Advent: The Perfect, Suffering Author of Our Faith

December 8, 2014

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”Hebrews 12:2

I have always thought of Christ’s authorship of our faith as a figure of speech. Jesus wasn’t really walking around writing his own memoir—he was above such things, an object of study by others rather than a scribbler himself.

Or I’ve thought of Christ’s authorship as a snap—the same way I’ve thought of God’s inspiration of scripture, done perfectly, easily. A kind of afterthought perfection while filing his nails. A magic trick. Even if Jeremiah had the single copy of his manuscript burned by a ruthless king, for God as author the story comes out whole and without struggle.

Then Rikk E. Watts came to Dordt and talked about the inspiration for the gospels. Among other things, Matthew and Luke take their cues from John Mark. In many theories of scholars, he was learning from Simon Peter, who had learned from Christ himself just what plot this good-news-story should take: a new exodus.

Of course, as Christ walked around ancient Palestine, “writing” this new exodus in day-to-day life was anything but a snap. Author implies creative act, implies stitching together story, implies constructing something beautiful and truthful. Christ just wasn’t randomly wandering around Israel, nor was he led around proscriptively by the Spirit; he was carefully fashioning a story. And, like us in every way, he had his work cut out for him as author of our faith.

Hebrews 2:10 both explains the connection between “author” and “perfecter” and gives us a hint as to why writing the Messiah-story wasn’t easy: “In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering.”

Christ’s authorship is perfect because of his suffering. As author of our faith, Christ wrestles with the weaknesses of the human body in temptation, he wrestles with disciples who are looking for an entirely different ending, he wrestles with God himself and the climax God demands. In the request he makes in Gethsemane, “If it be your will, take this cup from me,” Christ wrestles with the story he’s supposed to write and suffers so deeply that he sweats drops of blood. In Christ’s suffering, he makes the final improbable leap of incarnation: to perfect empathy with our condition, to perfect authorship of our faith.

The idea of Christ writing the story of our faith, of perfecting that story of faith in incarnation, is another inspiration for us. As we walk day-to-day through our lives, writing our own story within this grand story of redemption, we can be assured of the fact that it can be done—-that it has been done—through suffering, through incarnation.

Stop at the manger again today and read the Author’s first chapter of incarnation: see the conflict of an empire putting a woman and her child at risk; see the humble, improbable setting; see the characters of heaven and earth; see the inspiration, and finally, see the Author himself—the Christ child, God made flesh and dwelling among us, wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a manger.


About the Author
  • Howard Schaap came to the study of literature and writing because he found it intensifies life. Putting words with experiences makes sense of those experiences, heightens them. Reading stories and poems--especially those recounting experiences different from your own--can crack open the dry, old shell of your life and allow you to grow into something new. Thus, his areas of interest include creative nonfiction (the focus of my MFA study), poetry writing, and ethnic American literature. He also has a passion for place, especially putting new words with old places in an effort to revitalize and renew our understanding of and care for those places.

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