Jesus...Yeah, He's Kind of a Big Deal
In 2004, actor/comedian Will Ferrell starred as 1970's San Diego television anchorman Ron Burgandy in the movie titled, appropriately enough, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgandy. In one of the film's most famous scenes, Ferrell, as Burgandy, seeking to impress a female party guest utters the pick-up line, "I don't know how to say this, but...I'm kind of a big deal." While Ron Burgandy may have been displaying an inflated ego with his self-assessment, the Apostle Paul in this week's scripture lesson is doing anything but. Jesus, in fact, is very much "kind of a big deal!"
Jesus, is one of the rare historical figures who really demands that we stop and take notice. His impact is so far reaching that even other religions outside of Christianity are forced to address him. To some he is a great moral teacher, to others he is a prophet of God. Regardless of where you land on the spectrum of beliefs in regard to Jesus, especially here in America, everyone thinks or believes something about him.
As Christians, we should know, understand, and embrace the belief that the story of the Bible is, above all else, the story of Jesus. He is the main "character" in God's unfolding redemption narrative. From first to last, every word of scripture is pointing us to Jesus. He is the lens through which it all comes into focus. If we don't grasp onto that monumental truth, then passages like the one we studied this week from Paul's letter to the Colossians fall flat when we encounter them.
Cody equated this section of the letter to a nuclear bomb. Paul's main purpose in writing this letter was to protect the church from the false and harmful teaching of the day. He didn't want to just refute what was being taught, but like a nuclear bomb does, he wanted to completely erase it from existence. The theological hammer that Paul is swinging in these verses is massive. I think we would be remiss if we failed to really emphasize that.
He begins in verse 15 by saying that, "[Jesus] is the image of the invisible God..." That doesn't mean he looks like God, or he reflects God, or he is a picture of God...it means he IS God. One of the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith is the doctrine of the Trinity. That we worship one God is important because the theology of the Old Testament is clearly monotheistic. More simply put, the Jewish people, unlike their ancient counterparts, worshiped only one god...the God of the Bible. Moreover, God himself makes it abundantly clear that he is jealous for his own glory and command, first and foremost, that they, as his chosen people, not conform to the practices of their pagan neighbors, but that they save their worship for he alone. To do so would bring blessing, but failure to obey would lead to judgement. We see this play out throughout the historical narratives of the kings of Israel and Judah. When the king, as the head of the people, served God, the nations thrived. When they were led astray into idolatrous worship, they brought calamity upon themselves and their people.
This is why it is so significant that Jesus' Jewish followers worshiped him as God, and that he was accepting of their worship. If Jesus wasn't who he claimed to be, then the punishment he received at the hands of the Jewish leaders would have been fully justified. To blaspheme against God was a capital offense. It was a complete rejection of the Jewish identity.
Therefore, the New Testament authors go to great lengths to show that Jesus is truly God. But if that is true, then how can we continue to profess to believe and worship only one god? Aren't we saying that there are now two gods? This is why Paul's phrasing here is so important. The Greek word for "image" is actually where we derive the English word "icon." An icon is an exact representation. For example, in Paul's day, the likeness (or icon) of the Roman emperor on a coin was where it derived its value. Like currency today, the value on the world market is backed by the power (and credit) of the government that backs it. So, when Paul claims that Jesus is the "icon" of the invisible God, he is saying that he is not just a representation of God, but rather that he contains the fullness of the power of God. They are of the same essence or being.
Again, this is monumentally important to the claims of Christianity and ties back directly to the teaching of the Old Testament scriptures. Throughout the Jewish scriptures, and especially in the Law of Moses, God had established that the only way for one who had transgressed his commands to be reconciled to him was through his gracious means. The sacrificial system was never meant to be seen or understood as a work through which man could redeem himself, but rather always pointed forward to the substitutionary nature of God's forgiveness. In other words, only a sacrifice worthy of God would be sufficient for appeasing the wrath of God. God accepted the animal sacrifices of the Jews as a foreshadow of a future sacrifice that would once and for all pay the debt for sin. But what sacrifice would be of such great value as to be worthy of God himself? The answer of course is nothing...except for God himself.
Jesus is God, and we as Christians worship him accordingly. If this is not true, then all of our worship is in vain and deserving of God's eternal wrath and judgement as blasphemers. We should, as Paul writes elsewhere, be pitied above all men. Without this linchpin, all of the teachings of our faith come asunder.
I wrote in my reflections from week one of this teaching series that it is important that we understand what it means to be "in Christ" and that this would be a theme throughout the coming weeks. Our union to Christ is how we are brought into fellowship with God because we are bound to him in the same way that humanity and divinity are bound together in the one man, Jesus. As partakers of Christ, we are partakers of God...there is no distinction. The father and the son are one. I recognize that in many ways, these are complex theological concepts that we rarely spend much time pondering in our daily lives. Yet, doctrines like the Trinity, the dual-nature of Christ, and our union to him; don't just impact academia, but rather have very real and practical implications for how we understand the Bible and what Christ is at work doing in reconciling all things to himself.
I recently heard a pastor say that he didn't believe our problem was a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of understanding of how to apply the knowledge we have. I think that may be very true in many ways. When we encounter weighty passages like the one we studied this week, it is normal to feel overwhelmed. If we weren't, I would be very troubled. God is big, and there is so much for us to learn when it comes to who he is. Likewise, the bigger challenge is how to bridge the gap from simple head knowledge (something we know) to a conviction in our hearts (something we believe). Additionally, until we truly believe it, the knowledge we possess will never stir us to action (something we do).
Jesus is a big deal and my prayer is that, like so many, we wouldn't simply know about him, but rather that we would know him personally as Lord and Savior. In the same way, I pray that we wouldn't just profess faith in Christ, but that we would strive to make our faith our own and put it into action in the way we live and interact with the world around us. By this, they will know that we are his (John 13:35).
If you missed this week's sermon (or just want to listen again), follow the link below to listen. Or subscribe to our podcast in iTunes.
Part 3 - Jesus Is Just Alright?
Questions discussed in this sermon:
1. Is Jesus a created being?
2. What does it mean to be described as the "firstborn" in scripture?
3. How can we be seen as holy, blameless, and above reproach?