On the Plains of Moab Blog
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October 28, 2016, 9:44 AM

What's the Big Deal about Jesus?


The geatest danger to the Church of Jesus Christ doesn't come from without its walls; but from within.

On July 29, 2000, a mainline minister delivered an address at a Peacemaking Conference, held that year on the grounds of Chapman University in Orange, California. The title of his paper was, Uncommon Ground: Living Faithfully in a Diverse World. In that paper, I think the Reverend merely gave voice to what far too many Christians had long believed, but were afraid to say publicly: The Jesus of Christianity is but one of many valid ways to come to God. Jesus is a way to God; Buddha is a way to God; Mohammed is a way to God; Karma of Hinduism is a way to God; and Judaism is still a sufficient way to come to God apart from Christ.

According to our Reverend, when Jesus said, I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me in John 14:6, he didn’t intend it to be taken as a divine roadmap to heaven: Only that Christian believers know a way to God by knowing of that divine love found in relationship with Jesus of Nazareth. It doesn’t rule out that sincere followers of other religions have a genuine relationship with God.

Here’s the analogy the Reverend used in his presentation illustrate his point:

“Imagine a holy place ringed with windows, and light is shining from outside this holy place through stained-glass windows into the holy place... In this analogy, the light is the truth, the windows are religions, and the holy place is the world. Light shines from outside through the windows into the holy place in the same way religions are a vehicle by which truth comes into the world. If you take anything of what I say today, take this next thing. The window is not the light. And religions need to be distinguished from the truth that they let into the world. Unfortunately, we spend a lot of time mistaking the window for the light and 99.9% of all religious conflict comes from that. So…we have to realize that nobody has a corner on the truth -- that the light is larger.”

Elaborating, he says, “‘After you became a Christian, after you converted to Christianity, did you not look back in your life and see that God had already been at work in your life?’ A hundred percent of the time, you will say ‘Yes.’ And for the rest of you who have always considered yourselves to be a Christian and were raised in a Christian family or Christian church, at some point you realized that's who you were.  ‘Well, I'm a Christian.’  And after that realization, did you not look back in your life and see that God was at work in your life?....What it says is that God's ability to work in our lives is not determined by being a Christian….Well, if God is at work in our lives whether we're Christian or not, what's the big deal about Jesus?”

Now, you should know me well enough by now to know that I got a lot of problems with this interpretation of the faith. John 14:6 means exactly what you think it means.

Jesus is a big deal!

In the book of Acts, the apostle Peter says the same thing before the religious establishment of his day: There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)

The first five verses of the Gospel of John lay the foundation for understanding these bold, exclusive claims made about Jesus:

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
All things were made through him,
and without him was not any thing made that was made.
In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness has not overcome it. (ESV)

Let’s look now at how these words ground the exclusive claims that we affirm about Jesus.

In the beginning was the Word. (1:1a)

John calls Jesus the Word. This seems to be a favorite expression for John; no other NT writer utilizes the title.

In John 1:14 he says the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.

In 1 John 1:1, he says, What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life.

In Revelation 19:13, Jesus is described in glorious terms: He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.

John seems to have picked up on the expression the word of the Lord, which occurs 250 times in the Scriptures. When he calls Jesus the Word, I believe he’s giving us a mental picture of the fact that the Lord in his humanity reveals the living God, the Word became flesh and lived among us!

In Jesus, God has spoken.
In Jesus, the mind of God is opened.
In Jesus, the love of God is manifest in human form.

That’s the big deal about Jesus.

And the Word was with God. (1:1b)

In Trinitarian language, Jesus is portrayed in intimate relationship with God the Father – literally, he is “face to face with God.”

This relationship has existed from all eternity.
Jesus wasn’t just a good man.
He wasn’t just a great teacher.
He didn’t present himself as just one of many valid ways to God.
Jesus is the creator and sustainer of all that is. Just like God the Father.

That’s the big deal about Jesus.

And the Word was God. (1:1c)

The Scriptures testify that no human eyes have ever beheld God –
not even Abraham, the “friend of God”;
nor Moses, the “man of God”;
nor David, the “man after God’s own heart.”
No man can see God and live.

And yet, God in His incredible mercy and love, came to us in Christ.
Jesus says that if you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the invisible God!
If you know me, you know the God of heaven!
If you receive me, you receive the One who sent me!

That’s the big deal about Jesus.

In him was life, and the life was the [window pane] of men.

No! In him was life, and the life was the light of men. (1:4 ESV)

Jesus IS the Light of all people, and he bestows eternal life to those who believe.
There is not one word in all Scripture to suggest that there is any other ways to find eternal life.
In fact, historically it’s always been some form of pluralism that got God’s people in trouble!

The sobering reality is that way too many people don’t want to hear the Good News of Jesus.
The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
Or, some Bible translations have comprehended, or perceived, or received it here.

Even though my ESV translation takes the Greek word katalambano (katalamba,nw) and translates it like: the darkness has not overcome or overpowered it. But it seems comprehend fits the context just as well as overpower or overcome:

Listen to John 1:10-11. It says [Jesus] was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him (1:10).  He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him (1:11).

Let me tell you a story that I think captures how Christians sometimes treat the Good News of Jesus:

The Pierponts were proud of their family tradition.  Their ancestors had come to America on the Mayflower.  Their line had included Senators, Pastors, & Wall Street wizards. Now they decided to compile a family history, a legacy for the children. They hired a well known author. Only one problem arose: how to handle the fact that great-uncle Harry was executed in the electric chair.  But the author said not to worry; he could handle that section of history tactfully. When the book appeared, the family turned to the section on Uncle Harry. It read “Harry Pierpont occupied a chair of applied electronics at an important government institution and was attached to his position by the strongest of ties. His death came as a real shock.”

Sometimes, we’re embarrassed to apply the exclusive claims made by Jesus to our world. There are just so many different respectable religions. So many good and nice people out there who don’t claim Jesus as their Savior. How could we be so narrow minded to insist that our Jesus is the end all-be all? We need to re-interpret this thing to make it acceptable and inoffensive – perhaps a little more respectable, like the Pierpont family tree!

Perhaps God’s people ought to spend less time trying to make the Gospel more palatable for its “cultured despisers” and pour more energy into making disciples of all the nations because Jesus is a big deal. He IS the deal!   Amen


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