4 January 2017

Colossians 1:15-20

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation” (v. 15)

Psalm: Psalm 98


The date that this letter is written is disputed. Some argue that its developed ideas about Jesus would indicate a later date, perhaps after the fall of Jerusalem in AD70. Others have suggested an earlier date possibly during Paul's first imprisonment in Rome (Acts 28:16). The authorship is also questioned - some holding to the tradition that it is Paul, others suggesting there are enough differences from the other Pauline letters to mean it was written by another, perhaps a student of Paul.

While these arguments and details often matter in trying to make sense of ancient texts, the content of this passage seems to be so dazzling as to make them unimportant. That any document, by any author in the early Church should make such extraordinary claim about Jesus is staggering. There were people close enough in date to Jesus of Nazareth to remember him, or know people who did. The Jews were fiercely monotheistic in a time of many gods. They would not, could not, make light claims about the divine nature of Jesus, unless something extraordinary was going on. These words drive us to the edge of what we can conceive or comprehend. What is clear is that from very early in the Church people believed that in the life, teaching, death and resurrection of Jesus we are being shown something of the nature of God. A man who ate and drank, who wept and argued, who healed and spoke wisdom, showed human beings God. In his humanity, we are to catch a glimpse of divinity, and in his divinity to catch a glimpse of the possibility for humanity. This is no ordinary claim for human beings to make, and one that could have simply aroused ridicule. Furthermore, the nature of this God revealed in a person is so unexpected and unlikely. A very early claim of the Church was that 'the crucified is risen'. Surprisingly it is the 'crucified' that would have been harder for people 2,000 years ago to grasp. God is revealed on a cross - the fullness of God in the self-emptying of a human being. This is mystery and wonder; this is strange glory for the world to experience.

To Ponder

  • What difference to your view of the divine does it make to believe that a crucified Jesus was God's image?
  • How do you feel in this encounter with God revealed in a person? 

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Mark Wakelin

Born in Africa to missionary parents, Mark Wakelin is a Methodist minister, He was the President of the Methodist Conference 2012/2013, and before that worked for the Connexional Team, as the secretary for internal relationships. He is now the minster at Epsom Methodist Chuch.