UNDISCOVERED GENIUS

A commentary on the history, contexts, and meanings of the word "genius."

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Truth Came by Jesus Christ

Truth Came by Jesus Christ

Last week we contemplated the circular relationships between grace, mercy, truth, and the Word suggested by John 1:14-17:
"14And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
 15John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me.
 16And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.
17For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ."


Today we will focus on that last bit, the "came by Jesus Christ" bit. We will consider the role of Jesus as the channel of Divine Truth in Its various forms, and how He functions as intercessor between us and the Father. We will list and discuss a number of distinct features of Jesus' incarnate personality that uniquely qualify Him to be our one and only intercessor to God. I say "uniquely" quite purposefully, because one of the cornerstones of Christian dogmatics is the firm FACT that Jesus is the ONLY Son of God. A lot of New Age philosophies include Jesus in a pantheon of great saints, but they disparage the idea that Jesus was the one and only manifestation of the Christ Consciousness; thus, He cannot, therefore, be the ONLY Son of God.

But even among New Agers there is disagreement about the position Jesus occupies in the Heavenly Choir, and there is an interesting story about how one important New Age philosophy became divided over this point. The "Denomination" Theosophy was created in the late 19th century by Madame Blavatsky; Rudolf Steiner was the head of the organization in Germany. There was happy agreement for some years, but Steiner eventually broke off from the main body of Theosophists to form the separate "denomination" Anthroposophy, precisely because the Theosophists would not recognize the unique position (again I emphasize the word "unique) of Jesus in the history of the world.

Of the many wondrous miracles we can contemplate, as we ponder the life and death of Jesus, no small one is how Jesus was deemed by God to be the one and only entity equal to the task of saving this sinful world. On the spiritual side He had the Love and the Light going for Him, and, on the physical side, He had the street smarts of a big-city boy. Not only an over-arching understanding of, but an interpenetrating IDENTIFICATION with, the men walking the earth. Can we even take in a faint glimmer of the glory that attends this magnanimous roar of power and intellect?

First I want to remind you of something I said last week:

"The phrase “I tell you the truth,” appears 79 times in Scripture, 78 times spoken by Jesus."

We may not always understand everything Jesus says to us; He may speak to us in dreams, or in symbols, or in some other elevated language, the sense of which lies just outside our ability to completely apprehend it; He may speak to us in subtle intimations, intuitions, pre-cognitions, and synchronicities--but however He speaks to us, we can always count on the essence of truth that will reside at the core of each and every utterance. We can also count on the flowering increase of power in the meaning, as we ourselves flower under the beneficent influence of heavenly illumination bestowed on us through grace, freely given, gratefully received.


There is something else that we can count on: the unique personality of Jesus-- the ego of Jesus that permeates our own identity and links us to the divine mind. Jesus' humanity provided the crucial connection between Him and the World, which, in turn, connected us to God. As a mediator, the hypostatic union of the human and the divine, in Jesus' dual nature, HAD to include a personality that the human mind could appreciate; as such, this personality had to have the best, the absolute IDEAL, of every possible human attribute. Once again God's choice is staggering to consider.

Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible gives a short list of some of the many attributes of Divine Grace which were the property of Jesus, but which He came to bestow on us:

"Full of grace and truth; that is, he dwelt among men, and appeared to have a fulness of each of these: for this clause is not to be joined with the glory of the only begotten, as if this was a branch of that; but regards him as incarnate, and in his office, as Mediator; who, as such, was full of "grace"; the Spirit, and the gifts of the Spirit; of all the blessings of grace, of justifying, pardoning, adopting, sanctifying, and persevering grace; of all the promises of grace; of all light, life, strength, comfort, peace, and joy: and also of truth, of all Gospel truths; and as he had the truth, the sum, and substance of all the types and prophecies concerning him in him; and as he fulfilled all his own engagements, and his Father's promises; and as possessed of sincerity towards men, and faithfulness and integrity to God. . ."


But before we get into the nitty gritty of Jesus' intercession for our sins, here is a little general background on the subject of intercession take from Wikipedia:

"Intercession of the saints is a Christian doctrine held by Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and some Anglican churches, that deceased saints and the Blessed Virgin Mary intercede (or pray) for believers, and that it is possible to ask deceased saints for their prayers. The doctrine of requesting intercession from deceased saints can be found in Christian writings from the 3rd century AD. The 4th century Apostles' Creed states belief in the communion of saints.

Biblical basis
Advocates of the doctrine say that Jesus' parable of The Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19–31 indicates the ability of the dead to pray for the living. On the basis of Christ's intercession for believers, who is present at the Right hand of God (Romans 8:34;Hebrews 7:25), it is argued by extension that other people who have died but are alive in Christ may be able to intercede on behalf of the petitioner(John 11:25;Romans 8:38–39). On the basis of other texts (Hebrews 2:11;Hebrews 10:10; 1 Timothy 2:1–5) it is argued that if those living here on earth can intercede on behalf of each other, then those already glorified in Heaven, and even closer "in Christ", are made holy as "one" unified through him (the mediator between God and men – on earth and heaven) by his sacrifice, can certainly intercede for those on earth as well.

Roman Catholic views
Roman Catholic Church doctrine supports intercessory prayer to saints. Intercessory prayer to saints also plays an important role in the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches. Also some Anglo-Catholics believe in saintly intercession. They may point to such Scriptural passages as Tobit 13:12–15, Revelation 5:8, or Revelation 8:3–4, which depict heavenly beings offering the prayers of mortals before God, and in addition to James 5:16 (where all those in heaven can be presumed to be living righteously), which states the prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. Both those for and against the intercession of saints quote Job 5:1

Intercessory prayer to saintly persons who have not yet been canonized is also practiced, and evidence of miracles produced as a result of such prayer is very commonly produced during the formal process of canonization.

Protestant views
"Scripture does not teach calling on the saints or pleading for help from them. For it sets before us Christ alone as mediator, atoning sacrifice, high priest, and intercessor."—Augsburg Confession, Article XXI.
Many Protestant churches strongly reject all saintly intercession, in accordance with verses like 1 Timothy 2:1–5, which says that Jesus is the sole mediator between God and man, as well as Deuteronomy 18:10-11 NIV, which seems to forbid invoking departed souls. They also point to the fact that there are no examples in the Bible of living humans praying to dead humans — Jesus Christ being the lone exception, because He is believed to be alive and resurrected, and because He is believed to be both human and Divine. The practice was attacked both by the Waldensians of the 12th century, and the various Gnostic Bogomil groups (including the Albigensians). The Calvinists and Zwinglians were particularly zealous in their rejection of saintly intercession.

Anglican views
William Tyndale had been an early opponent of the practice of praying to saints. The Thirty-Nine Articles (1563) of the Church of England condemned the "invocation of saints" as "a fond thing, vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God" (Article XXII).

Lutheran views
Traditional Lutheran belief accounts that saints pray for the Church in general, but are not mediators of redemption. Martin Luther, the founder of Lutheranism, approved honouring the saints by saying they are honoured in three ways: firstly by thanking God for examples of His mercy; secondly by using the saints as example for strengthening our faith, and thirdly by imitating their faith and other virtues."


This, from the Theopedia, An Encyclopedia of Christianity, is an article about the issues that led to the Reformation, and the separation of the Lutheran brotherhood from the Catholic church. It turns out that the issue of saintly intercession was one of the dogmatic disagreements that tore the church apart into its numerous protestant denominations:

"Priesthood of all believers
The third great principle of the Reformation was the priesthood of all believers. The Scriptures teach that believers are a “holy priesthood,” 1 Pet. 2:5. All believers are priests before God through our great high priest Jesus Christ. “There is one God and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus,” 1 Tim. 2:5. As believers, we all have direct access to God through Christ, there is no necessity for an earthly mediator. The Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox concept of the priesthood was seen as having no warrant in Scripture, viewed as a perversion and mis-application of the Old Testament Aaronic or Levitical priesthood which was clearly fulfilled in Christ and done away with by the New Testament.

As a result of these principles, the Reformers rejected the authority of the Pope, the merit of good works, indulgences, the mediation of Mary and the Saints, all but the two sacraments instituted by Christ (Baptism and the Lord’s Supper), the doctrine of transubstantiation,

(The Roman Catholic doctrine that the bread and wine, used in the Lord’s Supper or Eucharist, actually become the literal body and blood of Christ at the “consecration” by the ordained priest.)

the mass as a sacrifice, purgatory, prayers for the dead, confessions to a priest, the use of Latin in the services, and all the paraphernalia that expressed these ideas."





The following quotation from Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary develops the connection between the dual nature of the Word and Grace:


"John the Baptist came to bear witness concerning Jesus. Nothing more fully shows the darkness of men's minds, than that when the Light had appeared, there needed a witness to call attention to it. Christ was the true Light; that great Light which deserves to be called so. By his Spirit and grace he enlightens all that are enlightened to salvation; and those that are not enlightened by him, perish in darkness."


[Sidebar: The use, here, of the word "enlightened" is not accidental. We have noted, many times, the character of Heavenly energy as it descends into the physical dimension through light. We have talked about angels coming in the light. We talked about the spirit of Christmas coming through light. I'm just spit-balling here, but it may be that when the divine Mind descends into the physical, it first manifests itself in Light--light seen as the first form, in a sequence of many modulating forms, before it breaks down into other material forms. Thus, Jesus is the way the truth and the light. It is this heavenly illumination, that we Christians carry around with us, that sets us apart from the rest of the world--a world that has not petitioned for Jesus' protection.]

Back to Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary:

"Christ was in the world when he took our nature upon him, and dwelt among us. The Son of the Highest was here in this lower world. He was in the world, but not of it. He came to save a lost world, because it was a world of his own making. Yet the world knew him not. When he comes as a Judge, the world shall know him. Many say that they are Christ's own, yet do not receive him, because they will not part with their sins, nor have him to reign over them.
All the children of God are born again. This new birth is through the word of God as the means, and by the Spirit of God as the Author.

1st Peter 1:23
"Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever."


By his Divine presence Christ always was in the world. But now that the fulness of time was come, he was, after another manner, God manifested in the flesh. But observe the beams of his Divine glory, which darted through this veil of flesh. Men discover their weaknesses to those most familiar with them, but it was not so with Christ; those most intimate with him saw most of his glory. Although he was in the form of a servant, as to outward circumstances, yet, in respect of graces, his form was like the Son of God His Divine glory appeared in the holiness of his doctrine, and in his miracles. He was full of grace, fully acceptable to his Father, therefore qualified to plead for us; and full of truth, fully aware of the things he was to reveal."


I repeat: "He was full of grace, fully acceptable to his Father, therefore qualified to plead for us; and full of truth, fully aware of the things he was to reveal." This sentence says it all in a nutshell: coming from the Father, Jesus was the Father's gift of mercy to humanity, able both to forgive our lower nature its weaknesses and exalt our lower nature with revelations of eternal truth tailor-made for each specific individual in Creation.

But let's take a moment to think about "how", what is the precise mechanism used by Jesus to mediate for us. The Truth of the Word is transmitted to us through Divine Intercession, but what does that mean, exactly? Prayer is the the accepted technique that mainstream Christianity uses to connect with God, although the distinction between prayer, and the type of meditation many Eastern religions promote, is lost on me; unless it has solely to do with the fact that meditation attempts to open the heart by direct contact with the Word, while prayer gives the Word a name--Jesus. I am sure that many prayers are answered that are not addressed to Jesus by name, but I am equally sure that Jesus gets all His mail, even if it has the wrong address on it.

Indeed, people shouldn't fuss about the different forms that different cultures give to things; the people in those cultures are all attempting to reclaim the divine in themselves, just like we are. Do you really think Jesus would reject the open-hearted devotee because he used the wrong NAME? Anyway, people who thus complain are not taking into account the magnitude of the Christ Consciousness, which includes a vast network of angels who disseminate divine energy like rain. The word "angel" has sometimes been equated with the word "angle"; thus, an angel is an angle of God, a teensy corner of the divine mind that reaches out and down into every made thing. Do you really think that there is a prayer anywhere, breathed in silent privacy, that is unheard? The angels are included in the structure of the Christ Consciousness, so what they hear, He hears. Thus all prayers sent to heaven via a saint or any other celestial entity, eventually go through Jesus. If you think about it that way, the whole issue of the intercession of saints becomes moot.

1 Timothy 2:5
"For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;"


From New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia
"Mediator defined
A mediator is one who brings estranged parties to an amicable agreement. In New Testament theology the term invariably implies that the estranged beings are God and man, and it is appropriated to Christ, the One Mediator. When special friends of God — angels, saints, holy men — plead our cause before God, they mediate "with Christ"; their mediation is only secondary and is better called intercession. Moses, howover, is the proper mediator of the Old Testament (Galatians 3:19-20).

Christ the Mediator
St. Paul writes to Timothy (1 Timothy 2:3-6) . . . "God our Saviour, Who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator of God and men, the man Christ Jesus: Who gave himself a redemption for all, a testimony in due times." The object of the mediatorship is here pointed out as the salvation of mankind, and the imparting of truth about God. The mediator is named: Christ Jesus; His qualification for the office is implied in His being described as man, and the performance of it is ascribed to His redeeming sacrifice and His testifying to the truth. All this originates in the Divine Will of "God our Saviour, Who will have all men to be saved". Christ's mediatorship, therefore, occupies the central position in the economy of salvation: all human souls are both for time and eternity dependent on Christ Jesus for their whole supernatural life. "Who [God the Father] hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of the Son of his love, In whom we have redemption through his blood, the remission of sins; Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature . . . all things were created by him and in him. And he is before all and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he may hold the primacy: Because in him, it hath well pleased the Father, that all fulness should dwell; And through him to reconcile all things unto himself, making peace through the blood of his cross, both as to the things that are on earth, and the things that are in heaven". (Colossians 1:13-20)

Qualifications
The perfection of a mediator is measured by his influence with the parties he has to reconcile, and this power flows from his connection with both: the highest possible perfection would be reached if the mediator were substantially one with both parties. A mother, for instance, is the best mediator between her husband and her son. But the matrimonial union of "two in one flesh", and the union of mother and child are inferior in perfection to the hypostatic union of the Son of God with human nature. Husband, mother, son, are three persons; Jesus Christ, God and man, is only one person, identical with God, identical with man. Moreover, the hypostatic union makes Him the Head of mankind and, therefore, its natural representative. By His human origin Christ is a member of the human family, a partaker of our flesh and blood (Hebrews 2:11-15); by reason of His Divine Personality, He is "the image and likeness of God" to a degree unapproached by either man or angel. The Incarnation establishing between the First-born and His brethren a real kinship or affinity, Christ becomes the Head of the human family, and the human family acquires a claim to participate in the supernatural privileges of their Head, "Because we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones." (Ephesians 5:30). Such was the expressed will of God: "But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent his Son, made of a woman . . . that we might receive the adoption of sons." (Galatians 4:4-5; also Romans 8:29) The man Christ Jesus, therefore, who was designed by God to mediate between Him and mankind, and whose mediatorship was not accidental and delegated, but inherent in His very being, was endowed with all the attributes required in a perfect mediator.

Christ's function as mediator necessarily proceeds from His human nature as principium quo operandi; yet it obtains its mediating efficacy from the Divine nature, i.e. from the dignity of an acting person. Its first object, as commonly stated, is the remission of sin and the granting of grace, whereby the friendship between God and man is restored. This object is attained by the worship of infinite value which is offered to God by and through Christ. Christ, however, is mediator on the side of God as well as on the side of man: He reveals to man Divine truth and Divine commands; He distributes the Divine gifts of grace and rules the world. St. Paul sums up this two-sided mediation in the words: ". . . consider the apostle and high priest of our confession, Jesus" (Heb. iii, I); Jesus is the Apostle sent by God to us, the high priest leading us to God."


Notice, above, the expression "yet it obtains its mediating efficacy from the Divine nature". In other words, the POWER of spirit (to move, to transform, to enlighten, etc.) is embedded in the Christ's divine nature, but the self-limiting INTELLECT, that speaks to our puny brains, comes precisely from the HUMAN personalty (remember the IDEAL HUMAN personality), that Jesus dons, like a raincoat, in order to bring us His truth. The Mind of God jump starts the Mind of Man, and Jesus is the cable.

Christ the Mediator, By Rev. Oliver Hart, Pastor, Hopewell Baptist Church, N. J. The ministers and messengers of the several Baptist churches, met in Association, at Philadelphia, October 22d, 1782.

"Again, Christ, as Mediator, not only kept the law inviolable, but he died the cursed death of the cross, to atone for the sins of his people. Without shedding of blood there could be no remission. And as the blood of slain beasts was insufficient to cleanse from sin, Christ offered his own,
Heb. 9: 12
"Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood, he entered once into the holy place: having obtained eternal redemption for us."

1 John 1:7
"The blood of Jesus Christ,"

(being the blood of the Son of God, hath a divine efficacy, and)
"cleanseth from all sin."


But, not only did Jesus suffer in his body, he endured infinitely greater torture in his soul. His bodily sufferings were indeed great, beyond compare. In this view, he was emphatically "a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief," Isa. liii. 3. His wounded, mangled, bruised body, was so changed from what it had been, as to excite astonishment in the beholders. "As many were astonished at thee. His visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons [of] men," Isa. lii. 14. So distorted were his limbs, as to extract from him this grievous complaint; "My bones are all out of joint. I may tell all my bones, they look and stare upon me," Psalm xxii. 14-17.

Let imagination paint to faith's view the innocent Jesus, clothed in a robe of mock majesty, enveloped round with invidious foes taunting and jeering at him, spitting on his face, smiting it with their hands, piercing his head with a crown of thorns, plowing furrows, long and deep, on his back, with a whip of wires; driving iron spikes through his hands and feet, nailing them to the cross, and thus suspending him between heaven and earth, exposed naked to the inclement rays of a burning sun, a spectacle to men and angels. Thus behold the agonizing Jesus, and judge whether there were ever any sorrows like unto his sorrows, or pains comparable to those he endured.

But, after all, the sufferings of his soul were infinitely superior to these. These he bore -- those he deprecated. Apprehensions of the divine wrath, which was to fall on his soul, caused his human nature to shrink, and drew from him these mournful accents, "Now is my soul troubled, and what shall I say? Father save me from this hour," John xii. 27. And when the vials of wrath began to be poured out upon him, he was in an agony -- sweat great drops of blood, and said, "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death." "O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt," Luke xxii. 44; Matt. xxvi. 38, 39. And when his soul was made an offering for sin, and divine wrath was poured out upon him to the uttermost, he cried out, "My God! my God! why hast thou forsaken me?" Matt. xxvii. 46.

Thus Jesus, the Mediator, suffered for us men, and for our salvation. Thus he died, commending his spirit into the hands of his heavenly Father, Heb. ii. 10. And that his humiliation might be reduced to the lowest degree, he was laid in the grave, where he continued three days and three nights, but his body "saw no corruption." On the third day he arose from the dead; for it was not in the power of the grave to hold him. Though he had been put to death in the flesh, he was quickened by the Spirit, Heb. iii. 18. ... "But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept," 1 Cor. xv. 20. After his resurrection he continued many days on earth, showing himself to his disciples; comforting, encouraging, and confirming them; and then "ascended up on high, leading captivity captive;" when the everlasting doors were opened to receive the King of glory; and the heavenly arches rang with joyful acclamations; shouting, The Redeemer! God the Father manifested his approbation of all that he had done, and the high esteem he had for him as Mediator, by placing him at his right hand, "Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named," Eph. ii, 21. There the Mediator now sits, pleading the value of his merits on behalf of his chosen people; and we may be sure that "he is able to save them to the uttermost, that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them," Heb, vii. 25."


This sermon makes it clear that the unique character of Jesus' self-sacrifice totally validates Jesus' claim to the post of Mediator; a post given in reward for an appropriate sacrifice--for the shedding of higher-quality-than-calf's blood. However, this passage is also fun, because of its colorful language and vivid description of the crucifixion. The ideal character of Jesus's incarnate personality is glorified and exalted by such language as this, the language of tales and legends; and, rightly so, for, as the ideal man, every single thing He did became a myth; and through prayer and supplication, we too can partake of the ideal Man and become mythologized ourselves.


On the subject of myth, I cannot imagine the suffering that Jesus went through--and my inability to imagine it, is what gives it its vast cosmic resonance, is what elevates it to the level of a true myth. The importance, and the near-impossibility of the whole thing makes it more than something that just HAPPENED, it lifts it outside time and makes it become something that ALWAYS HAPPENED. Let's face it, Jesus was not the only guy that was cruelly, shamefully crucified that year; I'll bet he was not even the only INNOCENT man crucified year. What makes His crucifixion such a magnificent act is not the depth of the insult to which He was subjected, but the HEIGHT from which He had to descend. For the Royal King of Creation to lower Himself, of His own accord, to the lowest of the lowest possible ignominies, is an act of humility of such grandiose cosmic proportions, it makes all other human acts pale in significance. We can attach symbolic significance to the sacrifice of a good man in a story, but there is no symbol capable of supporting the weight of the Christ laying Himself down on the cross to spare each and every one of us the just punishment for our sins.

The Grand Miracle, by Johan D. Tangelder, September, 2008, is about the miracle of the virgin birth of Jesus. Its argument is one more justification for the unique authority Jesus claims to intercede for us:

"What difference does it make whether or not we believe in the truth of Christ's miraculous birth? The difference is either despair or hope. Through this great miracle, God has made salvation possible for human beings separated from God by the awful abyss of sin. The Gospel is the movement from God to man. It does not tell the story of a human search for God at all, but of something done by God for, to, and about, man. The Gospel is not about human beings finding God on their own – to be better and better disciples – but God reaching to human beings. We cannot reach God in our own strength. We can do a lot of things, even go to the moon and Mars, but we cannot save ourselves. Salvation is the work of God (John 3:16). No one can attain to eternal life, except through the mediator between God and man, the man Jesus Christ. (John 14:6). Human death was the result of sin and the triumph of Satan. To overcome sin and death, the Incarnate Son of God lived, suffered, and died on a cross. This is the ultimate testimony to His humanity.

Jesus is also our Immanuel which means, "God with us" (Isa. 7:14). It means that God is not a distant deity who lives in glorious isolation. He is neither cold nor inaccessible. Believing in Christ means to trust Him to know what to do when a problem or a crisis arises. On the one hand, it is encouraging to know that when we turn to Jesus with our problems, He understands us because He is like us. On the other hand, we may rejoice because this Jesus is so much more than we are. He is the sinless Son of God, and thus, with divine power, He can sustain those who trust in Him. We can trust Him to help us when we are in trouble."


From C. S. Lewis' Mere Christianity we get yet another justification for Jesus' authority to intercede for us:

“… The second person in God, the Son, became human Himself: was born into the world as an actual man – a real man of a particular height, with hair of a particular colour, speaking a particular language, weighing so many stone. The Eternal Being, who knows everything and who created the whole universe, became not only a man but (before that) a baby, and before that a foetus inside a Woman’s body. If you want to get the hang of it, think how you would like to become a slug or a crab.”
The result of this was that you now had one man who really was what all men were intended to be: one man in whom the created life, derived from his Mother, allowed itself to be completely and perfectly turned into the begotten life. The natural human creature in Him was taken up fully into the divine Son. Thus in one instance humanity had, so to speak, arrived: had passed into the life of Christ. And because the whole difficulty for us is that the natural life has to be, in a sense, ‘killed,’ He chose an earthly career which involved the killing of His human desires at every turn – poverty, misunderstanding from His own family, betrayal by one of His intimate friends, being jeered at and manhandled by the Police, and execution by torture. And then, after being this killed – killed every day in a sense – the human creature in Him, because it was united to the divine Son, came to life again. The Man in Christ rose again: not only the God. That is the whole point. For the first time we saw a real man. One tin soldier – real tin, just like the rest – had come fully and splendidly alive.”


I repeat, "you now had one man who really was what all men were intended to be. . . . For the first time we saw a real man." Thus it is Jesus' humanity, not His divinity, that gives us access to Him, and through Him to the Father.

To remind you of an important point I made last week:
"Thus, we seem to have run full circle: the law, the flesh, the truth, and the deliverance from the flesh--they all come from the Word. We are all participating in a continuously revolving cosmic flow, a revolving door, or, better, a revolving escalator that is constantly moving between, and stopping off at, different floors--different stages on a continuum that extends from the higher to the lower and back again, in a unending circular modulation. Which floor we stop at is a function of some over-arching cosmic rhythm, similar, I'm sure, on a macrocosmic level, to the rhythm involved in the the re-centering epiphanic experience. But regardless of the rhythm, and the level on which we find ourselves at any particular moment, (in the sequential series of time), we must remember that Jacob's vision at Bethel involves angels going up AND down the divine escalator to heaven. Truth is given to us through Grace, as a mercy, a way of dealing with material reality; the Truth is an articulation, a limitation, of the Word; Truth takes the mind-boggling vastness of the Eternal and breaks it down into terms that our human minds can sort of comprehend. In terms of the purpose for Truth, its reason for being, I can think of no more important function than its ability to push us onto the escalator: it is an instruction manual for jumping onto the escalator. Thus, the best Truth is not a single, static, constant entity, like the law, but is, rather, an ever-changing and evolving kaleidoscope of forms; it is shaped by the inconstant, anomalous rhythm of the heart, just like every other aspect of our multi-dimensional existence."


Is it Jesus's Truth or the Truth of Jesus, that opens the doors to heaven? I don't know--I guess it depends on which way you are looking. But I do know that this declension is going to occupy my thought for some time to come: us--truth--the Word--Jesus--God.

Let us pray. Jesus sometimes it seems that the more we try to understand You, the further we get from true understanding. Then we remember to feel your tender embrace, always patient, always ready, and we can sleep, and we can dream. Amen.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Grace and Truth

Grace and Truth

Call to Worship:

"What is truth? said jesting Pilate, and would not stay for an answer."
Francis Bacon


Today's sermon is based on John 1:14-17

"14And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
 15John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me.
 16And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.
17For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ."


Today we will discuss the law, grace, and truth, though not necessarily in that order. Since we have been dealing for the past several weeks with the "Word", it seems appropriate to begin with truth--expressed by and/or contained within the Word. There are many scriptures dealing with truth--too many to include in a single sermon, or, indeed, in twenty sermons. The phrase “I tell you the truth,” appears 79 times in Scripture, 78 times spoken by Jesus. He is the truth, and he tells the truth, so we can fully trust everything He says, although we may not always understand everything He says. Thus, the question is what is truth, and how must we wait for an answer?

John 17:17 says this:
"Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth."


Clearly, the Word and Truth are equivalent, in some sense, but not in another. Just as, in the beginning, the Word was with God and the Word was God, we have no doubt (Luther certainly has no doubt) that God came first, if anything outside time can be thought of as coming first. Likewise, the Word precedes the Truth, just as at the essence precedes the application. Thus Truth is a quality of the Word; like perfection, it is both constantly aspired to, AND it is ultimately unattainable by the human mind. However, it has a resonance that the devotee trained in spiritual sensitivities can recognize and partially apprehend. Steiner would say we experience the Truth of divine reality with our spiritual organs, as it is imprinted, for instance, on the astral body. This idea harmonizes with the idea that the Truth sanctifies the devotee with its heightened reality; the impact of spiritual energy on our physical bodies exalts the physical body and raises if from mere flesh to true humanity--a transcendent form of material reality; you might say that human reality is spiritual reality in transit. All these ideas are part and parcel to the concept of the Word becoming flesh.

John 3:21 says this:

"But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God."


In this text, we encounter the familiar equation of the "Word" with "Creation"--the power of the True Word manifests divine reality in physical form. Divine Light motivates earthly deeds that radiate Heavenly Truth.

John 16:13 says this:

"Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will shew you things to come."


Here Jesus is described as the "Spirit of Truth"; as such He merely Listens to the cosmic vibrations of the Eternal and speaks the Word echoing in the Mind of God. This channeling of the Word into material reality not only conveys reliable truth about the essence of existence, the Eternal now, It prophesies "things to come". As we have mentioned many times, the Truth of Eternity spoken by Jesus comes from outside time, from a place where everything happens at once, where everything has already happened and will always happen. It should then be no surprise that prophecy is part of the package. My personal experience of the counsels of Jesus, that come to me in prayer, includes subtle, and sometimes not so subtle hints about my future. Indeed, lost in the personality of Jesus, I can see vast terrains of sequential time spreading out and away from me in both directions, past and future. This is part of the Truth spoken by the Father, through the Son, to me.

Now, how are Truth and Grace connected?

The Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary provides a wonderful substitution for the word "Grace" which is very meaningful to me:

"Full of grace and truth-So it should read: "He dwelt among us full of grace and truth"; or, in Old Testament phrase, "Mercy and truth," denoting the whole fruit of God's purposes of love towards sinners of mankind, which until now existed only in promise, and the fulfillment at length of that promise in Christ; in one great word, "the SURE MERCIES of David".


Isaiah 55:3;
"Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David."


Acts 13:34;
"And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, [now] no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David."
"In His Person all that Grace and Truth which had been floating so long in shadowy forms, and darting into the souls of the poor and needy its broken beams, took everlasting possession of human flesh and filled it full. By this Incarnation of Grace and Truth, the teaching of thousands of years was at once transcended and beggared, and the family of God sprang into Manhood."


The word "Grace" always implies, to me, an indulgence, a free gift; but the term "Mercy" seems to include the idea of deliverance from a horrible fate. Indeed, "deliver us from evil" is one of the key phrases in the Lord's Prayer, and brings with it the hope that we sinners will not get what we deserve.

The expression "sure mercies" is interesting as well; the word "sure" seems to imply some kind of guarantee, a promise. God's covenant with David gives the devotee absolute confidence in his own ultimate redemption, regardless of his current physical state in time. Such a deal.


Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible expands on the idea of mercy, or gifts of the spirit:

"Full of grace and truth; that is, he dwelt among men, and appeared to have a fulness of each of these: for this clause is not to be joined with the glory of the only begotten, as if this was a branch of that; but regards him as incarnate, and in his office, as Mediator; who, as such, was full of "grace"; the Spirit, and the gifts of the Spirit; of all the blessings of grace, of justifying, pardoning, adopting, sanctifying, and persevering grace; of all the promises of grace; of all light, life, strength, comfort, peace, and joy: and also of truth, of all Gospel truths; and as he had the truth, the sum, and substance of all the types and prophecies concerning him in him; and as he fulfilled all his own engagements, and his Father's promises; and as possessed of sincerity towards men, and faithfulness and integrity to God. . ."


From the Geneva Study Bible we get yet another interesting slant on the Incarnate Word:

"This word as does not indicate here a likeness, but rather the truth of the matter, for his meaning is this, that we saw such a glory which suited and was proper for the true and only begotten Son of God, who is Lord and King over all the world.

He was not only a partaker of grace and truth, but was full of the very substance of grace and truth."


I find the expression "substance of grace and truth" to be provocative; how, indeed can spiritual reality obtain "substance" other than by being made flesh? Thus, once again, we encounter an equivalency between the lower and the upper vibratory material of Creation. We have encountered this concept several times in the recent discussions of the Word made flesh.

Deepak Chopra takes the idea even further in his Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul:

"Every spiritual tradition invokes our so-called higher self, the side of human nature that the soul stands for. We recognize ourselves in the love Jesus preached, and in the compassion espoused by Buddha. Every spiritual tradition also makes it clear that our so-called lower nature, identified with sin and ignorance, must be transformed. Unfortunately, the choice is presented in a way that is unhelpful. How can you adopt love when you are told at the same time that your lower nature is sinful? Condemning the lower self is the opposite of love. How can you adopt peace when you are told at the same time to fight against temptation? You wind up being trapped in your divided nature instead of healing it. . . The whole business of making a stark contrast between the lower and higher self is futile to begin with. There is no separate, all good, all wise part of you that you must either win or lose. Life is one flow of awareness."


Thus, Chopra proclaims, in a way, the same equality of the lower and higher aspects of Man's multi-dimensional being we saw in several readings from the past few sermons:

From Andrewes:

"Besides, from the flesh, as from Eve, came the beginning of transgression, longing after the forbidden fruit, refused the Word quite; . . . But there is a kind of necessity to use the term flesh. If He had said man, man might be taken for a person. He took no person, but our nature He took. Flesh is no person but nature only, and so best expresseth it. And if soul, it might have been taken, as if He took not the flesh but mediante anima (by means of the soul); but so He did not but as immediately and as soon the flesh as the soul, in one instant both."


From the Requiem Mass:

"Remember, merciful Jesus,
that I am the cause of thy way:
lest thou lose me in that day."


[Sidebar: I need to provide a little context for this quote. The Requiem text is all about the Day of Judgment; it is kind of like a courtroom drama, where the soul on trial is making a case for his salvation. As he asks for mercy, one of the arguments he makes, in his defense, is the idea that without his sin, Jesus would have no reason for being there at all. Hence, "I am the cause of thy way" means that, without us, Jesus would have no purpose. Thus, once again, the inter-relatedness of the Word and the flesh is suggested.]

And from The Confession of Chalcedon, also known as the Doctrine of the Hypostatic Union or the Two-Nature Doctrine:

"The Definition defines that Christ is 'acknowledged in two natures', which 'come together into one person and hypostasis'. The formal definition of 'two natures' in Christ was understood by the critics of the council at the time, and is understood by many historians and theologians today, to side with western and Antiochene Christology and to diverge from the teaching of Cyril of Alexandria, who always stressed that Christ is 'one'."



This subject always reminds me of the story of the guru who disappeared one day from the ashram; his disciples looked for him for several weeks only to find him, eventually, sitting on a dung heap with a big fat smile on his face. They asked him why he was sitting so contentedly in cow poop, and he replied, "If God is everywhere in all things, why not here as well as anywhere else?"

The following quotation from Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary develops the connection between the dual nature of the Word and Grace:

"John the Baptist came to bear witness concerning Jesus. Nothing more fully shows the darkness of men's minds, than that when the Light had appeared, there needed a witness to call attention to it. Christ was the true Light; that great Light which deserves to be called so. By his Spirit and grace he enlightens all that are enlightened to salvation; and those that are not enlightened by him, perish in darkness.

Christ was in the world when he took our nature upon him, and dwelt among us. The Son of the Highest was here in this lower world. He was in the world, but not of it. He came to save a lost world, because it was a world of his own making. Yet the world knew him not. When he comes as a Judge, the world shall know him. Many say that they are Christ's own, yet do not receive him, because they will not part with their sins, nor have him to reign over them.

All the children of God are born again. This new birth is through the word of God as the means, and by the Spirit of God as the Author.

1st Peter 1:23

"Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever."


By his Divine presence Christ always was in the world. But now that the fulness of time was come, he was, after another manner, God manifested in the flesh. But observe the beams of his Divine glory, which darted through this veil of flesh. Men discover their weaknesses to those most familiar with them, but it was not so with Christ; those most intimate with him saw most of his glory. Although he was in the form of a servant, as to outward circumstances, yet, in respect of graces, his form was like the Son of God His Divine glory appeared in the holiness of his doctrine, and in his miracles. He was full of grace, fully acceptable to his Father, therefore qualified to plead for us; and full of truth, fully aware of the things he was to reveal."


I repeat: "He was full of grace, fully acceptable to his Father, therefore qualified to plead for us; and full of truth, fully aware of the things he was to reveal." This sentence says it all in a nutshell: coming from the Father, Jesus was the Father's gift of mercy to humanity, able both to forgive our lower nature its weaknesses and exalt our lower nature with revelations of eternal truth tailor-made for each specific individual in Creation. Next week we will go deeper into the role of Jesus as the channel of Divine Truth in Its various forms, and how He functions as intercessor between us and the Father.

The following is from The Concepts of Original Sin and Grace
A Lecture By Rudolf Steiner, Munich, 3rd May, 1911.

"Man cannot rise again to the Spiritual by merely talking about the Spirit but only by taking the Spirit into himself in the living, personal form presented to him in the Events of Palestine, in the Mystery of Golgotha. Thus does man rise upwards again under the influence of the Christ Impulse. In no other way can abstract ideals be invested with the force of personality than by allowing the Christ Impulse to permeate the whole of our spiritual life. If on the one side, through guilt incurred before the development of the ego, we have burdened ourselves with what is called Original Sin, if there we have something for which we cannot be held wholly responsible, neither are we ourselves responsible for the fact that it is possible to draw the Christ to ourselves. Our ego plays a part in what we do or endeavour to do in order to come near to Christ, and there we can truly speak of merit.

But the fact that Christ is present, that we are living on a planet where He once dwelt and in times after this actually happened — this is not due to any merit of our own. Therefore what flows from the Living Christ in order to bring us upwards again into the spiritual world, comes from beyond the sphere of the ego and draws us upwards as irresistibly as we incurred guilt without ourselves being guilty. Through Christ's existence on earth we have the strength to rise again into the spiritual world without merit of our own, just as we incurred guilt without sin of our own. Neither fact has to do with the element of personality in which the ego lives, but both are connected with happenings that precede and follow the coming of the ego. Man has evolved from a state of existence when he had only physical body, etheric body and astral body, and he evolves further through transforming his astral body into Manas (Spirit-Self). Just as man has worsened his astral body through incurring Original Sin, so he heals it again through the Christ Impulse. An inflowing power repairs the astral body to the same extent to which it has deteriorated. That is the Atonement, that is what in the true sense is called ‘Grace’. Grace is the concept that is complementary to that of Original Sin. So the Christ Impulse has made it possible for man to become one with Christ, to say with St. Paul: ‘Not I, but Christ in me’, thus giving expression to everything that is designated by the concept of Grace."


This selection draws a connection between the lower nature of the flesh and original sin. Perhaps original sin and the Word are not so far apart. Steiner speaks, above, of the personal form of the Word--the fleshy form, the ego form--and is not the descent of spirit into flesh very much the definition of original sin? In fact Steiner, indicates that it is the ego that is empowered with the ability to apprehend and absorb the Christ Consciousness into itself. The ego is the manifestation of the Christ Consciousness in the flesh, just as Truth is the manifestation of the Word in material reality. There is no material consciousness without the ego--this is what we gained from our expulsion from Paradise. Thus, the source of Man's separation from Paradise and the medium through which he may regain access to Paradise are the exact same entity. Furthermore, the complicated processes of losing and regaining Paradise are all made available to us through the power of Grace to transform the justice of the law into the justice of the heart. Everybody is familiar with the truism, "life is not fair". Many things point to this. However, perhaps in terms of the big picture, life is fair, and more fair than fair.

Continuing on with the subject of truth, I think it is not inappropriate to review the concept of parable as the conveyor of truth. As we have concluded before, the parable allows teensy little bits of literal truth to seep into the corners of the human mind, whose powers of apprehension are too limited to take in the vastness of eternal truth. We have concluded many times that the imagery of parables, with their various levels of meaning, make various levels of truth accessible to devotees of various levels of mental capacity.

In the following excerpts I am attempting to draw a connection between the truth of the parable and the truth of the myth. Remember, in our discussions of the Parable from some weeks ago, we suggested the possibility that the multi-dimensional structure of the Parable is what allows it to speak universally to all the various consciousness levels of the multi-dimensional structure of Man --that every level of meaning to be found in the parables resonates with some different level of consciousness in different men.

Mathew 13:19
"When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart."


Here, Jesus is recapitulating one of the main themes of the parable: that seeds ungerminated in the heart, easily fall prey to the tempter. I think Jesus is saying that: the plain truth spoken in the ear of those not ready to receive it, makes them more vulnerable to Satan's power to twist and corrupt, than when there is just a vague understanding glimmering on the edge of their consciousness. When there is a grain of truth in what we hear, the lies of Satan, snaking around the sense of it, can misdirect it more easily than if we give him nothing to work with. Jesus is telling us to take care what we think, because Satan's towering intellect can insinuate its way into our heads in the most subtle and damning ways. Furthermore, He is telling us that He Himself is being careful not to open His congregation's mind to the whispering seductions of Satan's minions, by feeding it with dimly perceived half truths, which demons can falsify and grotesquely vulgarize. Indeed, it is clear that Jesus does not have a very high opinion of the common man's ability to get what He is saying, and is giving this warning therefore, not from a superior attitude, but, rather, from a quite protective one, shielding the folk, as it were, from too much truth, too soon.

So, let us hasten to remind you that there is no question of whether a parable or a myth is true. We KNOW it is true. The question is, rather, what is the quality of that truth? Which level of Man's multi-dimensional personality does it speak to?


This quotation from the internet article Movies, Myth and Preaching, by Dwight Longenecker, quotes, in turn, Freud, Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, and Joseph Campbell:

"Sigmund Freud wrote, "The truths contained in religious doctrines are after all so distorted and systematically disguised that the mass of humanity cannot recognise them as truth." Joseph Campbell realised that "the old teachers...told the Truth not in obtuse religious jargon, but in the exciting and mysterious language of myth.


[Sidebar: Substitute the word "parable" for "myth", and we are firmly on the same page.]

Myth and Truth
J.R.R.Tolkien--a devout Catholic--understood the power of myth as well. In his biography of Tolkien, Humphrey Carpenter relates Tolkien's conversation with C.S.Lewis which led to the great man's conversion.

Lewis had come to believe in God, but could not relate to Jesus' 2,000 year-old death. Lewis shared Tolkien's excitement with myth, and understood how myth interests and involves the audience in a vicarious way. Tolkien asked Lewis why he couldn't transfer his appreciation of sacrifice from the myth to the true story.

"But, said Lewis, myths are lies, even though lies breathed through with silver."

"No." said Tolkien "They are not. You call a tree a tree, and you think nothing more of the word, but it was not a tree until you gave it a name. You call a star a star, and say it is just a ball of matter moving on a mathematical course. But that is merely how you see it. By so naming things and describing them you are only inventing your own terms about them. And just as speech is invention about objects and ideas, so myth is invention about Truth."

Tolkien went on to explain that although the myths were woven through with error, they also reflected a fragment of the true light as well. The light began to dawn for Lewis: "Then the story of Christ," he said,"is simply a true myth, a myth that works on us in the same way as the others, but a myth that really happened."

For Lewis, the myths were testimony of the 'true light that enlightens every man.' (Jn.1.9) They looked forward to the 'true myth' of the gospel. The stories of incarnate gods, annual deaths and risings all echoed forward the story of Christ.

The Old Testament stories with their typology of Christ looked forward in a different way. Here the stories had a symbolic, legendary and mythic quality, but they were locked into history--pointing in a way no pagan myth could--to the myth become fact in Jesus Christ."


Here are some more quotes on the subject of myth by several famous writers:

Ambrose Bierce
"MYTHOLOGY, n. The body of a primitive people's beliefs concerning its origin, early history, heroes, deities and so forth, as distinguished from the true accounts which it invents later."


George Orwell:
"Myths which are believed in tend to become true."


(Or, truth, that transcends the language and time of its origin, becomes myth.-RFT)

Joseph Campbell:
"The role of the artist I now understood as that of revealing through the world-surfaces the implicit forms of the soul, and the great agent to assist the artist was the myth."


Bertrand Russell:
"What a man believes upon grossly insufficient evidence is an index into his desires -- desires of which he himself is often unconscious. If a man is offered a fact which goes against his instincts, he will scrutinize it closely, and unless the evidence is overwhelming, he will refuse to believe it. If, on the other hand, he is offered something which affords a reason for acting in accordance to his instincts, he will accept it even on the slightest evidence. The origin of myths is explained in this way."


Thus, the belief in myth is grounded not in the logical mind of the ego, which is always screwing up its facts anyway, but in the instincts of Man's higher self, his higher desires, his intuition of the truth that is more true than the literal truth.

On the subject of LITERAL TRUTH we must return to something we mentioned quite briefly in passing, at the beginning of this sermon, and which has not been referred to since: THE LAW.

Considering Martin Luther's obsession with the pre-eminence of Grace as the primal cosmic power, it is no surprise that he makes the following disparaging comment about the law in his sermon on the Parable of the Sower, found in THE SERMONS OF MARTIN LUTHER, VOL. II., SECTION I. THE NATURE OF THE WORD SPOKEN HERE.

"This Gospel treats of the disciples and the fruits, which the Word of God develops in the world. It does not speak of the law nor of human institutions; but, as Christ himself says, of the Word of God, which he himself the sower preaches, for the law bears no fruit, just as little as do the institutions of men."


It is a clarifying thought that the law bears no fruit. When you put it like that, that law can be seen as some kind of sustaining or stabilizing force whose function is to keep things in balance without actually adding anything to the mix--it takes Grace to do that--it takes the Messiah to do that. While the law is static, inflexible, Grace moves us outside time to a place where the heart can make up its own rules whenever it is moved (I say MOVED) to do so.

John 1:17
"For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ."


Another way of saying this might be, "For the law came from Adam, but Mercy came from Jesus." The original sin of flesh came from the creation of Man by the Word, but Man's deliverance from the flesh also came from the Word.


Thus, we seem to have run full circle: the law, the flesh, the truth, and the deliverance from the flesh--they all come from the Word. We are all participating in a continuously revolving cosmic flow, a revolving door, or, better, a revolving escalator that is constantly moving between, and stopping off at, different floors--different stages on a continuum that extends from the higher to the lower and back again, in a unending circular modulation. Which floor we stop at is a function of some over-arching cosmic rhythm, similar, I'm sure, on a macrocosmic level, to the rhythm involved in the the re-centering epiphanic experience. But irregardless of the rhythm, and the level on which we find ourselves at any particular moment, (in the sequential series of time), we must remember that Jacob's vision at Bethel involves angels going up AND down the divine escalator to heaven. Truth is given to us through Grace, as a mercy, a way of dealing with material reality; the Truth is an articulation, a limitation, of the Word; Truth takes the mind-boggling vastness of the Eternal and breaks it down into terms that our human minds can sort of comprehend. In terms of the purpose for Truth, its reason for being, I can think of no more important function than its ability to push us onto the escalator: it is an instruction manual for jumping onto the escalator. Thus, the best Truth is not a single, static, constant entity, like the law, but is, rather, an ever-changing and evolving kaleidoscope of forms; it is shaped by the inconstant, anomalous rhythm of the heart, just like every other aspect of our multi-dimensional existence.

Let us pray: Jesus, open our eyes that we may see glimpses of truth Thou hast for us; open our eyes illumine us, Spirit Divine. Amen.