God’s People, part 150: Embodiment

Read Luke 2:41-52

“As they approached, Jesus said, ‘Now here is a genuine son of Israel—a man of complete integrity.’
‘How do you know about me?’ Nathanael asked. Jesus replied, ‘I could see you under the fig tree before Philip found you.’”  (John 1:47-48, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

pantocratorchristPart 150: Embodiment. There is a lot of good that comes out of modern Biblical scholarship. For sure, my understanding of the historical, socio-economic, and literary contexts of the Bible comes out of an education steeped in such scholarship. It is important to acknowledge that the Bible cannot simply be understood by merely reading it. We are so far removed from the time and place it was written in that we will inevitable misinterpret it if we do not dive deeper than a mere surface read. It doesn’t take a scholar to do that, but it does take discipline to not cut corners in our personal and/or group Bible studies.

With that said, not everything that has come forth from modern Biblical scholarship has been helpful; indeed, there has been some modern scholarship that has been harmful. One such thing is the notion that the earliest Christians only saw Jesus as a man and overtime Christians mythologized who Jesus was, eventually seeing him as God in the flesh.

This theory postulates that Mark’s Gospel had a very low Christology (Jesus was God’s adopted Son at best). Matthew’s Christology was slightly higher, showing Jesus’ birth to be the result of divine intervention. Luke’s Gospel slightly higher still, with Mary receiving word from an angel that her child, divinely conceived, would be God’s Son. Finally, John’s Gospel has the highest Christology and goes so far as to call Jesus the divine Word of God and, beyond that, the very incarnation of God.

Such a reading, however, is counter to what we ACTUALLY find in the Bible. First, it is blind to the fact that Paul, who wrote before any of the Gospels were written, acknowledges Jesus as the pre-existent Lord, Creator of all that exists (Romans 8:3; 10:13; 1 Corinthians 1:31; 2:16; 8:6; 10:26; 15:47; 2 Corinthians 8:9; 10:17;  Galatian 4:4; etc.). It also willfully ignores the fact that Mark opens up his Gospel with this proclamation: “This is the Good News about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God.”  (Mark 1:1, NLT)

In Luke, we see that Jesus is not only a human being but is the embodiment of God’s Law. In the Scripture for today’s devotion, we see Jesus as a 12 year old boy engaging with the religious teachers about God’s law. Luke wrote, “All who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers”  (Luke 2:47, NLT). What’s more, when his frantic parents got a hold of him upon finding him in the Temple and questioned why he took off on them like that, his response was this, “But why did you need to search? Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house” (Luke 2:49, NLT)?

Throughout Luke, and Matthew, Jesus is repeatedly shown to not only know the Law, but to also be the Law-giver. Just like God gave the Law of the old covenant to Moses, Jesus gave the Law of the new covenant to his disciples and, by extension, to us. Thus, it is clear, that the authority of God rests upon Jesus who is God incarnate. This was not just some later claim that came in through mythological development over time, but was a major part of the early Church’s understanding of Jesus’ divine identity.

The challenge for us is to be cautious when modern thinking leads us away from traditional understanding. Sometimes a shift in understanding is good; however, only when it is in line with the revelation of Jesus Christ found in Scripture. Anything that denies Christ’s divine identity and authority will ultimately lead us astray. Let us embrace Christ as Lord and humbly accept his direction in our lives.

“Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation…” – Paul the Apostle  (Colossians 1:15, NLT)

Lord, I accept your Lordship and open myself to your instruction and mission. Guide me to where it is you are calling me and keep me on course. Amen.

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