5 Let the same mind be in you that was[a] in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.
Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
I believe in Jesus…
Today we are taking a look at the second main portion of the Apostle’s creed and it is thick with significance. Last week’s single sentence about God: I believe in God the Father Almighty Creator of Heaven and Earth was short and sweet and still had at least 5 levels of significance. This week’s statement is much longer and even richer in meaning.
I believe in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit
Born of the virgin Mary
Suffered under Pontius Pilate
was crucified, suffered and died
descended into hell.
on the third day he rose again.
he ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father
and will come again to judge the living and the dead.
There’s the story of the gospel summarized into 9 simple statements. And I’ll be frank, there is NO way we could adequately break it down in a single sermon. There’s just too much. The chapter of the book is great, and even still there are entire books that have been written about just one or two of these lines. To take all this on in one sermon is sort of like eating a protein bar….it’s nutrient dense, may not appeal to everyone, and isn’t really a meal you savor…but it’s good for you and worth having.
Now, for some of the statements, we’ll be focusing on what it underscores about who Jesus really is. For other statements, they’re more about who Jesus is not. They all make a specific and essential claim about his identity. And in doing that, they’ll also refute some amalgamation of the truth that was starting to spread in the first and second century churches. Now, remember I said last week, us studying the creed does not mean it’s a test for who’s a real believer and who isn’t. Everyone in this sanctuary will struggle with at least one part of this statement. That’s normal. It’s ok to wrestle. And even though the Creed serves as a counter voice to the heresies that doesn’t mean you’re a heretic if you struggle to be on board with all of it. It’s ok to question. it’s ok to doubt. Pushing on what it means and doesn’t mean, hopefully allows us to grow in our faith together and individually.
I believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ his only Son, Our Lord.
When we say Jesus = Yeshua = God saves, we believe he is the one God uses to save us.
Christ = Messiah = God’s anointed, he’s the one god has chosen and blessed to be our leader.
God’s ONLY Son = establishes part of the Trinity, there’s not another Divine Son, ONLY Jesus.
Our Lord = establishes Lordship over us
Was conceived by the Holy Spirit
Christians claim Jesus to be both fully human and fully divine—we consider that true from conception…didn’t happen later, like at his Baptism, as some suggest. It’s true from birth. God brought about His life through the Spirit. God didn’t bestow holiness upon Jesus later.
A lot of people struggle with this one. It doesn’t make sense that an invisible Spirit could impregnate a young woman. We’re in the 21st century and we understand biology. They may have missed it 2000 years ago, but you can’t put one over on us. I get it, I’ve been in that camp before. But as a counter voice…think about last week and our discussion of God as creator (even giving credence to the fact that maybe God used the scientific processes like evolution to create…) God still created ex nihlio = out of nothing…if God could do all that…isn’t it at least somewhat conceivable that God did this too?
Born of the Virgin Mary
In a similar way that it’s important to say Jesus is both fully human and fully divine and that the divine part is true all along. Over the years, Christians have found it necessary to claim Jesus’ humanity as true from birth. It’s not just that God walked on earth…but that God did so in human form…as a human. God didn’t just appear to be human….God was human and that humanness comes from Mary.
Suffered under Pontius Pilate
Jesus lived and died in a particular time. He was a real man. And his real-life death took place under Pontius Pilate. He wasn’t mythological and made up. The importance of his story is not just the idea that God became flesh and lived among us, but that God actually did that. And we know his story because of those who talked and wrote about him and they place him in this historical time. Now, you might think it was just the gospels and the Christians that wrote about Jesus and if it’s only those that followed him that believe in him then maybe there’s an issue. And, theoretically, you might be right, but there’s also this big piece of how the gospel stories match and moved across time and the stories held true…it wasn’t like playing telephone, people stuck to the script, and that’s significant. But there were also others, outside of the Christian movement, who wrote about Jesus and told of his death under Pontius Pilate. Jesus was a real man and he was prosecuted by Pontius Pilate in the first century.
Was crucified, died and was buried
And his suffering resulted in his death. He hung on a cross on the hill of Golgatha and he died. This matters, both for what’s to come in the story and the creed, but also because many have argued that God could not die, so Jesus did not die, or maybe Jesus the man did die but God left Jesus’ body while he suffered and died. How could God be God and also die on a cross? The Creed pushes back and says, he was fully human, and fully divine….from birth….to death….both a man and God….the whole time. If Jesus died, then the part of God that was within him also died. God experienced all of life….birth and death….nothing is excluded. Which also becomes the counter argument to those who say God the Father is a sadistic jerk who somehow needed to make his son suffer so we could be forgiven. No, God is God who lived in Jesus who suffered as God, sacrificing and offering everything so we could be redeemed. God didn’t hurt someone else so we could be saved, God gave of God’s self so we could be saved. And that happens, in part, through his death on the cross.
He descended into Hell
Over and over again, the creed points to the pieces of Jesus’ story that resonate with ours. Early Christians wanted to be very careful not to intimate that Jesus was somehow exempt from what we experience. That includes that he died and experienced death like we do, and he overcame death…telling us death doesn’t have the final word, God, does.
On the Third Day he rose again
Jesus resurrected from the dead. That’s a pretty key piece to his story. Some might say that, too, is mythology. Yet he was seen by his disciples, and over 500 others. They saw him, they heard him speak, they touched him, and they ate with him. He wasn’t just a spirit moving among them…a ghost of one who had died. He was resurrected….raised from the dead….not resuscitated, but given life after 3 days of death. He overcame death, and all the darkness that comes with it. And he walked among us, in the flesh, on the third day.
He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father
After he rose from the dead, he spent 40 days with his disciples and others, and then he ascended into heaven…he didn’t die again. His resurrected earthly body went to heaven, where he lives eternally with God the Father…two people…one nature…one God, together forever.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead
We believe Jesus’ work isn’t done. He will come back to finish the restoration of humanity with and to God. And it will be by him and through him that we are judged, which isn’t something to fear, but something to embrace since Jesus always treats us with grace.
transition to communion:
Jesus was and is an incredible expression of God among us. The things we’ve talked about today aren’t “church light”….they are thoughtful and powerful examples of what Jesus can mean to us. I hope you don't leave the ideas here. I hope you take them home, mull them over, check them out, push on them a bit to see what your own thoughts are….Who was Jesus? What did he do? And what difference does it make in your life?
I believe that he who was matters, even now. And I believe that it should change who we are, how we live, and how we love. I believe it affects what we will do next as we share in holy communion. As Christians, we believe communion is a means of grace…..a way God conveys grace to us. That doesn’t happen because we eat bread or drink juice, but because of who Jesus was and what he did for us. The bread and the juice simply become a symbol for what he did. In a way, when we come to the table, we are saying:
- If I eat this, I'm eating more than bread
- If I drink this I can experience forgiveness because Jesus was more than a man
- If I do this it's about more than hunger
- If I do this God might do something special in my life
- That something special is possible because of Jesus and all that he was and is and will be