Jesus is cool. He just isn’t the be all, end all. He was a good man. He taught good things. But he is not sufficient enough to handle the weight of all of your cares, needs, and expectations.
Or is he?
In various ways we hear the same message the Colossian Christians would have been hearing. Jesus is great but you need more than just Jesus. You need Jesus plus religious rituals. Jesus plus the law. Jesus plus knowledge. Jesus plus rigorous asceticism that shows your spiritual strength. Or Jesus plus carnal indulgence without spiritual affect, showing your spiritual strength. Or today we might say, Jesus plus a 401k plan. Jesus plus some good counseling. Jesus plus a group of friends. Jesus plus church. Jesus plus good works. Jesus plus a good education. Jesus plus career success. Jesus plus a good marriage.
Not that there is anything wrong with taking advantage of the help and blessings that can come from most of these “pluses.”
Right from the start, Paul makes us face whether we think Jesus is enough to complete our lives. Do we think Jesus is the center of our life; or is Jesus the add-on, the value added element, the plus in a life that is being lived just like everyone else in the world? We can tell from the letter that the false teaching threatening the Colossian church didn’t think Jesus was sufficient. If we are introspective enough, we can look at our own lives and tell whether we think Jesus is sufficient for life.
In Colossians 1, Paul offers the following assertions about the deep meaning and value to be found in the person of Jesus:
- Paul starts with the most important and fundamental point of all: Jesus is the embodiment of God (1:15, 19). When you have Jesus you actually have God within you.
- Jesus reigns over our home because God “transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved son” (1:13). He is in charge of our reality.
- As he was the power that brought about creation (1:16), Jesus is the very reason we exist.
- Jesus is the reason we do not fear God’s wrath (1:20, 22). We now have reconciliation, peace, and are viewed by God without accusation.
- As the “firstborn from the realms of the dead” (1:18), Jesus is the reason we can be assured of our own resurrection.
- We will all submit to something, and Jesus is our best object of submission. In a wordplay in 1:15-18 on the variations of the word “head,” Paul makes it clear that Jesus holds this position in reality, thus life is better lived in line with that reality.
- In a truly difficult verse, Paul explains that it is now our job to “complete” the unfinished work of Jesus (1:24). The only thing that can be unfinished or “lacking” in the work of Jesus must be the part that depends on us: to be his hands and feet in this world today. Thus, Jesus becomes the purpose behind our mission in life.
- When the King is “living within you as the hope of glory” (1:27), Jesus is our reason for hope.
- Jesus is the core of our message, as “he is the one we are proclaiming” (1:28a).
- Jesus is also our way to maturity as we “grow up” and become “complete” in him (1:28b)
It sounds like Paul thinks Jesus is more than just an add-on to a life that is looking elsewhere for meaning, security, and hope.