THE UNCHANGING CHRIST
Someone with a flair for paradox observed that there is nothing permanent but change. Time passes we say, though, as Keats reminds us, it would be more exact to say that we pass, time remains.
Time, like an ever-rolling stream,
Bears all its sons away;
They fly forgotten, as a dream
Dies at the opening day.
The relentlessness of time and change may become a nightmare to us if we allow ourselves to brood upon it. Perhaps in protest against the fugitive, ephemeral nature of things, we tend to exaggerated speech. There is a feminine hair arrangement called a “permanent.” As it has to be renewed at intervals, it would be more accurately be called an “impermanent.”
A hymn ends: “Till these eternal hills remove, and spring adorns the earth no more.”
This is poetic license. Hills are not eternal. There was a time when they were not. There will come a time when they are gone.
We know too well the changes that come in our family. How permanent it seems when we are children, seated around the long table at Thanksgiving and Christmas. But with the years the old die out of it, the young marry or move away and thereafter are but visitors in the old home. Joys come. We fain would hold them tight so they cannot escape; but escape they do. Sorrows come. It seems as though the stars are blotted from the sky, that life will never be the same again. But the sharpness of our grief passes. Time gently heals the wound, though a scar remains.
On a worldly plane, the answer to the question, “Is anything permanent?” is no. On a higher plane, there is another answer which the writer of Hebrews gives in a terse triumphant sentence: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). It is like Mt. Everest, jutting up above the clouds, its base buried deep in solid earth, its snow-capped peak lifted to the sky: the changing world, the unchanging Christ. When we lay hold of Him, we lay hold of the eternal.
Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever because he meets needs that do not change. Human nature can change, and he can change it. But we need never expect it to progress beyond the need of forgiveness and need of love.
The language of religion, the language, for example, of the penitential psalms, is timeless and universal for it voices our unchanging need and God’s response to it.
Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever because he is a disclosure of the will and character of God. It is not the highest up reach of humankind but the outreach of God, God offering himself to humankind. The Scriptures assert that his life on earth was an act of God in history, the central act in the drama of God’s dealing with us.
If Jesus is a disclosure of God, he has eternal meaning, for God does not change. We speak of God as omnipotent, but one thing – according to the New Testament – he cannot do. He cannot change his own nature. He remains faithful, for he cannot be false to himself.
Almost two thousand years ago the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and that word is true yesterday, today, and forever.