BISHOP JOHN RICHARDS, formerly Bishop of Ebbsfleet, continues our series of twelve meditations in preparation for the Millennium Celebration ‘Christ Our Future’ at the London Arena, Docklands on June10, 2000.
Bishop John asks us this month to reflect on the name and significance of the one who is our Saviour and our Lord.
‘AND YOU MUST NAME HIM JESUS, BECAUSE HE IS THE ONE WHO IS TO SAVE HIS PEOPLE FROM THEIR SINS’
What is in a name? When human names are mentioned, they conjure up in our minds pictures of people and the characters they represent. As we come to the end of this century and the second millennium, some of the most well-known names in recent history such as Hitler and Stalin sadly recall characters devoted to barbarism and terrorism on an unprecedented scale.
In contrast to this, it is significant that the fiercest critics of the Christian faith usually direct their attacks on the Church and the inglorious episodes in its history. Rarely do they dare to attack Jesus Himself.
Nevertheless it is possible to diminish the name of Jesus in a more subtle way. Many lives of Jesus have been written in the last one hundred and fifty years. A selection of these would suggest you are reading about a variety of men, rather than one character. We are all tempted to pick and mix, and create Jesus in our own image.
The most common delusion is to describe Jesus as a good man. Why crucify a pleasant sociable man, the sort of person who would be a charming and delightful guest at any polite supper party? That is not the Jesus who excited the jealousy and anger of the most religious people of his day. We dare not sit in judgement on the scriptures by selecting the features in Our Lord’s life that appeal to us, and disregarding those aspects that make us uncomfortable. The Christ in Holy Scriptures inevitably judges us, not vice versa.
The goodness of Jesus far exceeds the modest levels of goodness we associate with normal standards of decency. Grace came through Jesus Christ. Jesus’ love expressed itself in associating with the riff-raff of society, always being prepared to forgive the most heinous of evils, even at that moment He himself was suffering the most barbarous of deaths possible in the ancient world. Jesus was crucified because of his unbearable goodness. Petty, jealous human nature cannot stand being exposed for what it is. The name of Jesus conjures up a picture of an infinitely loving and merciful God. Were it not so, our human condition would be hopeless.
Jesus saves us from our sins, not merely by forgiving them, but by drawing us by the power of His love into a new quality of life. Since Jesus forgives at all times, we are required to be prepared to forgive unto seventy times seven. Since Jesus is so infinitely generous, we are called to go the extra mile, to offer two coats when we are asked for one. The critics of the Christian faith who view it as providing a crutch for weaklings, totally fall to take into account Our Lord’s demand upon his disciples to scale the heights to perfection.
The name of Jesus brings before us One who is at once infinitely merciful, and yet at the same time makes a total demand upon our allegiance. He calls us to a life of sacrificial love. Let us make sure we meditate upon the whole face of Jesus Christ.