Saturday, June 7, 2014

Implications of Jesus the Teacher. . .

No one denies that Jesus is the Teacher, that He taught and still teaches.  What is problematic, however, is when Jesus is primarily or exclusively teacher.  The non-sacramental churches emphasize the role of Jesus as teacher as the primary role of Jesus in the life of the Christian.  From conservative to liberal, Jesus is seen as the teacher of new life, of new morality, of righteousness, etc...   These have done their work so well it is not uncommon for Lutherans and Roman Catholics and even the Orthodox to look to Jesus as the preeminent guide to the answers we seek about life, about how to get ahead, how to be happy, how to be good, how to be wise, etc...  In a sense Jesus becomes a medium whose job is to lead us to the answers that lie somewhere else.

Sadly, Jesus the teacher does not have to be incarnate or real.  He can be myth or legend and be as effective.  But the unique thing about Christianity is not what Jesus taught but who Jesus is.  Jesus did not whisk away the Law and institute a new morality but fulfilled the Law and changed our relationship to it so that it could be guide as well as curb and mirror (our favorite Lutheran terms).  He insisted over and over again that He spoke not on His own but the words of the Father and did not His own works but the works of the Father.  The new thing about Christianity and what distinguishes Christianity from all religions is the person of Jesus Christ, son of God in flesh and blood, by the Holy Spirit and from the Virgin Mary, who suffered in our place for the sins of all mankind, whose death atoned for us and set us right before the Father, and whose resurrection from the dead imparts to us the life that death cannot overcome.  This Jesus must be an historical person, a real fact, and all the events of His life true or it all falls apart.

Philip had some of the same idea when he asked Jesus simply to show them the Father.  Philip had heard Jesus words and found them hard to digest so he asked Jesus for something simple, concrete, and basic.  Show us the Father (give us a sign) and then we will know who You are and follow You.  There is not much difference from this and the way we come to Jesus.  Theology is all well and good and doctrine all fine and dandy but what we really want are answers to the problems we have identified -- at home, at work, at play, etc...  We tolerate Jesus as Savior because we want Jesus the teacher.

The Joel Osteens of the world have done a superb job of emphasizing Jesus the teacher.  Jesus teaches you to be happy, He shows you how to have a better marriage, better children, better time at work, and better life.  Listen to Him and follow His Word and you will get where you want to go and become the person you want to be.  When it works right, you get your best life now.

But Jesus it not guide or teacher in the sense that the answers lie outside of Him.  He is the answer.  To Philip's question we hear the big sigh of Jesus "How long have you been with me Philip and you still do not get it?"  The Father and I are One...   Jesus is not a gimmick of God nor is He a tool for us to use.  He is the revelation of the Father and the full gift of God to His sinful creation captive to death.  Christ does not give us answers -- He IS the answer.

Christ is not a coach helping us figure out how to win the game or the teacher who shows us how to ride the bike of life on our own.  Christ is not the sage who delivers wisdom from on high which we take back down the mountain and put to work in our lives to get what we want or where we want to be.  Christ is not the spiritual guide who leads us to a loftier plane of existence or a higher moral life or a greater sense of well-being.  He is the way -- He does not show the way.  He is the Truth -- He does not reveal to you truth outside Himself.  He is the Life -- He does not lead you to a better life now or at some other moment.

All those who doubt the facts of Jesus but who still desire to keep the religion transform Jesus into the model, the teacher, the bearer of the new life that we, too, can achieve when we shoot for that which ennobles us.  Was it not Goethe who mused that the teaching of Christ are more fruitful than His birth, death, and resurrection?  But it is just the opposite.

We are baptized into Christ -- into His death and resurrection.  Our lives are connected to His life, His death, and His resurrection.  We are buried with Him by baptism.  We rise with Christ to new life now and eternal life.  All that we are and all that we receive are intertwined with Christ and not apart from Him.  We receive this not from a teacher but a Redeemer who teaches, and from the means of grace wherein the fruits of His redeeming work are imparted to us by the Word of His promise.  The message is not about Jesus or ab out life or about morality.  Jesus IS the message, the way, the truth, and the life.

We might be able to do away with dogmatics text books or books on morality but we cannot do away with the Mass for there is where the living Lord comes to us His people rich with gifts of grace that give life to the dead.

1 comment:

Timothy Buelow said...

This is why I like to provocatively start conversations with the sectarians by saying "You're just like the Catholics." You just don't recognize it because you judge by candles and we judge by doctrine.