The Gospel Books all narrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus lives and experiences the full spectrum of human existence. He eats, sleeps, talks, and dies. Yet each Gospel Book in their respective ways presents Christ as acting beyond human limitations.
The One to the Many
The Gospel of John in particular identifies Jesus with the Word of God (John 1:1). The Word existed in the beginning, and the Word participated in creation (John 1:2, 3). This same Word has life (John 1:4), which must mean divine and creative life given the context of creation in the early verses of John. This life shines like light (John 1:4–5). And surprisingly, the Word’s light enlightens every human being (πάντα ἄνθρωπον;1:9).
How can the man Jesus Christ with all the finitude of human existence somehow exist with God in the beginning, participate in creation, have divine life, and share the light of life with all human beings? How can one finite individual relate to every individual?
The Body of Christ
The question is not an abstract one because after Christ ascended to heaven, the church blossomed into an ever-increasing body of believers. Each person in the church claimed to relate directly to Jesus Christ by faith and in the Spirit. He was in heaven, and yet he could savingly unite with someone in Alexandria and Syria at the same time despite the difference in geography.
In fact, Christians claimed that Jesus could savingly relate to those who born many years prior to his sojourn on earth or his heavenly ascent (e.g., Heb 11–12). The primary metaphor to describe this relation with believers across place and time is the Body of Christ. Paul calls the Corinthians members of Christ’s body (1 Cor 6:15). Indeed, he goes so far as to claim that believers become “one spirit with the Lord” in ways akin to human marriage, albeit through the unitive bond of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:17).
The capacity for the man Jesus Christ to unite with individuals across geography and time led Christians to think carefully about who Jesus Christ was. This tension between Christ’s real individual humanity and his moreness flowed directly from the church’s worship of the man Jesus Christ and affirmation of their incorporation into his body so that they became the Body of Christ. Christ’s body birthed the church, which is his Spiritual body.
While Christ certainly could have been a heavenly figure like an angel or other cosmic power, the way in which Christ relates to creation and mediates divine life went beyond what an angelical power could be or accomplish. This identification includes the shocking claim that the “Spirit of God” is also “the Spirit of Christ” (Rom 8:9–10).
As human bodies comprise body and spirit, so the Spirit by finite analogy can be identified with the divine life. Hence, to call the Spirit of God the Spirit of Christ suggests a beyondness to Christ that cannot be fully explained by him simply being an angelic being or an adopted human.
Jesus Trascends Finite Categories
Jesus transcended the finite realities of humanity. And the only being that transcends finite categories of life is God. Jesus, therefore, lived according to human limits, needing food and sleep, even possessing a mortal life, yet he also could relate to creation in ways that only God could.
The earliest Christians worshipped Jesus, and they accepted him as the man Jesus Christ who also transcended the categories of human finitude.
Behind these reflections lies Rowan Williams’s recent work on Christ the Heart of Creation.