Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Jesus: Human, But Not Just Human

My last few posts about the Incarnation focused on Jesus as a human being: someone who occupied a particular spot, who learned stories he or his family heard, and whose appearance was fairly ordinary.
Jesus is human: but not just human.

John 1:1-5 and 14 makes that fairly clear: God "made his dwelling among us." (John 1:14) Jesus had knowledge that the rest of us - don't.

"...Not Yet Fifty Years Old..."

Jesus said 'I am God' very clearly: "...before Abraham came to be, I AM." (John 8:58) That comes right after this exchange:
"Jesus answered, 'If I glorify myself, my glory is worth nothing; but it is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, "He is our God."

"You do not know him, but I know him. And if I should say that I do not know him, I would be like you a liar. But I do know him and I keep his word.

"Abraham your father rejoiced to see my day; he saw it 22 and was glad.[']

"So the Jews said to him, 'You are not yet fifty years old and you have seen Abraham?' 23 "
(John 8:54-57)
Jesus, the Word made flesh, was "not yet fifty years old" at that point. But Jesus, the Son of God, "was in the beginning with God." (John 1:2) Small wonder that some folks have had trouble, trying to understand how a person could be coeternal with God, and have been born at a particular time, and in a particular place.

Me? I've read Job 38:1-42:6. We've learned a bit about this vast universe since that book was written: but I can no more fit a curb to the Pleiades than Job could. As I've said before: God's God; I'm not.

Jesus: Not Just Human

Jesus is human. He's also God. That gives him a kind of knowledge that nobody else has. Jesus knew, and knows, God the Father as a son knows his father; and Jesus knew what other people were thinking:
"Jesus immediately knew in his mind what they were thinking to themselves, so he said, 'Why are you thinking such things in your hearts?
(Mark 2:8)
Sometimes I 'know' what someone else is thinking. More accurately, I can make an educated guess, based on what I know about the person and what's happening at the moment.

What Jesus "immediately knew in his mind" was knowledge, not guesswork:
"...The Son in his human knowledge also showed the divine penetration he had into the secret thoughts of human hearts.107"
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 473)

Jesus, Peter, and Denial

Jesus knew he was going to be killed. This alone could have been a reasoned prediction. By that time my Lord had insulted powerful men in Jerusalem, and topped that off by claiming to be God. A person wouldn't have to be divine, to know that going back to Jerusalem would be risky, at best.

What sets Jesus apart is that he also said that he would rise after three days. Human beings who are killed don't do that. We stay dead. Jesus didn't and that's another topic. (March 11, 2012)

Jesus was also remarkably specific about what Peter was going to do:
"He began to teach them that the Son of Man 7 must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days."
(Mark 8:31)

"5 And as they reclined at table and were eating, Jesus said, 'Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.'

"They began to be distressed and to say to him, one by one, 'Surely it is not I?'

"He said to them, 'One of the Twelve, the one who dips with me into the dish.

"For the Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him, 6 but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for that man if he had never been born.' "(Mark 14:18-21)

"Then, after singing a hymn, 9 they went out to the Mount of Olives.

"Then Jesus said to them, 'All of you will have your faith shaken, for it is written: "I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be dispersed."

"But after I have been raised up, I shall go before you to Galilee.'

"Peter said to him, 'Even though all should have their faith shaken, mine will not be.'

"Then Jesus said to him, 'Amen, I say to you, this very night before the cock crows twice you will deny me three times.' "
(Mark 14:26-30)

Death and Beyond

Not long after that, Peter denied that he knew Jesus. Three times. (Luke 22:56-62) Jesus was publicly executed, and buried in a borrowed tomb: and then stopped being dead. (March 16:6)

That got the surviving disciples' attention. One of my favorite bits from the Bible is what happened after Jesus left:
"When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.

"While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them.

"They said, 'Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.' "
(Acts 1:9-11)
Two thousand years later, that's still a good question - or implied advice. Jesus left us with orders and a promise. (Matthew 28:19-20)

Details of how we carry out those orders changes as the centuries roll by, but our basic instructions haven't:

On Standby Alert for Two Millennia

Writing and publishing 'End Time Bible prophecies' is a sort of cottage industry here in America.

I take God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, very seriously: as well as the Last Judgment. What I think of wannabe prophets is another matter:
I don't see a point in trying to prognosticate when the Son of God will come back. We've got our instructions, and were placed on standby alert about two thousand years ago. From one point of view, that's a very long wait. From another, it's a tiny fraction of the time humanity's been around - and that's another topic or two.

Jesus doesn't seem to think we need to know God's timetable. That's okay by me:
"'But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

"Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.

"It is like a man traveling abroad. He leaves home and places his servants in charge, each with his work, and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch.

"Watch, therefore; you do not know when the lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning.

"May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.

"What I say to you, I say to all: "Watch!" ' "
(Mark 13:32-37)

"5 He answered them, 'It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by his own authority.

"6 But you will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.'

"When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight."
(Acts 1:7-9)
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