Andy Miller III
Cover Image for Jesus Is

Jesus Is

May 10, 2021

Suddenly I heard the sound of flip-flops clapping against the tile floor, like fat drops of rain on a tin roof, echoing in the hallway outside my office.[1] Coming to the door I saw five school ages children gasping for air and calling out my name all at once. “Captain Andy, Captain Andy, if we tell you our ‘bible points’ will we get a prize?” Our Corps was in the middle of Vacation Bible School, and glad to see their initiative I responded, “Of course, tell me…” They hastily began “Jesus is our friend, Jesus is our life…” Then their speech started to slow and I sensed their uncertainty, “Jesus is our…our… leader…, and Jesus is…Jesus is…” They couldn’t complete the last two ‘bible points.’ As I watched their minds racing, I was thankful that they at least got the first two words of every ‘bible point.’ Even if they didn’t remember every verse, knowing that “Jesus is” made VBS worth the time and effort we invested.

When we articulate those two words we are not saying “Jesus merely was,” “Jesus wasn’t,” or “Jesus might be.” These are two words that unite to declare a historical reality, a personal commitment, a cosmological fact, and a declaration that focuses all of history. As Salvationist we can delineate those who unite with our mission if they affirm this statement—Jesus is. Some might say “Jesus was a good man,” “Jesus was a superb teacher,” “Jesus was God’s messenger,” “Jesus might have risen from the dead,” or “Jesus might be alive.” But we in The Salvation Army we march saying, “Jesus is!” This realization is the focus of our corporate worship, in such settings we join together to say, “Jesus is here!” “Jesus is alive and working.” Our testimonies confirm that we have experienced his life and his power. It is that power that distinguishes our social ministries as the presence of Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, facilitates mission and service in his name. It is this presence that separates our housing programs from “Extreme Home Makeover.”

The resurrection of Jesus, the Son of God, and our witness to that event in history allows us to empirically shout these two words, “Jesus is!” Jesus stepped out of the grave and made his voice heard throughout all of creation. Sure it is not wrong for us to say “Jesus was great” or “Jesus was raised from the dead.” The connection, however, must always be made that though he was, he still is. Sorting through the complexities of time and the reality of our Lord, Karl Barth explains that in Jesus’ resurrection “he is inaugurated as the ‘Lord of time’ so as not to be bound by our succession of beginning, duration, and end; his time begins but exists before its beginning, has duration but such a way that his present includes his past and future, and end but in such a way that time after its end is that of his renewed presence.[2]

It is this renewed presence that becomes the content of our preaching (kerygma). Hence our mission in The Salvation Army is to “preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and meet human needs in His name without discrimination.” This statement presupposes that Jesus is, and that the gospel of his kingdom is. One of the great poets of our tradition Catherine Baird, wrote an essay where she poses a question:

Why was Jesus so certain that His work was complete? Why did he say: ‘I have overcome the world,’ rather than: ‘I shall overcome the world’? The answer is through a knowledge in God, unfettered by time. Day by day He saw His work complete. The mustard seed was a tree; the water was wine; the boy with his loaves and fishes was a satisfied multitude. To eye a seed of corn was a harvest field; death was life. (Third emphasis added) [3]

Have you allowed Jesus to look at your life, your appointment, and your calling and say that it is alive with his resurrected presence? As the kids left my office, with candy in their pockets, I was thankful that God sees me as someone who can be complete in him because “Jesus is.”

[1] Or, “Bursting like small fireworks I heard feet sounding against the tile floor outside my office.”

[2] Quoted in Jeremy S. Begbie, Theology, Music, and Time (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 93.

[3] Quoted in William Burrows, With Colours Waving: An Anthology of Salvation Army Prose (London: Salvationist Publishing and Supplies, 1957),27.

Copyright ©2024 Andrew S. Miller III