“Speak Lord, for your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:10).
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have
seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace
and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, “This was
he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead
of me because he was before me.'”) From his fullness we
have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given
through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is
close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.
Some of my favorite theologians are children. I’ve learned a lot from them. Their joy, wonderment and amazement are befitting any serious discussion about God. Like Augustine, Luther, and Barth, children “get” the joy and excitement of knowing God. Little children teach me quite a lot about grace just by the way they excitedly tear into presents without any thought of deserving, earning, or repaying. They receive! Jesus did say that, after all, we needed to become like little children if we are going to know God (Matthew 18:2-5; 19:14). And Jesus thanked His Father for revealing to little children spiritual realities shared between Jesus and His Father (Matthew 11:25-27).
Some people say the most important question in life is, “Does God exist?” But there is an even more important question: “Do I know the God that exists?” The clear message of John’s Gospel is that through Jesus Christ we can come to know the God that exists. For it is the Word who became flesh and lived among us “who has made him known.”
The phrase “made him known” translates the Greek word exegesato. This is the word from which we get our word “exegesis”. Just as exegesis is the explanation of a text, so Jesus is the explanation of God. By Jesus’ life and words He explains just what it is to be God: self-giving love (1 John 4:8). Because Jesus lives “close to the Father’s heart” He has unique authority to reveal and explain the Father to us. Whether dying on a criminal’s cross, or being born in a humble manger, Jesus is the perfect expression of God’s other-centered love.
This confronts us with what nineteenth century Scottish preacher John Duncan called a “trilemma”. By that Duncan meant: “Christ either deceived mankind by conscious fraud, or He was Himself deluded and self-deceived, or He was Divine. There is no getting out of this trilemma. It is inexorable.” (John Duncan, Colloquia Peripatetica) The gist of Duncan’s trilemma was picked up by C. S. Lewis in a series of radio talks for the BBC during World War II and reproduced in his book Mere Christianity. Lewis echoes the inexorable decision we face in Jesus Christ this Christmas:
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice.” (C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity)
One of my favorite Christmas television programs is “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” It aired from 1965 to 2000 and had a 50th anniversary broadcast in 2015. The program opens with Charlie Brown feeling depressed. He doesn’t understand why he is depressed what with all the Christmas joy and festivity. The program works to a conclusion with poor Charlie asking if “Anybody” knows what Christmas is about. Then a cute, blanket-toting Linus says that he knows, and then begins reading the Gospel account of the angel’s announcement to shepherds: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”
Thanks Linus! You are right! This is what Christmas is about! The trilemma is decided! Jesus is our Savior, Christ and Lord! Let us become like little children!
- How do I understand Jesus as “explaining” God the Father?
- How do I decide on John Duncan’s and C. S. Lewis’ “trilemma”? Is Jesus
deluded, self-deceived, or do I fall at His feet and worship Him as Lord?
PALMS DOWN/PALMS UP
For a moment hold your PALMS DOWN in a symbolic gesture of letting go to God your worries for the day, the busyness of the season, and expectations of the way the holidays ought to be. Release all of these concerns to God.
Next, hold your PALMS UP as a symbolic gesture of receiving God’s gifts, provision, and guidance for today.