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~ Believing in What versus Who ~
As the saying goes, to really understand what was happening historically, “you had to be there.” Jesus learned obedience through suffering. (Hebrews 5:8.) He obediently went to Golgotha to offer Himself to all humankind. He trusted the Father to raise Him from death. As clear as Jesus was about His resurrection and ascension, His disciples either did not understand or lacked faith in the Master and Lord of death and life.
It was the latter, a matter of faith. He scolded them all, not just Thomas, for not believing. (Mark 16:14.) Even at His ascension, incredibly, “some still doubted.” (Matthew 28:17.)
What does it take to crack the hard shell of the obstinate human ego? Unfertilized eggs are good for only eating. Left alone, they rot back into the earth, unable to produce new life. The egg of the human spirit decays, providing no life without the impregnation of the Holy Spirit of the Word of life.
The Holy Spirit impregnated the human egg in the body of a divinely chosen virgin, producing the body and blood of God Himself in a most resplendent Incarnation of divine Being in human being. He was born not just to die, but also to vanquish death and bring forth from it immortal life.
He was the “first born,” which means many were to follow. “We shall be called sons of God,” meaning we are reborn through a resurrection in the same manner in the spiritual realm. The egg casing of our selves must be penetrated by the Holy Spirit, made fertile by Christ’s indwelling as Mary was made fertile by the Holy Spirit. In this manner we become the brothers and sisters of Christ. The same Spirit who impregnated the virgin fertilizes our spirits.
“In the body you see Me now, I must leave you. If I don’t, I can’t send you the Advocate, my Holy Spirit. He will teach you all things, give you life. Open your eyes and ears to Him.”
There’s an interesting thing about the resurrection of Christ: It was done to Him. The Father raised Him up. The Father glorified Him. “I can do nothing on my own. The Father does all things, reveals all things.” The humility, self-emptying, and self-denial of the Word “through whom all things came into being” overwhelms by brain and heart. And we are to be like Him. We certainly cannot be greater. Christ was more human than any of us.
Christ not only taught us about divinity, but how to be truly human, as God first created Adam and Eve to be.
While humility and holiness can be consciously practiced, and while they can be imitated, they cannot be achieved. Humility and holiness are not driven by the will anymore than we can will ourselves into a resurrected state of renewed being. As with the resurrection, they happen to us. Like a drizzling rain saturating the earth, they are graces that infuse us in response to love...The love of God for us; our love for Him.
Love is self-denying, humble and holy. “God is love.” Human love is generally incomplete or tainted with self-interest and often with self-preservation. Our ability to love is not infinite in a divine sense. Our loving attention is divided and interrupted by events and human limitations of energy. Regardless of what parents or teachers or ministers may claim, we do not love our children, students, or brothers and sisters equally or with the same intensity.
God’s boundless love is undivided. He has the ability to love you in totality, as though you were the only human in existence. And if you were, Christ would have still incarnated, suffered, died and resurrected for only you. You would have nailed Him to the cross upon His insistence, just as Abraham laid Isaac on the sacrificial altar at God’s command. You would have placed His body in the tomb and retreated into fear and sorrow. You would have hurried to His tomb to anoint His body and would have been distraught and confused upon not finding it there. And He would have appeared to you as He did to Mary, waking you up to a new reality by calling your name.
I respond differently to these two true statements: Jesus died for humankind; Jesus died for me. This inexplicable love of His passion and resurrection is not a shared love. Each of us is a recipient of it in its fullness and totality, as though it was just you and He. Christ pronounced His new covenant for the world. The covenant is also a personal one between just you and Him.
Despite the prideful nationalism of the citizens of our world’s countries, people must recognize the Holy is not given to a nation to be shared among its people. Christ’s Spirit is given, as is His love, to each individual person, in fullness. We do not have to share His attention like children must do with their human parents.
There’s a feeble but helpful analogy in understanding this a bit more. When you log onto our Web site, you are greeted as though only you and the site exist. You don’t have to share that Web site with anyone. It’s on your monitor screen in its totality, you and it alone and together. You are not aware of the complex electronic infrastructure that connects you to the site. You are not aware of the others who are also exploring it at the same time. You and our server interact as though no one else in the world exists. A "primitive” person in a non-technological world would regard this as a supernatural phenomenon. We take it for granted, especially our children who never knew a world without the Internet.
Just a couple millennia ago, the time equivalent of only twenty people each consecutively living for a hundred years, there was a world without the resurrection and Pentecost. The postmodern children of the earth take that for granted. The people living in the years BC had the prophetic promise of Christ’s Incarnation. But how many really understood? Jesus’ own apostles, speaking with Him in the flesh, “doubted,” until the Pentecost. They did, so how can we fault the Jewish leadership and the Roman Empire for not understanding and also doubting?
The world’s literature tells magnificent stories of deities and their demonstrations of power. No human could or ever did make up a story of a God who emptied Himself of divinity in profound humility, to become fully human and make us His brothers and sisters. No human could or did because no human thinks like God. “’For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts’” (Isaiah 55:8-9 NIV). Not only can’t humans love like God, we can’t even fathom the dynamics and depth of such love.
Yes, we need the written historical record. We need the belief system. But believing in doctrine, history and stories is far different from believing in a Person. Modern business-oriented people like everything in writing. “The Bible says it, so I believe it.” Yes, believe the scriptural record. The Word of life is not bound by ink on paper, however. The passion and resurrection of Christ is for experiencing, viscerally, like fire in the bone marrow of our bodies and the soul marrow of our spirits. “By faith you are saved,” not by observances, practices, strivings to be holy and enlightened. But it isn’t a faith in the written record, but rather in the Person. “Demons believe, and tremble.”
What is your experience of Christ’s passion and resurrection? Love
is for experiencing. How resplendent, penetrating, consuming, healing and
restorative is that love! Of the great three, faith, hope and love, love
is the greatest and most powerful. (1 Corinthians 13.) Jesus declared,
“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends”
(John 15:13). God declares us as His friends, and made the way to adopt
us as His children, as one body in Christ and as individuals. This is the
Gospel, the incredible, unfathomable Good News, for experiencing!
John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
Spiritual Resource Services
~ Education, Research and Advocacy
in the Christian Faith ~
Spiritual Resource Services © April 9, 2004
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