The Jesus of History and the God of Mystery

The Night Sky and Cosmic Wonder

A sermon idea based on Colossians 3:1-4.

The Big Idea

God is Mystery. Our minds can never fully comprehend him. But when we trust in Jesus, God incarnate, we enter into Christ. We are raised from our mere earthly existence to be able to journey onward with a fresh vision of our cosmic Creator as well as who we truly are in him.

Colossians 3:1-4 NRSV

[1] So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. [2] Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, [3] for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. [4] When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.

There are two ideas that absolutely boggle my mind.

MYSTERY #1: That the God of mystery would become flesh as the Jesus of history who died on the cross and rose again to save the world.

The known, observable universe is approximately 93 billion light years in diameter. That’s like really, really big.

But much of what we read about God written from the perspectives of ancient people who only knew of a small, flat earth around which all of creation revolved. So if you’ve found yourself wrestling with doubt about the existence of this God, you’re not alone.

Truly, any understanding of God that stands up to basic scrutiny must take into account the absolutely astronomical size of all that exists. In other words, yes, God is very, very big. God manages a LOT of territory!

And isn’t it crazy, then, that God would be so committed to his own creation and so personally invested in the salvation of the human race that he would personally take on the physical, material form of Jesus of Nazareth so that he could walk among us, experience our suffering, and suffer crucifixion himself?

As Pete Enns puts it,

If God and creation are both relational, and if creation itself is a type of incarnation of the Creator, the bizarre idea of the incarnation of God in a first-century Palestinian laborer is not as huge a stretch, at least theologically speaking. In Jesus, God is at the very least showing concretely, at the human level, God’s connection to the world of matter. As the eighth-century theologican St. John of Damascus puts it:

“I do not worship matter. I worship God who made matter, who became matter for my sake and deigned to inhabit matter, who worked out my salvation through matter. I will not cease from honoring that matter which works my salvation. I venerate it, thought not as God.”

~ Pete Enns, Curveball: When Your Faith Takes Turns You Never Saw Coming

The Jesus of history was an amazing figure. He was a master teacher and philosopher, a caregiver and healer, a radical revolutionary who took on the power of the Roman empire, seeming to lose in crucifixion but in reality, saving the broken cosmos God so dearly loves.

The Jesus of history may seem removed from us chronologically, culturally, and geographically. Yet in his resurrection, he continues to invite all people to come to him, trust him, and experience the healing he freely offers.

But he’s far more than just the Jesus of history, isn’t he? Jesus is, himself, the God of Mystery as well.

MYSTERY #2: That the Jesus of history would invite us to experience the God of mystery by inviting us to share in his suffering and resurrection.

And this is where the words of the author of the letter to the Colossions come to life. The “if” in verse one could be rendered as “since,” but even if we leave it as if, this is an if/then sentence. If you’ve been raised, then that means this…

The author describes a spiritual miracle. You have been raised (it’s completely done with effects continuing in the present), but the author isn’t referring to our physical resurrection. Rather, he infers that we have in some spiritual way been joined to the resurrection of Jesus. We’ve been raised in that we are “in” the Christ who has experienced resurrection.

And since that’s true, the author urges us to move beyond any perspective limited by a purely earthly, fleshly, material point of view and to have our eyes open to the spiritual reality of God all around us. We get to enter into the mystery of God!

Again from Pete Enns…

“You have been raised with Christ” (Col 3:1)… One does not simply “follow” Christ as if two steps behind. Rather, one is… how can we put it?… grafted into Christ, so much so that followers of Jesus can be spoken of as having already been raised with Christ. This raising is not physical (of course), but participating in a new spiritual dimension, as it were. And as such, “your life is [now] hidden with Christ in God” (Col 3:3)… For the early followers of Jesus (this) meant a mystical participation in the central mysteries of the suffering, death, and resurrection of the Son of God.

And this same Christ is the one in whom — as we read earlier in the letter — “all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers — all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Col 1:16-17).

Christ’s followers are intertwined with this cosmic Christ, the Christ of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible, the Christ in whom all things — the infinite cosmos — hold together.

~ Pete Enns, Curveball: When Your Faith Takes Turns You Never Saw Coming

It would be completely understandable if you struggled to wrap your mind around these two cosmic ideas – that the God of mystery came to us in Jesus and that Jesus leads us to the God of mystery. But you’re not challenged to comprehend it all. Rather, you’re invited to exercise faith. To believe in and trust Jesus’ message is to enter into his life, death, and resurrection.

To follow him, not with certainty about all the facts concerning him, but with the faith of a child, means to have your life hidden with Christ in God.

And when your life is hidden with Christ in God, everything looks different. Hope is possible again!


About the Cover Art: Photo by Aral Tasher on Unsplash.

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