Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Unanticipated Messiah, part 2

Christ entered this world the way he spent most of his life in it: in secret. Even Mary and Joseph, who had been told by an angel that their son was going to be special, seemed frequently to forget it. When the young Jesus, for example, decided to stay in the Temple with the teachers, and his parents thought he was lost, they did not understand him when he said 'Did you not know I would be in my Father's house?'

The life of Jesus was not particularly unique. There were many wandering prophets, teachers and healers in Galilee and Judea in that period of history. Even Jesus' teachings were not particularly unique. Rabbi Hillel the Elder had taught in the 1st Century BCE that the totality of the Torah could be explained by the phrase "What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow". Throughout his 'active' life, most of the people Jesus encountered addressed him as 'Rabbi', meaning 'teacher'. Prior to this, of course, he was simply the local carpenter, son of the local master carpenter.

In Mark's Gospel, the Disciples do not realise that Jesus is the Christ until exactly halfway through the written text, and very much toward the end of Jesus' life. When they finally figure it out, Jesus' response is both joyful, but cautionary: 'finally you've worked it out! now do not tell anyone!'

And so the coming of God into the world of men, as a man, was a largely unanticipated event, and was largely unknown to anyone who met the God-Man. He came and lived among us, and went undetected.

It is this, I believe, that points us ultimately to the story of Easter. The Secret Christ- not hidden, not playing games, not being deceitful- came; and we, sinful as we are, could not notice the real deal. The whole of creation was oblivious. And so, when Christ was nailed to a tree, having been beaten and broken by the world, sin and evil appear to have won another victory: another act of hatred, violence, death.

When evil entered into the broken man on the tree, it expected nothing out of the ordinary. It did not perceive that it had entered into the God-Man, could not, perhaps, have anticipated that God would ever become incarnate. Evil, tricked by its own blindness, as was all of creation, entered into God and was consumed by him. Death was unable to hold the God-Man, and so it was overcome.

Advent and Christmas point us, always, to Easter. It is in the story of Easter that the Christ becomes revealed fully. Prior to Easter, all we have are whispers on the wind...

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