Last week was week 2 of our series called Clear: Theological Foundations of Faith.
For recaps of the previous weeks and why we are doing this series, please check out the previous posts.
The theme for this week was Jesus. Again, not an easy topic to do in one evening. In the past, I have actually taught entire semesters on Jesus, and on other occasions taught one month-long series.
About 2 years ago, rather than teaching a series based on the chronological and “major” events of Jesus’ life, we focused on providing our students with an intensive and profound look at who Jesus was, what he has done, and how then can interact with him.
Based on the chapter “Reculturing Education” from A New Kind of Youth Ministry here was our outline:
Truth 1: The Deity of Jesus
Week 1: The Divine Names of Jesus
Week 2: The Divine Attributes of Jesus
Week 3: The Divine Works of Jesus
Truth 2: The Humanity of Jesus
Week 4: The Incarnation of Jesus
Week 5: The Character of Jesus
Week 6: The Priorities of Jesus
Truth 3: The Ministry of Jesus
Week 7: The Teaching of Jesus
Week 8: The Miracles of Jesus
Week 9: The Atonement of Jesus
Truth 4: Our interactions with Jesus
Week 10: Praying with and to Jesus
Week 11: Abiding In Jesus
Week 12: Participating in the Suffering of Jesus
Week 13: Following Jesus Every Day
I find amazing embrace, engagement, and transformation in taking this approach with our students, so I kept this in mind in preparation for this one evening
Flashback: When I taught this series on theology almost 8 years ago, my entire focus was not on engaging students with the life and presence of Jesus. I did not care as much about seeing them spiritually formed and transformed as I did with convincing them their need for Christ’s salvation.
My main focus was on a clear presentation of substitutionary propitiatory atonement. Jesus Christ on the cross in his crucifixion or sacrifice fulfilled the wrath and indignation of God. The crucifixion or sacrifice of Christ conciliated (or appeased) God, who would otherwise be offended by human sin and would demand penalty for it.
Naturally, the main goals in this kind of approach was convincing students of their sin, convicting them of their need for help, convincing them in the reality of punishment and eternal damnation and then offering them a solution. In some ways, it is very much a sales pitch. Now, you may firmly believe in the idea and the need for others to want and have it, but nonetheless, you still must spend time and energy selling them on that as well.
*disclaimer: I do not necessarily think this is wrong or inherently bad and do still see a need for this message. Generally around Easter time we have this discussion.
As mentioned from last week, I am attempt to include more of our leaders in the actual teaching time and group discussions as well and am trying to work hard to create environments and opportunities towards that end.
My theme and focus was on helping our students understand the mystery of Christ and the beauty of who he was and is.
1) I had one of our volunteers, Mary, offer a communal pray for our group and invited the presence of Jesus in our midst to quite our hearts and minds, guide us into truth and unity, and fill our spirits with his love.
2) We first did a brief recap from the following week, led by our students’ recollection of theme, content, and activities
3) We began introducing the night’s theme by showing this video, as a way of clearing up common misconceptions about who Jesus was not.
Following that funny clip I played an old Johnny Cash song called “It was Jesus” from his Love, God, Murder album
4) Another volunteer (who happens to be my wife and very gifted in engaging students in interactive learning) lead the opening activity. She divided the group into 2 and had each smaller group go into separate rooms. One group was given a picture of a body on construction paper and asked to come up with words, images, or ideas showing the humanity of Jesus. How do we know that Jesus was Human?
The other group was tasked with a similar proposition of coming up with how we know Jesus was divine.
This lasted for about 10 minutes and each group came back into the room and placed their sheet on the wall and explained how they arrived at their conclusions.
It was interesting to see which group had an easier time at first. Can you guess which one?
About 5 minutes into the assignment, the “humanity” group had the sheet practically full, while the “divinity” one had probably 4 words written down.
I had a youth leader, Becky, help out each group by giving them a few verses to aid in their thinking and conversations
Group 1 (Humanity) Matt 8:24, Matt 21:18, Mark 3:5, John 11:35, John 11:36, John 12:27
Group 2 (Divinity) Matt 1:21, Luke 1:31-32, 1 Thess 1:10, Hebrews 1:3, Hebrews 1:8
You probably cannot see from the images but here were a few of their discoveries:
Humanity: he was born, he felt pain, he bled and died, he was tempted, he slept, he was hunger and thirsty, he felt human emotions such as fear, sadness, joy, anger
Divinity: his “I AM” sayings, various divine titles given to him (Son of God, Son of Man, image of God, etc..), his was sinless, he performed miracles, he was raised from the dead, he appeared after his resurrection, he pre-existence as the “Word” of God, forgave sins, had moments of omnipotence and omniscience
When both groups came back in we create a Venn diagram and had a really good discussion about which qualities, characteristics and attributes intersect with both natures (human and divine)
Examples were Love, Grace, Compassion, Community, Justice, Miracles
Christ represents the fullness and completion of what humanity can be.
As Millard Erickson writes in Christian Theology, “instead of asking Is Jesus as human as we are? we might better ask, Are we as human Jesus? For the type of human nature that each of us possesses is not pure human nature. The true humanity created by God has in our case been corrupted and spoiled…Jesus is not only as human as we are; he is more human. Our humanity is not a standard by which we are to measure his. His humanity, true and unadulterated, is the standard by which we are to be measured.”
Some key points are:
Jesus can truly sympathize with and intercede for us
Jesus manifests the true nature of humanity
Jesus can be our example
Human nature is good
God is not totally transcendent
5) I chose 2 students to read the following passages:
The Word Became Flesh
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome[a] it.
6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.
9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
A second student read these words about Christ found in Colossians 1:15-20
The Supremacy of the Son of God
15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
Christ being divine meant that he is also fully God and can forgive us, redeem us, and restore our nature and relationship with God. We can and should worship him as God, as our risen and eternal Savior.
There is a mystery surrounding the dual natures of Christ. 100% human and 100% divine seem to add up to an incomprehensible 200%!
However, students (especially in postmodernity) understand and accept the existence of paradox in life and faith.
6) We concluded our corporate time together by asking who is Jesus to me?
I showed this clip about the identity of Christ.
7) Another leader, Jenny, invited our students to grab notebooks and pens and write a letter to a friend explaining who Jesus was to them. This hopefully served as a good time for personal reflection on both their intellectual beliefs about Jesus, and their spiritual affirmations and experience of Jesus
ie. what Jesus actually means to them and who he is in their life
During these minutes we played two songs in the background:
8) A college student, Josh, then read the poem “One Solitary Life”, which still concludes the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular program each year in NYC
One Solitary Life
He was born in an obscure village
The child of a peasant woman
He grew up in another obscure village
Where he worked in a carpenter shop
Until he was thirty
He never wrote a book
He never held an office
He never went to college
He never visited a big city
He never travelled more than two hundred miles
From the place where he was born
He did none of the things
Usually associated with greatness
He had no credentials but himself
He was only thirty-three
His friends ran away
One of them denied him
He was turned over to his enemies
And went through the mockery of a trial
He was nailed to a cross between two thieves
While dying, his executioners gambled for his clothing
The only property he had on earth
When he was dead
He was laid in a borrowed grave
Through the pity of a friend
Nineteen centuries have come and gone
And today Jesus is the central figure of the human race
And the leader of mankind’s progress
All the armies that have ever marched
All the navies that have ever sailed
All the parliaments that have ever sat
All the kings that ever reigned put together
Have not affected the life of mankind on earth
As powerfully as that one solitary life
9) Josh then concluded with a prayer found in the book Clear by Chris Folmsbee
“Jesus, thank you.
Jesus. you are the Christ.
Jesus, you are the Messiah.
Jesus, you are the Anointed One.
Jesus, you are our Prophet.
Jesus, you are our Priest
Jesus, you are our King.
Jesus, you are the reason we have a relationship with God.
Jesus, thank you.”
10) For the last 30-45 minutes we generally break up into 4 small groups. Depending on the night and the theme, sometimes we have guys and girls together and sometimes we divide. Here are the questions given to our leaders, serving simply as a starting point for discussion and thought.
Small Group Questions:
What is still confusing or hard to understand about Jesus?
Do you believe in Paradox? How might that apply to faith in Jesus?
What does Jesus Humanity Reveal to Us? How can it help us?
What does Jesus’ Divnity Reveal to us? How can it help us?
Describe how you have experienced the reality of Jesus in your life?
*During the next 4 weeks for our Confirmation group, we will get more in-depth on the subject of Jesus and be looking at the following questions: (These are taken from the Re:Form Confirmation program from Sparkhouse)
a) Was Jesus of Nazareth God?
b) Did Jesus know he was God?
c) If Jesus was God why did he have to die?
d) Do I have to believe Jesus performed miracles in order to be a Christian?
e) Why did Jesus get baptized?
f) Is believing in Jesus really the only way to get to heaven?
Next Week: Holy Spirit