“The Unveiling of Deity,” John 3:12-17
The Experiment of Faith
For years, I have been telling people that Haitian Creole is rooted in French and that many of the words are just slightly altered French. I have said that to a number of French speakers and then had them report to us how baffled they are by so much of Creole. Their French skills will work sometimes, especially with more highly educated Haitian people who are learning modern French in the university. Well, their in lies the problem. Haitian Creole is the amalgamation of French, Spanish, and West African Tribal Languages, 17th Century French! “Both Haitian Creole and French have experienced semantic change; words that had a single meaning in the 17th century have changed or have been replaced in both languages. For example, “Ki jan ou rele?” (“What is your name?”) corresponds to the French Comment vous appelez vous ? Although the average French speaker would not understand this phrase, every word in it is in fact of French origin: qui “what”; genre “manner”; vous “you”, and héler “to call”, but the verb héler has been replaced by appeler in modern French and reduced to mean “to flag down.”
Language is a manner of communication, whereby we attempt to express an idea or impression that exists in our mind, quite possible only in form of an image or series of impressions and feelings, to the mind and heart of another person. Language is horribly imperfect bridge to transport ideas.
CIS: God revealed Himself fully in Christ. In order to share Christ with one another and to the world we must learn to speak God’s language in the world.
Human language is imperfect but it is what we have. We must cultivate care in the art of langue and learn that God’s language is not only or even primarily about words. We are called to reflect the unveiling of deity in Christ; Sometimes in words but always in ways consistent with the person of Jesus.
Exposition Let us consider first how it is that God has communicated to us in Christ.
What does that mean? What is Bushnell saying? There is a very real sense in which Jesus atoned for our sin in terms of taking our punishment upon Himself. This is salvation in a kind of legal sense. This is Jesus as advocate and judge taking our life sentence. He grants us a truly unconditional pardon.
This is a little like the judge for Carmelie’s adoption who required us to take several extra steps in her adoption to make the decree iron clad. God didn’t just pardon us without merit. He revealed His perfect nature of love and justice, truth and grace, in Jesus and then transferred His life to us in blood.
That is pictured, revealed artfully, in communion. “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.” (Luke 22:20b NASB) However, the simple knowledge that there is a pardon available seldom leads anyone into a genuine and honest relationship with God. The knowledge that there is a pardon for sin available in Jesus leads no further than the lobby of religious tradition. It seldom leads to honest religion that warms our heart and transforms the actions of our hands in the world – making us living reflections of the love, truth, power, and justice of God revealed in Christ.
Bushnell is calling us beyond the language of a courtroom into the language of a royal dance hall. These notions caused a great deal of controversy in his day because he was calling Christians to think and feel their way more clearly into answering the great question, “Who are we saved from whom in Christ?”
Are we being saved from the wrath of God through Jesus who implores the Father to relent from His deep desire to destroy us? Or are we being saved from ourselves who, in our self-destructive nature, nearly refuse to receive the deep fellowship offered to us by God because of His love for us?
Jesus did not come into the world to save us from wrath to spite the cruelty of His Father. Jesus is the fullness of the revelation of God’s love for man! Jesus said, “If you have seen me you have seen the Father.” (John 14:9) Christ is the fullness of the revelation of God, not an alternative deity. God in Christ is rescuing from ourselves! The language of God is love and that love is expressed in portrait of Christ on the Cross. The Blood of Jesus covers our sin. It is the method of God. The Love of God in Christ calls us home. It is the motive of God. Jesus is the fullest expression of God’s love, not wrath. Jesus on the Cross is an artful, living, painful, bloody, soul-rending, communication from God to man that grabs hold of our hearts beyond the capacity of words.
The message of Christ is a message of pure hope. It is God saying, “This is how much I love you, no matter what…” Too often, the message of the Church and of individual Christians is “God does not love unless…” Conditional love is not consistent with the love of God revealed in Christ. What kind of love do you carry in your heart when Christ is the content of your thoughts? Did Jesus, in our conception, die only to appease the wrath of the Father, even perhaps against His will, or is He the artful expression of the deep, not entirely explicable love of God for you and me and everyone?
How consistent is my understanding of the love of God in Christ? How consistent is my communication of that love to the world around me? Have we narrowly escaped the wrath of the Father or are we the formerly lost sheep that God left the 99 in Christ to discover, rescue, and cover in love? Our conception of God’s love for each of us frees or cages our heart’s ability to be the reflection of God’s love in Christ to the world around us.
The limitations of communication with words is a despicable curse. That is what the biblical account of the Tower of Babel is saying to us. While I take that account as historical and literal, whether you take as such or not, the psychosocial implications are obvious. The difficulty of communication is a constant and present reality and directly linked to sin and the curse associated with the rebellion of the human heart to God. It harms us.
My wife Christina accumulated a whole host of quirks of communication that took me years to get over! Have you ever heard of a hoppergrass? Me neither but apparently that is another way to say grasshopper – for her at least! At the recent funeral for my dear friend Dine Baldwin, the funeral home attendant kept saying to me that the repass would be the last event. I had no idea what he was saying! I am an experienced professional Pastor. I did not want to ask and seem ignorant of something he considered clearly to be so obvious and self-evident. I asked my wife. She had never heard the phrase. I finally found the humility to ask. It turns out a repass is a funeral reception.
The Cross is the artful, painful, loving, needful, treacherous, and perfect communication of God to man that His love is available. Come Home. “Jesus Christ was and is the Savior of all humankind and indeed of all creation. The transcendent God, beyond the reach of our minds, has entered our world with a saving power in a way that we can only grasp by faith.” In the expression of that faith, we should mimic God in Christ. Everything we need to know about communicating Christ to world is found at the Cross. We share His love through actual acts of sacrifice. We grow to know His love more completely as we grow through sacrifice. Keep thinking that you will be happier if you comfortable. That trap will enslave the mind and heart.
This sentiment is at least a part of the practical application of Hebrews 12:2. “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2 NIV84) Sacrifice. Service. Sharing the love of God in Christ. These alone are where joy is found!
This is what Jesus is saying in Luke 17:33 and related passages, “Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.” (NIV84) Love is His message, calling us home. Love is to be our message through acts of real service, sacrifice, and separation to God, calling them home. Amen.