The Ultimate Paradox

Jesus-Christ: The ultimate paradox! God incarnate we ask? Who was, and who is Jesus- Christ? Even asking this question, however, itself raises a paradox! 

Jesus-Christ: The Son Of God

Credit: Google Images

Who Was, And Who Is Jesus Christ?

We know he lived in Israel 2000 years ago. After a short and controversial ministry lasting approximately three years he was condemned for heresy by the Jews, and for insurrection by the Romans, and subsequently executed by crucifixion. This is all well recorded undisputable historical fact. Rest assured, Jesus Christ is not a myth. He lived.......and died! 

This briefly summarizes who Jesus Christ "was". The paradox however lies in the question "Who "is" Jesus-Christ?" The wording unavoidably infers that he is alive today! History though, as stated above, records that he died 2000 years ago! 

This is the first obvious paradox: Jesus-Christ "was" but he also "is"! This paradox forms the very basis of Christianity. Christians believe that he died, but that he was resurrected after three days, thereby conquering death and manifesting eternal life! 

It is recorded that, over a period of forty days after his resurrection, he appeared to his followers on several occasions proving to them that he was indeed alive even though his body still carried the wounds inflicted by his crucifixion.  

Acts 1:3 NLT: "During the forty days after his crucifixion, he appeared to the apostles from time to time, and he proved to them in many ways that he was actually alive. And he talked to them about the Kingdom of God."

After this time of further teaching and instruction he then ascended to heaven before the eyes of a gathering of his followers, leaving them with a commission to spread the Gospel and a promise to return again. Therefore, to his followers he definitely "is" - in every sense of the word! They commune with him on a daily basis.

The life and death of Jesus has had such a dramatic and profound effect on the world that it has changed the course of human history. In fact in large parts of the world our calendars divide all history into what occurred before Christ (BC) and what ensued after Christ (AD for Anno Domini). 

Jesus Christ remains a phenomenon through every age and we are, even today, still confronted with the same question Pontius Pilot originally asked of Jesus' accusers: 

Matthew 27:22. NLT: "Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?" 

The Trial Of Jesus-Christ By Pontius Pilate

Pilate Pleading With The Jews

Pilate Washing His Hands

Credit: Google Images

What Shall We "Do With Jesus Who Is called The Messiah"?

What has been the world's reaction to this question originally posed by the vacillating Roman governor Pontius Pilate before choosing the path of appeasement rather than that of justice by condemning Jesus to death by crucifixion.

Pilate even emphasized that this was an act of appeasement by symbolically washing his hands in a bowl of water and declaring:

Matthew 27:24 NLT:     "I am innocent of this man's blood. The responsibility is yours!"

I wonder how much of what has happened to the Jews throughout history, culminating in the Holocaust  under Hitler, is a consequence of the Jews' reply to Pilate?:

Matthew 27:25 NLT:     And all the people yelled back, "We will take responsibility for his death - we and our children!"

This question is still valid today. What are you and I doing with Jesus-Christ?

The Crucifixion And Resurection Of Jesus-Christ

Death Of Jesus

The Empty Tomb

Credit: Google Images

What Has THE WORLD Done With "Jesus Who Is Called The Messiah?"  

It is never wise to generalize, but I think the world's reaction in subsequent history to the phenomenon of Jesus-Christ can best be summed up by analysing his impact on the world's major religions, and philosophies. I have formulated the following list to essentially reflect what mankind as a whole has "done with Jesus who is called the Messiah":  

1: Inherited Mythology:

Ancient Greek Mythology

Credit: Google Images

The world into which Jesus was born had a multitude of religions, myths, and superstitions which were deeply embedded into various cultures.

Most of these, Pagan, Egyptian, Grecian, and Roman, worshiped a diverse pantheon of gods. 

Throughout the Roman Empire people were also compelled, often under threat of death, to worship and honor Caesar as a god.

This provided  the straw Pilate seized on tojustify condemning an otherwise guiltless Jesus to death.  It was an act of self-preservation.

Jesus' assertion that he was a king, despite the fact that he had made it clear that his kingdom was not of this world, was clearly putting Pilate's political career at risk. This claim was in direct conflict with the authority of the Empire of Rome, and Pilate as an official of the Roman Empire placed his allegiance accordingly! 

We read in John 19:12 NLT: 

"Then Pilate tried to release him, but the Jewish leaders shouted, "If you release this man, you are no 'friend of Caesar'. Anyone who declares himself a king is a rebel against Caesar."

2: Judaism:

Judaism's Symbols

Credit: Google Images

The Jewish religious fraternity viewed Jesus as a heretic. They were awaiting the coming of a promised Messiah who they believed would re-establish the Kingdom of David, freeing  them from the Roman yoke, and restoring the prestige that they had previously enjoyed as a nation.

When it became clear that Jesus did not fit into this mould, coupled with his assertions of divinity, it became imperative in their eyes to get rid of him. Sadly, their descendants are still today awaiting the coming of this Messiah!  

3: Christianity:

Christianity's Symbols

(Including The symbol For The Holy Spirit)

Credit: Google Images

Christianity, of course, emerged out of ancient Judaism as a Jewish sect, with Jesus himself and later his followers even preaching and teaching within the Temple precincts.

Nearly all its initial adherents were Jews. They accepted Jesus-Christ as the promised Messiah. Many had in fact physically interacted with the resurrected Jesus and receivied the Commission to spread the Gospel of the New Covenant- that Jesus' death was both the Propitiation and the Expiation for our sins - throughout the world.

They had witnessed his ascension to heaven from the Mount of Olives and received the assurance that Jesus would one day return to fetch his own.

Christianity was not established through "hear-say" but by the witness of people that had actually lived with and followed Jesus during his earthly ministry,

His followers accepted him as the fulfillment of all Old testament prophecy in the context of scripture that: “the stone the builders had rejected, becoming a cornerstone" (Luke 20:17-19).

Despite Judaism and the Roman Empire the attempting to eradicate the new faith - even by persecution, torture, and death - Christianity continued to spread; eventually becoming the official state-endorsed religion under the emperor Constantine. 

In hindsight, many believers regard this as a regrettable development because this political victory in effect secularized the church. Christianity was tragically transformed from being a “persecuted faith", into  becoming a “persecuting faith", thereby compromising the essence of empathy that characterized its original foundation.

The invention of the printing press and the subsequent prolific distribution of the Bible (now translated into virtually every known language) initiated the subsequent proliferation of personal opinions and interpretations of Scripture and dogma that has led to the fragmentation of the church we have come to know.

This is the situation in which Christianity, the"Body of Christ", finds itself in today. Fragmented and devided, but earnestly searching for new direction and meaning while endeavoring to rediscover it's original essence of love, empathy, and spirituality.

The Two Faces Of Christianity

Aggressive Fundamentalism

Spirituality, Love, And Empathy 

Credit: Google Images

4: The Other Monotheistic Religions: 

A: Islam

Islam's Symbol

Credit: Google Images

Islam is a later offshoot from Judaism and Christianity, founded by the prophet Mohammed.

He initially referred to Jews and Christians as "people of the book".

Followers of Islam also regard themselves as being "children of Abraham".

They accept Jesus as a prophet but one that is inferior to Mohammed.

B: Baha'i Faith

Baha'i Faith's Symbol

Credit: Google Images

Baha’i Faith is an even more recent monotheistic religion founded by Baha’u’llah in the 19th  century in Persia.Their faith emphasizes the spiritual unity of all humanity.

According to Wikipedia:

 "Religious history is seen by them to have unfolded through a series of divine messengers, each of whom established a religion that was suited to the needs of the time and the capacity of the people. These messengers have included Moses, Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad, and others".

This, in short records what mankind has done with "Jesus-Christ who is called Messiah".

I want to emphasize that all the above stems from what men have said about Jesus over the years. In other words, people’s opinions.

 It is imperative however to learn what Jesus-Christ said of himself!

What Did Jesus-Christ Say of Himself?

JHWH - "I Am What I Am!"

 Adressing Moses From The Burning Bush

Credit: Google Images

What Is The Name Of This God?

This is the same question that Moses posed at the burning bush on his being commissioned to return to Egypt as God’s agent to free the Children of Israel from slavery.

Exodus 3:13-15 NLT  :      

But Moses protested, “If I go the people of Israel and tell them the God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ they will ask me, “What is his name? Then what should I tell them?”

God replied to Moses, “I Am Who I Am. Say to the people of Israel: I Am has sent you.” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: Yahweh, the god of your ancestors – the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob – has sent me to you.

This is my eternal name, my name to remember for all generations.”

We humans attempt to identify things by first placing them within parameters, and then naming and labeling them. This was also the case with the ‘gods’ of ancient mythology. Each god or goddess was attributed with certain functions or responsibilities, then categorized and named accordingly. For instance:

·         Horus: The Lord of Heaven

·         Hermes or Mercury: The Messenger God    

·         Thor: The God of Thunder

·         Ra: The Sun God

·         Poseidon or Neptune: God of the Sea

This in fact emphasizes the uniqueness of our God introducing himself as JHWH (Yahweh)! His name confirms that He can neither be categorized, nor confined within parameters! His name is just a plain statement of fact:

“I AM!”

This is also a term Jesus-Christ often used. The obvious implications angered the religious establishment of the time:

John 5:18 NLT:

"So the Jewish leaders tried all the harder to find a way to kill him. For he not only broke the Sabbath, he called God his Father, thereby making himself equal with God.”

Let us look at some of the statements Jesus-Christ himself made regarding his divinity:

John 8:24 NLT:

"That is why I said you would die of your sins; for unless you believe that I Am who I claim to be, you will die in your sins.”                                                                                                             

John 8:28 NLT:

“Jesus answered, “ I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I Am.”

John 13:13 NLT:

“I tell you this beforehand, so that when it happens you will believe that I Am the Messiah.”

John 14:6 NLT:

I am the way, the truth, and the life.”

Where Jesus-Christ asserts his divinity most emphatically and unequivocally is found in his reply to Phillip in:

 John 14:8-9 NLT:

Philip said , “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.”

Jesus replied, “Have I been with all this time, Philip, and yet you still don’t know who I am? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking me to show him to you?”

The examples mentioned above, along with Jesus accepting worship from his followers, leave no doubt as to his own assertion of his divinity! This raises another paradox, highlighted by the apostle Peter:

1 Peter 7-8 NLT:

“The stone the builders rejected has now become a cornerstone”, and “He is the stone that makes people stumble, the rock that makes them fall.”

The implications of these assertions are mind-boggling, radical, and drastic. So radical and drastic in fact to our understanding of Jesus - who also called himself  The Son Of Man - that, to quote C.S. Lewis:

"Either Jesus is who he says He is, or he was the greatest lunatic who ever lived!”

All the above leaves us with only one conclusion regarding what Jesus-Christ said of himself:

Jesus of Nazareth claimed that he was fully Divine, and at the same time fully Mortal! God, the Creator of the Universe, having generated and occupied a human body subject, to all the frailties and temptations of our own. He did this to fully experience what it is to be a human possessing a cognitive mind and a free will.  

The apostle Paul sums it up profoundly:

Philippians 2:5-11 (NLT)

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.

Instead, he gave up his divine privileges, he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all      other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Surely, by any measure, this unequivically makes Jesus-Christ the “Ultimate Paradox”?

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