Monthly Archives: March 2018

Jesus (Letter 19)



Sir Tom,

SMASH in all it’s fullness,

Sometimes you make it very hard to reply as you nail it all first time. I have to say I agree with you in pretty much everything.

It’s a fascinating concept, that Jesus has been misrepresented by the church for it’s own agenda. As you say there is a political slant given and I’m frankly surprised at how many politically right wing Christians I meet. I would have thought a left leaning agenda would be more in line with Jesus’ message (especially in terms of the poor). What would be fascinating in these letters would be to put out how you think Jesus has been re-purposed so that we can strip that away.

My only issue comes with your first paragraph. I don’t think Jesus was leading the Israelites through the desert. I think we have another issue of ‘who is Jesus’ and that is that He is not God (the Father). I think when you say something like this you are falling into your own trap of reading the Bible through the Jesus lens. God led the Israelites through the desert, not Jesus, the Bible makes that clear. For all our Jesus and God are the same dude, the Bible goes to great lengths to show they are separate. And apparently no one in the Bible had any issue with that. It is only 300 years later that anyone has an issue with it and run to Greek philosophy rather than the Bible to solve their issue (again an issue that no one in the whole Bible has).

I’ve said this in a previous letter, but I am still of the belief (no one has shown me my mistake) that Jesus did not exist (as the Son) until His birth.

I agree with your summary that He is God’s word, God’s voice, but I think that is in the limited role of what we see Him do in the Evangelion; after that He is granted the place at the right hand of God to be judge of the World. I think the crux of Jesus comes in what we are thinking about this Easter Saturday (as I write), that Jesus defeated death. What does that mean? I won’t answer that here fully, but I think it revolves around the idea that no one can see God and live. I think that might apply even in the Kingdom. Surely to behold God is to be as powerful as He? Are we to gain that in the Resurrection? I can’t think of a verse off the top of my head. Jesus, with His human body can still play the role of mediator even through eternity.

So I take your first paragraph a little differently; that we shouldn’t see everything through the Gospels because we should see God where it is God and Jesus where it is Jesus, though I do believe we should see both the OT and NT through the lens of Jesus’ teachings, particularly the Golden Rule (Love God with all you heart, soul mind and love your neighbour as yourself). If your understanding of an OT passage does not fit within the Golden Rule, then you are reading it wrong.

And I think we should read the Revelation passages on Jesus before we record to keep them fresh in our minds, because that is who Jesus is now. Not a vagrant teacher, but the one who already sits on the right-hand of God, the One in power, no longer in humility.

Peace

Dangerous


Jesus (Letter 18)



Sir Dangerous of Dangeroushire,

Having singularly avoided to address the topic of ‘Jesus,’ in our last podcast, we probably ought to consider it again, this time around. To keep things fresh, I would like to approach the question, ‘Who is Jesus?’ from a slightly different angle, considering how (in my view) the modern day church has misrepresented him and (in my view) sought to impose an agenda on him. This letter is likely to be a bit theological for inclusion in the podcast; but the point of our correspondence here is hopefully to ‘clear the air,’ and focus us on what really matters for the subsequent recording. Nevertheless, at the end of each of the following three paragraphs, I have sought to answer the question ‘Who is Jesus’ in non-church language.

– First, there is an (again, in my view) entirely unfair argument doing the rounds that goes something like this: “because our faith is ‘all about Jesus,’ the rest of the Scriptures should be subordinate to the four Gospels and everything we read in the OT/Paul/Peter and so on should be read through the lens of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.” I have massive problems with this for the following reasons. First, it fails to take into account that Jesus speaks through the whole Bible. It is HIM who is encouraging the churches (through Paul) in the epistles; it is HIM who is leading the Israelites through the desert in Exodus. Second, Jesus himself acknowledged on many occasions during his earthly ministry that he was unable/unwilling to speak the full truth for political and spiritual reasons. The whole tone of his teaching (paraphrased) is: “I’m trying to teach you guys the way but you are too slow and not yet ready to understand and it’s dangerous for me to speak out publicly; the helper will come after I’ve gone to lead you into all truth.” It’s very cloak and dagger, it’s not open. To bring this (clumsily) around to our question, who is Jesus? Answer: he is a physical embodiment of God’s message to us. He is God’s voice, God’s word, God’s message and he speaks through the whole Bible.

– Along with this goes the idea that: “Jesus was really nice and accepting and gracious, so anything in the Bible which doesn’t seem (to us) to fit that mold has to be thrown out.” Again, this is in my view wrong. First, he was much more multi-faceted than that. His teaching is sometimes very judgmental and sharp; he condemns nearly as much as he forgives; and (as I keep saying) when we see him in the Book of Revelation, he is a frankly terrifying prospect. John falls on the ground as if dead when he sees him. Now I’m not saying we should be terrified of Jesus; his first words to John after this incident are “Do not be afraid.” But in the ‘letters to the churches’ that follow in Revelation he is as critical as he is loving of his people. I’m just keen that we see and present Jesus for ALL he is. He is a friend, a saviour, a servant. But he is also (and the Bible says this again and again and again) God’s appointed judge over us. So he should be revered. To answer our question, who is Jesus? He is also God’s moral yardstick who will judge the world ultimately.

– Last, I feel that many people try and impose a political agenda on Jesus, either from the Right or from the Left. The truth is that he is entirely and fascinatingly apolitical and refused to get involved in all that. As he taught, he ‘came to seek and save that which was lost.’ And as Paul said: ‘here’s a trustworthy saying, Christ came into the world to save sinners.’ He came to save us from our mistakes (sins). That’s what he was about. This explains those bizarre occasions when he heals people of physical problems and then says to them: “your sins are forgiven.” You might say: “the guy couldn’t walk; this has nothing to do with sin.” But Jesus knows our most important need: forgiveness. Again in Paul: ‘God rescued us and brought us into the kingdom of his Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.’ What is salvation? (a question for another podcast) It is forgiveness. Who offers it? Jesus. So our question, who is Jesus? He is God’s Rescuer, sent to rescue us from our troubles.

Now I know I may have strayed here into ‘What does Jesus do?’ rather than purely ‘Who is Jesus?’ but I would suggest it is difficult to separate the two, simply because the Bible writers rarely do. But nevertheless, three more answers: Who is Jesus? 1.) He is God’s message. 2.) He is God’s judge 3.) He is God’s Saviour.

SMASHY

Sir Tom


Episode 5 – Jesus(ish)



In this episode, the (possibly) Greatest Theologians of the 21st Century attempt to take on Jesus. I say attempt as they stray way off course and talk more about the churches reaction to Jesus and how we just mess it up so much, so often. They do manage to cover what exactly we mean when we say ‘Son of God’ so there’s that… They also look at the problems with church being insular; a social club, rather than an outreach and the problem that causes when wishing to question dogma or doctrine. Not that Dangerous or Sir Tom have any issue doing so as you will hear…


Jesus (Letter 17)



SMASH!

I agree with you, dear fellow, in the broad outline of what you’re saying. I don’t, however, agree with the linking of Jesus to the appearances you mention in the OT. If the Bible says God sent an angel to shut the lion’s mouths then it was a lion. I also think there is a strong presence for a few archangels doing a lot of work through the OT and into the NT up until Jesus’ birth and I don’t feel the need to detract from that. Jacob had to have wrestled with God because a/ he says he did and b/ his name would make no sense if he hadn’t.

Still you paint a great picture of Jesus and I totally agree with everything you say about how He was hidden yet referenced throughout; though I am currently in a stage where I believe Jesus was hidden because He did not exist apart from God at this time.

My thing, as I’ve said, is that Jesus was the literal word of God; John states that clearly and The Apocalypse 19 v13 – 16 also make that clear, I feel. And actually thinking about it now I wonder if we can never, not even on the New Earth truly see and understand who and what God is and that Jesus takes on a mantle of being the tactile ruler of Eternity for that reason. Hmm. That is deep and needs more thought.

More to the point though, is that, though all you say is true, it does not actually deal with the moniker of ‘Son of God’. It tells us brilliantly who He is and how He is addressed through the OT, but it does not deal with the idea of whether Jesus is a son or not. And this was what I wanted to deal with.

Again I feel that the Daniel verses put a spanner in the works for what you said before as again they talk about, let’s face it, Jesus as being “given authority, glory and sovereign power”, not had it already because He was God. When it comes to Jesus we seem to happily see-saw between theologies on Him. This is Mannish Boy Theology because it really questions our accepted wisdom of who Jesus is, or more accurately questions whether we have a true doctrine of Him.

Still I think you have nailed it in many ways with your window analogy. I guess that links to what I said above about whether He is a tactile ruler of Heaven, i.e. God in a form we can mentally understand. I also totes agree that we need to talk Revelation Jesus, though we should call the book The Apocalypse as it sounds waaaaay cooler. Apocalypse Jesus should be our band name!

I would love to hear your further thoughts on this, but if we run out of time before recording I think we can agree with this. Jesus was somehow God and that through His death and resurrection He somehow bridged the gap between us and God. We won’t talk about how that might have happened as that will be another podcast, one that also includes a lot of doctrine that I find iffy.

What a surprise!

Peace and SMASHY

‘Dangerous’

 


Jesus (Letter 16)



Dangerous, my dear old thing,

The most reverent and humble SMASH to you, sir.

My own understanding of how Jesus’ ‘Son of God,’ status fits in is as follows: the people of Israel knew their God as ‘One’ and worshipped him in awe and wonder (and even sheer fear), largely from a distance. Sure, certain people were called into a closer, more intimate relationship with the Lord (Abraham, Moses, David) and the people knew that God loved them and provided for them, but their understanding of and relationship to God was far more detached than what we now enjoy in Christ. And throughout that whole period, God always seems to be hinting at something else: there’s something further, something deeper, something hidden and secret that is going on in the background. And that ‘something else’ is definitely a person. Think about it: remember the episode where Daniel’s unpronounceable friends get thrown into the fiery furnace? The King looks into the fire and sees a ‘fourth person’ walking about and talking with them, one who ‘looked like a son of God.’ Who is that? An angel? For me, that is too simple. There’s someone else. Or how about Daniel himself when he’s rescued from the Lion’s Den? He tells the king, “God sent his angel to shut the lions’ mouths.” Angel? Maybe? Or maybe there’s someone else here, who keeps popping up in the story. There are other examples: the man who comes to visit Abraham and Sarah in the desert; the ‘man’ with the drawn sword who appears to Joshua; the man who wrestles with Jacob until daybreak. There are countless other examples. The veiled truth that keeps popping up is that there is ‘someone else’ in the story, another player in the saga. And I’m quite happy to believe that this someone else is Jesus. The hidden truth that Israel isn’t shown is that God has a Son. Now, just how this ‘Son’ came about and how this idea fits with God being ‘One’ I do not know. Maybe we’re not meant to: Paul says that even we ‘see through the glass darkly’ and all that. But there does seem to be that sense in which all the Old Testament dudes are straining to find out this hidden truth. Many of the prophets seem to be foretelling that God will send this person and he will sort things (Isaiah’s ‘Suffering Servant’) and alongside all these prophecies about this mysterious saviour is the truth that ‘God himself will come and deliver Israel,’ so the OT prophets seem quite happy to hold together Jesus and God. Also, in that brilliant passage in John 8 (which I know you love), when Jesus is taking apart the Pharisees, he tells them “Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my coming…” which suggests to me that perhaps the likes of Abraham/Moses/David were ‘in on the secret,’ and sensed that God had a Son and that he was going to be sent to Israel and to the world. Who knows?

Maybe you’ll think this too simple, but I believe Jesus’ references to himself as ‘the Son of Man,’ to be to Daniel’s vision when he sees: ‘one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.’ I know you know of these verses, but to me, it’s the same picture as what I’ve been describing above. Daniel sees a vision and realises there is ‘someone else’ in the picture who is given ‘all authority’ by God to rule. So when Jesus calls himself ‘Son of Man,’ he is claiming to be that man.

In the spirit of ‘Mean Manish Boy Theology,’ I fear I have muddied the waters even further. Let me return to developing this idea of a ‘Window into God.’ I loved your point about the calming of the storm. And the disciples had the same reaction: “Who is this man?!” They’re starting to ‘get it’ for the first time: the man in their midst is God. And as I said in my last post, we should probably look into the vision of Jesus in Revelation 1-3. Very different from the Gospel picture. There we have the glorified Jesus, with scary apocalyptic features and a loving, but uncompromisingly righteous view of his churches throughout Asia Minor at the time. It flies nicely in the face of the traditional ‘Jesus, meek and mild’ artistic portrayals we have in pop culture. Another interesting tidbit is the fact that Jesus’ beloved friends didn’t recognise him ‘at first’ when he was resurrected. On more than one occasion, there is this kind of ‘ahhhh it’s really you,’ moment. Is this because Jesus’ identity while he lived on earth as a man was very different, do you think?