Seek Christ: Know Jesus
Christ the King; November 26, 2017
John 1:1-5, 10-18
Martin Luther is reported to have said that the Scriptures are the manger in which one finds Jesus Christ. Pastor Sara told you a terrific story last week about the finding of a Nativity set and the search for Christ. My friend Linde Grace told me about her daughter taking Baby Jesus out of the crèche in order to carry him around and keep him close. Then there was my friend Carroll: he and I were two of the three ministers on a church staff. We had a member who loved to make candy and every year he would make us a chocolate Nativity set. Carroll wondered if eating the Baby Jesus from the chocolate Nativity set was like taking communion.
Anyway. At Christmas we go hunting for Christ. And our Church's current mission statement is "Seeking Christ every day, everywhere, in everyone." It's a good statement and someday we all need to have a good conversation about what it means to us.
But for now I need to point out one thing, one thing you had best take to heart. There is one pre-eminent place to seek Christ: in the Bible. Yes, you and I had best look for Christ in the faces of others, especially in the faces of people overlooked by our society. You know the story of the Good Samaritan, in which a despised man looks after a traveler who has been beaten, robbed, and left for dead. Robert Farrar Capon points out that the Christ-figure in that story is not the Good Samaritan, but the man who was beaten, robbed, and left for dead. The Samaritan was seeking Christ and found him by the side of the road.
So when we seek Christ, we do seek Christ in everyone, not only the Samaritan but also the man left for dead by the side of the road. But I assure you of this: wherever Christ may appear, you will not recognize him if you do not know him from the Bible.
The final Reformation principle we have been considering is "Sola Scriptura:" Scripture alone. Sara and I could preach several more sermons on the implications of that principle, and I wish we were going to. This last sermon has a very simple message: the Bible is the witness to Jesus Christ. Folks have all kinds of takes on Christ, and you will find all sorts of things said about Christ in all kinds of places: on social media, websites, in art, and in print. Only the Bible is a dependable, reliable source for understanding Jesus Christ.
There are lots of great stories about Jesus that aren't in the Bible. I love all the extra stories that get tossed around this time of year. They are fun and, usually, harmless. Joseph and Mary and the cherry tree; the spider who saved the Holy Family from Herod's soldiers on the road to Egypt; the boy Jesus making clay pigeons. There are some delightful stories. And sometimes they are helpful. But if they aren't in the Bible then they are not reliable: you cannot say, "This is so."
And there is so much we can say from the Bible, so much that is wonderful and challenging and hopeful. Right here in the opening words of the Gospel of John is enough about Jesus Christ to get you out of bed in the morning and facing any sort of day: that in Jesus Christ you come face-to-face with the power to create; Jesus Christ is the light shining in every darkness; Jesus Christ makes us children of God; and the words that take me again and again to the feet of my Savior in thanksgiving: "grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." Grace and truth. My soul feeds on grace and truth; how can I live without grace and truth? Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
Wherever you seek Christ, you will not find him if you do not know the Jesus of the Bible. If you know the Jesus of the Bible, then you will recognize him when you encounter him in the Good Samaritan, in the man beaten and left by the side of the road, in the woman working two jobs in order to feed her family, in the immigrant refugee family, in the desparately lonely person wishing for friendship. You will recognize Christ when the bread is broken and the cup is poured and you eat and drink in the Spirit of God.
Seek Christ every day, everywhere, and in everyone. When you know the Jesus of the Bible, then you will recognize him wherever you encounter him. Maybe even in a chocolate Nativity set.
Robert A. Keefer
Presbyterian Church of the Master