(13.) On Christ as the Holy One

(13.) On Christ as the Holy One

(13.) On Christ as the Holy One.

“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:67-69; NIV, NRSV, and many other translations).

HOLY: to be set apart from the common or ordinary; to be separate from the profane or impure; to be distinctive in character and role; to have attributes that are uniquely sacred; to possess blameless integrity; to live in complete innocence.

Peter’s confession in John 6 remains one of Scripture’s greatest, most succinct statements of faith. Peter is confessing that Jesus is the true Messiah, the official heavenly representative of the Holy One of Israel. God-fearing Jews are well-acquainted with that title for Yahweh. Isaiah, overwhelmed with God’s holiness after seeing Him high and lifted up and the attending angels singing, “Holy, Holy, Holy,” referred to Yahweh as the Holy One almost 30 times in his book. “The great one in the midst of you is the Holy One of Israel.” (Is. 12:6); “I am Yahweh, your Holy One, Creator of Israel, your king.” (Is. 43:15). When Peter called Jesus the Holy One, he is claiming that Jesus is co-equal with Yahweh, the authentic Son of God. Since the word saint means holy one, one could say that Jesus, God in the flesh, is the ultimate saint, the One who is perfectly saintly.

Holiness is one of the chief attributes of Yahweh, and marks Him as supremely transcendent. There is God, and there is everything else. What sets God apart in His holiness? What makes God so profoundly distinctive in the universe? In what ways is God uniquely separate from everything else in the world? Why do so many in the Hebrew Bible call God “The Holy”?

God is The Holy One because of His greatness. God is utterly complete and doesn’t need anything for any reason. He is better than perfect. He is bigger than the universe. He is older than time. He outweighs the world. His fiery presence burns hotter and brighter that a million suns. No space can contain Him, not even outer space. “His center is everywhere and His circumference is nowhere.” (Lockyer). We cannot discern Him unless He chooses to reveal Himself. We can only understand Him on His terms. Even with our extended knowledge of God in human terms, we are merely on the outer fringes of His ways. Even considering all we have heard about God, we have only heard the faintest of whispers about Him (Job 26). God’s greatness sets Him apart.

God is The Holy One because of His power. Can there be any doubt as to God’s unthinkable power? He is the Maker, He created everything in the universe out of nothing. He took nothingness, and He proceeded to make everything… the astounding vast skyscape of planets and stars, the beautiful earth, humankind. He blew His breath into a lump of dirt and created human life where there was no life. Because we are the product of His power, we can’t even begin to understand His matchless and unique ability to create and sustain the vast panorama of universal existence. He is majestic and mighty in His power. How awesome are His deeds. He rules forever by His power and strength. “No one is like you, O Lord; you are great, and your Name is mighty in power.” (Jer. 10:6). When Moses brought the people out of the wilderness camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain, the people witnessed sheer power… “Now Mt. Sinai was completely in smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire. Its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly. And when the blast of the trumpet sounded long and became louder and louder, Moses spoke.” (Ex. 19:17-19). After witnessing the plagues of Egypt and the Red Sea and Mount Sinai, the power of God was beyond debate. God’s power sets Him apart.

God is The Holy One because of His glory.  “Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might. Heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest!” (Isaiah 6:3).  God’s glory is so expansive that it fills the universe and then spills over. The whole world is too small to contain God’s glory. Glory has been defined as the weighty splendor of God’s personal presence. So to glorify God is to acknowledge and applaud the reality of God’s presence in the world; to make His presence heavier than it might appear, clearer and more obvious, more credible and less hidden; to live in a way that preserves and expands God’s good reputation and glorious Name. Because the weight of God’s presence outweighs the universe, His glory has more substance than anything and everything in the world. Our Christian response to God’s glory is to glorify Him in word and deed. God’s glory sets Him apart.

God is The Holy One because of His righteousness. God is 100% pure and untainted. He is utterly innocent of any wrongdoing, and is not even capable of doing wrong. “The holy God will show Himself holy by His righteousness.” (Is. 5:6). He is absolutely separate from sin and evil. God lives in the beauty of moral perfection. God is renowned for His righteousness, and was named as such in Jeremiah 23:5-6, “Yahweh-tsidkenu, Lord-our-righteousness.” It is interesting that the word for righteousness in Hebrew has its root in the word for holiness. In some versions, the breastplate of righteousness is translated as the breastplate of holiness (Eph. 6:14). And then Jesus enters the scene, the Messiah, fulfilling His role as the “the Righteous Branch, a king who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land.” (Jer. 23:5-6). Jesus Christ, the Righteous Branch, the Holy One of God. God’s righteousness sets Him apart.

God is The Holy One because of His mercy. Mercy can be described in many ways: Eager love-in-action; steadfast kindness; loyal compassion; faithful favor; the deep love reserved for someone in an intimate relationship, and if there is no prior relationship, the strong desire to treat someone as if that relationship existed. In Scripture, mercy is accepted as the chief attribute of God. There are three Hebrew words that combine to give a full picture of biblical mercy. First is “chanon,” which is mercy in the context of grace, forgiveness and pity. Second is the great word “hesed,” which is mercy as loving-kindness, loyalty, and covenantal love. Third is “rachen,” which is the most frequently used word for mercy in the Jewish Bible, our Old Testament. It is a word related to the Hebrew word for womb, a protected place where life is nurtured and springs forth in new life. To live in rachem is to live in the womb of God. Psalm 56:15 says it all, “But you, O Lord, are a God merciful (rachem) and gracious (chanon), slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness (hesed) and truth.” God’s mercy sets Him apart.

God is The Holy One because His glory is His mercy. There is a deep mystery, something we’ll not get to the bottom of. His glory is brightest when His mercy is most evident. His glory is most real when His mercy is most clearly expressed. His glory IS His mercy. That truth is clearly expressed in that His presence, His glory is situated above the Mercy Seat in the Holy of Holies. “When Moses entered the Tent of Meeting to speak with Yahweh, he heard the Voice speaking to him from between the two cherubim above the Mercy Seat. And he spoke there with Yahweh.” (Nu. 7:89). And in one of the most dramatic and important portions in all of Scripture, Moses asked God if He could see His glory. (Ex. 33:18). God’s response was to reveal His full identity, His character, His essence: “Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with Moses and proclaimed His Name, Yahweh. And He passed in front of Moses, proclaiming ‘Yahweh, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in mercy and faithfulness, maintaining loving-kindness to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” (Ex. 34:5-7). Moses asked to see God’s glory, and God reveals His mercy. Somehow they are one and the same. God’s glory-mercy sets Him apart.

God is The Holy One because He is lowly. In His greatness and power, God chose to humble Himself, a willing volunteer of love. He chose to empty Himself and made Himself nothing in the eyes of the world (Phil. 2). He left eternal heaven-time ands submitted to temporal earth-time. After lowering Himself to become a human fetus, baby, boy, man, He gave Himself up to impotence, torture and death. In all of this, it’s clear that His character embraces lowliness as He joins Himself with the humble. “Though the Lord is on high, He looks upon the lowly. Though the Lord is great, He cares for the humble.” (Ps. 138:6).”For this is what the high and lofty one says – He who lives forever, whose Name is Holy –I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit.” (Is. 57:15). The high and holy God reveals Himself and makes Himself available to mankind, since we cannot possibly reach His height on our own. Because of His humility and righteousness, we need not fear that God would abuse His unlimited power. God’s humility sets Him apart.

Yahweh, you are the Holy One of Israel. Jesus Christ, you are the Holy One of God. Holy Spirit, you are the Holy One from the Father and the Son. In your threeness, you are the Holy Ones of the Holy Trinity, the three in one. O God, we worship you for your holiness, we give you thanks for your goodness, we praise you for your glory. Only you are the Holy One, only you are the Most High, only you are the Lord, with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father. Amen.