Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Again and again

The gospels, as we know, were written down some years after the events took place, even though they often read as if they were jotted down just as they happened. The way they are described incorporates an understanding of their significance which could not have been known to most of those who experienced them first-hand. All of the writers knew, by the time they composed them, everything that we know about Christ, and so what may seem to us their ambiguities or even their silence on certain matters would not have been so to their contemporaries. Hence, the need to read contextually.

The first generation of disciples in the first moments of time after the death of Jesus were in a state of almost perfect ignorance and confusion. Everything they had experienced for three years, everything they had heard Jesus say, all that they saw Him do, was a muddle mixed with their shock at what had just occurred and so swiftly—the unorthodox Seder meal, the sorrowful Passover walk in the garden afterwards, the troubling Judas kiss and the brutal arrest of their Rabbi, His merciless interrogation by the authorities and their illegal trial and conviction of Him, and finally, His unthinkable crucifixion and death.

As many have observed, in such a state of mind and emotion men such as these should not have been able to say and do what followed. We should never have, in fact, learned anything about Jesus of Nazareth at all. As illustrious and effective as His words and deeds may have been, we should never have discovered them, unless some evidence might have turned up in the secular reports of His contemporaries, or in allusions to Him in the Talmudic writings of the Jews. Even if He were somehow a divine being, the Son of God or whatever, if anything remained, it would have been only mythology.

But this is not what happened. Everything we know about Jesus Christ has come down to us through the gospels and the apostolic writings precisely because the Author was Christ Himself, speaking to us through the words of His disciples. Precisely because they met Him again and again, starting with the two on the road to Emmaus. And He told them the significance of everything in terms of the Law and the Prophets. Without the Law and the Prophets there is no Messiah, and so starting with Moses, He explained everything. Not just in that first encounter, but in the forty days that followed.

Of course, this is how we know anything about the Resurrection, even that it happened at all. The words and deeds of Jesus could not have held any everlasting meaning or exhibited such power, had He not finished His earthly ministry by, after His resurrection, explaining everything to them. Every heresy that followed in later ages up to the present time derive any rational force they have from doubting that it was the resurrected Christ who is speaking in the gospels and the apostles. Then, ambiguities in the writings become mountains to be climbed, and new religions can be created by men out of their heads.

The whole message of Christ and Christianity was complete and present in the understanding imparted by Christ to His first generation of disciples when He was with them personally after His resurrection, and yet only the foundations were seen. The building had yet to be built on those foundations, and so it was, and so it is still being built. We have finished only two stories thus far, and now a third is being layered on, though at first with trepidation. Some of the builders want to keep repeating the layers designed as the base. Others want to start building what the foundation was laid for, the many-mansioned house.

Now, we must go back, reread the words of the contract signed in the Blood of the Son of God which was written up between His Father and us, that new and everlasting Covenant which was initially and provisionally drafted with Noah and confirmed by the sign set in the clouds. Knowing what we know because Jesus told us, still tells us, and always will tell us again and again and more perfectly, we must return to what was designed by Him in the beginning, and to which His words and deeds direct us, the Kingdom of God, and add yet another story on its bold foundation, for He comes. He comes to judge the earth, and the nations by His truth.

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