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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Church as Proof

In church for the fall we're studying the Gospel of John. One week I was even asked to teach, which I thoroughly enjoyed. This past Sunday, the normal teacher was there, and we were tasked with going through John 3 and 4. How we were supposed to go through such dense material in 45 minutes (or so) is beyond me, but we made a valiant attempt.

At one point, following discussion of the Samaritan woman and Nicodemus, the following question was asked: "How do you know Jesus was the Messiah?" Now, we're a rather small group. Our class is called the "Young Professionals" group, which basically means post-college and childless people. About half the class comprises nurses, and another third is teachers, so we're not terribly diverse. Nonetheless, we bring a certain range of experience to the table. So, the question being asked, several answers came up (none of which I can remember right now).

But I was stumped for a moment. It's the kind of thing that an academic training in biblical studies does not prepare you for. My mind thinks in terms of why people then believed Jesus was the Messiah, how they interpreted the Hebrew Scriptures (probably from the Septuagint, mind you), why the resurrection was evidence for them, etc. I generally don't think about why Jesus is still believed to be the Messiah. Ergo, I didn't have an immediate answer.

But my answer was right under my nose. I answered, "The church. The church is why I believe Jesus was and is the Messiah." It seems a strange thing at first, even to me. Well, especially to me. I was for a long time rather anti-church. I had a very low view of the church, especially as an institution. It was a long process for me to appreciate the church as something worth being a part of, as valuable to Christianity.

I believe the existence of the church shows Jesus' messiahship. Historically, without the church, there is no evidence. It is within the church that the writings of what became the New Testament came into being. It is within the church that Jesus is confessed as the crucified, resurrected Lord. It is within the church that the story of Jesus is passed on. And it is within the church that Christianity must exist. It has been said that there is no salvation outside the church (Henri de Lubac, I think), and I think there is something to that statement. Likewise, without the church, there is no Messiah to believe in. Without the church, no one knows who he is. Without the church, there exists no community to make the claim that Jesus was Messiah, to confess his name, to live his life, to be baptized into his death and resurrection.

I believe Jesus is the Messiah because of the church. Why do you?

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