Dispatch One Hundred Twenty-Two

Posted: April 5, 2015 in Thirty-First Bundle
Tags: , , , , ,

ACTS 10:34-43

34 Then Peter began to speak to them: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36 You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all. 37 That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 39 We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; 40 but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, 41 not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Who was Jesus? Definitions abound and creeds have been written, to be confessed by the faithful and defended against heresy and corruption. Again, the Church has spilled much blood and divided its own community over this matter of defining Jesus. Certainly there is something worthy in this pursuit of clarity; even our definitions of God – as long as we acknowledge them as only provisional and finally inadequate – should be as clear and concise as we can possibly make them. But sadly there are often darker forces at work as well, seeking to reduce the mysteries of faith to simplistic and literal formulas. One thing is for certain: if murderous defense is being made on behalf of some religious doctrine or definition of God, you can be sure it is about as far from the truth as it can be!

Peter’s “definition” of Jesus, delivered in a sermon to the Jews in the second chapter of Acts and here to the Gentiles in the tenth, is given in the simple report of what Jesus did and where he got his power. In both instances, the emphasis falls on the fact that Jesus “went about doing good” and that it was the indwelling Spirit of God that gave him authority over demons and disease. Notice the absence of reference to the virgin birth or to his being “of one substance with the Father” (as a later creed would state). The clearest and most accurate – as well as the most convincing – definition of Jesus that Peter or any church theologian could offer consists in the observation that he was a good person who did right by God and others. Underneath all the dogma, here is a portrait worthy of our admiration and loyalty. To believe in Jesus is to unite your own heart and life to his visionary example and living presence.

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