Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19
1 Peter 1:8b-12
- What shall I return to the LORD for all his bounty to me? – Psalm 116:12
- O LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you, I will praise your name; for you have done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure. – Isaiah 25:1
- Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that was to be yours made careful search and inquiry, inquiring about the person or time that the Spirit of Christ within them indicated when it testified in advance to the sufferings destined for Christ and the subsequent glory. – 1 Peter 1:10-11
The Spirit of Christ within…
In today’s reading from 1 Peter 1, we hear again that amazing phrase “Christ within”. Not just spirit, but the Spirit of Christ within.
More importantly, Peter is referring to Christ within the prophets who lived hundreds, even thousands of years before Jesus walked the Earth, who prophesied through the spirit of Christ about Christ’s coming incarnation on Earth… in other words, Christ is timeless.
Let’s examine the nature of this timeless Christ:
2 Corithians 13
5. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?
I would venture to say, for the majority of modern believers, the answer is “no”, Paul. We do not “realize that” about ourselves.
In fact, I suspect that many modern Christians have been taught to think that way borders on blasphemy.
Later we will explore “why”. For now, we will simply know that the concept of Christ incarnate within us was important to the Apostle Paul. Very important…
Christ has different appearances…
Next, let us examine the famous scene from the Gospel of Luke where post-Easter Jesus appears to two of his disciples as the walk on the road to Emmaus. On the very day of Easter, Christ appears to them:
13. That very day two of (the disciples) were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14. and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him.
Next, in another post-Easter appearance:
3. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. 4. Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.
Jesus’ own disciples DID NOT RECOGNIZE HIM. There is so much meaning packed into this revelation, it’s almost too much to bear:
Even “followers” of Christ can fail to recognize Christ, in person, in teachings, in action, and in others.
Christ was with Moses and the Hebrews
Finally, in the following passage, Paul reveals that the spirit of Christ is timeless and immutable.
1 Corinthians 10
1. For I want you to know, brothers,a that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2. and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3. and all ate the same spiritual food, 4. and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.
Even in the times of Moses, before there were any Gospels, before there was a nativity story, before there were the miracles of Jesus, before there was a crucifixion… there was Christ. With the people, following the people, sustaining the people…
Christ is not bound by written doctrine. Christ is not bound by time or political borders. Christ is present.
The Difficult “Why”
Now we move on the the difficult part: the “why”. Why do many churches teach their congregants that thinking this way is blasphemy? Why must Christ be categorized as a finite, separate, and acute presence?
Because it’s much more difficult to build a religious empire based on the knowledge that anyone can have Christ within.
They say, “He was born, he lived, he died, and now he is gone. We await his return. Listen to us and our rules and Christ will come back for you.”
But what if Christ is already returned in you? In me? In that homeless guy down the street? What then?
It is difficult to inculcate a system of religious control if your Christ is not contained within the pages of any particular bible, not encountered solely through communion, confession, or hymn, and not limited to one particular faith or doctrine.
It is difficult to create superstitious and compulsory worship if the object/subject of worship is not some idol hanging from the rafters, but is present in the child in the third row, or within the pastor’s compassionate preaching, or within daily love of the quiet old woman in the back. Timeless, free from absolute definition, and omnipresent… the Christ is within all.
1. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2. He was in the beginning with God. 3. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
How can the Christ, the Word of God, the embodiment of God’s absolute creative power and will, the source of all that is and ever will be, be defined by anyone? Ever?
I think this is most beautifully portrayed in the following “heretical”, extra-canonical text:
The Gospel of Thomas
77. Jesus said, “It is I who am the light which is above them all. It is I who am the All. From Me did the All come forth, and unto Me did the All extend. Split a piece of wood, and I am there. Lift up the stone, and you will find Me there.”
And also within the accepted biblical cannon:
4. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5. one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6. one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
The church does not teach about Christ within all things because it allows for too much individual freedom and creative liberty of worship. And that is precisely why a believer’s understanding of Christ within all things is so paramount.
If we begin to recognize Christ within each other, we cannot kill Christ who is our enemy.
If we begin to recognize Christ within each other, we cannot ignore Christ who is hungry.
If we begin to recognize Christ within each other, we cannot abandon Christ who is fallen.
If we begin to recognize Christ within each other, we cannot destroy Christ who is fragile… in this world and all around us.
Christ within all things allows creation to be holy once more, and we can stop taking all of this for granted.
1 Corithians 8
6. Yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.