Photo by Marcello Newall

Photo by Marcello Newall

1. How Jesus Changes Everything

A central theme in Scripture is what is described as prolepsis. The famous German theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg described this as being the central theme of the Bible. Prolepsis refers to a narrative technique in which the story which is being told is only truly comprehended at its end. In this sense we can say that the biblical narrative is proleptical in that the appearing of Jesus radically alters everything we believed. The life and death of Christ is therefore the prism through which all must be reconsidered. Indeed in the writings of Paul and in the teaching of Christ Himself there is the concept that something totally new, albeit prefigured dimly in past revelations, has broken forth in the history of the world.

In light of God’s self-revelation in the Cross we as believers cannot continue to reason within pre-Christian paradigms. We see that Christ is always bringing us upwards and radically redefining human ideas and remolding them. A typical pattern that we find all throughout Scripture is how God takes a human concept which is fallen and limited and redeems it. Every time God moves us away from violence and towards self-sacrifice, love, and the eschatological fulfillment of God’s future.

2. Fishers of Men

Many of Jesus’ followers were fishermen which was a typical occupation at the time. When Jesus met them he affirmed: ‘Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men’.[1] Jesus in only a few words effectively overturned the entire concept of fishing. Instead of capturing fish to kill them he introduced the idea of seeking to capture men’s hearts in order to save them.

3. Living Sacrifices

For anyone who is concerned about animal suffering the whole idea of animal sacrifice which is found throughout Scripture can be quite shocking. In reality in this case as in the others we see how God takes the concept of weak and sinful human beings who believed that he somehow desired the sacrifice of animals, which he actually never wanted[2] and turns it on itself. Jesus both ended animal sacrifice and transformed the entire concept: We are told to offer ourselves as living sacrifices:[3] instead of sacrificing another unwilling innocent creature for our sin we should offer ourselves for others following the path of Christ.

4. The Good Shepherd

‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.'[4]

The Good Shepherd metaphor is both powerful and radical. In it we see Christ showing us that even though in this Age shepherds use their sheep and end up taking their lives, God has in mind a relationship which is the polar opposite, in which the Shepherd gives his life for the sheep. Some could argue that this saying of Jesus is simply metaphorical or a figure of speech. While Jesus is obviously using a symbolism, this metaphor would simply make no sense if in fact Christ were not pointing towards the ideal relationship between Shepherd and sheep envisioned for creation. In this sense Jesus is the truly Good Shepherd as opposed to the shepherds of this world, and his worldview stands in stark contrast to the logic of this era.

5. A Final Revelation

In the spiritual darkness and twilight in which the majority of humankind finds itself, what is truly happening in human history remains in many ways a mystery. World events pass by and a dazzling array of narratives are constantly being promoted through the media and other outlets. Scripture tells us that the Cross is in fact the ultimate event in history and the story of Jesus of Nazareth the true narrative to which all others are subservient and secondary.

At the end of the canon we find the book of Revelation, in Greek Apocalypsis ἀποκάλυψις which in reality signifies simply an ‘unveiling’ or disclosure of the truth. And in this Scripture we see the final and dramatic disclosure of who Jesus is and the greatest prolepsis. When no one is found worthy to open the scroll that opens the next epoch we are told that: ‘See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals’. But instead of the Lion of Judah John sees the startling image of ‘a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the centre of the throne’.[5] Whereas humanity has always looked to power, might and violence as the means of victory, God reveals his power in weakness: «God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong».[6]

6. A World of Wonder Beyond Understanding

The meaning of awe is to realize that life takes place under wide horizons, horizons that range beyond the span of an individual life or even the life of a nation, a generation, or an era. Awe enables us to perceive in the world intimations of the divine, to sense in small things the beginning of infinite significance, to sense the ultimate in the common and the simple, to feel in the rush of the passing the stillness of the eternal.[7]

When humanity rebelled against God it lost much more than simply access to paradise, it lost its sense of wonder. In many ways the present incapacity of many to relate to animals in any meaningful way and their reduction to commodities and tools is symbolic of a total lack of wonder and amazement in their lives. Only within the most hopelessly myopic and restricted vision of the world and life can the human-animal relationship be reduced to unilateral exploitation.

In reality something much greater is at stake here. We may affirm all the theology and doctrinal truths we wish but if our lives are essentially devoid of awe and wonder we have in fact missed out on our true calling. But Jesus is always leading us upwards by showing us glimpses of how the world should have been. Christ brings back colour and music to the grey of a monochromatic and silent world. He turns death to life and defeat into victory. By turning everything around Jesus changes everything.

[1] Matthew 4:19.
[2] Psalm 40:6.
[3] Romans 12:1.
[4] John 10:11.
[5] Revelation 5:5-6.
[6] 1 Corinthians 1:27.
[7] Abraham Joshua Heschel, God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism.

Thank you for reading and for following our blog!  We welcome comments and questions, and the sharing of these messages with others.  God bless.  ~Marcello Newall

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