Tag Archives: Jesus

The Word: Written or Incarnate?

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Note: this post is more of a Bible study than most. If you are student of Scripture, then I would like your feedback on this. The perspective I present below is not the traditional evangelical view with which I grew up and in which I am trained, so I would like to hear from both my evangelical friends (who are likely to disagree) and with my friends from other theological backgrounds.

12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:12-13, ESV)

How do these oft-memorized verses about “the word of God” fit with the themes of entering His rest, of belief and obedience? And how do these verses connect those themes to the following passage about Jesus being the great high priest?

“The word” in verse 12 here is most often understood to be God’s recorded word, the Scripture; i.e., the Bible: God’s word (and words) revealed through His prophets, His Son, and the apostles; and written down and canonized.

This seems a too-limited view, however, in light of the words used and the context following. Certainly Scripture is sharp and piercing; it reveals our thoughts and intentions, shows whether we are truly obeying or merely acting. Yet this does not satisfy the descriptive words “living and active,” or the verb “discerning.” Verse 13, further, uses personal language: “sight” (can a written word see?); “him,” not it; and a personal direct object, “to whom” our account will be given.

I think verses 12-13 are speaking of the living Word of whom John wrote in his gospel: the Word-become-flesh, Jesus Christ. Certainly the writer here is not speaking exclusively of the written revelation (of which his own words would become a part).

Jesus Christ, the living Word of God, is alive and active, discerning, seeing, and waiting to receive an accounting of our belief or unbelief, our obedience or disobedience. It is Him to whom we owe our belief and obedience; Him to whom we will give account. He—not a book (even the Book of God)—is our great high priest, our mediator (1 Timothy 2:5) before God, and our salvation. It is through Jesus Christ that we may receive mercy when our hearts struggle to believe and grace when we disobey.

God, Gorillas, and the Gospel

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cincinnati-zoo-gorillaThe news made headlines around the world, sparking outrage and protests: a 17-year-old gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo was killed in order to save the life of a 3-year-old boy who had slipped into the animal’s exhibit. The story has all the elements of a literary tragedy, from the happy beginning to a disastrous ending, with a series of misfortunes leading from one to the other.

In another setting, perhaps, the public outcry may have been different. Had the toddler been camping with his parents and carted off by a grizzly bear, then perhaps the boy and his family would be receiving the lavish love of a relieved public—even amidst grief for the death of another endangered animal. But that’s not the story.

Instead, we have as main characters a boy being a boy, curious, adventurous, and predisposed to crossing a clear barrier erected for his own good. We have the boy’s mother, who—like any parent of a 3-year-old boy—undoubtedly gets exhausted just trying to keep his curiosity in check; who would love to keep her eyes on him every second of every day but just can’t (any better than you or I). There are the zookeepers, whose passions and careers center around loving, nurturing, and protecting the animals, and sharing that love with the people—even the ignorant, careless, sometimes stupid people—who visit the zoo. And, of course, there is Harambe, the central character, the majestic silverback gorilla born and raised—and now killed—in this very zoo. Some have suggested that, at least in the first moments, Harambe was even trying to protect the young, frightened, hairless ape who had fallen into his world.

Conspicuously missing from this cast is the nameless, faceless individual who took the shot; the one keeper who most had to face the reality of bringing death to the innocent in order to bring life to the guilty.

The parallels to our lives and the gospel are great.

We—you and I—are the boy. Few would call us evil; we are simply curious, wanting our own way, prone to wander, heedless of the barriers erected for our safety and protection. Or perhaps we are the mother: loving and caring, but tired; perhaps only a momentary lapse has reverberated throughout our lives, bringing guilt, shame, and even notoriety.

Jesus is (I never imagined saying something like this) the gorilla: innocent, loving, and offering safety from the certain death our wandering brings. God is the keeper of this human zoo in which we live. He is the one who gave His Son, Jesus (the gorilla), to live among us. He is the one who “took the shot,” as it were; who ultimately laid that Son on the cross: the innocent dying that the guilty might be made innocent.

And here the similarities end, for in Cincinnati and around the world, voices demand justice for the gorilla and judgment for the boy and his family. in the gospel it is Jesus, the innocent sacrifice, who is mocked and scorned; while the guilty crowds are celebrated in their wandering. In Cincinnati, the gorilla is gone for good; in the gospel, the sacrifice lives again, that the guilty may also live. 

In Cincinnati, calls are being made for changes in zoo practices; the gospel calls us to consider what changes we need to make in our own lives. Are you the wandering boy, ignoring the security barriers God has erected? Or are you the mother who turned her back for a moment, now weighed down by guilt and shame?

How can you use the story of Harambe, the silverback gorilla, to tell the story of Jesus, the sacrificial Lamb?