Before Jesus, There was Jesus!
"You know God was all big into the fire, brimstone, and wrath and then he had kids and it really mellowed him out."
I'm not sure when I first heard this joke, but it's repeated pretty often. It's not entirely out of line. The Old Testament is really "wrath of God" heavy, while the New Testament seems gentler with the Jesus narratives and letters to churches.
But it can lead to a theological quandary when we look at our "immortal, immovable, unchangeable" God in relation to the Jesus story. In fact, when we think like this we've done something dangerous. We've turned Jesus into Plan B.
Jesus was not Plan B.
It's an easy mistake to make, especially in the context of our historical faith time line. First there was the garden, but we messed that up. Then came life outside in the world, but we messed that up, too. (Did you ever notice that it only took 6 chapters for God to create the world, name it good, then decide to start from scratch via the flood? That's pretty quick!)
God sent prophet after prophet to lead the people, wonder after wonder, entered into covenant with God's people multiple times… and we kept letting God down. Then finally, God sent Jesus, and the world has never been the same.
But God the Father (or Holy Parent) was not sitting in heaven, getting frustrated and worked up at what He saw until finally in resignation He turned to the Holy Spirit and said, "Guess I’m going to have to put on my human suit and go do this myself!"
All that makes for a cute story, but that's not how it happened.
The opening words of John's Gospel tell us, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being… And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ."
The Word of course is Jesus (Logos, if you're into Greek), the living word, God's ultimate message to God's people. And if Jesus was present from the beginning (indeed the Council of Nicaea declared "there was never a moment when he wasn't"), how does that change our salvation story we just covered?
It makes Jesus Plan A.
That's right. Jesus is and was God's eternal plan for humanity. From the beginning until today, Jesus, Jesus all the way! (No? Too cheesy?)
It's hard to wrap our heads around. Mostly because we like straight timelines with clear past, present, and future, while God’s timeline (Kairos, if you're up for more Greek) looks more like a pretzel with the past, present, and future folding into the same time.
Taking this into consideration will shake your faith a little.
It may bring up questions about some of the things in the Old Testament (like "what took you so long to appear on Earth, Jesus?") Or it may answer some lingering ones you've wondered about (like an old confirmation favorite: "what happened to people who died before Jesus?")
Theological brain cramps aside, how does it change your faith to think about God, your creator, choosing you from the very beginning?
From the moment of creation we were so precious to God that God was willing to die on our behalf? Who is God the Father when you think about Him sending his Son to Earth from before the beginning of time?
I think it's all pretty cool and shows some great planning skills. Thanks be to God.