July 12, 2006

Another Article About Jesus

1519 page30 capne of the pressures that seems to come with writing regularly is the “need” to write in new ways, on “new” ideas, or explore new angles—in short, not to repeat oneself. And it is good to find unique perspectives and to “discover” creative ways of looking at and reinterpreting our experiences of life and faith. But every day thousands of pages are published, countless ideas explained and reexplained, hordes of writers seek to share their insights, professional theologians comb the biblical records, philosophers of all persuasions argue both the abstract and the practical.
And that’s just within the Christian community. Louder still, there is the manic din of the competing ideas, philosophies, hopes, fears, and dreams of the wider world. One wonders at times what there might be to add to this cacophony of words, thoughts, and voices. Is not another page—another set of ideas—just adding to the noise?
Writer Jeanette Winterson, reflecting on the continuing importance of the seemingly old stories of our respective cultures, explains it in this way: “All we can do is keep telling the stories, hoping that someone will hear. Hoping that in the noisy echoing nightmare of endlessly breaking news and celebrity gossip, other voices might be heard, speaking of the life of the mind and the soul’s journey.”
1519 page30And so it is with the grand story of Jesus and His stories of the kingdom of God. Despite the weight of telling and retelling, the temptation to casual familiarity or unfeeling indifference, the plethora of “new” angles, the ease with which we slip into lesser religiosity and the staticlike interference of continual reinterpretation and attack, we must keep telling the story. For our own sake and for those around us, neither the impulse to novelty nor the tedium of repetition should be allowed to distract us from this foundation—the central Person who must be the core of our faith.
Wherever our life experiences might take us and whatever other aspects of faith, fun, or philosophy might catch our attention, we must ever return to the story of Jesus. If the mystery of His incarnation is not sufficient cause for wonder, what else will do? If the profound goodness and humility of His life and teaching are not sufficient to chart the course of our lives, where else should we look? If the tragic miracle of His death is not salvation enough, where will we find greater love or fuller assurance? If the astounding fact of His resurrection is not certain enough, where will we discover any faith less useless (see 1 Corinthians 15:14)? If His promises to be with us now and to come back for us are just wishful thinking, what other confidence do we have for stepping into the future? Indeed, if Jesus is not our greatest and only hope, “to whom would we go?” (John 6:68).*
We must keep telling the old story of Jesus, hearing again and again the music of the gospel. But at the same time we also need to be prepared to see Him in new ways. From time to time Jesus must upset and challenge us. If His life, death, resurrection, teachings, and claims don’t upset us, perhaps we have not encountered Him closely enough, thought about Him long enough, or taken Him seriously enough.
In a statement quoted by Jesus and recorded in three of the Gospels, as well as referenced by Peter in his sermon in Acts and his Epistles (see 1 Peter 2:7), Psalm 118 foreshadowed these two aspects of the reality of Jesus—His rejection and worth, both when He was here on earth and in the generations since: “The stone rejected by the builders has now become the cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous to see” (verses 22, 23).
So I am happy to apologize, if necessary, but I am not trying to say anything new. Just to keep telling the story, to remind us again who Jesus is as historical fact and living reality, what He did for us, what He does for us, and what He will do for us—and that He loves each of us.
Or, as Psalm 118 put it, to “give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever” (verse 29).
*Bible quotations are from the New Living Translation, copyright © 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.
Nathan Brown is editor of the South Pacific Signs of the Times and the South Pacific Division Record.