Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Just Like Us

I promised I'd talk about the BBC's new version of The Passion. If you haven't managed to catch episodes 1 and 2 yet, you should still be able to watch them on BBC's iPlayer if you are quick:

Episode 1
Episode 2

I really do like the way they've portrayed Jesus in this latest adaptation. They haven't kept strictly to the chronology of Christ's ministry (moving earlier teachings into Holy Week), but this is both understandable - filling in the gaps between the "big" events... and also not unbelievable - you can well imagine Jesus would reiterate major parables/messages to new audiences; modern speakers do much the same when they tour. Highlights for me are the way Jesus has interacted with people. I do believe - especially scenes such as the one where Jesus speaks to a prostitute, that they have stayed true to the essence of Jesus' character.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the writers opted to focus on the humanity of Jesus.

I think this was the right choice.

The predominant image of Jesus in western culture, is that of the man with long wavy hair, doe eyes and a serene look on his face. Religious art has often made the mistake of focusing on Christ's divinity at the expense of his humanity. We see in our minds eye this airy fairy image of a man walking on clouds with a halo behind his head... and if we are not careful, it can lend more credence to fantasy than faith.

We have to remember that the strength of the Gospel message lies not just in the truth that Jesus is God... but in the fact that he is also human. One of the names attributed to Christ is Immanuel - God with us. The whole theology of our salvation is founded upon the basis that God was so determined not to be separated from us any more- and knowing that we could not in ourselves do anything to change this, he decided to become one of us. He experienced the joys, the pains, the sorrows, the anger... all those emotions that can be summed up as the human experience. He lost friends and relatives to sickness, death and disagreement... just like us. He loved being around his friends... just like us. He got excited when people understood something that was important to him... just like us. He knew what it was like to be popular, he knew what it was like to be lonely... just like us.

Personally, I don't believe any man comes as close to Jesus in fulfilling the ideals of what makes a man, in Rudyard Kipling's poem, If.

In his ministry, Jesus often referred himself as "the Son of Man". It's a title that occurs frequently in Biblical prophecy. However it also seems to me that whenever Jesus uses the term in respect of himself, he is trying to reaffirm his link to us as humans. The Bible teaches us that Jesus (knowing he was already God), didn't make a big deal about pushing his divinity:
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:5-11
Jesus lived as a man not only to sacrifice himself for our sins... but also to teach us how to aspire to live a life that pleases God. We need to remember that Jesus died that we may have life and have it in all it's abundance. We need to remember that abundant life actually comes from obeying the God who loves us. I know for many of you reading this, that a life of obedience may seem slavish... but in truth a life outside of God only carries a deceptive freedom -it still compels us to slavishly obey something or other less worthy than what we were designed for. The book of Galatians teaches us that it is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Jesus died so that we would have the freedom to reject sin's control of us.
The deal doesn't end there either. We might say that a life like that is too hard... we are bound to fail. But you see that is exactly another reason why Jesus emphasised his humanity:

"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."
Hebrews 2:17-18

You see, in sharing our humanity... Jesus isn't just sympathetic to our struggles, he is empathetic. He understands our trials and tribulations... and he is prepared to support and stand by us right through them.

The question is... are we prepared to do the same for him?

1 comment:

  1. I like how you point out His sympathy and empathy for us and think you make a good point about focusing on His divinity sometimes at the expense of His humanity. Great insights.


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