“Word for Today” – 2 John – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

November 13, 2009 at 4:45 am Leave a comment

Gandhi 1“What, then, does Jesus mean to me? To me, he was one of the greatest teachers humanity has ever had,” said Mahatma Gandhi. He continued, “To his believers, he was God’s only begotten Son.”  Jesus was a great teacher of humanity, even, as Gandhi would claim elsewhere, a divine teacher of humanity.  But was he God’s only begotten Son?  This, it seems, Gandhi could not so readily accept.

The words of Gandhi represent a stance that that is regularly, readily, and unthinkingly parroted by countless people all over the world, albeit with less eloquence than that of Gandhi.  “Jesus was a great teacher and a fine moral example,” it is said, “but God’s Son?  God come in the flesh?  I can’t believe that!”  In a stance such as this, the pluralistic sensibilities of Gandhi are often merged with the anti-miraculous biases of a naturalistic worldview to create a strange hybrid portrait of a Jesus who is spiritual in his teaching, but certainly not miraculous or theistic in his person.

All of this, of course, is nothing new.  In our reading for today from 2 John, the apostle warns believers, “Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world” (verse 7).  In our day, people object to Jesus being God’s Son because they think it impossible for a man to be God, much less for one man exclusively to be God, as is claimed by Jesus.  In John’s day, however, people objected not to a man being God, but to God being a man.  For in their thinking, the divine ethereal essence would never stoop so low as to become a mortal, fleshly being.  People in our day say, “Jesus ≠ God.”  People in John’s day declared, “God ≠ Jesus.”  On whatever side of the equation you place the factors “God” and “Jesus,” however, the effect remains the same.  To quote the Nicene Creed, such equations deny that Jesus is “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father.”

John wastes no time dispensing with such heresy: “Any such person [who teaches that Jesus is not God] is the deceiver and the antichrist” (verse 7).  Jesus is indeed God who is “coming in the flesh.” Interestingly, John uses a present tense participle to describe Jesus’ incarnation rather than a past tense verb, even though John penned these words around AD 90, some forty years after Jesus’ ascension into heaven.  How can John maintain that Jesus is coming in the flesh when he has already come?  Some believe John’s language here alludes to Communion and Christ’s presence therein.  For instance, Ignatius of Antioch, echoing John’s language, writes:

Let no man deceive himself. Unless he believes that Christ Jesus has lived in the flesh, and shall confess his cross and passion, and the blood which he shed for the salvation of the world, he shall not obtain eternal life…[Some people] abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, and which the Father, of his goodness, raised up again. (Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Smyrnaeans, chs. 6-7)

Ignatius, along with other church fathers, say that Christ not only came as a carpenter from Nazareth, but also comes through the proclamation of his Word and the administration of his Sacraments.  God, time and time again, comes to be with his people.

The question of Christ’s identity is the linchpin of history.  Either he was and is the Son of God, who continues to dwell with his people even now, or he was and is a deranged madman who only claimed divine authority and God remains distant and aloof, unwilling to commingle himself with sinful and broken people.  Which one is Jesus to you?  My prayer is that he is the former.  For a Christ who is only a good teacher can never save you or dwell with you.  A Christ who is God, however, can do all this – and so much more.

Entry filed under: Word for Today.

“Word for Today” – 1 John 5 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com “Word for Today” – 3 John – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

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