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3/13/2003
WORD OF FAITH
A transforming experience
REV. ROGER KARBAN


Once Jesus’ first followers got a hint He was divine, they began to look at God in a different way.

Although Christians eventually would express their belief in His divinity by employing sacred stories like the Transfiguration narrative, they first simply thanked God for sending Jesus. They believed this terrific generosity concretely demonstrated God’s love and care.

As Paul reminded the community in Rome, "If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but handed Him over for us all, how will He not also give us everything else along with Him?" (Rom 8: 31-34).

Yahweh’s word

I mentioned two months ago that one of the early Church’s favorite passages from the Hebrew Scriptures was the story of Abraham’s almost-sacrifice of Isaac. Ignoring the sacred author’s original anti-child-sacrifice message, Christians zeroed in on the father’s willingness to do whatever Yahweh asked.

They allegorized the story, identifying Jesus with Isaac and Abraham with God. It was significant that Isaac, just as good as dead, was eventually restored alive by God to his mother and father — just as God’s raising of Jesus restored Him to us.

Accustomed today to thank Jesus for dying for us, we often forget how much His first century disciples were just as grateful for His resurrection. As Paul writes, "Christ Jesus it is who died — or rather was raised — who also is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us."

Of course, Paul goes far beyond the Genesis’ author’s vision (Gen 22: 1-2, 9,10-13, 15-18). He believes God’s love of Jesus and us is so powerful and deep that those who die and rise with Jesus actually become one with Jesus. This eventually leads him to ask, "Who can bring a charge against God’s chosen ones?" The obvious answer is "No one!" because "it is God who acquits us."

Jesus’ divinity not only helps us understand God’s love from a different perspective, it also gives us a unique insight into God’s oneness with us.

As I said above, Mark moves us one step farther down this theological road (Mk 9: 2-10). He teaches that, at some point in their relationships, the historical Jesus’ closest followers had an inkling that He was more than a carpenter and teacher from Nazareth. They, like Jesus during His baptism, receive an annunciation: an insight into his real personality.

Gradually, they begin to understand that He exemplifies everything taught by the authors of the Hebrew Scriptures. That’s why Mark ingeniously positions Him in the middle of Moses and Elijah, conversing simultaneously with the great law-giver and the great prophet. (Remember that the biblical name for the Bible is the "Law and the Prophets.")

Jesus and Yahweh

The evangelist even has Peter ask Jesus’ permission to build three tents; an obvious reference to the Jewish feast of Tents or Tabernacles, a yearly commemoration of Yahweh residing with the chosen people while they were living in tents during their wilderness wanderings. In other words, Peter is declaring that Jesus is Yahweh among them.

And should anyone still not get the point, Mark uses a voice from heaven to proclaim: "This is my beloved son. Listen to Him!"

Yet, the most important statement in the narrative might be Mark’s observation that "looking around, they no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them." Like all insights, their glimpse into Jesus’ real personality only lasts a moment or two. Yet the experience will totally change how they live their lives.

Our early Christian authors believed that those willing to imitate Jesus’ dying and rising would always discover new dimensions of His personality. Their experience would be fleeting; but because of it, they’d never relate to Him or those around them in the same way again.

(03-13-03)












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