As we covered in the last post, it is critically important for us to know Jesus as a figure in history -- as the one who was born during the reign of Caesar Augustus, while Quirinius was governor of Syria, and all the other details that the New Testament gives us about Jesus in his historical context. But just knowing Jesus does not cover the needful task of the church. We are called to proclaim Jesus.
Lately I've been reading through the gospel of John, a chapter each day. This morning I read John 20, the Easter narrative. I was struck over and over as I read by the task Jesus entrusted to Mary Magdalene -- to proclaim his resurrection to the disciples. "Go to my brothers and say to them ..." Jesus directs her. When Jesus, who was entrusted by his Father with the task of proclaiming the kingdom of God, commissions these disciples, he says "As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you." Just as Jesus was sent to proclaim, so are we. And first and foremost, we proclaim Jesus himself.
I've been thinking that after I finish reading John I might well go read Paul's letters to the Corinthians. Paul, when he wrote to the Christians at Corinth (1 Corinthians 2), described that proclamation: "I resolved to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified." Really? Paul, that brilliant intellect, that expert in church planting and leadership development and rabbinical argument and application of the Levitical laws, resolved to know "nothing ... except Jesus Christ"?
It is tempting for the church to make our proclamation about "Jesus and ..."
... and our particular structure of church governance.
... and tithing.
... and our church's new capital campaign.
... and our particular theological bent about baptizing only adults (or mostly babies).
... and the inerrancy of scripture.
... and whatever else we love to include in the good news.
But the good news is simply about Jesus. He is the beginning and the end of the good news.
So the church, if it's following the biblical models given to us, proclaims Jesus. Like Jesus, we proclaim the kingdom of God, which we'll get to in a bit. But even the kingdom of God is, at its core, about Jesus -- about Jesus being king. Our proclamation starts and ends with Jesus, because in Jesus all the fullness of God dwells (Colossians 2).
What does this mean? It means that if your church is not talking about Jesus constantly, your church is missing the boat. Every sermon should focus on Jesus. It means that as a Christian, if you aren't completely focused on Jesus, you're missing the mark.
So one of the things we like to do with this is, we like to focus on being good. We like to focus on the rules and how well we keep them and how other people don't. So Christians get known as people who are against stuff, because we feel the responsibility to point out the errors of the world's ways. That is so sad, because the one thing Christians should be known for is our passion for Jesus and our desire to be like him. Our words and our actions should proclaim Jesus -- and if we think Jesus is a moralistic preacher of the law, one who shames sinners, we need to go back and reread the gospels a few times.
Proclaiming Jesus in words and actions is probably the single most important task of the church.