The three Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) are largely about the historical Jesus who worked miracles, who taught, who promised us a new way of seeing, a new way of life in this world. It is seldom pointed out, however, that Paul is not talking about Jesus; Paul is almost always talking about “Christ.”
Paul hardly ever quotes the historical Jesus and never knew him in the flesh. Really rather shocking when you realize that his letters are one third of the New Testament! The phrase “in Christ” is his most common usageover 100 times, I’ve been told. We take Paul as a touchstone of orthodoxy, the central, foundational teacher of Christianity -- and yet he hardly quotes Jesus!
Something else is going on here, which has largely been off of the Christian radar. Paul has largely fallen in love with “the Christ” and it was Jesus who pointed him there. Most Christians still need to make the same movement, and to believe in both Jesus AND Christ. They are two distinct faith affirmations.
Jesus is the microcosm; Christ is the macrocosm. There is a movement from Jesus to the Christ that you and I have to imitate and walk, as well. A lot of us have so fallen in love with the historical Jesus that we worship him as such and stop there. We never really followed the same journey which he made, which is the death and resurrection journey – Jesus died and Christ arose.
As Bede Griffiths insightfully put it: “The real resurrection is the passing beyond the world altogether. It is Jesus’ passage from this world to the Father. It was not an event in space and time, but the passage beyond space and time to the eternal, to reality. Jesus passed into reality.”
Unless we make the same movement that Jesus did, from his one single life to his risen and transformed state, we probably don’t really understand what we mean by the Christ – and how we are part of the deal! That is why he said “follow me.” The Jesus that you and I participate in, are graced by, and are redeemed by is the RISEN Jesus who has become the Christ, which is an inclusive statement about all of us and all of creation.
Stay with this startling truth in the days ahead and it will rearrange your mind and heart and change the way you see everything, because you are the Christ Mystery too!
~ Richard Rohr. From his book: The Cosmic Christ