Monday, November 26, 2007

What is new about Jesus?

In response to my previous post, Geoff asked an excellent question: can we still say it's 'new' leadership?

I assume that by asking if we can 'still' call it new, Geoff was referring to the enormous gap of around 1977 (or maybe 1974) years since Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection. Is this still something 'new' after the fall of Rome, after the black death, after the invasion of the Americas, after the Renaissance, Reformation and countless revolutions, after industrialisation, after the European colonisation and destruction of Africa, after the war to end all wars, after Auschwitz, after the bomb, after globalisation, after a Ruddslide?

What does it mean to say that Jesus is 'new'?

On the one hand, it is an acknowledgement that, despite all these momentous changes (and more - after all, my summary was very eurocentric), the most important and decisive turning point in history was the life, death and resurrection of this somewhat obscure Jewish peasant on the outskirts of an ancient empire. This is still news, good news, in the face of twenty centuries of disaster of death. Indeed, those twenty centuries are counted (in many parts of the world) from Jesus' birth (or as close to it as some medieval monks could calculate). Not only so, but his advent divides history in two, throwing all previous events in a new light and rendering them "B.C.".

But there is more. Jesus' victory, like the mercy of the Father, is new every morning (Lamentations 3.22-23). This is not to say that he is forever changing his mind, eternally indecisive, but that his good gifts never become stale, his rule never runs out (Luke 1.33). Ironically, the ever-new is an image of stability.

Furthermore, God's redemption is also always to do a 'new' thing, as promised in Isaiah 43.18-19. Our hope is for God's surprising act of refreshing, of renovation. But this isn't because God is like the market, shallowly obsessed with novelty, or like the SMS-generation, unable to make a commitment, always needing to keep bridges unburnt. No, God's renewal takes the form of life from the dead (both literally and metaphorically) and so is both restoration (continuity with the old) and novel transformation (discontinuity: new!). He is the one who renews, who gives a fresh start (in fact many fresh starts): in every deadly end, Christ brings a new beginning. And so the message of Jesus is good news - it breaks through the dreary depressing sameness of sin with the promise of a new day. Every morning is a reminder of that coming new day, which is already dawning (Romans 13.12).