August 24, 2009

Jesus + Father, Pre-Baptism

I know the Gospel writers don't seem that interested in showing us the Lord's adult life before he began ministering. But they had just been with Him. Their written testimony was enhanced by their personal memories of having had the experience. First John 1:1-4 reveals a much higher experience than the Synoptics generally seem to provide... but I don't think the beloved disciple was really so unique. I just think he's the one who put it on paper most directly.

So that's all to say I'm starting to believe there's a real purpose for our day in pulling back the curtain from the Gospels to look at Jesus alone. I think we've spent so many centuries on his teachings and their deeper meanings (especially as compared with theo-logic based on Paul's letters) that we've allowed our view of Him in His Prime to become virtually theoretical.

One very common view about Nazareth seems to be: Jesus somehow, mysteriously lived this perfect life that we're not supposed to imagine, because we could never possibly live up to that standard anyway and we'd go crazy trying. Another is: There was one way by which Jesus pleased the Father but you and I have a totally different challenge than he did. Then there's the one that shouldn't even be worth mentioning, which is: We're not supposed to nail Him down, man, because Jesus is, like, whoever you want him to be, maaan.

Sorry, but no. Jesus is whoever He actually Is. I've seen written "portraits" of Jesus that emphasize his characteristics, his deeds, his teachings, his theology, his moral rectitude or his personability. I don't think any of those portraits strikes directly enough to his real core. Only one thing was his centrality. And that one thing is something I believe we actually DO need to see much more clearly.

So it begins to occur to me that Jesus' adult life pre-baptism is the one area of the Gospels where there is nothing else to distract us from that view. (Stay with my recent series and I believe I will demonstrate that, yes, the Gospels do reflect that period of time in his life, if we look carefully.) And you know what else? Maybe it's not up to you or me to re-enact what we see in Nazareth. Maybe we're just supposed to look at it and fall on our faces in awe - because if we could look at Jesus in Nazareth, there is one thing we absolutely would see.

The centrality of Christ's Life on Earth was His Father.

6 comments:

Peter Kirk said...

I might suggest that as baptised and Spirit-filled Christians the life of Jesus that we should seek to copy is not his hidden life in Nazareth but his Spirit-filled life after his baptism. His pre-baptism life may have been an ideal fulfilment of the old covenant (compare Matthew 5:17, but also v.20), but it is probably not by chance that the life presented in the gospels, written down as an example for us new covenant believers, is his post-baptism Spirit-filled life.

Bill said...

Depending on what you mean by 'spirit filled', Peter, I might agree or disagree. (Not sure what you mean.)

I believe the Father indwelled Jesus in Nazareth, partly b/c I don't think he could have lived such a life 'alone'. The Spirit of God was within Him all his life, growing and developing.

The Spirit of God also came down UPON him at the Jordan. This may have been the outward 'baptism' of the spirit, by which he received his 'powers', but I'm not dogmatic about that part - I just don't think the Jordan was the moment his Father indwelled him.

Do you really mean to say you think he lived that life without a spiritual connection to the Father?

Peter Kirk said...

Bill, I'm not quite sure what I mean. Yes, Jesus in Nazareth surely had a spiritual connection with the Father which was mediated by the Holy Spirit. But there was some new sense in which the Holy Spirit came upon him at his baptism, which was followed by his ministry and miracles.

I would see this as somehow transitional between the way in which the Spirit came on Old Testament characters enabling them to do mighty deeds and the way in which the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost and continues to come upon Christian believers enabling us to prophesy and exercise other gifts (Acts 2:16-21).

Now I don't want to make a doctrine here of the need for baptism in the Holy Spirit demonstrated by gifts. But I do see too many Christian believers trying to live like Jesus in Nazareth, good lives according to God's law and with some rather vague spiritual connection with God. But that is not the model I see for the New Testament church, which moved in the same kind of power of the Spirit as Jesus did after his baptism.

Bill said...

Someday you're going to have to tell me how a good Anglican became such a 'pentecostal', Peter. ;-)

Seriously, I very much like what you're saying. I'm a non-cessationist, theoretically, but I don't see everyone in the NT performing miracles. Paul didn't heal anybody for years and years (that we know of, anyway). So this lapsed Episcopalian has to pretty much suspend judgment on fantastic powers, in my humble experience, but I absolutely agree the NT church went beyond what Jesus knew pre-baptism.

He said, "Greater works have you to do" but he also said, "No student is greater than his master." So we should indeed model our further development on his further development, in his ministry and in his body, but I'm saying we may need to re-model our foundation on his foundation.

I don't think his connection was all that vague, either. I just think He grew into it over time. As must we. After all, He IS the firstborn of a brand new species...

Peter Kirk said...

I would agree that Jesus' pre-baptism life in Nazareth can, to the extent we can reconstruct it, be a good foundation for living a moral Christian life. I might qualify that by saying that it probably included Old Testament observances which are not binding on New Testament believers - for example, Jesus probably abstained from pork himself but later declared all foods clean. But this is only the foundation for a Christian life which should go far beyond upright living.

There are a lot of us charismatic Anglicans in England, you know. I think there are even some in the USA. There certainly used to be, but Dennis Bennett in the 1960s was forced out of the Episcopal Church and probably others have followed him. I don't suppose any who remain are finding things easy under Katharine Jefferts Schori. But there are some charismatics in the new Anglican Church of North America.

Bill said...

Thanks for sharing that, Peter. I'd heard of charistmatic Catholics in the US but not Episcopalians. But remember, I'm from the 'deep south'. Our downtown Baton Rouge congregation was very high liturgical and not what many would call 'spirit filled'.

On the gifts in general, I don't believe certain outward manifestations always or necessarily follow a spirit attuned life. But Jesus' moral life was a manifestation of how much he walked with and cared for his Father.

The Romans had laws about morality. Nazareth is a glimpse into the Godhead before Eternity. Nazareth is important because "our Fellowship is with the Father and the Son".

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