Friday, March 30, 2007

What makes Jesus so unique?

James Tabor's article makes the same mistake that all heretical movements make: Jesus is the messenger, but not the Messiah.

The message he carried wasn't vastly different from the message that other rabbis preached. It wasn't really different from that found in the prophets or in the Torah.

What makes Jesus unique is the claim he makes about himself as the particular summation of God's saving acts in the world. Jesus' claim to be the Savior - to be God in the flesh - is what was distasteful to his contemporaries. His "I AM" statements, his exclusive claims to access to the Father, his ability to send the Spirit - all of these make him unique (not his teaching or his healing ministry). It is Jesus' ontology rather than his deontology (who he is rather than his moral teaching) that makes him the Savior of humankind.

Liberalism's problem (well, one among many) is that it sets up a mindset that distinguishes Jesus based on differentiating him from his contemporaries in such a way that little can be found in common. It was precisely this mindset that led to German scholarship being so derisive and dismissive of the Israelites (thinking of their religion as Primitive whereas Christianity is an enlightened opening of that Urreligion). It sets the Jews up as scapegoats - rejecting the religion of enlightened peoples and thus worthy of contempt. (sho'ah, anyone?)

I'm not saying this doesn't happen within "conservative" circles. Certainly, dispensationalists are quite dismissive of the faith of the Hebrews (despite Hebrews 11-12!). But the Reformed (i.e., Biblical) Christians take a different view: Adam was equally a member of the same Church as Paul.

Why? Because their faith was centered in The Coming One, the Serpent-trodder (Gen. 3:15), their Savior who was displayed to them in types and shadows until the time was fulfilled.

The message was there in the Torah all along. They weren't waiting on the message or even a new messenger - they were waiting on a messiah - the Mediator of the everlasting covenant.

Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!

1 comment:

will spotts said...

Finally. It is surprising to me how frequently the 'Jesus as teacher' meme is repeated. As a teacher Jesus said surprisingly little that wasn't in Tanakh. Aside from a few turns of phrase, what was new were His actions and claims about Himself.