The name ‘Christ’, is the Greek word for the specially anointed one the Jewish people dreamt of coming to lead them. It was a constant theme down through their history. The Jewish people called him the Messiah. Even today, we see signs displayed in the local Jewish neighbourhood, speaking of Messiach. The Christ or Messiah is important for our faith.
THE HUMAN CHALLENGE
The challenge for humans is to understand what is meant by this title. Throughout history a common theme is detected. We only ever partially know.
The Jewish people had an inkling, but easily resorted to thinking of him as a military figure. The disciples began learning of Jesus step by step, listening to his teaching, watching his healings, observing his confrontations with the authorities. Yes they began to identify him as the Jewish Messiah with the occasional glimpse of an even greater understanding. Even up until Jesus final days they did not understand his teaching, that he would rise from the dead.
KNOWING AND NOT KNOWING
What I want to emphasis is that at each point of history people come to know something about the Messiah or the Christ but there is also much we don’t know. Paul speaks of Jesus being the image of the invisible of God. As Christ He is the universal image of the divine. It is not possible to know the fullness of God, because God is beyond the total knowing of God. So, the best we can say is that there is much that we know of God and much that we don’t know about God.
The story of history keeps leading us toward new horizons beyond which we do not know. We move forward in faith to discover new and greater things about creation. This is the same for our relationship with Christ. The church has always had new horizons it needed to cross to discover more of the universal nature of Christ.
THE CHRISTIAN STORY
The first major horizon the disciples were challenged to cross was the one of the resurrection. A little later, it was whether he was just the Christ of the Jews or should it include the Gentiles. They created the first Christian Council to determine this one, Acts 15. This was followed by the crossing over from Jewish philosophy to Greek philosophy. This led to the creation of the Creeds, all written with Greek concepts. Gradually it crossed numerous national boundaries and we find so many different expressions of Christianity; Orthodox, Roman, Anglo, Protestant, Asian, African, Celtic … always a new expression.
Every new horizon crossed is a story of faithfully following the call of the Christ we know and encountering the Christ we don’t know.
The newest horizons can be thought of by way of two major horizons of our own day. Both challenge us on an understanding of the universal or cosmic meaning of Christ.
The first is the philosophical horizon.We live in a world split between the scientific paradigm or philosophy of life and the traditional spiritual paradigm.
The second horizon is the multi-cultural horizon that our global village is confronting us with right now. Whether philosophical or cultural there is much we understand of the Christ from the past, yet there are new awakenings to the universal or cosmic Christ that embraces all and which we have not known before. A clear example of this is described in Raimon Panikkar’s book, ‘The Unknown Christ of Hinduism.’
His point is that if Christ is truly the image of the invisible God, thus representing the presence of God in creation, and if he is truly Universal, being all and in all, then he must be in Hinduism, Buddism, Islam, etc etc. We must be open to the unknowness of Christ in all these.
An important Question in our Secular world is... ‘What is the unknown reality of the universal Christ in the scientific paradigm of our contemporary world?’
Why the notion of the Christ is so important, is because it inspires us to live with faith, hope and trust, which inspires the courage and creativity within us. But, it also keeps us humble and expectant that the universal is Godly. It shapes our attitude to be expectant. For this reason, belief in Christ, becomes the transformative spirit within life.
Belief in Christ is not a static experience, but a progressive journey. Living with the Spirit of Christ is our declaration that he is the universal expression of God, and our declaration he is our King.