An Opportunity to Ponder

By Mark A. Taylor

The gospel is born and bathed in mystery. How can we understand, how can we respond to what Jesus said and who Jesus was?

12_eddy_JNHe told his followers, “I am the light of the world” and, “You are the light of the world.” We and he are the same light? How?

He commanded, “Be holy, even as I am holy.” How is that possible?

He told Nicodemus, “You must be born again,” and with the puzzled Pharisee, the first-time reader asks, “How can a grown man climb back into the womb?”

The greatest mystery, of course, is the fact of Jesus, God’s Son, walking and weeping and working on planet earth as a man. How did this happen? And how should we react to it? God with us—it’s unfathomable when first considered. Especially when “God with us” actually means “God as us.”

He was “tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin” (Hebrews 4:15). You mean Jesus, my Lord, saw the chance to lust and lie, gossip and gorge, run from conflict, and hide from responsibility? You mean the temptation that dogs me week in and week out faced him too? Fully god and fully that man? It’s too much to grasp.

But there’s more. Even the apostle Paul called it a mystery: “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). Not only was Jesus born of a peasant girl in the commonest of circumstances. Not only did he live sinlessly and then bear all the world’s sins in a cruel execution. Not only did he rise up from a sealed grave to prove his divinity and to assure us his words were truth. Now, for all who make him Lord, he offers his own presence—not only with us and as us, but now in us.

Of course, we’ve heard all this before. These words roll off our tongue, rote as our phone numbers. Matt Proctor pointed this out at the North American Christian Convention this summer when he talked about “awesome.” We use the word to describe TV programs, good food, or the discovery of an empty parking space. But the facts of the gospel and the presence of Jesus? Ho-hum.

Never is this truer than with our celebration of Christmas. We rush from event to event. We buy and cook and decorate. We display nativity scenes and tell the world to “keep Christ in Christmas.” The best of us give to those who won’t give back. We make sure to plan meaningful programs—or at least to attend one.

But do we call it “awesome”? Do we tremble to realize that the baby in the manger was the God of the universe? It’s a fact too great to fully fathom, a mystery too meaningful to take for granted. And for those who know the story best, Christmas is an opportunity to ponder anew who he was and who he is and who we’re becoming because of him.

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4 Comments

  1. Steven C. Parrish
    December 3, 2013 at 6:43 am

    “The gospel is born and bathed in mystery.”

    There is nothing mysterious about the four gospel writers or the Bible.

    Matthew was one of many Jewish tax collectors of which the people hated and of whom Jesus extended the invitation to be one of his followers. Luke was a physician. John Mark, the cousin to Barnabas, received most of what he wrote from Peter. John was in business with his father. There is nothing mysterious about these people, what they saw, heard and wrote.

    Additionally, Romans 15:4 helps us to appreciate that all the things that were written aforetime were written for our instruction, that through our endurance and through the comfort from the Scriptures we might have hope. And 1 Corinthians 15:33 states that God is not of disorder or confusion but of peace.

    How can a person receive comfort, hope and develop endurance based on mystery? How can they develop and maintain faith in something that is difficult, confusing or impossible to understand or explain, which is what mystery means?

    If your answer is based on faith, there must be strong and consistent evidence. If there is not but believing is still required for acceptance, this would be blind credulity, just believing without evidence or fact.

    You would have someone accept your premise as fact without a shred of consistent evidence. If your premise is out of harmony with just one contextual thought from anyone of the 66 books of the Bible, your understanding must be surrendered.

  2. D. Gene Lakin
    December 4, 2013 at 9:38 am

    It seems to me that statements such as “God as us” is both unscriptural, and controversial in so much as
    the proper use of English is concerned. What is said by such a phrase defies the true revelation of the incarnation when “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” is considered. Jesus was Perfectly Human, Perfectly Divine, and Perfectly Sinless. Therefore, “God as us” is truly a misnomer!

  3. Kathy E. Comp
    December 4, 2013 at 4:10 pm

    I took “God as us” to mean that Jesus became human, like us. Of course, he was also divine. Scripture teaches that Jesus (The Word) “became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).”

  4. Kathy E. Comp
    December 4, 2013 at 4:16 pm

    Hebrews 2:13-16 says that Jesus “shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”

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