Day 11: Jesus Christ – Old and New

Because the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (John 1:17)

In this verse, the Logos, Jesus Christ, is finally named. Names are important. It is understandable that new parents should spend so long deciding on baby names. The names Jesus and Christ always merit consideration. Most basically, Jesus means “God (YHWH) saves” and Christ means “anointed one” corresponding to the Hebrew mashiach, translated into Greek as Messias, and from which we obtain our word Messiah. The names, Jesus and Christ, therefore, point to the special saving features of God’s Son. They are characteristics in a similar way to ‘grace and truth’ – repeated from John 1:14. It is often helpful when we are not precisely sure what to pray in a situation to remember and recall these divine names; doing so will lead us to worship and a right perspective, oriented on Christ’s attributes.

Of all the verses in the prologue, this verse might require the most careful handling.[1] We might be inclined to think that a contrast is set up: that the Law and Moses are now irrelevant in the light of Christ’s coming. Such thinking,[2] however, would be mistaken. Such thinking – probably from the early decades following Christ – contributed to a schism between Judaism, and what became Christianity, which even if it can be used by God (cf. Romans 9-11), was unnecessary.

Most seriously, it might lead us to reject the Hebrew Scriptures, the Christian Old Testament, which would be a serious mistake. Later in John’s Gospel, Christ challenges some Jewish leaders: “You search the Scriptures, because you claim that they have eternal life in them; these very writings testify about me. But you do not want to come to me in order to have life.” (John 5:39-40).

The Law, the prophets and the other historical writings all witness about the same Jesus we see revealed in the New Testament. We might find some parts of the Old Testament particularly challenging today, but we write it off at our peril. Jesus Christ, the Logos who was there from the beginning, is big enough to span the old and the new.

[1] I hope what I say here is helpful and truthful, but some of the connected issues are subject to much debate. Such issues include: the attitude of the fourth evangelist towards Moses and Jewish communities; the apostle Paul’s estimation of the Law; the extent to which he stayed within, or departed from, Judaism; the whole of Romans 9-11 and the roles in salvation history of Israel and Gentiles.

[2] The technical term here is supersessionism.

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