Who is Jesus Christ?

07-08-2018HomiliesFr. Chad King

My brothers and sisters, the people of Nazareth in our Gospel are having to answer the most important question of their lives. In fact, it is the most important question that each and every person down the centuries, including that you and I, today, must answer for ourselves. And how we answer this one question with our lives has important ramifications and eternal consequences. So, what is the all-important question? Who is Jesus Christ?

Our Gospel begins, “Jesus departed from there and came to his native place”. If you remember last week, Mark chapter 5 tells us that Jesus was in one of the cities near the sea where he healed a woman with a hemorrhage and raised Jairus, the synagogue official’s daughter from the dead. So, after those 2 miracles, Jesus decided to go back home, to his native place, to Nazareth, where Jesus grew up. Our Gospel continues, “when the Sabbath came Jesus began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished. They said, where did this man get all this? What kind of wisdom has been given him? What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands!” The people were shocked that Jesus was teaching in the Synagogue, and with such wisdom. Although they must have been inspired, they questioned where he received His wisdom, after all they know Jesus wasn’t discipled by one of the leading rabbis of the time. But now, he has disciples, that was confusing for them. Likewise, they heard of the several miracles Jesus has worked, including the most recent healing of a woman with a hemorrhage simply by her touching his clothes. This must have stumped them, for Jesus didn’t heal her by calling upon the power of God, like any typical prophet or healer would have done. But Jesus could heal someone even unknowingly, by her simply touching his garments, all because of her faith in who Jesus is. They wondered, how Jesus had the power of God, even within himself. And then also how Jesus raised a girl who had been pronounced dead. Raising from the dead is not a miracle any prophet or mighty person could do, but only God could possibly raise someone from the dead. So the townspeople must have been asking themselves was Jesus able to do the mighty works of God, greater than any prophet had ever done. They recognized that Jesus was demonstrating that He had the power of God within him. But how?

They were especially confused because they had known Jesus all his life, they saw him grow up. They saw Jesus as a boy in the same synagogue every Saturday, but now he is teaching so profoundly in that same synagogue. They knew Jesus as a carpenter, and as the son of Mary and Joseph. They knew James, Joses, Judas, and Simon- whom are Jesus’ cousins or part of Jesus’ extended family, for Mary did not have any other children. By the way, the same word for brother can also mean extended family or close relatives. Anyways, they were confused by and questioned who Jesus was. How can this boy who they had seen grow into a man, now suddenly and literally have the power of God within him, but yet not be trained by any rabbi? Naturally they were skeptical and took offense at him. He wasn’t accepted by his own town or among his own cousins. And so, as our Gospel says, Jesus couldn’t work any miracles except heal a few sick people because of their lack of faith.

My brothers and sisters, this question of who Jesus is has been asked down through the centuries. Is Jesus divine? Or is Jesus only human? Is he a prophet, who God spoke to and thus could speak and demonstrate the power of God; but yet wasn’t God but only an instrument of God.  These are essential questions that were and still are being asked and answered, sometimes wrongly. For example, in the first few hundred years after the Resurrection of Jesus, people like Arius taught that Jesus was a creature made by God, and therefore doesn’t have a divine nature in himself and so not really the eternal begotten Son of God; which the Council of NIcea and our Nicene Creed, which we proclaim every Sunday, clarifies. Then again in the 400’s, the Adoptionism heresy taught that Jesus was the ‘adopted’ Son of God; and Nestorianism which denied Jesus as having a divine nature but only a human nature.

Indeed, the understanding of who Jesus is is essential and we and every person must answer. However, how blessed we are to be living after a time in which the Catholic Church clarified and correctly answers those questions- declaring that Jesus Christ has a fully divine and fully human nature at the same time in the one person.  However, the truth of who Jesus is needs to be manifested in our lives. So, let us take a moment and reflect on what Jesus being fully God and fully human means for us.

The fact that Jesus is not just human, and thus more than a prophet is important. If he was only human, and thus only like a prophet then it would be enough to think he was a good moral compass and teacher. Thus, He would only be a good person who gave some good advice who one should follow. Sadly, this is the extent that some people treat Jesus, their lives might only testify that Jesus was a good teacher and guide. Don’t get me wrong, Jesus is that, and we should seek to obey and follow Him, but He is much more than just that. Jesus is also, at the same time, the Son of God who has Divine power in Himself, whom one should worship and surrender their lives to. And if Jesus is the Son of God, and has Divine power in Himself, and not just a human person, like a prophet, who can tap into that power, then it means that Jesus wants to be active and effective personally in our lives. Therefore, if you have not seen any miracles or haven’t seen how God has and is working in your life, then perhaps it means that He is not really Lord of it. As we surrender our lives, our will, to His authority and Lordship, and confess our sinfulness, and worship God with all our hearts, then God’s power and activity is effective in us through the Sacraments we receive. Then our lives manifest a supernatural power, and our strength to be good people is not our own ability, but on His divine power and grace made effective in us; and His power is present and is making us perfect.  So, I ask you- by whose power are you living your life- yours or God’s? Are you living it for the good of yourself and family, or for God’s glory?

But my brothers and sisters, likewise, the fact that Jesus is not just the eternal Son of God, but is our God become human is so important as well. The fact that Jesus became human reveals that God wants to be known. The all-powerful Creator wants us to know him, for to really know and love God is what we were made for.  Indeed, God has revealed himself throughout the generations in many other ways before the Incarnation. However, the fact that in Jesus, God became human means that we are able to relate to Him, and he to us. And the fact that as a human being, Jesus suffered, died, and was raised from the dead (again something only God could do); was so that we can share in God’s divine life. We were not made to just be human, but we were made to share in God’s divine life. God has made us his ‘adopted sons and daughters’ through Christ. God is our Father, just as He has always been Jesus’ for all eternity. And God our Father loves us as his sinful prodigal children just as much as he loves Jesus, His perfect son, isn’t that amazing. Do you know that, and really believe that for yourself? Sadly, many people don’t really know that.   Nor do they know that Jesus loves us so much that he would be willing to become human, suffer, and die, just so that we can be raised and share in the Divine life we were made for.

Therefore, this week, I encourage you, as I will, to take time in prayer, to thank God the Father and Jesus for all they have done for us. And ask them if there are any areas in our lives that we have not fully surrendered and that they are not truly Lord of. And reflect on if and how your life is revealing both God’s divine power and sovereignty, but also God’s personal closeness and intimacy. Then listen and watch as God the Holy Spirit reveals the truth to us in order to bring us to share perfectly in God’s divine life. Then, and only then, will we learn, as St. Paul did in our 2nd reading, that “God’s grace is sufficient for us. And God’s power is made perfect in our weakness”.