The heart. The height. The climax. The center. These are all words we use to describe the most critical point of a story, the part that makes up the heart of a faith. And all of these words can be related to Jesus: His life is the center around which the church year revolves. He was the climax of the messianic expectations of his day. He was both transfigured and crucified on a mountain. His sacred heart flowed blood and water. His breaking into the scene is the turning point.
If nothing else, by this point I hope you’ve picked up that the human race was in trouble. The fall messed everything up, sending us spiraling into patterns of sin that drove us further and further from God, from which we could not recover on our own. God began to reveal himself to humanity through Israel, piece by piece and bit by bit, setting the stage for his plan of rescue, even as Israel couldn’t live up to their end of their relationship. Finally, after four hundred years of silence, expectations had reached a breaking point.
Jesus, the son of Mary, is God who took on human flesh. He is both fully God and fully human – as God, he was perfect enough to offer the sinless sacrifice that once and for all would pay for our sin. As a human, he was capable of taking our place. St. Irenaeus, one of the first and awesome theologians, talked about how amazing this was. As God walked the earth, living a life as normal as ours, he redeemed that life. All the normal human stuff that happens, he went through. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin” (Hebrews 4:15, NIV). And through his ministry, healing the sick, driving out demons, and teaching the truth, he turned the world upside down. He began to establish a kingdom where all the messed-up stuff in this world would be healed, fixed, made whole again.
It’s probably the most well-known verse in the Bible – I bet you can recite it without even thinking. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). But take a minute to meditate on it. Jesus is God’s gift to us – completely free and given for love. He is God’s ultimate revelation to us: as much as God told us all about himself through the prophets and the law, his ultimate way of revealing himself to us is as a person. “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being” (Hebrews 1:3).
And in that ultimate revelation, who does God reveal himself to be?
Take some time this week to read about Jesus. I challenge you this week to pray, before you read, that God show you, through Jesus, who He really is. Even better than my snippet readings below is if you take a couple hours and just slowly read through a whole gospel.
- Luke 2:1-21 – Luke’s narrative of Jesus’ birth, rung in with choirs of angels and the visit of lowly shepherds. The highest, most glorious praise, shared with the commonest of people.
- Matthew 4:1-11 – Jesus prepares for his ministry by fasting in the desert, during which time he is tempted by the devil, but overcomes.
- Mark 9:2-32 – A powerful sequence starting with the Transfiguration, a touching story of the exorcism of a boy and his father’s struggling faith, and one of Jesus’ many prophesies of his suffering, death, and resurrection.
- John 19 – Each gospel writer tells the story of Jesus’ death and burial. John’s telling touches a mother’s heart, as even hanging on the cross he made provision for his mother to be cared for.
- John 20 – The resurrection is shocking, confusing, and life-giving to the grief-stricken disciples. But through this overwhelming miracle, his disciples finally understand that this is, as Thomas exclaimed, “My Lord and my God!”
If you are reading along in the Drama of Scripture, this week read “Act IV: The Coming of the King: Redemption Accomplished,” pp. 129-170.
Go to dark Gethsemane, ye that feel the tempter’s power;
Your Redeemer’s conflict see, watch with Him one bitter hour,
Turn not from His griefs away; learn of Jesus Christ to pray.
See Him at the judgment hall, beaten, bound, reviled, arraigned;
O the wormwood and the gall! O the pangs His soul sustained!
Shun not suffering, shame, or loss; learn of Christ to bear the cross.
Calvary’s mournful mountain climb; there, adoring at His feet,
Mark that miracle of time, God’s own sacrifice complete.
“It is finished!” hear Him cry; learn of Jesus Christ to die.
Early hasten to the tomb where they laid His breathless clay;
All is solitude and gloom. Who has taken Him away?
Christ is risen! He meets our eyes; Savior, teach us so to rise.
~James Montgomery, from cyberhymnal