Monday, March 23, 2009

There Was No Point At Which He Was Not

I'm going to spiral back to my previous thread on the Christian assertion of the pre-existence of Christ and how that relates to the flesh-and-blood of Jesus of Nazareth. We say he's part of creation from the very beginning...but how? And which part of Jesus is eternal? Lil' Baby Jesus, Eternally Asleep on the Hay? Tweener Jesus eternally wowin' 'em in the temple? Jesus the carpenter's apprentice? Teaching Jesus? Jesus dying on the Cross? Jesus strangely shrouded and unrecognized at the tomb, or walking the Emmaeus road?

But that big mess o' Jesuses gets too confusing. Instead, most of us carve ourselves out an eternal Christ that is separate from the man who lived and died, that familiar and resplendantly white-robed Caucasian with a neatly trimmed beard and feathered, touchable hair who floats smiling towards us from a golden cloud. But that seems to make the life and the death and the cross a brief and tangential codicil to Christ's eternity, a blip, a 33 year flicker of flesh instead of the central fulcrum of God's self-expression to humanity.

As I struggle to wrap my head around this, it's always a useful caveat to remember that when it comes to talking about things that are eternal, our language is a fumbly and clumsy thing. Our words are imprecise symbolic instruments, and while they're useful for describing the structures and movements in the world around us, they're far less helpful when we wrassle with the transcendant.

That said, I've found the distinction between the Greek terms chronos and kairos to be helpful in understanding the eternity of Christ. To which you might say, rolling your eyes, there's nothing like bringing in Greek philosophical terms to clear things up. Fair enough, but hear me out. Where English only has one term for time, Greek has several. Chronos time is clock time, the generic passing of moment to moment. Kairos, on the other hand, is best translated as "God's time," or a time set aside in which something is fulfilled. (see Luke 21:8) It's not about the ephemeral, but about the permanent.

I see the life of Jesus of Nazareth as a life lived as an indwelling of the eternal God's self expression into the flow of our time. The moments of His life are all kairos moments, not fleeting and substanceless, but of God and part of God's plan for creation since the dawn of creation. From the moment our universe was spoken into being, that Jesus-event was already part of it. Every instant of that life reflected God, and every instant of that life is part of God, eternally.