Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Whatchoo Talkin' 'Bout, Jesus?

As I pore my way through my Bible commentaries in preparation for this Sunday's sermon, I find myself facing a pretty significant "remnant" this week.

I like sermons to be toight as a toiger, with a clearly developed point and purpose. I don't always succeed, but it's the goal.

Problem is, my brain finds itself wandering off on tangents that would...if I let them get into my sermon...have me jabbering away for hours as I ran down theological concept after theological concept like a hyperactive Jesus labrador paired with a tennis ball machine.

Every week, there are "remnants," those parts of the Bible passages that I choose not to explore. What's got me running now is Mark 10:18...which is an utterly fascinating little verse, given the classical Christian assertions about the nature of Jesus. Mark 10:18, in the event you've not got the whole Bible memorized, says this:
"Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone."
This is...interesting. Mostly, it is interesting in the context of orthodox Christian teaching about the nature of Jesus of Nazareth. We...and I include myself firmly among the "we"...hold that Jesus is God. It's that whole wacky mystic semi-Aristotelian Trinity thing, and I just can't shake it loose. Don't wanna. It's central to my faith.

Yet this little snippet o' teaching sounds a challenging note across all three of the synoptic Gospels. Luke chooses to reprise it precisely in Luke 18:19. Matthew gets a bit coy with it in Matthew 19:17. But in all three of these conceptually linked Gospels, Jesus deflects the point of implying strongly that he is not to be confused with God.

Most of the commentaries I've got kicking around suggest that this is simply indicative of the focus of the synoptic Gospels. In them, Jesus pretty relentlessly deflects attention away from himself, and towards the Father whose Kingdom he came to proclaim. Unlike the more intimate Christological teachings of John's Gospel, Jesus of Nazareth really isn't the point of Jesus of Nazareth's teachings in the first three Gospels.

Still, it's one of the more striking "Whatchoo Talkin' Bout Jesus" moments in Scripture, particularly for those of us who have a personal relationship with the Second Person of the Trinity.