Part Eight: Jesus Happens

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This ‘18-‘19 series celebrates some of my deepest values leading up to my 50th birthday this spring. The fall series featured four “concessions” on life’s downers; this winter & spring features six “confessions” that drive who I am.

If this title seems sacrilegious on its surface, I say, “Good!” I’d rather that one err on the side of revering that Name than treating it with triviality or scorn. However, the column title simply continues the theme of this series, and because I believe He’s alive, Jesus is indeed “happening” every day in ways beyond what we can even imagine (Eph. 3:20-21, NIV). Like the Word of God that He personifies (see John 1:1-18, esp. vv. 1, 14), Jesus is “living and active” (Hebrews 4:12), He is present among His followers (Matt. 18:20, 28:20), and He is the Good Shepherd who “calls his own sheep byname and leads them out” (John 10:3 ff., emphasis mine). The same God who named every star in the Universe (Psalm 147:4) created and owns the world and everything in it (Gen. 1:1, Psalm 24:1). Jesus Himself, the Second Person of the Trinity, is named as Creator in John 1:3, Col. 1:16 and Heb. 1:2, and this same Jesus knows the individual names of His followers. 

Jesus, or Yeshua (or Joshua) in Hebrew, means “God saves (or rescues, delivers),” reflecting a common title when referring to Jesus: Savior. Interestingly, neither Joseph nor Mary came up with the name Jesus, but each was separately visited by an angel of the Lord (specified as Gabriel in Luke’s Gospel) and told to “call His name Jesus” (Matt. 1:21, Luke 1:31). It’s worth clarifying that Joseph and Mary weren’t known as Mr. & Mrs. Christ :-). They had no known surname, but “Christ” is a title from the Hebrew Meschiach or Messiah, “the Anointed One” prophesied to deliver Israel (along with grafted-in Gentiles—see Romans 11). His given name at birth parallels the biblical Joshua, the successor to Moses who led the ancient Jews into the Promised Land after 40 years of wandering following the exodus from slavery in Egypt. Joshua continued Moses’ legacy of physical, religious and political deliverance; Jesus continued the theme of the entire Torah (Old Testament) not only by fulfilling the 108 (or so) prophecies about His life on Earth, but by fulfilling the law itself when He sacrificed His life to offer eternaldeliverance from sin, death, and condemnation. One of Jesus’ many titles aptly describes His atoning sacrifice for us: the Lamb of God (John 1:29).

I didn’t necessarily plan for this column to be released near Resurrection Sunday (aka Easter), but it is fitting timing to celebrate this historical man who claimed many times to be God (aka the Son of God and the Son of Man) and accepted the direct worship of others while offering evidence of His hypostatic union (i.e., fully God and fully man) by His miracles, the chief of which, without question, was His physical resurrection from the dead. 1 Corinthians 15 offers a lengthy treatise as to why the entire doctrine of the Christian faith rests upon that one day in history. Throughout Scripture, other names and titles for the One called Jesus include Immanuel(“God with us,” Isa. 7:14 & Matt. 1:23), the Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:6), Man of Sorrows (Isa. 53:3), the Cornerstone (Ps. 118:22-23, Mark 12:10-11), Teacher or Rabbi (John 13:13 et al.), and Redeemer (Job 19:25). John’s Gospel features seven “I AM” statements by Jesus, with direct assertions to deity: the Bread of Lifethe Light of the Worldthe Door (or Gate); the Good Shepherd (mentioned above); the Resurrection and the Lifethe Way, the Truth, and the Life; and the Vine. Revelation begins and ends with additional bold assertions as the Apostle John quotes the Risen Christ: “I am…the Almighty” (Rev. 1:8); “I am the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Rev. 22:13); “I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star” (Rev. 22:16).

I’m no Hebrew scholar, but I’ve heard it said many times that when Jesus uses the phrase “I AM” in Scripture, He’s using the same language that God used when addressing Moses at the Burning Bush in Exodus 3:14: “God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ And he said, ‘Say to the people of Israel, “I AM has sent me to you.” ‘ ” (The Hebrew in that verse, YHWH, is how we derive Yahweh or Jehovah, often translated in English Bibles with all caps: LORD.) By citing the Hebrew name of God, I’m not trying to offend my many beloved Jewish families both past and present (consistently, about 10% of our members have Jewish heritage and/or religious Jewish observance); on the contrary, this is to emphasize the inextricable Jewish roots of the Christian faith, and it’s why I’ve stated openly innumerable times that Christians should be the last ones on Earth to ever have a hint of anti-semitism. In fact, Christians are identified with Jesus and His thoroughly Jewish life! In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “I have not come to abolish them (the Law or the Prophets), but to fulfill them” (Matt. 5:17). 

Any Jughead, parent, staff, and student leader who knows me well knows that I place a high degree of importance on learning and using people’s names. I believe names are a gateway to showing respect for an individual and a family line. Proverbs 22:1 states, “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.” That context refers to one’s reputation, and similar to showing deeper respect for others, it starts with the actual given name. My prayer for my own life, marriage and career is that I rest in the reputation of Jesus over my own reputation, for it through Jesus the Christ alone that I receive any power and grace to be a good man, husband, and director. Without Him, I can do nothing (John 15:5). Through Him, I can do all things (Phil. 4:13). My life is “hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3). If I die today, I am “of good courage” that I will be with Him instantly (2 Cor. 5:8, Phil. 1:20-24). This is all because I have received Him as my Lord and Savior (John 1:12, Acts 16:31, Rom. 10:9-13).

By design or by the Spirit (I didn’t write from an outline :-), I used minimal personal examples in this column on Jesus. I wanted Scripture to be the focus. But I’ll end by testifying that Jesus affects everything I do, including learning to love Wendy as Christ loves the Church (Eph. 5:32), running to Him when I stumble in sin, crying out to Him for my many needs, praying to God the Father in His Name for each individual Jughead (especially during Juggle Jam season), and relying on Him to intercede for me to Father God (Romans 8:34; see also Isa. 53:12). He is a personal God and a personal Savior. He sent a personal Holy Spirit to help and even indwell us (John 14:15-17). And to cite the title used some 618 times in the New Testament, He is Lord. It is my life’s work, calling, and legacy to serve Him, and to love others whether or not they believe in and follow Him as I do.

Here’s a wonderful passage to connect this column with the end of Holy Week and my goal of a life legacy as I am soon to be a 50-something:

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20-21, ESV).