The Journey scripture reading for today is John 5:16-30.
It is no wonder the Jewish leaders wanted to kill Jesus. If he actually said publicly what this passage records, then they must have thought he was a crazy man. He makes bold claims to be equal with God the Father. You cannot read this passage and deny that Jesus claimed to be God. Of course, you could deny that Jesus actually said these words and claim that a later redactor from the Johannine tradition put these words into Jesus’ mouth based upon their theological interpretation of who Jesus was. That is entirely possible, and I cannot deny it. However, it still begs the question: Why would a simple man from Nazareth elicit such a profound theological claim from a group of people?
There was something special about Jesus. He was not just another amazing teacher. He was not just a magician who could heal people and walk on water or raise people from the dead. He was the Son of God who, like God, had life within himself. He is the judge of the universe.
OK, that last phrase could be frightening. It makes me think of the Byzantine mosaics of the Pantocrator–this immense, cosmic Jesus hovering at the apex of the domed ceiling, looking down on everything. Yikes. It would be frightening if Jesus was a malevolent judge who was hoping to catch us in our sin. But, I must go back to what Jesus told Nicodemus in chapter 3. The Son did not come to the world to condemn the world. The Son came to save. This judge is on our side. God is for us. That is what we must trust.
This morning I read Richard Rohr’s daily meditation about the Cosmic Christ. Rohr is writing about the Franciscan tradition and bringing it into conversation with contemporary science. He distinguishes between Jesus and Christ. The Christ, he says, is the cosmic incarnation of God and matter that happened at the Big Bang, where the Word of God brought all matter into being. The Christ is God in all things. Jesus is the ultimate manifestation of that incarnation that brings the Word of God into human flesh in a way that we can know the heart of God beyond the natural world.
I read that, and then I read today’s scripture. It makes sense. Here, again, I see the relational Trinity as necessary for making sense of God as made known through Jesus and the Hebrew and Christian scripture. God the “Father” is the transcendent, unknowable ground of being from which all being springs forth. God the Spirit is the dynamic animation of life itself that moves like the wind, fire, and water throughout creation, connecting all things. We can see evidence of the Spirit’s movement, but we cannot know it directly. The Christ, however, is God in matter. We are matter. We can touch it, smell it, see it, hear it, taste it. Jesus was human, like we are. We get that. We can actually picture Jesus walking among the poor, the sick, and the outcasts. We can actually imagine the sound of a human voice saying, “Blessed are the poor.” We can visualize the brutality and suffering of his crucifixion. We can imagine ourselves putting our fingers in the wounds of his resurrected body and eating fish with him on the shore.
Today, we can physically taste, smell, feel, see, and hear the bread and the wine breaking, pouring, crunching, gulping, warming, and entering our bodies as we commune with Christ.
Jesus Christ is literally everything. God in matter, everywhere. Jesus gave himself for us. For you. God, through Jesus, gives life to your dead heart, mind, and spirit. That is God’s promise. That is good news.
May we live in that promise, feel the movement of God on our face, under our feet, and in the smiles of the stranger today.