Life… but not as we know it?

I was never a great Star Trek viewer but I do remember the line that was woven into a song:

It’s life Jim… but not as we know it.

Humanising the Divine. The Incarnation does just that. The resurrection makes it permanent. God was and is eternally humanised. Humble and accessible.

Then we come to the life of Jesus – fully human, but the temptation is to respond with ‘He’s human [Jim], but not as we know it’. And that is where it stops for many. An affirmation that Jesus is fully God and fully human but with a huge advantage. Once we understand the miracles are not performed through his divinity, but by the anointing of the Spirit that closes the gap a little, but I think the aspect I am pursuing at the moment closes the gap further.

He is the GREAT LEARNER, breaking out beyond his contextually induced prejudices through his encounters with those he would not have been able to see (naturally) as fully human. Gentiles, Samaritans and women (maybe also children?).

Jesus gives God a human face, a human life; the great learner then humanises Jesus (I think Hebrews is the book that pushes this aspect, further than Paul for example does in his letters).

Maybe Jesus has an advantage over us. I certainly was not filled from my mother’s womb with the Spirit. But living life from then on? We are both on the same track. Through our encounters with those who our tradition / culture conditions us not to fully see, we can grow toward true humanness. (And maybe from a Christian perspective, those we have been able to label as ‘unclean’, and so are unable to see them with different eyes?)

And perhaps Jesus had an advantage. I am sure that I could not make it to becoming truly human, without sin along the way, and thus become a source of eternal salvation to all! Anointed by the Spirit, but always with a choice to follow the path of the Spirit or not. I am glad that he rescued us.

  • Jesus fully human – not an infusion mixture of divine and human. Like us.(Also fully God.)
  • Jesus, human anointed by the Spirit, in ways that we are not by nature, but in order to rescue us so that we can be anointed by the same Spirit.
  • Jesus, without sin, but not mature, going through the natural process of growth and development, with provocative encounters that confronted his environmentally induced perspectives that he stepped beyond. Thus becomes mature, becomes truly human.

I have often quoted the remarkable response of Jesus in the dialogue of Luke 13: 27, 28.

As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.” He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”

The woman’s worldview was one shared by and deeply imprinted on her mind by her culture. A woman started at the bottom, but could rise, provided: she was married, she was a mother, she gave birth to a son, and if the son could be a rabbi like Jesus then she would indeed be blessed.

Jesus’ reply completely transformed that worldview. With a ‘no… you are human, in the image of the divine… not in any way lesser than anyone else… gender does not enter into any assessment of value.’

Now I wonder did Jesus carry that transformative worldview with him, or did it come to him in that moment. Like us, most revelation of where we need to adopt a different worldview comes when we encounter something / someone that means we can no longer live with authenticity from the former box.

Jesus… When we look there we can say – there’s life and just as I know and experience it. His responses, his willingness to learn and adapt – now there’s a gap.

Jesus: great Teacher / Learner

Jesus was more than a great Rabbi, but a great teacher and revealer of who God truly is. When he spoke there was a wisdom that astounded people, so his words are words of ‘eternal life’, and the words are just that because they come from his inner reality, that reality that carried and revealed the God he spoke about.

Following on from the post on sinlessness being also a growth toward a fullness of true humanity, rather than something static and intrinsic to some internal nature, I have one further suggestion.

Jesus was a GREAT TEACHER because he was a GREAT LEARNER.

Certainly not all Greek

No need to read the verses above! Just a lot of the word ‘anthropos’ that appears there including the part that affirms that Jesus’ identity post resurrection is as ‘the man Christ Jesus’… and yet that is what I wish to challenge.

The resurrection is a very key event which has enormous ramifications for creation. The resurrection is not a Greek alive-after-death scenario affirming that there is life after death, rather it is the resurrection of a physical body that affirms God’s ongoing commitment to his work of creation and secures a physical future.

Jesus died, Jesus rose again. The body that went in the grave is the one that came out and there was a transformation of that body. He enters the grave male and comes out…

A little speculative theology about to be embarked on here.

I have considered the question about resurrection and gender in my little head before and had previously reasoned that if sexual identity is an element of my identity then resurrection would include that element. Recently though I have re-considered. So a little journey to get to where I am speculatively settling.

A few basics first, and in this terminology is not always easy. I consider that God is neither male nor female, but both masculine and feminine. Humanity (and I appreciate there are biological exceptions to this) are either male or female but both are masculine and feminine. In other words I am using male / female biologically and masculine / feminine to relate to characteristics, and in that open up the whole scenario to the critique of cultural and gender stereotypes.

Jesus was male and Jewish. Jewish as they were the redeeming nation that had lost the plot. Born of a woman and born under the law he came at a time when the ‘sins of the Jews’ had reached fullness:

Therefore this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be held responsible for it all (Lk. 11:50,51 – ‘sins of the Jews’ is a cheeky, but I think appropriate, adaptation of the term ‘sins of the Amorites’ from Gen. 15).

The nation called to be the means of redemption are condemned under the power of sin and therefore needed a representative redeemer. He is the Jewish Messiah. He dies as a Jew – we will come back to his resurrection in due course on this. He is not only Jewish but male, not because of some inherent superiority in the male gender – far from it. Male, as male had partnered with the powers, as expressed in patriarchal rule. Such dominance is antithetical to the kingdom of God. Jesus, as male, broke, through his relationships, behaviour, words and action this male dominance. A simple example of his cultural opposition to patriarchy is in Luke 11: 27,28:

As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.”
He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”

Her world view spilled right out in the presence of such a truly human presence. A woman’s status was like climbing a set of steps to the pinnacle. A woman needed to be married (step 1), to have children (step 2), to have a male child (third step) and the ultimate was to be a woman who not only gave birth to a male child but to a rabbi of the stature of Jesus. In one short sentence he corrected this totally. A woman’s status was not tied to her marital nor maternal relationships. Males are not superior, females are not subservient.

He is male, not to demonstrate superiority, but to deal with patriarchy. Unless sin at the sharp end is dealt with there can be no redemption. If he dies as Jew he dies for the world; if he dies as male he dies for humanity. Now to the resurrection.

He rises as new humanity, a humanity that is neither Jew nor Greek. Hence I do not see Jesus today as Jewish. He dies as Jew, he rises trans-national. And then… yes I think I have also moved ground on the maleness of the resurrected Jesus. He dies male, but ‘in Christ there is neither male and female’. This verse uses the term ‘and‘ when referring to male and female, unlike the ‘nor’ when referring to Jew / Greek and slave / free. The ‘and’ pushes us back to Genesis when God created male and female. New humanity is not male and female.

There is in heaven a human mediator:

For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people (1 Tim. 2: 5,6).

I chose this translation with all its clumsy male language deliberately. ‘Mankind’ would be much better translated as’ humanity’, and the term the ‘man Christ Jesus’ is the generic ‘anthropos’ (humanity) not the specific ‘aner’ (male). Jesus was male, he (?) is now still fully human, but this verse leaves open the gender issue in the sense of ‘male’ or ‘female’.

The Godhead was not and is not male nor female. The Godhead was not Jewish. Jesus in the incarnation was both Jewish and male, but now?

Jesus’ family line

This will be my last post pre-Christmas… So to one and all who read and follow these rather random posts a thank you and trust that you will have some great reflections over this period. Maybe a time to re-centre.

Matthew’s Gospel is one that has the oft-repeated phrase or concept of fulfilment of Scripture. The opening words that introduce us to the ‘genesis’ of Jesus Christ resonates with the first book of the Hebrew scriptures and so it goes on right to the final words of Jesus in the Great Commission and the echo of Cyrus’ words at the close of the Hebrew Scriptures and the normal last book of the Writings (2 Chronicles).

His account of the family line for Jesus is interesting with his setting of it as being in 3 sections of 14 generations, positioning the entry of Jesus as at the end of the Exile. Then in the genealogy we have the mention of four women. The inclusion of women in this way is highly unusual for biblical or ancient non-biblical records. Maybe Matthew does not appear as radically non-patriarchial as Luke, but he outdoes Luke at this point. Then consider who he includes.

Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba. Tamar subjected to incest, Rahab described as a prostitute (and non-Jewish), Ruth a Moabite and perhaps a seducer, and Bathsheba a married woman caught up in David’s adultery.

A pure line? Not so, neither pure racially nor sexually.

Of course one could argue none of that means anything as we go on to read of the virgin birth, but given the unusual element of including women in these ancient records their inclusion surely must be communicating something significant. Maybe well-beyond the three simple points I make here.

  • Jesus has enough crap attached to his genealogy to screw up his identity, but finds his identity in his heavenly alignment. (He also has the stigma of his own questionable legitimacy; the identity of a refugee; the probable loss of his father at an early age to contend with.)
  • Given that none of the women are described in any way as relating to any wrongdoing indicates something huge. (Even Bathsheba is referred to that she ‘had been the wife of Uriah’.) Identity flows from our direction rather than our origins.
  • Pure qualifications do not seem to be the channel that heaven needs to enter the world.

Christmas: God with us, but not any god, the God revealed in Jesus. Not a religious judgmental God, but one desiring to be tarnished with humanity’s mess. Good news and true peace that resolves inner conflicts.

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