Minister’s forum: Take Him on His own terms
I for one, am thankful that the season of Easter stretches out for seven weeks – right up to Pentecost and the birth, by God’s Spirit, of the Church. We need the time to dwell on this, the central watershed reality of history.
Sad to think that for many folks Easter is nothing more than the happy-ever-after ending to the cruel death of Jesus on the cross. Our tendency is not to dwell too long on the resurrection, and rather than taking Jesus Christ on His own terms – the Cross and the empty tomb- we choose instead to take Him on our terms. The result is a religion of rituals and remembrances and comfortable traditions that fit into our lifestyles. The only way to avoid the common trap of human mediocrity with a little veneer of religion is to take Him on His terms – an empty tomb, and the risen Lord loose in the world in the person of the Holy Spirit, who both calls us to Jesus Christ in faith, obedience, and mission today, and has prepared a “place” for us in His eternal kingdom. No more life as usual.
This truth hit home several weeks ago when our Friday Men’s Fellowship spent some time reviewing and discussing the “Gospel of Judas “- the 1,700-year-old collection of text fragments that has recently splashed onto the media scene. To date, only a handful of pages have been translated, and as can be expected there is scintillating speculation that this offers evidence that the Biblical Gospels are in error, and worse, a conspiracy (aka “The DaVinci Code”) to intentionally hide the “truth” that has now finally come to light. After reading the translated portions I find it much-ado-about-nothing. It’s just one more example of the Gnosticism common at the beginning of the Christian Era.
Gnosticism refers to a religious philosophy reflected in a number of sects and societies that grew up and flourished in the late first through third centuries that often co-opted the Christian Gospel and reinvented it to fit their view. They espoused the Greek view that matter, and the physical world, was evil and “spirit” was good. It followed that God could not have created the world out of matter, nor could His Son have become incarnate (made flesh) in it. Thus, humanity shared in the evil of the material world, But (at least) some people possess a “divine spark” which can be set free and redeemed. In order to be redeemed they need to have “knowledge” (gnosis) of their heavenly origin.
The Apostle Paul writes the Letter to the Romans, and the Apostle John writes his letters with this popular and dangerous error in mind. And beware! It’s alive and well in the religious scene here at South Lake Tahoe. If you are interested, you might do a Google-Search for “Gospel of Judas.” On the first page, the most informative and inclusive of the articles is the one entitled “Coptic Ps.Gospel of Judas (Iscariot).” The text available suggests that Jesus conspires with Judas to have Himself arrested. Nice try. As you read the text, look for anything in this “Jesus” that is remotely familiar to the Jesus Christ of the Gospels – I certainly don’t. What I do find is a cosmology totally foreign to Scripture, smelling more like the early Gnostic mystery religions. Here, Judas is taken aside by Jesus and given special insights that lead to some sort of immortality – rendering the Cross and the Resurrection totally unnecessary.
The only value in the Gospel of Judas and that genre of ancient writings is in their antiquity. Expect another book and a movie. As the Apostle Paul declared, “Face it – if there’s no resurrection for Christ, everything we’ve told you is smoke and mirrors…for if Christ weren’t raised, then all you’re doing is wandering about in the dark, as lost as ever…if all we get out of Christ is a little inspiration for a few short years, we’re a pretty sorry lot. But the truth is that Christ has been raised up…” 1Cor. 15:14-19 The Message.
In closing let me remind you that the best way to know we are handling God’s truth is to become so familiar with your Bible that you can smell the counterfeit every time.
– Steve Blocher is pastor at Lake Tahoe Community Presbyterian Church.