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McLaren’s Jesus

A NEW KIND OF CHRISTIANITY – Brian D McLaren        (Jan Croucher) 

CHAPTER 12: - Who is Jesus, and why is he important? Jesus is the climax of the experiences/teaching of Adam, Abraham, Moses, David, Amos (or Isaiah, Jeremiah), and John the Baptist. Jesus offers the most mature view of the character of God. Elton Trueblood: ‘The doctrine of the divinity of Christ does not simply mean that Jesus is like God but that GOD IS LIKE JESUS.’

We tend to make Jesus into whatever we like, our own image. Eg, a sword-weilding Jesus (Rev. 19:11ff : ‘KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS’). It’s Jewish apocalyptic literature – as science fiction is for us today. The peaceful Jesus who entered Jerusalem on a donkey wasn’t actually weak and defeated but rather as powerful as a caesar on a steed – celebrating not the love of power but the power of love.

CHAPTER 13:-  Jesus Outside the Lines (His mission) How can anyone ignore all of Jesus’ words about the poor and oppressed and his quoting Isaiah 61 in the temple (Luke 4) to describe his mission? It’s interpreting Jesus in the six line narrative of the Graeco-Roman paradigm or by reading the Bible as a constitution…

Rather, let us understand Jesus in the three-dimensional biblical narrative of the GENESIS story of creation and reconciliation, the EXODUS story of liberation and formation and the ISAIAH story of new creation and peace-making kingdom. Jn 1:1-9.

Jesus is associated with life, the life that God breathes into the clay of humanity. The Psalmist: all creation reflects the glory of God; John: ‘We have seen the glory of the one and only.’ Jesus creates wine from water; the Spirit in Genesis ‘hovers over the waters’: throughout John we have interwoven references to the Spirit and to water. It seems John is telling us a new Genesis is happening in Jesus, and these echoes keep resounding throughout his Gospel, ringing out powerfully in the climactic account of the resurrection.

The first day of the week and light invades darkness  (Jn 20:1). It’s a new day, a new beginning; the tomb becomes a womb giving birth to a new creation. Genesis ends with reconciliation between brothers; in John Jesus reconciles with Thomas the doubter, Peter the denier and the disciples who deserted him. Jesus in Jn 3:16  offers a life that transcends ‘life in the present age’ – an age which will end in tumult. Being ‘born again’ = being born into this new creation: the ‘life of the ages’. The risen Christ first appears in a garden.

The EXODUS narrative of liberation and formation resonates even more strongly in John: Jn 1:11, 17. Moses was rejected by his brothers so was Jesus. Moses led the in liberation from Egypt so Jesus leads away from spiritual oppression. Moses gave the Law; Jesus gave the way the truth and the life. John the Baptist: Jesus = ‘Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’ (cf. the sacrificial lambs of Leviticus). Jesus has a new command, transcending Law. The people had followed Moses/Joshua, so Jesus commissioned his disciples.

The promised land is the THIRD DIMENSION of the biblical narrative: the peace-making kingdom celebrated by the prophets like ISAIAH. There’s a longing for a homeland outside Egypt; for the exiles a return to their homeland, liberation from the Babylon – a new era, a time of harmony, social equity, prosperity and safety. The key is light, the healing of blindness etc. So John begins with Jesus the light of the world. Isaiah: swords into ploughshares, spears into pruning hooks, no more training for war. Springs will transform the desert into a garden. The thirst for water (Is 55) becomes living water (Jn 4). In Mk 1:15, Luke 4:21 peace has come.  Isaiah’s poetry is filled with images of war giving way to peace; Jesus makes clear to Pilate that disputes aren’t solved with swords (Jn 18:36). John also picks up Isaiah’s theme of joy (Jn 15:11). As Isaiah predicts beauty beyond ashes, joy beyond mourning, and a new heavens and a new earth beyond the suffering that must first be faced, so John presents us with a Jesus who raises the dead (11), and ultimately is raised from the dead himself (20:18) – all evidence of a new creation arising from the old (Is 66:22).

CONCLUSION. McLaren’s summary is that Jesus did not come merely to save souls from hell, but to launch a new Genesis, to lead a new Exodus and to announce, embody and inaugurate a new kingdom, as the Prince of Peace (Is 9:6). Seen in this light Jesus and his message have everything to do with poverty, slavery and a ‘social agenda’.  


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