Recently I wrote about how we each have a picture of Christ in our heads and many times that “image” gives us an unseen biased of who we think Jesus is (or isn’t). So today I want to look at chapter five of Re-Jesus from Frost and Hirsh…
“To understand Christiology,” they write “we need to probe the basic assumption in the biblical revelation of God, namely, the assumption that God is one and that he redeems and claims us in and through Jesus the Messiah.” (page 114)
4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
The first word in verse 4 is the Hebrew word shema which is the word “hear.” Verse four “announces” and calls the reader to “pay attention” to these very core beliefs and understandings of the relationship between God and his people.
The first thing is that God is one. This is core to Hebraic study. I love it when people who defy faith say things like, “back then everybody believed in various Gods and Goddesses.” That’s true, I generally retort, but the Jews believed in only one God. It was so “odd” to the Romans that they even called the Jews “atheists” during the days of the early church.
In fact, anyone who has ever watched the HBO mini-series Rome will remember that the worshipers of several Gods never had any security. They were always bouncing between worshiping one and offering alms to another – the average Roman would never know where they stood with the pantheon.
But the singleness of the Jewish God affirms God’s supreme authority, his history as the one creator of all things, and his control over all creation. The shema was a fundamental building block to the Jewish faith, a daily reminder of who God was and is.
So in Mark 12, Jesus is approached by a theologian of his day and he is asked, “of all the commandments in scriupture (613) which is the most important?
29“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
Here Jesus points out that the summation of life is “caught up in the God encounter” (page 118). It’s not enough to just believe in one God, but Christ says that the commands that we follow should be that of loving God and loving others. And since “God is one” then a true understanding of the shema is to abandon the love of all “other Gods.”
So the next step in re-thinking about Jesus is to destroy any false ideas of Christ. This is why the false picture of Jesus can be so destructive to our faith. If God is one – and he is to have supreme authority in our lives – and since Jesus is God – then Christ and his teachings should have that same level of authority in our lives.
Jesus cannot be reduced – when we picture him as a “type of man” we are in essence reducing his Godhood into something that we can picture – we limit his deity. Jesus can not be captured in an image, or carving. Likewise he can’t be summed up by a book or a theory, a catchphrase or even a church. You can’t put God in a bottle.
Jesus cannot be fully known – I think sometimes Christians want to stand back and observe Jesus and study him. Somehow it seems enough to study God through serious bible study, but Jesus never says “follow my teachings” he says “follow me.” His first calling to his disciples were to “be fishers of men” and to be men of action. Since God can not be reduced, he can not be known. ”Knowing God” can be another way of trying to reduce God or control him.
Jesus cannot be ignored – because Jesus is the creator of the universe, we can not flee his presence. Jesus is not like our friends that we can pick and chose when they invade our lives. Jesus is always present – he does not exist only in church or become available only during times of prayer. Jesus does not hide behind walls of sacred and secular.
1 Timothy 2:5-6
5For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6who gave himself as a ransom for all men—the testimony given in its proper time.
In short – Jesus is God. That statement is so vast, so deep and so profound that a few years ago I had it put on my license plate frame. Dennis Kinlaw says in light of this knowledge, “we should begin all of our theological studies with Jesus, who as John said ‘has made God known.’” (John 1:18)
And who knows, this might sound so basic to you reading this … sure.. Jesus is God, you get it. But putting Christ where he belongs in our lives is what is so vastly different from any other faith. Islam and Judaism may be second cousins in faith to Christianity, but it is the knowledge of “Christ is God” that sets us miles apart.
“Our understanding of God needs to be always filtered though the prism of Christ. We can not understand God if we don’t engage him through Jesus. He is the way, the truth and the life.” (John 14:6 – page 133)
I think the separation of Old and New testaments sometimes cripples our understanding of God. We read the Old Testament and think “this is before Christ” or “Jesus wasn’t here yet” as if to say he as God did not exist at this time. But Christ is eternal just as God is eternal. Or we separate God and Jesus into images of “Angy Father” and “forgiving Son” (again trying to dissect God and understand him/label him) but the shema says “God is one.”
God is one and Jesus is God.
So the shema joins faith and lifestyle together – one God – one love. One hope, one salvation, one promise, one savior, one cross, one redeeming grace.
Your understanding of God can’t be bigger than your understanding of Jesus.
Your love of God can’t be bigger than your love of Jesus.
God can’t do more than Jesus.
Jesus can’t forgive or love more than God.
God is one.