For example, how many of you confess that Jesus Christ is raised from the dead? (I do, I do!). You confess this because it is revealed to you. It is revealed to you and you respond with an affirmation of faith and you say Yes, Jesus Christ is raised from the dead and He is Lord! Now explain how that happened. Explain how it works. Explain how it is that this man is raised from the dead, not just resuscitated, but lives physically, as a human, but beyond the realm that we see…you can’t explain it. It s beyond reason, beyond explanation, but you do confess it. Christianity does not begin with reason and explanation, but with revelation and confession. We will explain what we can, but if we can’t explain it all, don’t worry about it.
Hear what the apostle Paul says about confession and mystery. “Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.” 1 Timothy 3:16 ESV. Amen. Great is the mystery of our faith. At the heart of our Christian faith is the great mystery of the incarnation. Much of our Christian thinking is formed in meditating on the central mystery of the Christian faith that the word, the logos, the logic of God became a human being, born at Bethlehem, being fully human. And this is the Christian confession, that Jesus Christ is fully God and fully human. And it’s fully a mystery. Fully God, completely God, very God of very God. But also fully human, as human as you and me.
Almost all Christian heresies spring out of an attempt to relieve the tension between these two things. There’s a real tension, almost a razor blade we have to walk, Jesus is fully human and fully God, and some don’t like that tension. So they try to lessen the tension and say things like, “Yeah, he became divine”, or “He was invited into divinity eventually”, “He was the most human of us, did humanity better than anyone, so he was invited into divinity…”. And so we might try to diminish the full divinity of Christ.
But most of us (I believe), in our western, self-justifying ways of thinking, struggle on the other side of this. We have no problem with Christ being divine, “but come on, he’s not fully human like us!!” But, Yes, he is fully human like us. He is one of us. God is one of us!! He is not, not one of us. This tension must be maintained, that Jesus Christ is fully human and fully God.
We have to live with this tension, so that the flesh and blood of Jesus is human flesh and blood. Jesus was not a spirit, but real flesh and real blood. He bled red just like you. His flesh was flesh just like your flesh, his blood was blood just like your blood, plasma, platelets and everything. But because he’s also fully God, it’s also divine flesh and blood. His flash and his blood are fully human and fully divine, both, and this has very profound implications.
When Jesus offers us, calls us, to eat his flesh and drink his blood he is offering us divine life through his divine flesh and blood. Don’t try to explain, but don’t resist either, just enter into this mystery. Allow yourself to receive these words from Jesus. “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.” John 6:51-56 ESV. We might try to relieve some of the tension here, tell ourselves that when Jesus says something like And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh, he’s really just talking about his own sacrifice upon the cross. We’re not really going to eat his flesh like we would eat bread. (Oh yeah?) We might do this because we need to make Jesus’ words fit into our own theological and religious system. We might also ask, like the Jews here, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? Bunch of empiricists, trying to figure it out…Truly, truly, I say to you…Jesus says nothing about the how, he just says it.
Here’s a central, key point here – Christianity, unlike Gnosticism, is a material faith. Gnosticism is the original distortion, heresy, of the Christian faith. It has been repudiated by the church, repeatedly, from the very beginning. But it’s never been completely eradicated. It’s like one of these diseases that’s almost been done away with, then all of a sudden some polio or smallpox pops up somewhere. We can’t quite seem to get rid of Gnosticism. Gnosticism is purely spiritual. If you don’t like anything with ritual, if you think that you just want your Christianity to be pure, to be spiritual, just ideas, but you don’t want anything involving material objects and rituals, then you should be one a gnostic, because that’s what that is.
Christianity, on the other hand, is a material faith, and by material I mean sacramental. It involves sacred mystery, because Christianity confesses a mysterious union between the physical and spiritual. Or shall we say heaven and earth? Central to that is The word [pure spirit] became flesh. The gnostic idea is that what we have to do is we have to get away, escape, from that which is material. If we can just go to heaven and be pure spirit, that’s the goal.
But Christianity says no, no, no. The goal, in fact, is just the opposite. The goal is not to escape the material, but to bring heaven and earth together. The word became flesh….Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven… And I saw the new Jerusalem coming down from heaven to the earth as a bridesmaid ready for her groom…
More to come (again)
“”Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” Ephesians 5:31-32 ESV