Thursday, July 19, 2012
Who do people say that I am? Christ and the culture he came to
This is a part of the series of posts “Moving toward a holistic theology.” ; Christology
Matthew 16:15-16 He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" (16) Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
As I stated in the last post, I see Jesus as God incarnate. That means that Jesus is God made flesh. I went on to point out that in the risen Jesus all of the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily. The incarnation necessitates the entrance into a specific historical time. In other words, Jesus came at a particular time in history to a specific location and culture. So often, people overlook this very important point when reading and interpreting the scripture and draw conclusions that do not necessarily follow.
Christ was born an Israelite, a Jew in the first century CE. This was a time when the Roman Empire had political control over the entire area. The culture was a mixture of Hellenized Jews and Roman Military occupiers. The main influence of the culture was second temple Judaism. Many leaders in second temple Judaism were expecting an imminent end of the age and fulfillment of the Old Testament Prophets. The terms they used to describe the idea was *this age* and *the age to come.* Daniel chapter nine was chronologically due to happen any time, i.e., it was expected to be fulfilled in the first century. Jesus came to a culture that eschatology was very important in all of their thinking.
Roman civilization accepted slavery as a matter of course. Throughout the Roman Empire immorality thrived. In spite of this, Jesus came to the Jews, a very religious and moral people by comparison. Who did he criticize? The answer to that question should be very instructive. Jesus was critical of religious people. His strongest criticism was toward the religious leaders and theologians of the day. He criticized them for being judgmental, self-righteous, and proud. His whole concept of being in the world but not of the world saw the world as religious people. He did not define the world as Christians today define the world. He was not speaking of the pagan world. To Him, the world was Judaism; the unbelieving Jews were the unbelieving world. Jesus stated that he came to the Jews and the Jews alone; (Mat 15:24 So he answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.") This is something that is greatly overlooked by theologians. The gospel went to the Gentiles only after it had first been delivered exclusively to the Jews.
These are facts that we must consider when we think about who Jesus was and is. As I reflect on my scripture study in view of evangelical orthodox doctrine and dogma I am astounded at the way in which they have completely missed the mark. One could say that the bulk of Christian doctrine has missed Christ completely. If they had not missed Him they would not think that the *world* is bars and nightclubs. They would not self-righteously judge so many groups of people. They would get rid of their religious pride.
Finally, they would also realize when reading the New Testament that Jesus was almost always speaking to Jews who were under the Law of Moses. Right after Jesus told the Jews that they were searching the scripture to find life when in fact they should be searching it to find him he said the following; John 5:45 "Do not suppose that I will accuse you before the Father. The one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have placed your hope. It saddens me that these words still ring true today. Christianity claims the name of Jesus Christ but they put their hope in Moses!
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