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Bible Lives  

20. The Real Christ
20-1 Images Of Jesus || 20-2 Abba, Father || 20-3 The Self-Proclamation Of Jesus || 20-4 Jesus A Palestinian Jew || 20-5 Jesus And People || 20-6 The Words Of Jesus || 20-7 The Poverty Of Jesus || 20-8 Finding Meaning In Everyday Experience || 20-9 Jesus The Intellectual || 20-10 The Naturalness Of Jesus || 20-11 Perceiving Othersí Needs || 20-12 Jesus The Radical || 20-13 Radical Demands Of Jesus || 20-14 Radical Language Of Jesus || 20-15 Radical Authority Of Jesus || 20-16 Radical Acceptance Of Jesus || 20-17 Jesus A Man Misunderstood || 20-18 The Real Cross: Today Is Friday || 20-19 The Same Yesterday And Today || 20-20 The 21st Century Jesus || 20-21 How The Real Christ Was Lost || 20-22 The Humanity Of Christ || 20-23 The Divine Side Of Jesus || 20-24 Christ-centredness


20-9 Jesus The Intellectual

As the Son of God, Jesus was an intellectual without compare. The way He spoke is evidence enough. His stories and images were simple and yet tax the finest intellect to fully interpret. They spoke to all men. His debating skills were extraordinary. In a split second, it seems, He could turn a question back on His interrogators to confound them in the profoundest way. His words often contain allusions to 5 or 6 Old Testament passages in the same sentence, all perfectly and compellingly in context. If He had so allowed His mind to wander down the paths of science, He would have easily grasped the principles of gravity, relativity etc. that took a Newton or an Einstein of later centuries to uncover. And who knows, maybe He did figure all this. Maybe He mused about the surface tension on the water in His cup as He took a break with the guys at work. This would have resulted in an ineffable loneliness, as He lived and worked amongst the simplest and poorest human beings. There must have been so many things that He troubled over that He could share with nobody. Nobody, apart from His Father in prayer. Here we take a breath in sheer admiration. For He could relate so well to them, He was one of them, yet He was so far above them. We tend to relate well only to those of our own type. Whereas the Lord was truly all things to all men. And this, it seems to me, is the essence of powerful preaching and influencing of others for good, to be able to truly relate to them, as one of them, and yet have earnt enough respect from them to be able to lead them to higher levels. Further, if you feel, as we all do to some extent, to be essentially different from those around you, to think in different ways from them to the point you just pine away inside your own personality...think of Jesus. He " came down" from Heaven to earth for us- not literally, of course, but in His manifestation of Heavenly things in the terms of flesh. 

The remarkable nature of Jesus wasn't, it seems, recognized by those He grew up with. When He began His public ministry by standing up in the synagogue, both the villagers and His own family were scandalized [Gk.] that He was claiming to be anything other than the Jesus-ben-Joseph they had always known. Yet they had all heard the stories about the strange conception of John, the belief he was the Elijah prophet heralding Messiah, who was to have been Jesus, the Angel's visit, etc. They shouldn't have been too surprised, surely, if one day He claimed to be Messiah? But their surprise is surely an indication of how totally ordinary and human He appeared. Even His cousin John seems to have not always found it obvious that Jesus was indeed Messiah. He was too human, it seems. Here again we bow in admiration before Him. To be perfect, never committing sin and never omitting an act of righteousness, and yet to be seen as someone totally ordinary...here indeed was the word made flesh in exquisite beauty. Whenever we act righteous, or decline to act as the world does, we seem to somehow turn people off. We come over as self-righteous, as getting at them. But not Jesus. His concept of holiness was evidently different from that of those around Him. He didn't show Himself to be so scrupulously obedient to the Law as 'holy' people were at His time. He came over as an ordinary guy. And in all this, He set a compelling example and challenge to those who really got to know Him: You could be an ordinary person appearing as everyone else, but underneath your simple ordinariness, possess extraordinary holiness. The Lord Jesus spoke to the people in earthly parables which they could relate to, rather than expositions of specific OT texts as the Rabbis did- seeing that, it has been estimated, 95% of Palestine was illiterate. Yet those parables were skillfully packed with allusions to OT Scriptures, for those who were on that level. This was surely the Lord's matchlessness- He could relate to all types of people on different levels, all at the same time. He was truly all things to all men. 

The Messianic Ps. 40:9 predicted how the Lord would preach or proclaim righteousness; and yet He never allowed Himself to be loudly preached in the streets, and the people He lived with considered Him so ordinary. Yet He proclaimed righteousness; ďto the great congregationĒ (LXX ekklesia), to those who perceived Him. Although He was not widely recognized for who He was, He overcame the temptation to hide Godís righteousness in His heart, to conceal Godís truth within Him (Ps. 40:10). He didnít merely internalize His own spirituality; and, seeing most people didnít understand who He really was, this must have been such a temptation. Instead, He consciously declared Godís righteousness, against, presumably, His natural inclinations [so Ps. 40:10 implies].

The parables are to me the greatest window onto the Lord's intellectual genius. They meant one thing for those who heard them; and yet even those with no idea of the cultural milieu in which the Lord spoke them can still learn so much from them. The more we struggle to interpret them, the more layers of meaning and Old Testament allusion we perceive; and the more bitingly personally relevant they become to us. The Old Testament scriptures were clearly in the bloodstream of Jesus, allusions to them just flow out in all kinds of ways, at all sorts of levels. He was the word made flesh. I believe the Lord didn't just open His mouth and the stories flowed out, by some Divine impulse. They were clearly rooted in His own life experience amongst the peasants of Galilee; His genius was in the way He so deeply reflected upon mundane life and brought it all to such glorious and vivid spiritual life. I submit that He had spent years developing those stories, and of course the ideas behind them. They are an art form, quite apart from the reflection they give of the Lord's spiritual insights. Paul spoke in theological terms, using conceptual language. But the parables address those same issues, e.g. of grace and forgiveness, in a simple and pictorial form. As the exquisite art form which they are, they reveal to us the huge creative energy and achievement of Jesus. We all have creative potential; but we are held back from painting that picture, penning that poem, writing that book, finishing that project... because of the mundane. The cat's puked on the carpet, the kids are crying, we're worried about cash flow this month because the gutter broke... but the Lord Jesus was assailed by all these things, and far more. And yet He didn't allow all this 'humanity' to impede His creativity; He in fact used all those very mundane things as fuel for His thinking, mixing them in with His constant meditations upon the text of God's word to produce the parables. I salute Him and bow before Him for this. What a joy it will be to meet Him, to see / perceive Him as He is... and, quite simply, to experience the truth of the fact that 'We shall be like Him'. The emphasis must be on the word "Him"- we shall be like Him. David had this spirit, when speaking of his future Messiah: "I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness" (Ps. 17:15).

 


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