The genius of Jesus
Regular columnist James Knight reflects on the fact that God came to earth as man, and considers the amazing story of Jesus' life, and death, to be one of genius.
One of things I'm often trying to convey about Christianity is what a story of genius it is. That is to say, the Incarnation - God becoming man and suffering and dying for us - is such a profound work of genius that it speaks of a God who pulled off a creative masterstroke. Once one gets past a superficial consideration and gets right to the heart of what is going on here, the Incarnation is the only claim about God that makes any kind of rational sense to me, and without which I would probably remain fairly theologically ambivalent.
You'd need to have something of the Divine about you to make up such an account like the Incarnation - and therefore believing it to be a real piece of history one gets to tap into a little bit of understanding of the genius of God. Think for a minute about how astounding this really is; God, who is awesome enough to create the entire universe and everything in it, demonstrated an act of such grace-filled humility that He allowed Himself to be governed by, abused by, humiliated by, tortured by, and ultimately put to death by people whose only power over Him comes by the very power He gives them in the first place.
We find this account in John's gospel, where, when Pilate thinks the captured Jesus is refusing to speak to him declares "Don’t you realise I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” To which Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore, the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” What He's effectively saying is, "Hey, I have the power to put you in your place, but because I love you I'm going to grant you the freedom to mess up, and then use your bad deeds to offer you and everyone else the free gift of salvation."
There are countless things about reality to marvel at, to be astounded by, and to be challenged by - but for me that one little passage of time in history compresses the whole genius of God into a succinct reality more than anything else I know (along with the nature of mathematics, although that evokes a quite different feeling). You probably can recall when President Nelson Mandela had the political power to condemn the people that maltreated him but chose to forgive them. God does this on a universal scale.
The creator of the universe hung up on a cross, being tortured by people whose only power comes from the grace of the God they are torturing, and begging the Father for their forgiveness because Divine love understands fully that "they know not what they do" is the moment in history, for me, when the corporeal and the Divine interlock, and when the Christian faith does its most illuminating work in shining light on the truth of God.
The genius of it is that it is the only reality that could properly satisfy the narrative of an all-powerful, all-loving God retaining complete sovereignty over creation, yet simultaneously lowering Himself to be sufficiently involved in the story that He can provide a salvation offering that fully conjoins His omnipotence with His Divine love and grace in a way that we can understand.
The genius of Christ is that He provided His creation with the emotional route to Divinity by way of giving us the above to respond to. And if that wasn't enough, He also gave us another glimpse of His genius by exhibiting perfect evidence that He is the cosmic mind behind the mathematical patterns in the universe.
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James Knight is a local government officer based in Norwich, and is a regular columnist for Christian community websites Network Norfolk and Network Ipswich. He also blogs regularly as ‘The Philosophical Muser’, and contributes articles to UK think tanks The Adam Smith Institute and The Institute of Economic Affairs, as well as the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity (LICC).
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