Christ, of course, was not Jesus’ last name. “Christ” was the Greek translation of “messiah,” which meant chosen one or anointed one. By themselves, I don’t think these definitions today really get at who Jesus was and who he claimed to be. As moderns, without a rich sense of Judaism or Christian history, much of the meaning of the messiah and messianic faith gets lost.
Could that mean that some modern Christians don’t have a real sense of who Jesus is and what Jesus, the messiah, really means? Without a deep sense of the messiah, there is no real sense of Christian faith.
History lessons and biblical exegesis are important to get a sense of Jesus. In fact, I believe a life of disciplined study unites the mind with the heart and soul of faith in one of the most significant ways. It’s one of the most ancient ways of worshiping God.
But, if the emergent church tells me anything about our today’s day and age, it’s that we live in a world that longs to feel and live this faith. I think this is points us to a new understanding, a faith beyond words, beyond denominationalism, even beyond religion. Unsatisfied with escapist self-centered salvation formulas and abstract cafeteria style spirituality, some hunger for a deeper relationship with God.
I’m on the search for the Christ beyond Christianity.
Knowing there’s not real substitute for worshiping God in a life of service and study, I think we can come close to grasping the meaning of the messiah if we stop and get intensely personal. The heights of a life of faith begin in the depths. To begin to feel messianic faith, you have to get in touch with your deepest longings. Go to that place inside where either everything matters or everything doesn’t, that place where life is a choice. Traces of this deep human longing and hope for deliverance are literally everywhere, in our music and movies, often lingering just below the surface of the most common of things.
The seeds of messianic hope, the kind that can change the world, lie within everybody.
So, start on the surface. Think, a minute, of a love song you just can’t hear without crying or a song that takes you over. Spend time with that feeling. Let it take over. If that doesn’t work, think about a scene in a movie that absolutely grips you. Or, an artist that somehow taps into your soul and, somehow, makes it overflow with a sense of meaning.
Dwell in that spirit.
Now, take it deeper.
Remember a time when you were literally struggling with your sanity, battling the most profound feelings of your life. Perhaps, you were dealing with abandonment or rage…or your deepest fears. Whatever it was, it took you to the brink. Maybe it was coming out. Maybe it was a break-up, an abusive situation or addiction. Maybe, you are haunted by depression, a mix of impenetrable loneliness, defeat, and helplessness. Or, perhaps, you’ve live with the most indescribable loss or rejection.
Maybe you just desperately needed someone to hold you and accept you for who you are. Maybe you lost a loved one…and almost lost yourself.
Take this indescribable moment – full of breathlessness and longing – and imagine it burned deep into the memory of a people. Give it history. Make it an identity. Imagine it lasting for years, its story being passed on to the generations. The high, and its low. Let it forge a history through the life of an entire people. A people who were released only to be conquered. Born, it seems, only to be abandoned. Like a motherless child.
Remember, “King of Kings” and “Lord of Lords” are names of both personal and political proportions. To know what the messiah really means, you can’t stop at a mere personal Jesus. As isolated individuals, we only have what we have. Plumbing the depths of our own history is only just the beginning. To sense the hope of a people, to really know the dream of a Love to end all loves, of a Hope to end all hopes. To know a living moment when justice really blends to mercy, and mercy bends into justice. In a time of reckoning, where meekness really isn’t weakness. Instead, it inherits the earth. Joy is born of mourning.
A land is promised, a new life will come.
That is the beginning of belief…the belief in the messiah…when you can just get a glimpse.
He is coming.
To get a sense of Christ, you have to strip Christ of all religious pretensions and abstract arguments. You have to begin to strip Christian faith of all its denominational doctrines and salvation formulas, which reduce Jesus to words. The Christ of Christian faith lies beyond Christianity, beyond religious affiliation, beyond “Christian” identity, beyond categories and moral codes.
Jesus is not some passport to heaven.
To get a glimpse of the savior, first you must know the need to be saved.
Then, you begin to see his Kingdom.