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 Gods 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).
I mentioned two months ago that one of
the early Churchs favorite passages from the Hebrew Scriptures was the story of
Abrahams almost-sacrifice of Isaac. Ignoring the sacred authors original
anti-child-sacrifice message, Christians zeroed in on the fathers 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
Gods 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
Of course, Paul goes far beyond the
Genesis authors vision (Gen 22: 1-2, 9,10-13, 15-18). He believes Gods
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 Gods chosen ones?" The obvious answer is "No one!"
because "it is God who acquits us."
Jesus divinity not only helps us
understand Gods love from a different perspective, it also gives us a unique insight
into Gods 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. Thats 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
Yet, the most important statement in the
narrative might be Marks 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,
theyd never relate to Him or those around them in the same way again.