“Any understanding of Jesus that does not have sacrificial, self-giving love at its heart is a distortion and misunderstanding of his true identity.”
Thoughts from daily Bible reading for today – June 12, 2021
So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. John 8:28, ESV
Questions of Jesus’ identity surrounded his earthly ministry. “Who is this man?” was the common refrain, both from his most loyal followers and his hardened critics. In some ways, these questions are not isolated to those who knew and encountered him in the flesh but are the universal questions that perplex humanity in all times and all places. Who is Jesus?
With over 2,000 years under our belts, there are countless versions of Jesus to be discovered. Jesus the guru. Jesus the sage. Jesus the philosopher. Jesus the revolutionary. Jesus the motivational speaker. The list could go on and on. Likely, you have encountered all of these versions of Jesus, and more, yet still find yourself wondering if you’ve got it right.
Our temptation is to conform Jesus to our own dreams and desires for life. We invite him into our stories, in a sense asking him to enter into our world and fill it with the meaning and purpose it seems to be lacking. When this happens, we turn discipleship upside down, for the call upon every follower of Jesus is simply that: to follow as he leads.
Any understanding of Jesus that does not have sacrificial, self-giving love at its heart is a distortion and misunderstanding of his true identity.
Is Jesus motivational and inspirational? Of course. Does he have wise sayings that apply to people in every generation? Without a doubt. Yet these are unintelligible apart from his example of humility and self-sacrifice. As he said in Matthew 20:28, “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Every act of love, mercy, kindness, and justice finds its true meaning in the cross of Jesus Christ. The life of Jesus is a mystery to even his closest followers until the Son of Man is lifted up (John 8:28). Yet when he is, everything that came before is interpreted through his passion, and all that follows flows from the wound in his side.
The cross of Jesus is not an abstract theological doctrine, nor is it irrelevant to your day-to-day life. Instead, it is the key, revealing to us the love of God in his Son, and inviting us to reframe our own understanding of Jesus, and our understanding of discipleship, in the process. If Jesus is only understood through his identity as a servant who gives his life for the life of the world, then as his followers, we too must embrace sacrificial love as core to our own identities and a foundation upon which our lives must be built.
Father, as Jesus came to serve and give his life away, may we as his followers do the same, loving others as we have been loved, we pray through Jesus our Lord. Amen.
What practical steps can you take to grow in a life of service towards God and your neighbor?
Jon Guerra: What Is Your Name?
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