This week, we continue our focus in worship on the Apostles' Creed by considering the second statement: "I believe in Jesus Christ..." John 1:1-14 can certainly be read alongside this statement, and it will be on Sunday as we worship God together (but really, you could read it now if you wanted, of course).
On the website for the United Methodist Church, under the "What We Believe" section, it is explained what we mean we say "We believe in Jesus..." I have found this to be a helpful way to think about it, because saying this can be really confusing. Jesus was and is so awesome and so complex, that I find that I need all the help I can get when trying to share about what this means. I mean, for crying out loud, how in the world can someone be fully divine AND fully human. Doesn't that make Jesus 200%? Not quite...
Here is what our website says about what it means to say "We believe in Jesus..."*
Son of God
We believe in Jesus as God's special child. We call this the Incarnation, meaning that God was in the world in the actual person of Jesus of Nazareth. The Gospel writers explain this in different ways. In Mark, Jesus seems to be adopted as God's Son at his baptism. In Matthew and Luke, Jesus is conceived by the Holy Spirit. In John, Jesus is God's pre-existing Word who "became flesh and lived among us" (1:14). However this mystery occurred, we affirm that God is wholly present in Jesus Christ.
Son of man
Paradoxically, we also believe that Jesus was fully human. One of the church's first heresies claimed that Jesus only seemed to be human, that he was really a divine figure in disguise. But the early church rejected this. It affirmed that Jesus was a person in every sense that we are. He was tempted. He grew weary. He wept. He expressed his anger. In fact, Jesus is God's picture of what it means to be a mature human being.
We say "Jesus Christ" easily, almost as if "Christ" were Jesus' surname. Yet this name is another way of expressing who we believe Jesus to be. Christ is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word Messiah, which means God's Anointed One. For years before Jesus' time the Jews had been expecting a new king, a descendant of the revered King David, who would restore the nation of Israel to glory. Like kings of old, this one would be anointed on the head with oil, signifying God's election; hence, the Chosen One = the Anointed One = the Messiah = the Christ. The early Jewish Christians proclaimed that Jesus was, indeed, this Chosen One. Thus, in calling him our Christ today, we affirm that he was and is the fulfillment of the ancient hope and God's Chosen One to bring salvation to all peoples, for all time.
We also proclaim Jesus as our Lord, the one to whom we give our devoted allegiance. The word Lord had a more powerful meaning for people of medieval times, because they actually lived under the authority of lords and monarchs. Today some of us may find it difficult to acknowledge Jesus as Lord of our lives. We're used to being independent and self-sufficient. We have not bowed down to authority. To claim Jesus as Lord is to freely submit our will to his, to humbly profess that it is he who is in charge of this world.
Perhaps best of all, we believe in Jesus as Savior, as the one through whom God has freed us of our sin and has given us the gift of whole life, eternal life, and salvation. We speak of this gift as the atonement, our "at-oneness" or reconciliation with God. We believe that in ways we cannot fully explain, God has done this through the mystery of Jesus' self-giving sacrifice on the cross and his victory over sin and death in the Resurrection.
As you consider who Jesus is, I hope that this helps. Still, words may fall short...if you have a relationship with Jesus, you have known Jesus to be a part of your life, even though you might not be able to put it into words (Jesus' nature is a mystery, after all). Trust your heart, your experience, and your relationship with Jesus, as you ponder what it means to believe in him.
O Word of God incarnate,
O Wisdom from on high,
O Truth unchanged, unchanging,
O Light of our dark sky:
we praise you for the radiance
that from the hallowed page,
a lantern to our footsteps,
shines on from age to age.
**"O Word of God Incarnate," United Methodist Hymnal, 598.