A few years ago I argued we shouldn’t depend on clergy (especially celebrity clergy) to feed Christians. Although my goal of self-feeding rather than feeding Christian-celebrity culture was valid, it was actually the least biblically defensible thing I have ever posted. However, the reason for the post surfaced again last week: On Wednesday, July 8, CNN’s Don Lemon said on national tv, “Jesus Christ, admittedly, was not perfect when he was here on this earth.” Fellow commentator, Chris Cuomo, didn’t flinch.
We are at a point in our culture in which people, even people who grew up in church, people who are well-educated (as both Lemon and Cuomo are) make categorically incorrect statements about Jesus Christ and no one seems to notice. Educated pundits don’t recognize formal heresy when they spout it. Just in case Mr. Lemon is wondering, the infallibility of Jesus Christ was noticed by Jesus’ closest friends and taught by each one of them whose writings have been passed on to us:
“You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin.” – John (1 Jn 3:5)
“who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth;” – Peter (1 Pet 2:22)
“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” – Paul (2 Cor. 5:21)
“For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” – Unknown (Hebrews 4:15)
Even the man who ordered Jesus’ execution, Pontus Pilate, saw no offense in Jesus. “Pilate came out again and said to them, “Behold, I am bringing Him out to you so that you may know that I find no guilt in Him.” -John 19:4
Lemon’s error is more than simply not having paid attention in Sunday School and missed that question on trivia night at the local pub. The sinlessness of Jesus is essential to the Christian message: “For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering…” (Rom 8:3) Jesus is in “the likeness of sinful flesh,” but without sin (Heb 4:15), in order to be “a sin offering.” That is important because, as one who is like us in our flesh, Jesus is able to die for us. As one who is unlike us in his sinlessness, death cannot hold Jesus.
As fourth century writer Athanasius said, “None, then, could bestow incorruption, but He who had created, none restore the likeness of God, save His own likeness…And He, to pay our debt of death, must also die for us, and rise again as our first-fruits from the grave. Mortal therefore His Body must be; Corruptible, His body could not be.” (On the Incarnation, 20)
Or, as Athanasius summarized, “He became what we are, that we might become what he is.”
We need to be fed a steady diet of the scriptures interpreted by those under the authority of the apostles. Without those scriptures and their 2000+ years of interpretation we do not recognize when we are spiritually starving. As our bellies can be full of junk food without our bodies being nourished, so too, our heads can be full of untruth while our souls starve. Or as Jesus said,
“…my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me…Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” -John 6:55-58
Eat hearty, church!