The Greatest of the Greater Works
By Fred Pruitt
(Note: This article was taken from an introduction I originally wrote for Ole Henrik Skjelstad’s just published new book, Crossing the River. Ole Henrik has kindly allowed me to use the bulk of it as the basis of this writing. A link to his blog is posted at the bottom.)
To me, there are three major miracles that we experience in Christ Jesus. These miracles are of far greater glory than any other event which we may consider to be a miracle. They are the greatest miracles of all because they are of an eternal quality, each of them coming from outside the realm of time and space, yet visiting the earth and transfiguring the whole of the material creation into something which has never appeared before.
The first and greatest of these greater than all miracles, which also contains the other two within itself, is the greatest miracle in the universe. It is summed up in one word – incarnation. The meaning of incarnation is twofold. The first is familiar to most, because it is used to describe the miracle of how the holy, invisible, transcendent God and Creator of the Universe, the Wholly Other, in the form of the Only Begotten Son, came to earth as a complete and total human being.
Jesus Christ, born of a woman, was as much a man as any man who ever lived. But He was also as much God as God is Eternally God. How that can be is an impenetrable mystery to our reasoning minds: it can make no sense to the modern mind and surpasses all human reason. And yet He came as a babe, as we all do. Then He grew up as any other man. He was so normal a man that when He first announced Who He really was to the people in Nazareth, who had known Him for most of His thirty years, it drove them to a fierce rage.
To them He was a man like any other, not different from them in any discernable way, and it was blasphemy of the highest order that He would dare announce Himself as God’s Messiah. And yet, even in His human normalcy, He was Who He announced Himself to be – Messiah, Savior, Deliverer! He was THE miracle of God incarnate, the fullness of God tabernacled in normal human flesh.
He was, as the scripture says, the “firstborn among many brethren,” and it is to this “many brethren” that we now focus our attention. Jesus said to Nicodemus that a man must be born again, born first of water and then born of the Spirit, in order to see and enter the kingdom of God. Nicodemus was incredulous at this, wondering what this could mean. His mind could not fathom it.
What Jesus meant, was that because of His incarnation and subsequent death and resurrection, the miracle of incarnation which was centered in Jesus, was to soon be reproduced and available to all of humanity for all time – the outpouring of the Spirit “upon all flesh” on the Day of Pentecost. All humanity from that point onward became potential recipients of the greatest miracle of all, the miracle of being born again of the Spirit of God, that God incarnate might be seen in the “many brethren.”
Anyone who works in the Lord’s vineyard knows what a miracle from heaven this is, far surpassing all others. This miracle of new birth has neither a beginning nor an end, because it does not come out of the space-time universe, is not subject to time and its laws, and produces something of far greater magnitude and infinitely more glory than anything else there is or ever could be.
(No “miracle” regarding purely temporal things, even the healing of our bodies, comes to within a million miles of the greatest miracle of the Spirit. And it fulfills Jesus’ Promise that we would do “greater works” than He did, because all His miracles were only temporal – the healed people still died at some point. Because the Spirit had yet to be “given” on a wide basis, Jesus could not raise their consciousnesses into God in the Spirit. He knew that would come later, after He completed His intercession, which He announced from the Cross when He said, “It is finished!” )
It is the long-ago sown seed of Christ, first implanted in Eve in the Garden, the Treader of the Serpent, first appearing as the “firstborn” in Jesus Christ of Nazareth, but NOW born again and growing up in normal human persons as we all are. “All heaven rejoices” at this, the scripture says, and it does not say that about anything else. Therefore, if this is the greatest joy of heaven, then surely it is the greatest miracle on earth.
This is it then, the greatest miracle of time and eternity: that fallen man, born in the law of sin and death from Adam, was raised up out of that death, even as was Jesus Who took into Himself the same death that held us and died to it in His death, that we might become the very sons of God. That He Who came as Son of Man and Son of God, would be reborn into every human who received Him, that they together were to be raised together with Him into the same heights and equality with God, and be co-heirs with Jesus of all that the Father has and is.
The second of these miracles, contained in the first, is the mystery of union, of Christ in us, the miracle of, “I live, yet it is not me, but Christ living.” Again, this is something we are unable to see with our physical eyes or hear with our physical ears, nor grasp with our reasoning human minds. It is utterly beyond the realm of human thinking or understanding. For most of us, this miracle is kept back in the beginning of our Christ-walk for a later fullness of time for us individually, when God again raises us up into Himself in understanding and consciousness. It is the seed of Christ grown up in us, so that as Christ has grown up in us (“Christ formed” in us as Paul said), even so we have grown up into Him.
It is coming to the understanding, fixed in our inner consciousness, of the complete doing away of the wall of separation between God and man, the total death of the “old man” we once were when we were under the domination of the serpent, and the rising up of the new creation in us in understanding and consciousness. We come to know that when people see us, they are seeing Christ alive. We are enlightened to the fact that our humanity is holy, being the dwelling place of God in Three Persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and that because when we walk we are He walking, now out of us begin to flow unstoppable rivers of Living Waters, for the healing of the nations.
When we were new born babes, we still did not know our oneness with God, and sought “things” from God as if He is apart and separate from us. But now, in this second of these miracles, we realize that we ourselves have become wells of Living Water, that the waters flow out of our middle, out of our center, because it is not we, but He! We become totally aware that as Jesus said, “Ye are the light of the world,” we are, by virtue of the fact the He is the Light of the world, He is shining out of every fiber of our being, spirit, soul and body. We learn “as He is, so are we in this world.” We see that the government (of our lives) is truly upon His shoulders, and finally we find rest from our own labors and now labor in the Lord outside our own strength and understanding, because He and we are one.
The third and final of these miracles, also contained in the first and second, is coming to a consciousness not only of Who we are, but also what we are about, and what our lives are for. It is to realize that as Christ is intercessor for all, we bear Him about in our bodies every moment of every day as intercessors with Him for the “perfecting of the saints,” (Eph 4:7) and “to present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.” (Col 1:28)
This is because we have been taken into the holy of holies, into the innermost sanctuary, where we become so conscious of Who He is as a lamb slain in the midst of the Throne, that we cannot help ourselves but to be the same Lamb slain in the midst of the Throne within our own spirits. This is the fulfillment of “taking up His Cross and following Him.” We now become Cross people, having no other purpose in life but to reproduce this eternal kingdom of other-love as God’s appointed intercessors.
By intercessor I do not mean simply being a “prayer warrior” for others. That is only one aspect of intercession. It is far more than that. After we have identified ourselves with Christ, bearing His identity now as our own, from that vantage point we begin to identify ourselves with other men and women, with their griefs and sorrows, as well as their joys and successes. They become our own, as if they are ours, now that we know we are He living and interceding by our broken humanity.
This is the final rung of the ladder that takes us out of self-focus. It is as if our Christian life has gone full circle at that point, and the incarnation of Jesus from Deity to Son of Man has fully taken us over by the Spirit incarnating Christ in us! He knew He came to give His life as a ransom for many, and now we know the same about our own lives. Because of Jesus’ shed blood and broken body which opened and secured our salvation and oneness with God, we know we cannot rest until we have attained to the resurrection of others! It is no longer our own resurrection we are concerned with, or even still less our level of piety or any other self-concern.
Jesus’ constraint to accomplish the Father’s plan in the Jerusalem now becomes our constraint. It takes us over and we can do no other. Finally we understand and enter into the greatest life of all, the life of Jesus in us being as a “corn of wheat falling into the ground to die …. which bringeth forth much fruit.” There is nothing of greater import. No miracle or “work” is greater than bringing “many sons” unto glory!
For this purpose we are created and we can reach no further than being, as Paul the apostle said, “counted as sheep for the slaughter,” and the fulfillment in us of Paul’s glorious word of 1 Corinthians 4:9-13.
“For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised. Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace; And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: Being defamed, we entreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.”
The words of Jesus are our final word on this:
“Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.” (John 15:16 KJV)