Rightly Identified

Chapter 33

Good Monday Morning to this week 32 of 2020

On this day August 3rd, 1667 Jeremy Taylor came down with Fever.
Jeremy Taylor (1613–1667) was a cleric in the Church of England. He is sometimes known as the “Shakespeare of Divines” for his poetic style of expression. By 1655 he had written his enduring works. His devotional handbooks of spiritual insight were very popular with all denominations, however, and their influence extended to the 18th-century Methodist John Wesley.

And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit. 2 Cor.3.16

He looked at Jesus’s life, from narrative, to discursive, to affective.

Bishop Jeremy Taylor writes:
“Jesus would need be baptized by his servant John, and though he was of purity sufficient to do it, and did actually by his baptism purify the purifier, and sanctify that and all other streams to an holy ministery and effect, yet he went in, bowing his head like a sinner, unclothing himself like an imperfect person, and craving to be washed, as if he had been crusted with an impure leprousie, thereby teaching us to submit ourselves to all those rites which he would institute.”

Jesus’s baptism is not an obvious type for our baptisms, because he was sinless –  nor was it then a common analogy as it is now.  So Taylor marks Jesus’s perfection as a reason for our obedience, and allows us into the experience of baptism. A change happens, an act of recognition –  once we’ve made it we cannot stop there.

The interaction points to a theological truth at the heart of the Bible: that part of what it means to be human is to be made for relationship with God. We humans are those creatures whose fulfillment consists in being recognized by God. In the absence of this recognition, in the absence of the affirmation of our self-understanding in God’s address, we are destined to be incomplete.

At the heart Jesus lies the this promised concord between divine identification and human self-understanding. The Gospel narrative is framed by God’s identification of Jesus, and Jesus’s acceptance of this identity. At two prominent moments – Jesus’s baptism and on the mountain of transfiguration – we are told that God speaks, identifying Jesus: “You are my Son, whom I love”; “This is my Son, whom I love” (Mark 1:11; 9:7).

Just as God’s naming of Israel was also an invitation to accept this identity, so God’s naming of Jesus is an invitation to him to embrace His identity. This is why it is tested. When the devil tempts Jesus, we are told, he does so by casting doubt on his identity: “If you are the Son of God …” (Luke 4:3). Then, throughout the ministry of Jesus, and climactically at his trial, the question of his identity is front and centre. “If you are the Messiah, tell us!

This, however, is not a simple matter; because there remains, even for Christian believers, a deep disconnect between our sense of ourselves and the way we have been newly identified. Were this not so, then there would be no need for the urging of the apostles to see and to embrace the new name that has been given. In fact, however, we struggle to believe that this is really true.

Our lives are lived as a contest of identifications. We are named by others, and we struggle to name ourselves. Some names seem to fit; others do not, and others still we aspire and yearn to fit. It is therefore a great gift to name each other rightly because it is a way of giving one another a glimpse of this peace.

For the voice we truly need to hear is the voice of God, and the identification we long to hear is nothing less than the one given to Jesus: “You are my son, my daughter whom I love, with you I am well pleased.” That is an address we may one day hear just as we long to. For now, however, we may hear it only as a promise and must continue to live our lives amidst the contest of names, seeking to believe that we are, truly, who we have been told we are in Christ.

Wishing you a blessed week, called by the right name!





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