Yellow Christ--Gauguin

Continued from “More than Perfect (Part 1)

There are many dimensions to this story.  In one dimension, Job pictures Jesus.  Jesus was handed over to the devil and suffered immensely (Luke 22:53; John 13:27).  Much of what Job says can be placed in the mouth of Jesus and reflects what Jesus felt as He writhed on the cross:

“Now I am mocked by their songs; I have become an object of scorn to them. They despise me and keep their distance from me; they do not hesitate to spit in my face.  […]  Now my life is poured out before my eyes, and days of suffering have seized me.  […]  I cry out to You for help, but You do not answer me; when I stand up, You merely look at me.  You have turned against me with cruelty; You harass me with Your strong hand.” (Job 30:9-21).

Unlike Job, God didn’t require that satan spare Jesus’s life.  Although people accused Christ of sin and blasphemy, He lost everything because He never sinned, because of His truly perfect integrity (Matt. 12:24; Mark 14:62-64; John 9:24; Heb. 4:15).  Hebrews 9 tells us that because He suffered and shed His blood, Jesus “is the mediator of a new covenant” (Heb. 9:14-15).  Under the old covenant, God’s blessing was dependent on people keeping the law and maintaining perfect integrity.  This is not unlike the covenant of Job’s “friends.”  But God made Job the mediator of a new covenant, one based on his suffering; Job’s “friends” could only approach God through Job’s prayer after that point.  Likewise, the cross invalidates any approach to God based on our own integrity.  We approach based on the sacrifice of Christ or we do not approach.  Finally, like Job, Jesus had everything restored to Him through His resurrection.  Christ has been given a new family—the church—those who are born of God (John 1:12-13; Heb. 2:11).  All the same, we know that the risen Christ carries the scars of death.  It will never be—it can never be—as if the cross didn’t happen.

            Another dimension: Paul said he was blameless according to the law (Php. 3:6).  That is, he had perfect integrity.  Now if you’re wondering how that claim squares with Paul’s persecution of Christians, the law commanded that blasphemers be executed (Lev. 24:16).  Killing Christians (as blasphemers) was lawful and even a sign of Paul’s religious zeal (Php. 3:6).  But after seeing Jesus, Paul sought something more than perfect integrity.  He wanted to know Christ “and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ” (Php. 3:9).  Here we see Paul expressing the same self-negation that Job did—Paul despising himself, despising his own integrity, repenting in the dust and ash of himself so that Christ could be his all.  In another place he said it this way: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:19-20, HCSB).  Self-negation.  Not I.  Christ.  Only He is more than perfect.