and future to one another. The test of that understanding is when the past is viewed and examined in the present. It is possible that the initial appearance or impression might mislead some to conclude that it is different than what it was in the past. However, a closer examination will soon reveal it is the same in the present as it was in the past. In other words, the present is true to the past as is the past to the present when one examines their relationship to one another. Closer to today that means that what was true of Jesus then is true of him today. This is equally true and the same of those things; grace and truth, which Jesus realized to explain God.

What Pilate did not realize was that Jesus answered Pilate’s question, for this I have come into the world to testify to the truth, before Pilate even asked the question! The abbreviated reply for Pilate from this perspective (present) on truth was as to why Jesus had come into the world, that is, come from the Father. (present) He came into the world to testify to the truth.

nothing to understand
What does this say and what is its significance for the atheist like Pontius Pilate? This is the quandary of the atheist. He has no idea where he came from, why he is here or where he is going. His summary answer to these questions might be that he evolved as the result of some natural selection process, (past) there is no meaning in the life which he is living (present) and there is nothing beyond the grave. (future) He is not to be bothered with the realization of grace and truth. There is something curious about this view.

What is curious about it is found in the supposed scientific and logical thought the atheist embraces. Science has discovered and informed us all that matter is energy. It can not be destroyed. It can only be transformed. Yet, the atheist’s response is that there is no transformation for him. A living, intelligent entity, unlike lifeless matter, simply ceases to exist beyond death? This is sound logic? This is sound reasoning? How does what Jesus explained refute these mistaken notions?

The atheist boasts that he possesses superior intelligence. Yet, he can not realize anything in his world, that is, make anything happen. This is not to say, for example, that he can not engineer a computer, build it and operate it. Rather, it is to say that aside of these great and petty things there is nothing in the universe which exists which did not just happen according to the atheist’s understanding of the universe. The atheist finds himself in the universe which is nothing more than the result of either a random or natural selection process. The best he can do is to point to these things as having happened over the course of billions of years. There is no explanation. There is nothing to understand. There is nothing to explain. Everything that can be seen is there for all to see. There is no meaning. It is as plain as a rock.

What this suggests is that whether something or someone is tangible and visible it really makes no difference for the atheist in terms of his perspective on truth, that is, past, present  and future. Whether it is a lifeless rock or a living, breathing intelligent life-form no matter that life-form might explain or reveal for his understanding it is nothing for the atheist. Explanation and realization have no more value or meaning than a rock for the atheist. Of course, none of this is to say or to assume that there is any consistency in his worldview. The inconsistency becomes quickly apparent when he realizes he has no moral standard for his judgments. This is not to say, as atheists are often quick to misinterpret, that atheists are not moral.

a realization test
So here is a test for the atheist of these simple but profound things which Jesus explained and realized for our understanding about God.

Is it good or favorable to do; to realize, good towards others? Towards yourself? Will your judgments stand up when assessed and explained in the past, the present or the future? (If you tell yourself that you do not judge ask yourself why it is that you do not judge. Then, explain that, even if to no one else, at least to yourself.)

This is what Jesus explained about God whom no one has seen. Do not trouble yourself with trying to see God as the sure way to ensure that he does in fact exist. Rather understand how Jesus has explained God. Admittedly, understanding this is a whole lot tougher and demanding than simply telling oneself that everything in the universe just happened without reason or purpose. The disciples who had walked, talked and lived with Jesus over a period of three years were privy to his explanations concerning God. Yet, they like the saints, and atheists, sometimes seem just as much at a loss to understand just who is this Jesus and this God whom he explained. Philip expressed the befuddlement of his fellow disciples. (John 14)

What Jesus explained about God was that he freely gifts his grace to all who believe in Jesus, the only begotten Son. The significance and importance of this is that death is coming. One can boast and follow the supposed logic and reason which concludes that a lifeless mass of energy has more permanence in the universe than themselves. There is the option to examine for oneself the grace and truth which Jesus realized to explain God.

No comments:

Post a Comment