April 20, 2024

Seeking Understanding Through the Life of Christ

Ronny Nalin

The prologue of the Gospel of John (John 1:1-18) provides a concise summary of what we need to know to understand reality and our origins.

In the beginning was the Word.

The Word was with God and was God.

Everything (including us) was made through the Word.

The Word was made flesh and dwelled for a time among us.

No one has ever seen God in the fullness of His glory. But the Word made flesh has made Him known.

This sequence establishes that Christ is God, Christ is the Creator, and Christ is the only one through whom we can understand God’s qualities and nature. No one has ever seen God, but Christ dwelled among us, and He revealed God in our human dimension.

John explains that Christ is the method and pathway to the acquisition of true knowledge. In contemplating Christ, we understand. But what can we specifically learn about God, and His relation to the natural world, from the life of Christ? In what follows I will outline three important truths that Christ made clear, while ministering to us on earth, about Creation and God’s relationship to it.

God’s Authority Over Creation

Our existence is regulated by inflexible natural laws to which we are bound. We can use them to our advantage, but there is no escaping them. Think of gravity as a simple test of this statement. The current high jump world record is 8 feet ¼ inch (2.45 meters). No matter how hard we try, most of us cannot even jump up more than a few tens of centimeters without the help of some contraptions.

We cannot defy gravity. Yet at the end of His earthly ministry, as we read in Acts 1, Christ is elevated and ascends into heaven. What should we make of that?

For us, there is no way of beating gravity’s downward pull. We could challenge countless volunteers to go to a lake, board a boat, and step out to walk on water, with the same inexorable result of seeing them sink under the water’s surface. No wonder that in Matthew 14 we are told that the disciples were terrified when they saw Jesus walking on water, and thought He was a ghost. What would you think?

Christ demonstrated that God can interact with the natural world in a way that transcends our constrained experience. He reinforced this message by choosing to perform specific actions that echoed Creation week. For example, in calming the storm at the Lake of Galilee, Jesus rebuked the winds and waves, paralleling the organization of the waters in the second day of Creation. And He used His Word, nothing else, to do so. The response of the disciples captures the amazement of encountering something so extraordinary: “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!” (Matt. 8:27, NIV). We obey the laws of nature, not them us. And yet nature obeys Christ!

Most important, Christ chose to demonstrate creative power in the resurrection of Lazarus by speaking him into life. There was no physical manipulation, environmental modifications, or substance injection involved in this mighty act. The same Word by which the heavens were made called Lazarus back to life.

Satan, the foremost rejector of God’s authority, challenged Christ’s divinity by questioning Him on these two very attributes: His creative power, by asking Him to turn stones into bread, and His authority over the laws of nature, by asking Him to jump off a building (Matt. 4:3, 5). Jesus’ refusal to yield to the promptings of the rebellious accuser demonstrates that God’s power and authority are not arbitrary, nor whimsical. They cannot be manipulated or appropriated, and they operate according to established principles.

The life of Christ points to an understanding that surpasses naturalism and materialism, revealing that God existed before the foundation of the world, manifested His power at Creation, and holds authority over the laws of nature, using them according to His purposes.

God’s Intimacy with His Creation

Through listening to Christ’s teachings, we discover another important aspect of God’s relationship to His creation. Jesus showed great acquaintance with the details of natural systems. In the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7), for example, Jesus drew attention to the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. He used such words as “look at” or “consider.” He understood animal behavior and appreciated beauty in nature. Christ revealed God’s care and concern for even the smallest creatures. In Matthew 10:29 Jesus explicitly told us that even the life of two sparrows is under the caring watch of the Father. Christ had a clear awareness of the surrounding landscape, caring for small details, such as selecting a grassy area for a multitude to sit in a more comfortable setting (Mark 6:39). One of the most memorable images that Christ used to illustrate the relationship of trust that exists between Him and us, found in John 10, is based on a bridge of intimate connection between humans (the shepherd) and animals (the sheep). Jesus says that His sheep know and listen to His voice. There is mutual familiarity.

Therefore, Christ’s example invites us to confidently explore the creation, promising us a rewarding encounter with the God who oversees it. Knowledge gained through this intimacy opens the doors to discovery, childlike amazement, and trust.

God Expands Our Perception of Creation

A third constitutive aspect of finding true knowledge in Christ can be illustrated from Acts 1:10, 11: “And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven?’ ” Our eyes can remain fixed, looking up, gazing at physical realities, but Jesus takes us to a point where we go beyond what is visible. The knowledge we gain through Christ transcends our reality.

With His incarnation and life, Jesus embraced physical reality. He did not deny it or disregard it, as in classical Greek dualism. But He used it as a platform to expand and illuminate our understanding of greater realities. In demonstrations such as the Transfiguration, we could say that Christ aimed to reveal to us the heavenly or spiritual realm. This is not an ethereal or imaginary realm. In His dialogue with Nicodemus, Jesus acknowledges that it is difficult for us to be directed from earthly things to the heavenly realm, because He is the only one who has had access to it, and He is trying to open it up for us (John 3:10-13). Therefore, Christ’s ultimate goal is to expand our understanding of reality, revealing that there is much more to creation than just what we see.

Christ Sharpens Our Focus

In a time when we are surrounded by naturalistic worldviews, Christ corrects our limited focus and provides us with clear principles to attain deeper understanding: God has authority over His creation, God invites us to have intimacy with creation, and God will expand our perception of creation. We could read these three aspects in Jesus’ affirmation: “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). The way, because we learn through Him that there is more than the eye can see; the truth, because we are grossly mistaken when we do not acknowledge the power and authority of God; and the life, because with Him we learn to walk a path of intimate understanding of ourselves and the world in which we live.