Did Jesus Preach the Gospel?

September 5, 2019

Did Jesus preach the gospel? Yes and No. It depends on what one means by “gospel.”

For many, the gospel is the death and resurrection of Jesus. If that is what we mean by gospel, then Jesus did not publicly preach the gospel. It was only in the last months of his third year of ministry that Jesus even talked about his death and resurrection, and then it was only with his closest disciples (Matthew 16; Luke 9; Mark 9).

But, according to the Gospels, Jesus did preach the gospel; that is, Jesus preached the good news of the kingdom of God (Matthew 4:23; 9:35; Luke 4:43; Luke 8:1; or “good news of God” in Mark 1:14-15).  Indeed, his messianic mission was “to preach the gospel to the poor” (Matthew 11:10; Luke 4:18; 7:22).

But if the gospel in the Gospels is not the death and resurrection of Jesus, what is the “gospel of the kingdom of God” (Luke 4:43)? It is the announcement that the kingdom is coming, that the kingdom of God has come near, and that the reign of God is breaking into the world to transform it. The good news of the kingdom is that heaven is coming to earth.

When the kingdom comes, people are reconciled to God, the blind see, the lame walk, the dead are raised, the marginalized are included, the oppressed are liberated, and sins are forgiven. The good news of the kingdom is the arrival of heaven such that the will of God is done on earth just as it is in heaven.  This is the good news or the gospel that Jesus announced.

Some think social action or reconciliation among human beings is the epitome of kingdom work, and others stress the forgiveness of sins or reconciliation with God is the fundamental proclamation of the church.

The ministry of Jesus models a both/and rather than either/or.  The following texts from the Gospels illustrate how it is a both/and.

  • Matthew 4:23: “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness among the people.” 
  • Matthew 10:7-8: “As you go, proclaim the good news: “The kingdom of heaven has come near.” Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those with skin diseases, drive out demons.”
  • Luke 9:2, 6: “He sent them to proclaim the kingdom of God and heal the sick . . . they went out and traveled from village to village, proclaiming the good news and healing everywhere.” 

Kingdom ministry heals the sick and reconciles people to God and each other. The proclamation of the kingdom of God identifies those gifts as the good news of the kingdom of God.

Did Jesus preach the gospel?  Yes, he did! He preached the good news of the kingdom of God. But Jesus not only preached the gospel, he also enacted the gospel. He healed diseases, raised the dead, drove out demons, reconciled people, forgave sin, and included the marginalized.

This is the essence of the message and ministry of Jesus, and it is our ministry also.


Tidbits on women from the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, and the History of Churches of Christ (3)

September 3, 2019

These are brief: one tidbit each from the Hebrew Bible, the writings of the New Testament, and from the history of Churches of Christ.

Hebrew Bible

Psalm 68 celebrates the movement of Israel from Egypt (v. 7) to Sinai (v. 8) and then victory in Canaan (vv. 9-14) whereupon God ascends to the throne on Mount Zion (vv. 15-18).

Paul uses Psalm 68 to describe the ascension and enthronement of Jesus in Ephesians 4:8. Jesus, released from the grave, ascended to the throne and gave gifts to the church through the pouring out of the Holy Spirit.

Psalm 68:11 reads: “The Lord gives the command; great is the company of those who bore the tidings.” In the ancient Greek translation, the word “bore the tidings” is the same word as in the New Testament that describes “preaching the gospel” (euaggelizomenoi). They preached the good news.

In Hebrew, unlike in the Greek translation, that word is feminine. In other words, the Psalm envisions a great company of women who declare the good news! In the light of Paul’s application of Psalm 68 to the ascension of Christ, we may hear an echo of the gifting of women to preach the gospel.

New Testament

Why did Jesus choose only male apostles? This is a good and important question.

It seems rather obvious that twelve is a number that reflects Israel’s twelve patriarchs, the twelve sons of Jacob. Twelve male apostles underscores continuity with Israel and also the renewal of Israel.

The twelve apostles were free Jewish men, and the apostleship before Pentecost was limited to those categories. However, Pentecost changed this. While the twelve retained a unique honor in the Christian community, after Pentecost the gifting of apostles, prophets, and evangelists (preachers of the gospel) also extended to slave as well as free, Gentile as well as Jew, and women as well as men. The pouring of the Spirit in Acts 2, in fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy, enlarged the community of gifted leadership from free Jewish men to even enslaved Gentile women.

The gifts given to the church in Ephesians 4 include apostles (Junia was an apostle, Romans 16:7), prophets (Philip’s daughters were prophets, Acts 21:9), and women preached the gospel (the men and women who were scattered went preaching the word, Acts 8:2-4).

Pentecost shifted the dynamics. Those once excluded were now included, and those once unchosen were now chosen. Slaves, Gentiles, and women were now empowered and gifted to participate in the mission of God.

History

C. R. Nichol, a renowned and beloved conservative among Churches of Christ, published an important book in 1938 entitled God’s Woman.

Nichol advocated for female deacons from 1 Timothy 3, underscored that women prayed and prophesied (taught!) in the public assembly of the church in 1 Corinthians 11, and affirmed that women have the right to teach men in a Bible class when the church gathered. While he also taught a kind of patriarchy, he did not believe this eliminated the female voice from the assembly or excluded them from teaching men.

His book, with a few exceptions, was well-received. But its views did not win out in the end, and most Churches of Christ silenced the female voice in the assembly and in teaching men (including, teaching eleven year old baptized males).


The Messiah Ministers to Israel

September 2, 2019

Coming out of the wilderness and entering into Galilee, Jesus, filled with the Spirit, began to teach and heal the sick. He returned to the synagogue in Nazareth to introduce his Messianic mission to his hometown.

Unrolling the scroll, he found the place in Isaiah 61 and read it (Luke 4:18-19).

The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Rolling the scroll back up and handing it to the attendant, Jesus boldly declared (Luke 4:21b): “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Isaiah’s message described the mission of Jesus. He is God’s anointed, and his messianic mission is to bring “good news” or, the gospel, to the poor, the prisoners, the blind, and the oppressed. His mission has economic, social, and spiritual implications. Through Jesus, God will liberate all who are enslaved by the present evil age. It is a time of divine favor and grace.  

In the language of Israel, it is Jubilee! What Jubilee should have meant to Israel throughout its history breaks into the world through the ministry of Jesus.  Jubilee means that prisoners are released, the poor get good news through debt release, the sick are healed, and the oppressed are liberated from their bondage. Jubilee has arrived in the person of Jesus who proclaims that the reign of God has come near.

At a “big picture” level, from the viewpoint of the whole theodrama, Jubilee reverses the curse. What I mean by curse is what I think Revelation 22 means when it says that in the new Jerusalem there will be no more curse. The curse is whatever enslaves the creation and its people. The curse fills creation with mourning, pain, injustice, poverty, evil, and ultimately death.

The mission of Jesus is to reverse the curse. The ministry of Jesus liberates humanity from the curse, from whatever enslaves it. This is the mission of Jesus. It is why he was sent.  It is what he preaches and what he does!

This is the “good news of the kingdom of God” (Luke 4:43). The kingdom of God has come near and when the kingdom comes near the brokenness of the world is healed.  The curse is reversed. The kingdom is not the structures and organization of an institutionalized church.  Rather, the kingdom is the reign of God in the world. When God reigns, there is no more curse. When God reigns, people are reconciled.  When God reigns, diseases, demons, and death are overcome. When God reigns, sins are forgiven. When God reigns, the poor and the oppressed get justice. And that is good news.


Tidbits on Women from the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, and the History of Churches of Christ (No. 2).

August 31, 2019

These are brief: one tidbit each from the Hebrew Bible, the writings of the New Testament, and from the history of Churches of Christ.

Hebrew Bible

Miriam was both a prophet (Exodus 15:20) and a leader (Micah 6:4). She was one of the three people (along with Moses and Aaron) God sent to lead Israel out of Egypt and through the wilderness (Micah 6:4). In addition, she served another role as well:  worship leader.

Once Israel crossed the sea and the Egyptian army was destroyed, Miriam took her tambourine and, with other women, played and danced before the Lord. And “Miriam,” the Bible says, “sang to them.”

Our English translations do not typically specify to whom the “them” refers. Most English readers, in my experience, presume it refers to the women. But the Hebrew text is clear: “them” is masculine. Miriam sang to the men (probably the whole congregation). In other words, Miriam led Israel’s first communal worship after the Exodus. Israel’s first worship leader was a woman!

New Testament

Eve is only named in two passages in the New Testament: 2 Corinthians 11:3 and 1 Timothy 2:13-14. In both passages Eve is mentioned because she was deceived.

Because Eve was deceived, some have thought women are more easily deceived, perhaps due to their supposed emotional nature, natural instability, or weaker mind. But Paul offers no reason for why Eve was deceived; male interpreters have invented these dubious rationales.  In my experience men are deceived as often as women. In fact, the Bible regularly warns everyone about deception (e.g., Ephesians 5:6). Further, we might even say, Adam was weaker because he ate the fruit even though he was not deceived.

Paul uses Eve as a typology of deceived people. In 2 Corinthians 11:3 whole groups of people (men and women) were deceived like Eve. In 1 Timothy 2:13-14, Eve represents the women in the Ephesian congregation who had been deceived by false teachers. She illustrates the danger present when deceived women lead or teach. That same danger is true for men as well, but the specific situation in Ephesus involved deceived women—some had already been captured by Satan (1 Timothy 5:15). Paul is neither describing every woman nor the nature of women but identifying one woman from the Biblical story who was deceived in order to highlight the local problem in Ephesus. It is not a universal statement about women.

History

Daniel Sommer (1850-1940) was a leader in the conservative wing of the Churches of Christ. In fact, some believe he was the major force in the division of Churches of Christ from the Christian Church through his participation in the Sand Creek Address and Declaration in 1889. Those congregations announced their separation from other congregations who practiced “innovations and corruptions.”

At the same time, Sommer advocated for the “privileges” of women to participate in the public worship assemblies of the church. Though he was not egalitarian (e.g., he did not believe they should preach or rule as elders in the church), he encouraged women to lead prayer and read Scripture in the public assembly. Moreover, he encouraged women to “exhort” the congregation in the public assembly. “If a sister in good standing,” he wrote, “wish to arise in the congregation and offer an exhortation it is her privilege to do” (Octographic Review 44.34 [1901] 1). Apparently, such a practice was not an innovation.

Typically, Churches of Christ do not permit any audible participation of women in the public assembly except singing and their good confession at baptism (or perhaps the occasional “amen”), but it has not always been so among us.


Tidbits on Women from the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, and History in Churches of Christ (No. 1)

August 30, 2019

These are brief: one tidbit each from the Hebrew Bible, the writings of the New Testament, and from the history of Churches of Christ.

Hebrew Bible

In Genesis 4:1, Eve explodes on the scene East of Eden as one who is already subverting the “man will rule over the woman” script of Genesis 3:16. She names a man!

Eve produced (qanah) a man (ish) with the help of Yahweh. Cain (qayin) is the noun form of qanah, and he is called an ish rather than a child, or a human, or a boy. Eve gave birth to a man, and named the man. Just as Adam named the woman (ishah) “Eve” after God questioned them in the Garden, now Eve names a man (ish) whom she has brought into the world with the help of Yahweh.

This anticipates Paul’s point in 1 Corinthians 11:11-12 where he recognizes the mutual reciprocity between male and female rather than the domination of male over female: “in the Lord, woman is not independent of man nor man independent of woman for just as woman came from man, so man comes through woman; but all things come from God.”

New Testament

In Christ, Paul writes, there is neither Jew nor Gentile, and there is neither slave nor free. Then he also adds a third pair: there is neither male and female. There is no “nor” as in the first two pairs but the conjunction “and.” Why the difference?

Paul writes “male and female” (arsen kai thēlu), which is the precise language that appears in the ancient Greek translation of Genesis 1:27. This is not typical language for Paul who only uses “female” in Romans 1 and nowhere else. He drew it directly from the Genesis 1 creation account. In other words, Paul recalls the creation of humanity as male and female.

This appeal to creation is important because what Paul describes as “in Christ” is part of the “new creation” (Galatians 6:15). This new world renews the partnership of the original creation when “God blessed them” and told “them” to co-create and co-shepherd God’s good creation. In other words, the equality and partnership envisioned in Genesis 1:26-28 is renewed in the new creation.

History

In the nineteenth century, many leading teachers among the churches of Christ believed that 1 Timothy 2:12 had universal application. It was not limited to the assemblies of the church but applied to the whole of society. Consequently, 1 Timothy 2:12 was used to deny women the vote, oppose public speaking by women in any social situation, and reject any kind of public leadership on the part of women.

If the traditional interpretation is correct, they had a point. If the prohibition of 1 Timothy 2:12 is rooted in some kind of “order of creation” (a kind of primogeniture), then it applies universally—whether in the assemblies of the church or in political assemblies. Whatever is rooted in creation applies to every aspect of human life.

It would seem a consistent application of 1 Timothy 2:12—if one thinks this contains a timeless prohibition—excludes women from any public leadership or authority, whether in the church or in society. That is how our “forefathers” read it until women were given the right to vote, hold political office, sit on juries, and become Presidents of universities. Then, we no longer believed that, adjusted our interpretation, and decided that the text only applied to assemblies of the church while continuing to ground the prohibition in some kind of “creation order.”


The Messiah Begins His Ministry

August 29, 2019

Jesus went into the water to be baptized, then he was thrown into the wilderness, and finally he went into Galilee.

In each movement, Jesus relived the story of Israel. Jesus went through the water just as Israel did in their exodus from Egypt. Jesus went into the wilderness as Israel did for 40 years, and Jesus entered Galilee with hope and promise just as Israel entered the promised land in the time of Joshua.

The ministry of Jesus continues the ministry of Israel. Just as Israel was a witness to the presence of God in the world as a light to the nations, so Jesus renews that mission by serving Israel and ultimately sending his church to the nations. Israel came out of the wilderness to minister among the nations, and Jesus comes out of the wilderness to minister in Israel as he prepares a people to serve the nations.

Indeed, the church follows Jesus into the water, follows Jesus into the wilderness, and embraces the mission of Jesus as its own.

Coming out of the wilderness, Jesus heralds or announces the good news of God, the gospel of God.  But what is this good news?

The Gospel of Mark begins with this line: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Mark’s Gospel narrates and tells the story of the gospel, the good news. It is about Jesus.

Mark 1:15 specifies the good news. When Jesus heralds the good news of God, he preaches this simple message: “The kingdom of God has drawn near.” This is the time of God’s visitation; the time of God’s in-breaking. The reign of God is coming. “The time is fulfilled.” It is now.

As we walk through the ministry of Jesus, we will see more clearly what the “kingdom of God” is and how its appearance is good news. Simply put, the reign of God arrives in the ministry of Jesus in the midst of a violent and evil age. God’s justice will set things right, God’s mercy will heal the wounded, and God’s peace will reign in the world. This comes in the person of Jesus who himself embodies the reign of God.

This good news invites a response:  repent and believe, Jesus says, or reform and trust. Like John the Baptizer, Jesus calls Israel to repent. The people must align themselves with the purposes of the gospel, the reign of God, through repentance and reformation of life. Penitent, they trust the good news; they trust that the reign of God is coming.

This is a call for the church as well. Just as we followed Jesus into the water and followed him into the wilderness, so we follow him into his ministry. We, too, herald the coming of the kingdom of God.  We follow Jesus by heralding the good news and practicing the good news in our lives.

Coming from the water and out of the wilderness, Jesus heralds his central message: “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” This is the heartbeat of the theodrama.



The Messiah Goes into the Wilderness with Israel

August 26, 2019

Rising from the waters of baptism, Jesus is anointed with the Holy Spirit. The Father affirms him, loves him, and expresses his pure delight with him. And, then, immediately the Spirit throws him into the wilderness (Mark 1:12).

No waiting. No down-time. No pampering. Jesus was immediately sequestered away in a wilderness bootcamp. The Spirit of God drove him into the wilderness. Once again, we see the Trinity at work: the Father sends the Son into the wilderness by the Spirit.

Why did the Spirit throw Jesus into the wilderness? Jesus passed through the water, just as Israel passed through the sea, and just as they spent 40 years in the Sinai wilderness, so Jesus spends 40 days in the Judean wilderness. Jesus is reliving the history of Israel.

Deuteronomy 8 provides some insight into the meaning of the wilderness for Israel. Jesus himself quotes from that chapter during his time in the wilderness.  Deuteronomy describes the wilderness as a place where God humbled Israel and discipled them. God’s firstborn among the nations was tested to reveal what is in their hearts. They were humbled in their dependence upon God. They were spiritually formed by the wilderness experience.

This, I think, is the meaning of the wilderness for Jesus as well as for us. Jesus is tested in a hostile environment–Satan was there. Jesus was tested, humbled, and discipled in the wilderness.

And so are we. The wilderness comes in many forms—depression, grief, loneliness, and sickness.  While those come to us without our consent, sometimes we also chose the wilderness as a place to know God more fully. The wilderness tests us in order to reveal our hearts, it humbles us as we recognize our powerlessness and dependency on God, and it disciples us as it trains us for the mission of God.

The wilderness revealed Israel’s identity and formed them as the people of God. In the same way, Jesus affirmed his identity the wilderness, and he chose the way of the cross rather than the consumerist path of wealth and power. Jesus refused the offers of Satan and submitted to the path God had set before him.

We are not abandoned in the wilderness. Israel was not left alone as God journeyed with them. Jesus was not alone as angels ministered to him and the Spirit rested upon him, and angels and the Spirit minister to us as well (cf. Hebrews 1:14). God is present with us in the wilderness and that presence strengthens us and empowers us to not only endure it but to be formed by it.

The wilderness story of Israel is also Jesus’s story, and Jesus’ story is our story. Just as we followed Jesus into the water, so we follow him into the wilderness. Or, perhaps, like Jesus, God will sometimes lead us into the wilderness. Whatever the case, God will be there, too. And, through the wilderness experience, God will form us into the image of Jesus.


The Messiah is Immersed with Israel

August 22, 2019

God sent John the Baptizer to prepare Israel to receive their Messiah. John called Israel to repent and invited them into the water of repentance. They came to the water confessing their sins, penitent, and submitting to a baptism for the forgiveness of sins.  

Jesus, Israel’s Messiah, was also baptized by John.

This is rather startling. Jesus submitted to a ritual designed for sinners. But, perhaps, it is not so startling. Jesus ultimately died a death designed for sinners. Jesus was numbered with the transgressors, both in his death and baptism. Through baptism, Jesus joined sinners in the water just as he would later share a cross with them.

More specifically, Jesus identified with Israel. He submitted to God’s command as part of faithful Israel. Jesus joined other obedient believers in submitting to God’s command as preparation for the coming kingdom. In fact, in his baptism, Jesus actually represented Israel, just as he did on the cross.

But there is more.

Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit. God tore open the heavens and the Spirit descended upon Jesus as a dove. In this way, God came to Israel once again. God poured the Spirit upon Jesus, and this was the beginning of God’s kingdom presence in the world. When Jesus received the Spirit, this anticipated the future moment when God would pour the Spirit on all flesh at Pentecost. The Spirit empowered the Messiah for his ministry. Just as Israel crossed the Red Sea and enjoyed the descent of God into the tabernacle, so Jesus came up out of the water and God descended upon him and anointed him as Israel’s Messiah.

But there is more.

God affirmed Jesus at his baptism. God said, “You are my Son, whom I love, and I am delighted with you.” Coming up out of the water, the Father loves on the Son, pours the Spirit on him, and speaks over him. And God uses this same language to describe Israel in the Psalms and in Isaiah. The Messiah is Israel’s faithful remnant and the representative of Israel. The baptism of Jesus is a new beginning for Israel. It is a new crossing of the Red Sea. And just as this language belongs to Israel, so it also belongs to those who believe in Jesus. 

We enter this same story through our baptism.

Just as Jesus is immersed in water, the Spirit is poured on him, and the Father affirms Jesus, that is our baptism, too! When we are baptized, the Father pours the Spirit on us and we, too, are anointed. When we are baptized, God says over us, “This is my child.”  When we are baptized, God delights in us and rejoices over us. In our baptism, just as in Jesus’s baptism, the Trinity is at work: the Father loves us in the Son and anoints us with the Spirit.

The baptism of Jesus is our model. Jesus invites us to follow him, and if we would be disciples of Jesus, we will follow him into the water and experience God’s gracious delight and gifts. It is an act of obedient discipleship, but it is also a moment when God acts–God delights in us, God declares us the children of God, God anoints with the Spirit, and God forgives our sins.



Why Did God Become Human?

August 19, 2019

One of the most foundational and wondrous confessions of the Christian Faith is: in birth of Jesus, God became a human being. The birth of Jesus is the incarnation of God.  God became flesh through the womb of Mary. This lies at the heart of Christianity, and it is the story of God’s humility and love.

So, why did God become human?

God became one of us to participate in the material creation as a creature, and through this participation affirmed creation, redeemed it, and sanctified it. Becoming flesh, living in his own skin, and being raised in a glorified human body testify to God’s goal for the creation itself. The incarnation of God and the resurrection of Jesus attests to God’s love for the creation and the divine intent to make all things new, including the earth.

God became one of us in order to unite God and humanity. Human beings were created in the image of God, and therefore there is an embedded similarity between God and humanity. While the union brings together the infinite and the finite, human was created to be like God and share in the communion of the Triune God. The incarnation is the actual union of God and humanity in the person of the Son, and through that union, God and humanity share life together in a wondrous intimacy.

God became one of us in order to reveal God to us. The life of Jesus tells the story of how God would act as a human being. In Jesus we see who God is, how God behaves, and how God relates to people. We see God when we see Jesus. In this sense, Jesus is the truth, God in the flesh. We know our God because we know Jesus.

He became one of us in order to experience and empathize with our suffering. God in himself does not know what it is like to be thirsty, hungry, or to experience physical pain and temptation. God in Jesus, however, experienced all of these human frailties. In this way, God becomes empathetic through Jesus. God in Jesus shares our pain and temptations, sits on the mourner’s bench with us, and dies with us. God fully knows us–not just cognitively but also existentially and experientially.

God became one of us in order to redeem us through the sacrifice of God’s own life in Jesus. As the God-Human, Jesus is the mediator between God and Humanity. God became human so that as a human being God might suffer death as an act of divine self-substitution. God, as human, experienced the wounds and stripes of our sin. In this way, Jesus, as God in the flesh, engaged the powers of evil and defeated them through his obedience.  

The incarnation is not simply a necessary condition for the cross. It is much more. Through the incarnation, God becomes part of the creation, unites God and humanity in the person of Jesus, reveals God’s identity, empathizes with our suffering, and redeems us through cross. God in the flesh is the heart of Christianity, and without it, there is no Christianity but simply another prophetic movement in a long line of other religious agendas throughout history. God in the flesh means God loves us, empathizes with us, and redeems us as a fellow human being and fellow-suffering. That is why we confess, Jesus is God.


God Becomes a Human Being

August 15, 2019

When God decided to come to the temple and renew covenant with Israel, God decided to come as a human being rather than as a burning bush or an angel. God decided to come in the flesh rather than as a temporary theophany like God’s appearance to Israel in the fire and the cloud. God did not come to the temple in some kind of spiritual or celestial form but in the flesh.

I suppose God could have simply created a fully mature human body and united with it, but God did not intend to simply be a human being but to fully live out a human life. Rather than dropping out of the sky as a fully developed human, God decided to be born, grow, mature, and eventually die. In other words, God intended to fully experience human life from birth to death.

Therefore, the Creator sent the Son, the one through whom God created the world, into the world, and the Son became human through birth, born of a woman named Mary. Ever since, generations have called Mary, blessed and favored by God, as the one through whom the Son of God became flesh and entered the world.

This was the Trinity in action. The Father sends the Son, the Son enters the virgin womb of Mary, and the Spirit is the means by which Mary conceives and gives birth to a human child, who is called the Son of the Most High. This child is both the son of Mary and the Son of God, this one is both human and divine. God became flesh through a woman named Mary.

This does not mean that Jesus is half-God and half-human. On the contrary, the Son who is fully God and the very agent of creation itself became flesh, and as flesh grew into the fullness of human life. Fully God became fully human without ceasing to be God. In this way, God truly and fully identifies with us.

Through a full immersion into the human condition as a human being, God learned to empathize with us. When God became one of us, God fully experienced what it meant to be human, to feel like a human, to struggle as a human, and to experience the limitations all human beings share.

When God became flesh, God chose self-limitation. God, in the person of the Son, lived in a body that was limited by time and space. The Son lived in Galilee and Judea, but not in Asia or North America. The Son lived in a specific time when Roman Emperors oppressed the Mediterranean world. The Son learned what it meant to grow from infancy to childhood, and from childhood to adulthood. The Son grew in wisdom and in years. The Son, as a human being, grew and developed like any other human being.

We know this human being as Jesus, born of Mary, raised in Nazareth, and the cousin of John the Immerser. The two, Jesus and John, will meet in the baptismal waters of the Jordan river.