Who is Jesus Christ? This is a question that as Christians we must ask ourselves continuously. Who is this figure that stands at the heart of our faith? There is a tendency, a perfectly natural tendency, to focus on the humanity of Jesus, to see him, as it were, merely as a better version of ourselves. Jesus the good man. Jesus the wise teacher. Jesus the political activist. The one who hates to see injustice. Whilst none of these ideas are necessarily untrue, indeed they’re all right, by their very nature they only tell half the story. They only unveil half the picture.
Our Gospel reading today helps to shine light, perhaps give us some insights, into how the divinity of Jesus is manifested in his humanity. We hear of Jesus the healer. The miracle worker. The one who in raising the sick, and elsewhere in the Gospel of raising the dead, prefigures his own resurrection with the salvific importance that event has for all of creation. We hear of Jesus the cosmic warrior who, in casting out demons, is fighting a sort of proxy war on Earth in the constant, cosmic struggle between the forces of good and evil. We hear of Jesus Christ seated on his throne of judgment, looking forward to the end of all things when those who will dine at the heavenly banquet will be separated from those who will be cast into the outer darkness where we hear there will be much weeping and gnashing of teeth. We hear of Jesus the dynamic fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. The Messiah. The Christ. The one in whom all the hopes and expectations of Israel are met.
This Jesus, the real Jesus, the Jesus whom we encounter in scripture, does not present his Gospel as a political manifesto, or worse, as sort of self-help guide. He merely offers himself. In that space around him, lives are transformed. Society is transformed. The blind see. The lame walk. The dead are raised. Social outcasts are reincorporated into the fabric of society. Jesus offers merely himself because he is sufficient. He is the point at which heaven and Earth are met. He actualizes on Earth that which will be possible in heaven.
How can we possibly respond to this knowledge, this terrible knowledge, of who Jesus Christ really is? Well, our Gospel reading this morning again gives us two approaches. Firstly, the example of the Centurion. We come to Jesus. We acknowledge our own unworthiness. We say, “Lord. I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof,” and yet we have faith that he will heal us anyway. This is as good a model of prayer as any found in the New Testament. We come to Jesus, we acknowledge our unworthiness, and yet we know that he will hear us anyway, so we pray.
Secondly, we have the example of Peter’s mother-in-law. We are told that when she had been healed, she got up, and she began to serve Jesus. Mark’s Gospel, telling the same story, says, “She got up, and she began to serve them.” Everyone gathered there. Both are true. We serve Jesus in serving each other. Prayer and action. Supplication and service. By these means, we will come to know Jesus more clearly and love and adore him more dearly.
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