connecting theology and life in gospel-centred ways to the glory of God and our joy in Him
Talk 2 | Humanity Will Live Forevermore Because of Christmas Day
Introduction – two visions of the template for humanity
Yesterday we asked ‘why Union’? Today we’re asking ‘why union with Christ’? And we’ll begin on something touched on at the end yesterday – the Bible points us to the married couple for the template of humanity, not a single individual on their own. This position that the scriptures have gets profoundly modified in the age of the gospel – in the New Testament the overwhelming template of what it means to be a human is now an individual, not a couple: the Lord Jesus himself.
He, a single man, is held up as the authorised teaching tool to show us what humanity really is. We see the true glory of humanness and what flourishing looks like. He reveals our own humanity to us! He brushes off the gunk of sinful brokenness and shows us what it is to be a true human. And in some ways, this is weird – but weird as to how unweird this is. We may agree that Jesus is the template for humanity, it feels obvious… right?
And perhaps because we don’t find it weird we miss how Jesus is made the paradigm. Most of the stories we have told, or been told, for the past two centuries (or so), have been stories of individuals about what it means to be human. When we’ve drawn a picture of what a human is we’ve put up an individual.
If you go back to the ’60s the wealthy debonair white Male, with no inhibitions – James Bond, Hugh Hefner – this was the best picture of a human. Someone wealthy, classy, sexy, and a bit sex crazy. Someone not ‘tied down’ in marriage or children, someone cool, someone ‘liberated’ from the stifling Victorian hangover on sexuality.
That phase was then increasingly replaced with another phase – now more female, more non-white – but on the whole basically the same. Culturally liberated, wealthy, and now perhaps also attracted to the same-sex. Liberated from the old rules of monogamy but also the rules on sodomy. Pushing against prejudice. Not a rejection of monogamy, but merely a choice among many. Savage Garden’s ‘I Believe’ captured the zeitgeist.
What has been captured now more than before is the transgender movement. The Trans movement is pushing humanity towards more liberation – freedom not only from monogamy but also from binary: man & woman. We are now in a space with a spectrum – the freedom to identify ourselves in whichever categories we want to use.
The poster boys and poster girls that Aussie culture latches onto to show us what it is to be human has been built upon all these ideas. Someone who is single – someone maybe partnered but not in an exclusive monogamous way – with heaps of freedom (from even gender identity).
In the light of that – Jesus, as the poster of true humanity – doesn’t feel weird. He’s single, free from the restraints of marriage, and Lord above all. The most free person who has ever lived.
But – our assumptions about Jesus being the poster-boy may be built upon unhelpful worldly assumptions about freedom.
Jesus was free – but he was the most enslaved person. He was, as in Phil 2, a servant. He came not to be served but to serve, to be a slave. This is the least free of all conditions a human being can find themselves in.
The story of Jesus is the story of someone giving up freedom and taking on restraints – by becoming human and taking the nature of a slave.
Our whole narrative of expanding freedom is the exact opposite of the narrative arc that the New Testament gives us of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The New Testament will also present us with Jesus is not ‘single’ in the same sense we think – a playboy kind of figure free to do whatever he wants. Jesus is not overturning the picture of Genesis, Jesus is the fulfilment of the Genesis marriage picture of being bound and in relationship.
So, if Jesus is not the Aussie thing of being single and a model of humanity… then why is he put up as the model?
What we need
Let’s consider the situation we find ourselves in sin: we’re in darkness, we’re in death, and we do not know God. Simply dealing with ‘sin’ doesn’t fix these problems.
Forgiven sin doesn’t light up a dark room, justification deals with the guilt problem but doesn’t help a corpse.
The people who have loved darkness rather than the light need to have the light shine upon them.
Those who walk in the valley of the shadow of death need life. They need to live again.
Those who have lost the knowledge of God, and so made images of their own, need to know and see God again.
Justification and forgiveness are at the heart of the gospel. We have to have our sin dealt with before we can address the effects of sin. But forgiveness and justification are not the goal of the gospel, not the end destination. The goal of the gospel is to undo the damage that sin has done to us and to give us back our existence we were made for.
This is why Jesus is so central to Christianity. In order to have life and light, we must have Christ – you cannot receive what Jesus gives – light and life – and then not have Christ. Both are inextricably bound to the person of Christ.
Eg – life – there is no life after the grave, only eternal punishment because of sin. You need life. Jesus himself has that life in himself. John 1:4, Col 3:4 – Christ is life.
All the things we need are what Jesus has. Jesus has them not in the sense that we have a card, phone, or money – he’s not property we can give away. He has them in the sense that we have our sense of humour, our loyalty, our insight, our wisdom and cheerfulness. They are traits that define who we are. Others get those traits but having you in their life. That’s the way that Jesus has these qualities – he doesn’t have property to hand out, but properties we enjoy by having Jesus in our lives.
Why does Jesus have qualities like these? Because the eternal Son and word of God is truly God.
The qualities that we need are the qualities that only God has.
Light – John 1- we’re told God is light, and only God is light. For Jesus to be light Jesus must be God.
Life – does any creature have life in themselves that they can give life to others that they choose? Can any creature take dirt, breathe into it, and give it life? Can any creature raise the dead? To be immortal is only true of God. 1 Tim 6 – God, alone, has immortality. So if Jesus has life in himself, and is able to give eternal life to others, it can only be because as the Son he is truly God. In John 5 we read that the Father has life in himself so the Son also has life in himself. Just as the Father raises the dead, the son gives eternal life to whomever he wishes.
Jesus, and Jesus alone, is exactly what we need and everything we need.
Knowledge of God – why can Jesus claim to see me is to see the Father? As the Son who is truly God, Jesus has made God known.
What we need and receive through the gospel is found in Jesus. The traits that define him show him to be truly God.
But why Jesus? If Jesus has what we need – why do we say that he can only do it? The Father is truly God, the Holy Spirit is truly God – they have the same properties as the Son. Can we swap Jesus out for one of them?
Jesus is not just truly God but also truly human. It’s not that someone out there has the qualities we need, we need someone who has can share those qualities with us so that we can receive them personally and closely – those qualities will do us no good if they are not close enough.
There are two issues that get in the way of this.
First – sin. There is no way to have the kind of relationship with God that enables us to have the benefits of his traits that we need. So, we need a human being to die a human death to deal with human sin. The Father and the Spirit are not human – they are immortal. They cannot die. We need someone truly human to be able to atone for our sin.
Second – we need the Garden to not happen again. Sometime in the future, we don’t want to retread the whole story again. We don’t want sin to enter into heaven again and the whole story of the Fall restarts again. Adam had everything – he had access to God, but he didn’t consider it worth it. He had life and light but turned away. What we need is for that to not recur.
So, we need the qualities of God given to us in a way that we cannot lose again. Given to us in a way in which it is not dependent on us to hold on to them – a way in which God himself will hold onto them, that God would draw near to us and is able to give us these qualities that we need and in a way they will never be lost again. The Incarnation of Jesus is God’s way of doing that. Our humanity, our human nature, is made his own in Christ – he doesn’t cease to be truly God, nothing about his eternality is lessened, but he adds to it human nature. He joins human nature and divine nature together in himself. He continues to be all that he eternally is – light, life, and revelation of God – he is all that and also a human being.
Jesus is light, life, the revelation of God, and is these things as a human being. He is everything he was and also that is suited for human beings. Uniquely as this human-God he is able to do this. So every statement he makes about being God, seeing God in me, he says this as a man – the God-man. To see Jesus on display in the gospels is to see the invisible God on display. It’s precisely Jesus’ humanity that makes it possible for God to be revealed in a way that was impossible prior. Only God can reveal God, and only a human being can reveal God to human beings in the way that Christ has done for us.
It’s as the one coming into the world as a man, John 1, that he is t life that gives light to the world. As the man who speaks a world and raises Lazarus from the dead. It’s him uniquely who can light up our hearts so that they will never be in darkness again.
It’s Jesus who uniquely can give us life, light up our hearts, reveal us God and he does it through his humanity. He does it because he shares our human nature. And he has done it permanently and irrevocably.
He is the only human who is light, who is life and is the knowledge of God. He had all those qualities already as the Son, now he has them in a human way as a human being. And because he has joined himself to us, part of us, he is able to give us what is his and only his, and we can receive what is truly only of him. We’re not truly God, we’re not in any sense God – we’re always human creatures. But the qualities that are true of God in a way that is appropriate to us because Christ has joined himself to us.
But as we’ll see tomorrow the incarnation by itself is not enough to save – we need faith. But the endpoint of today we see two things:
First, everything we need is in Christ, and we get it because he is truly God.
Second, in becoming a human being Christ has built the bridge between us and God. Jesus has said, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life.’ He won’t create a way to God ‘out there’ – but in his person. In himself, he has joined God and human together, already united within himself – and this is why he is the mediator.
That means we can now unite to him by faith and by the Spirit (as we’ll see tomorrow) – and the reason why we can do that is because Christ has united himself to us in the incarnation.
Why is Christ so central to the gospel and the Bible? Because by becoming human he connects himself to us, attaches himself, binds himself to us, and makes himself our head – our body. Together, one thing.
To have Christ is to have everything, and therefore, to lose Christ is to lose everything.
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