NB: All previous chapters can be found here. This will be a challenge, both for me and readers of this book. How to capture the characteristics of Jesus in a manner sufficient to at least paint a picture of the target for which humans should aim – the Form of the Good, demonstrating the proper ends, purpose, or telos for human beings. Understanding these ends, one can begin to properly apply reason in order to properly deduce Natural Law. A challenge for me because I know even before I start that I will fail; a challenge for readers because it will take great patience when you bring this to my attention. Inherently this won’t be a complete picture – turn to your favorite translation of the Bible for that, along with reading
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NB: All previous chapters can be found here.
This will be a challenge, both for me and readers of this book. How to capture the characteristics of Jesus in a manner sufficient to at least paint a picture of the target for which humans should aim – the Form of the Good, demonstrating the proper ends, purpose, or telos for human beings. Understanding these ends, one can begin to properly apply reason in order to properly deduce Natural Law.
A challenge for me because I know even before I start that I will fail; a challenge for readers because it will take great patience when you bring this to my attention.
Inherently this won’t be a complete picture – turn to your favorite translation of the Bible for that, along with reading from any of your favorite theologians, pastors, and apologists. I will attempt to give a taste – an accurate set of examples that demonstrate the breadth, depth, complexity, and the unachievable example He gave us.
John1: 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.
Jesus Christ is the Word, the logos as referred to in this opening verse.
Genesis 1: 27 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
We are made in God’s image; this is the same as saying that we are made in the image of Christ. The basis for seeing in Jesus the manifest Form of the Good is here, as is the basis for humans to follow this Form. So, what can we learn from Him?
Matthew 22: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
“And the second is like it…” I am sure that there are many more well-thought out expositions of the meaning of this transitional phrase; I will offer mine: we demonstrate our love of God by demonstrating our love to our neighbors.
Love is in the doing. It is captured in the Latin word Beatitudo:
The happiness that comes from seeing the good in others and doing the good for others. It is, in essence, other-regarding action.
Beatitudo: this has been described by Aquinas as the proper ends or purpose of man. It seems a good place to start – the Beatitudes as offered in Matthew 5; to summarize: Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, those persecuted because of righteousness.
In the popular culture, these verses are pointed to as the prime example of Jesus’ weakness. Instead, what is actually found are maximized examples of both kindness (meekness and mercy) and strength (persecuted for righteousness). Imagine the character it takes to achieve both – not in balance, but to maximize each; consider these as diverse excellencies.
Paul furthers this in Galatians 5: 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.
The fruit reflects the tree.
What underlies all of these is love. Jesus does not offer love in any feeling terms; each example requires doing. He did some real doing:
no hero in your tragedy
no daring in your escape
no salutes for your surrender
nothing noble in your fate
Christ, what have you done?
– The Pass, Rush
This is how much of the world sees Christ’s crucifixion – He gave up, He surrendered, He escaped. In other words, He was too weak to shoulder a load. Yet this was no weak man:
John 18: 6 When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.
That is strength, the strength necessary to shoulder the heaviest load.
Matthew 26: 53 Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?
That is strength; the strength necessary to shoulder the heaviest load.
Matthew 8: 23 Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. 24 Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”
26 He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.
Strength to calm the storm. That is real strength.
27 The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”
“What kind of man is this?” Words are insufficient to describe the “is,” but I do know what kind of a man He isn’t…He isn’t a weak man. And I haven’t even mentioned the descriptions of Jesus to be found in Revelation – holding stars in His hand and swords in His mouth.
In Jesus, we have examples of grace and truth – again, not in balance but each maximized, diverse excellencies:
Matthew 16: 19 I will give you [Peter] the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
Complete grace, followed shortly by…
Matthew 16: 23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
Complete truth; no touchy-feely stuff. When it comes to confronting evil, Jesus didn’t beat around the bush.
Another example regards the Samaritan woman at the well, after Jesus offers her living water:
John 4: 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” 16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” 17 “I have no husband,” she replied.
Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
There is much grace in His living water; there is much truth in His rebuke. He did not balance these attributes, He maximized these.
How about humility, from a Man who could calm the storms:
Luke 14: 10 But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests.
Matthew 20: 16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
Is Jesus suggesting manipulation, or is He offering advice regarding proper character? Remember, it is the meek – not the manipulative – that shall inherit the earth.
He replies to the Pharisee, Simon, who notes that a sinful woman is washing Jesus’ feet:
Luke 7: 44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”
Jesus completely upended the morality of the time. He undermined the stupid moral tricks that we regularly play.
Matthew 4: 8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” 10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”
Saying something about the relative value of power and wealth when considering the proper ends for humans.
John 15: 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
The perfect gave His life for the damned. So…living like Jesus means dying like Jesus.
No one said that finding liberty was going to be easy.
Reprinted with permission from Bionic Mosquito.