What you believe about Jesus changes everything
It may be safe to say that almost every adult in the UK has heard of Jesus. We are a nation of many different faiths and religions, be they sacred or secular. Sometimes the fervent following of a football team is more akin to religion than going to church services! So the question is not, ‘Have you heard of Jesus?’ The question is: ‘Who do you think Jesus is (or was)?’
A great many things have been spoken about Jesus of Nazareth. There are some who believe that he didn’t even exist. An old man once said of Jesus, “He’s a great character. The Jews are fantastic story-tellers”, implying that the person of Jesus was a work of fiction. Independent and disinterested historical evidence points almost conclusively to the existence of a person called Jesus who lived in Roman-occupied Palestine about 2000 years ago. An investigation of the Historical Jesus is a fascinating pursuit, and is well beyond the scope of a simple web article! We can be pretty sure that he did exist as an historical reality.
We move closer to more pertinent questions when we ask, “Who is Jesus?” Countless people from countless religions and none have attempted to answer this question: carpenter’s son, preacher, rebel, healer, prophet, The Anointed One, dissident, proto-Marxist… the list is almost endless.
The Real Questions
Jesus The Christ
Ultimately there are only four big questions that a Christian asks of himself. The first is, “Do I believe that Jesus is God?” The way we answer this question should change everything.
In the Gospel of St Matthew, it is reported that Jesus asked his followers a very similar question:
13 When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”
14 So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.
15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
16 Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Matthew 16: 13-16
If the answer to the first question is, “Yes”, then we cannot do nothing. Acknowledging that Jesus is, as St Peter proclaims, “the Christ, the Son of the living God”, calls us to action. A response is demanded of us. A “yes” posses the second question, “What am I going to do about it?”
If we acknowledge Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of the Living God, we only have two choices open to us. We either seek Him out and follow Him, or simply continue with our lives as before. The choice is ours. As Christians we have made a decision to follow Jesus. Our third question is therefore, “Where do I find Jesus?”
Orthodox Christians do not say where God is not. He may reveal Himself in whichever way He likes and to whomever He likes. However, we would say that, if you wish to know the fullness of the revelation of God in His Son Jesus Christ, He is to be found in the Church.
The Orthodox Church teaches that God is forever the same throughout all of time and space, in the entire created and uncreated universe. He cannot change. As such, the Orthodox Church holds firmly to the faith received in it’s fullness and handed-down unchanged from the foundation of the Church in 33AD by Jesus Himself until now. If you want to find Christianity in all its fullness, look to the Orthodox Church.
Having met our Risen Lord, God and Saviour Jesus Christ, believing Him to be the Holy Word and Son of God, and having met Him in His Church, the final question is, “What do I do now?”
Christians follow their Saviour. They do as He does. They seek to become as He is. To be changed into His likeness. To become more truly themselves whilst at the same time becoming ever more like Him. This is the mystery of a Christian life. It is a continuous, beautiful journey and it is never ending. In St Matthew’s Gospel again, Jesus tells us how we are to go about following Him:
24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.
Matthew 16: 24
Just how a Christian fulfills Jesus’ commandment is discovered within the Church, in its public services, writings and Traditions, and secretly between each Christian and his spiritual father or mother. Most importantly, though, it is Jesus who leads us to Himself in total patience and love. It takes forever. Forever is very exciting!