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Jesus the Christ

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9/11

April 16, 2011

TY293 – Christology

In Jesus: A Portrait, Gerald O’Collins presents an idea of who Jesus is.  It is difficult to gather such a concept when a person has left so little behind (O’Collins ix).  O’Collins does this, though, by looking at the things Jesus said, the things he did, and the way he acted.  Through this and being open to truth, the author comes to partially know and show his readers an overview of who Jesus is.   O’Collins recognizes and expresses the true humanity and the true divinity of Christ.  He identifies different aspects of Christ’s character and what this reveals about the Father.  He also identifies what Christ then calls us to do, following the example he has put forth.

I enjoyed reading this book.  I would recommend it to anyone looking for a synopsis of who Jesus was and is.  O’Collins does a good job of putting into perspective the situations in which Jesus talked, acted and presented himself.  Who Jesus is and what he did are extraordinary.  The ways in which some people reacted to him were not always out of the ordinary.  O’Collins places the reader in both the culture and time of these events and causes one to re-think the stories.

In chapters four and five, O’Collins focuses on Jesus’ actions, including the miracles he performed.  What Jesus did revealed who he was which also made the Father known.  He was more interested in the well-being of people than in the rules (55).  There were multiple instances in which he healed people on the Sabbath.  This was not always welcomed by the crowd.  However, it showed that God’s loving kindness has no limits.  It was better to heal on the Sabbath than to allow one to die.

Jesus was and is at one with God the father.  He is referred to as Lord, signifying that he is more than just mere human by nature (58).  He is fully divine as well as fully human.  Because of his two natures in one person, he has a special relationship with God the Father.  It can therefore be gathered that he had some idea of his Father’s will.  This can be seen in the miracles he performs.

People were amazed by the miracles Jesus performed and, in particular, his authority over demons (62).  This kind of performance could only be from God (72).  Demons, after all, cannot cast out demons.  Especially through such miracles, Jesus reveals another characteristic of God.  That trait is that he finds a person’s spiritual well-being much more important than their physical health (57).  In many biblical cases of physical healings, there was a spiritual healing to accompany it.  That spiritual healing could only be attributed to God; this aspect reveals Christ’s true divinity and his constant response to the Father’s will (57).

Jesus longed to “heal the spiritual blindness and deafness of his disciples” (69).  Through many of his miracles, he reveals his desire to set us free from the burdens of this world, to set us free from sin and the power of the evil one (66-67).  With this freedom and openness, one is much more prepared to follow the Father’s will (69).  Jesus realized this; he knew that without God’s grace, the eyes and ears of his disciples would be closed, and they would be unable to follow him on his journey (69).

In Jesus’ desire for the disciples, he also calls us to realize our own spiritual blindness and deafness (72).  Only by recognizing our deficiency and asking God for help can we begin to see more clearly (72).  Jesus performed many miracles that brought life both physically and spiritually (73).  He is “life itself” and reveals the Father’s own call to life (73).  “The life-giving force” behind his miracles exposes Christ’s divinity; this leads one to the “conclusion that Jesus himself is divine Life in person (73).

O’Collins shows in chapters six, seven, and eight, the things Jesus talked about, including the parables he told and the advice he gave.  He also takes into account the way in which Jesus spoke, including the analogies he used.  What Jesus said made his character known; it also made his thoughts and feelings more accessible to others (81).  Through knowing Christ and what he is like, we can come to know more fully the Father and his will (81).

The images Jesus chose to use in his stories made both him and the parables relatable to others (81).  He mostly used images from his life experiences and from common activities of the community (81).  There were, however, some parables Jesus told that did not seem to relate to anything he had experienced, seen or heard, for example, the Parable of the Lost Son (111).  He related his parables to the kingdom of God and the Father’s will for humanity (81).  They reveal the way Jesus saw the world and God’s kingdom (82).  Jesus also made these parables more relatable in that “[h]e did not adopt the refined language of intellectuals, let alone the specialised terms of theological jargon, but expressed himself in the everyday speech of the ‘ordinary’ people of his time” (134).  He knew how to speak and act in order to be relatable.  He used these abilities to lead people to the Father.

O’Collins does a good job of putting the parables into perspective of the culture and time they were told.  For example, he relates what the Parable of the Good Samaritan was like then, to what it would be like today (101).  He also points out the ordinariness of the priest and the Levite passing by the injured Jew; it was considered unclean in their culture to have any contact with dead bodies (102).  O’Collins also brings to the attention of the reader how uncommon it would be for a Samaritan to stop for an injured Jew (102).  When one realizes the setting of this parable, in its own time and culture, it causes one to rethink the story, its meaning and application.

Through each parable Jesus calls us to act in some way.  The Logos became human in order that we might be saved.  By becoming human while also maintaining his divine nature, humankind is now able to relate more to the divine.  Jesus became the mediator between humanity and divinity.  He shared our life and our experiences with us (85).  He uses this information to relate to God’s kingdom, that we might come to know the Father through him.  He relates to every aspect of our life.  He calls us to look around and to act.

In the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant, Jesus calls us to be merciful (99).  In the story of the Good Samaritan he calls us to love our neighbor (101).  He calls to our attention those situations in which we need to act out of our comfort zone in the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus (104).  Whether the situations are likely to happen or not, there is something everyone can take away from these parables.  Responding to God’s call requires a relationship with him.  Sometimes it is necessary to act quickly in a situation, while other times it is beneficial to wait.  Knowing when and how to act becomes easier with a constant relationship with Christ. 

Jesus did not just tell the parables and expect others to learn from them.  He took the advice he gave and lived the parables himself.  He loved his neighbors to the end; this love cost him much more than it cost the Good Samaritan (103).  In the Parable of the Rich Fool, Jesus teaches us that our life is not our own; our entire being is from the Father, and it is to him we owe everything (108-109).  Jesus lived this out to the fullest as well.  He lived his life knowing it was a gift; he eventually laid it down for all, in response to the Father’s will.

Through the parables, Jesus not only shows characteristics of himself, but he also reveals attributes of the Father.  Because Christ and the Father are one, anything he reveals of himself exposes something about the Father (125).  Likewise, anything that could be said about the Father reveals something about Christ (125).  For example, the story of the Prodigal Son tells of the God’s unconditional love and forgiveness (115).  This can also be said about Christ, who lived his life loving and forgiving others.

Other people are recorded to have performed miracles, but Jesus, says O’Collins, was the only one to tell parables (109).  He was set apart from the others; there was something different about him (109).  His ability to relate the present situations of the world with the eternal kingdom of God shows a good imagination, an attentiveness to the world around him, and an awareness of the Father’s will (110).

In chapters nine and ten, O’Collins shows more of Jesus’ character by mentioning the way he acted.  In addition, the way Jesus presented himself and the way he acted and reacted towards others reveal his mission.  The way he dealt with feelings such as suffering also revealed his oneness with the Father.

Jesus seemed to know that he was going to die and the importance of that, otherwise he would not have done the things he did (148, 150).  It was quite obvious that the things he did would result in danger of some sort (148).  Therefore, there must have been a higher reason for his actions that would eventually lead to his death.  Jesus did not need to verbalize what his intention was or the reason for his actions; his life already spoke to that (159).  The way he lived gave his death meaning (159).  He sacrificed himself for others in his life, and ultimately sacrificed himself for everyone in his death (159).

In his death as well as in his life, Jesus’ goal was and is to bring humanity into communion with himself and the Father (163).  Jesus understood, at least partially, his Father’s will for him in life and his mission in death (162).  By the way he lived, it was obvious that Jesus was to die for all people, not just a select few; this was God’s will that all may be saved (160).  He died to restore life and the relationship between God and his people no matter what their background is (160).  God’s message is applicable to all and knows no bounds (160).

He did not let the danger of the things he was doing get in the way of his following the Father’s will; he knew the dangers and followed his will anyway (166).  Even though others mocked him, some abandoned him, and he was sometimes left with no human support, Jesus continued on the path his Father had set for him (167).  He was in constant prayer and communion with the Father throughout his own living and dying.

One can see Jesus’ extreme suffering by paying attention to his cry on the cross (171).  He suffered so much as to feel abandoned by God; but, God saves him in the end (171).  Jesus’ feeling of abandonment not only expressed the extreme suffering Jesus experienced; it also showed “his confidence that God would deliver him” (173).

There are some things O’Collins says in Jesus: A Portrait that I do not fully agree with.  He talks about Christ’s beauty which, as a Christian, I believe in.  There are not a lot of physical descriptions of Jesus in the Bible.  Therefore, the beauty O’Collins refers to is in Jesus’ loving words and actions.

God is referred to as being “infinitely beautiful”; with no physical body we cannot fathom this (2).  Jesus is the divine made human, and the unfathomable made more relatable.  Through Jesus’ body, we can experience God with our senses (2).  If God is beauty, and Jesus is God, Jesus must also be beautiful (1).  This makes sense to me.  However, his beauty is not measured by the world’s standards.

O’Collins states, “When we fall in love with [Jesus’] beauty, we are well on the way to accepting his truth and imitating his goodness” (1).  For me, it is Christ’s truth that I find beautiful and draws me to him.  I do not know what Jesus’ looked like physically because there are such little descriptions of him.  I also do not find his physical appearance to be very important to knowing him.  If it were important, I would think there would be some indication from people he lived with of what he looked like.

I agree with O’Collins when he says, “Those people who are beautiful possess an instant appeal” (1).  However, I do not find this to be applicable to Christ.  Isaiah 53:2 says “There was in him… no appearance that would attract us to him” (Holy Bible 752).  Therefore, I believe it is something beyond his physical appearance that draws some people to him.

Not everyone was drawn to Jesus, though.  There was a certain beauty that drew people to him; however, some were repulsed by him.  Not everyone “flocked to him” (7).  Some were fearful or proud and some hated him or wanted him dead.  Jesus certainly impacted those around him, though, no matter what they thought of him (7).  Many people were drawn to Jesus, despite those who wanted him dead.  They saw the beauty of his welcoming heart and comforting hands (7).  This drew those people to him and helped them to see where his beauty came from (7).

I think O’Collins does a good job at conveying the beauty of the crucifixion.  In and of itself, the action is not beautiful; it goes against what is usually considered beautiful (10).  Even though it does not appear to be beautiful, it reveals the most beautiful thing of all: God’s infinite love for us (10).  Jesus’ death is made beautiful by the truth of the underlying meaning of his action; it is made beautiful through his resurrection.

Overall, by looking at what Jesus says, does, and the way he acts, I think O’Collins does a good job of presenting a “portrait” of Jesus.  He recognizes Christ’s true humanity and his true divinity.  With this knowledge in mind, O’Collins points out Jesus’ character and what this reveals about the Father.  He also recognizes Jesus’ call to action in response to the Father’s will.

Work Cited

Holy Bible: New American Bible. New York: American Bible Society, 1991. 752. Print.

O'Collins SJ, Gerald. Jesus: A Portrait. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 2008. vii-226. Print.