Known and Unknown

“Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.” (2 Corinthians 5:16)

The risen Christ is altogether more than he is seen as prior to his crucifixion. The risen Christ is the Jesus that is known in the heart and only perhaps seen with the eyes (but not always). The risen Christ is the one “with whom we have to do (Hebrews 4:13).” Yes, he’s “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever (Hebrews 13:8).” But there had been, as the writer of Hebrews points out, a death. His.

“For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator.” (Hebrews 9:16)

In other words, the writer of Hebrews is relating Christ to the biblical figures from the first testament (called the Tanakh in Jewish tradition) and indicating through a series of precise, back-and-forth comparisons, just exactly what Jesus did in fulfilling rabbinic tradition and then allowing himself to be taken (essentially kidnapped) and beaten and crucified. “Yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh…” In other words, we saw him as a mere human. Now, upon resurrection, he’s so much more. Savior, friend, architect, “the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).” How can Christians be so crazy for someone they’ve never met face-to-face and who died nearly two-thousand years before this generation came along? Rhetorical questions.

“Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls (1 Peter 1:9).”

The first part of the scripture from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians at the top of the page says “Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh…” This is the King James translation and it comes across a little archaic. A modern revision would read something along the lines of “After believing in Jesus-as-Christ, it isn’t all the outward signs of achievement, wealth, social standing, physical appearance or personal bearing that his followers first see when they look at other individuals.” A little more longwinded, admittedly, but it gets the point across. All the qualifiers of which fall under the broad category of “the flesh”. I say all of this to say that the first half of that scripture implies that we as Christians now look at others as we see (the risen) Christ. Question: how would we look at Jesus if he hadn’t died on the cross and if the, uh, festschrift—that is the Bible and all its attendant literature—hadn’t made its mark on the world? To be sure, he wouldn’t be known at all. He would have been an obscure Jewish carpenter, plying his trade, and who decided on a vocational shift as he neared midlife. Perhaps a unique story, made all the more salient for the sole fact that he had some radically counterintuitive proclamations. Things that, while they might sound like some of the things put forth by other religions the world over, hold a freshness and lightness in spite of their weighty implications. But he was just a man! Someone lost to the sands of time and who died a gruesome death through the gerrymandering, bureaucratic, conspiratorial positioning of both elitist, Pharisaic Judaism and imperious Rome. Just a man, one of thousands, if not millions, who had come and gone, before and after. If this is all Jesus was then what’s the big deal? All fantastic utterances aside (see John chapter 10, verses 10 and 30), he was just a man. Oddly enough, one of the Roman centurions who stood by while Jesus was hanging on the cross, said at his expiry “Truly this man was the Son of God (Mark 15:39b).” Evidently something had happened when Jesus died that caused the centurion to see Jesus in a different light than “just a man”. It says in verse 37 that “Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost.” The next verse talks about the veil of the temple being torn down the middle (symbolizing the emergence of God’s Spirit into this world) and then we have the centurion’s conversion upon hearing Jesus cry out.

The whole point of Paul’s fifth chapter in his second letter to the Christians in Corinth is this idea of “living in our body”. Verse 2 and 3 say “For in this (this life) we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: If so be that being clothed e shall not be found naked.”

The whole point of Easter (as seen from the Christian’s point of view) is that there is more to this life than the body and more to what happens after death than its decomposition. If one chooses to look at the gift of existence as consisting of more than what we can see, then they’re on the way to understanding the profound implications of all that stuff in the Bible that makes absolutely no sense to a worldview that dismisses the spiritual. We are more than our “house”. So was Jesus. It is my prayer that you would take him at his word and see, not just the sacrifice, but also the resurrection, as two sides to this very real and very much alive individual who loves you.

“So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” (Hebrews 9:28)

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