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The Uniqueness of Jesus

Recently I have been re-reading a book that I read a few years ago focusing on Jesus.  The book Who Do You Say That I Am? Christology and the Church is edited by Donald Armstrong and combines essays from Anglican thinkers from Alister McGrath to N.T. Wright.  While I was reading the last chapter entitled Christ and His Church by the former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey, I came across a statement by Carey that was particularly illuminating.  Carey writes, "The true Jesus who is exposed in the Gospels is a far more complex character.  His cryptic sayings, his elusive parables, his mysterious silences, his commanding presence - this extraordinary ministry was punctuated with a language of violence against the callousness of the conventional world" (127-128).  At one hand, Carey hints at the truth that Jesus couldn't be nailed down as to his philosophy, his sole mission, or his specific teachings.  Jesus was elusive in the sense that the people whom he ministered to were utterly perplexed at many of the actions and words that Jesus said and did.  Carey points out something that is very apparent in the minstry of Jesus, none other than Jesus' challenge to the prevailing systems, authorities, and ingrained practices of religion in the areas surrounding Palestine.  It would not go far enough to say that Jesus way of life and teachings rivaled the prevailing Roman and Jewish philosophy and practice of the day.  Rather, Jesus brought an entire new ethic to bear on all existing theological and philosophical structures.  The uniqueness of Jesus here is not a brand new idea or set of beliefs but a radical new condition that he calls his followers to focus on himself (Jesus) as the fountainhead of all that is true (both in knowledge and in praxis).   If Cary is right that "our understanding of Jesus is central to the mission of the church" (128),  then we would do well to know the Jesus as he is seen in the Gospel narratives. 

The questions that we have to ask ourselves in relationship to the message and mission of Jesus are two-fold:  Have we succumbed to the cultural practices and beliefs of our age to such a great degree as to make the ethic and person of Jesus irrelevant to others?  In other words, have we made our image of who Christ is and what he did into the image of a Christ that conforms to our cultural tastes?  If the mission and message of Jesus are radical in both their content and application, how do we take hold of this in the church?

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