And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. (verse 18)
Jesus came to seek and to save the lost – that’s us. It was by “making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (verse 20) that he did it, his sacrifice decisively opening the door into the kingdom of light for each one who trusts in him. How good to be rescued, ransomed, saved.
But it’s not just an individual experience. During the three years of his ministry, Jesus rallied a community of disciples – the Twelve, certainly, but also a number of women (see Luke 8:1-3), and perhaps others – who travelled with him and were forged together into a band of followers. Sometimes it spilled over into bickering (Luke 22:24), but their shared experiences (fearful in storm-tossed boats, or passing bread and fish from hand to hand, or digesting the Master’s teaching, or watching as eyes and ears and limbs and minds were restored yet again) bonded them for a lifetime. Plus, they benefited from each other’s curious questions and requests (“Teach us to pray,” “How can we know the way?,” “Five small barley loaves and two small fish … how far will they go among so many?”), even learning from each other’s foibles (Peter slipping beneath the waves, James and John asking for seats of honour, Thomas saying he wouldn’t believe).
It turns out community is his plan for us, too, for he established the church, which is his body. When we were born again, we were born into family. The implication is that this is not a loose association of like-minded people, gathering together periodically, but rather an organic whole that is dependent on one another for life and growth and shared mission, because we are mutually dependent on him.
Jesus is the head. The word itself can refer to either a position of primacy or to the source of life (as in “head of the river”). Certainly, Christ is both. “By him all things were created … and in him all things hold together” (verses 16-17), so we are dependent on him for our very being. Further, “his blood, shed on the cross”(verse 20) is the all-sufficient source of our new life. Both for its individual members and for the community as a whole, the church owes its very life to Christ. He is the head, the source of all.
But, of course, he is also the one supreme over all for the church’s functioning. We so often identify local churches by their denominations or pastors or worship-style. But all of that is really beside the point. The church belongs to Christ – it is his body, expressive of his life. His will and character and purposes are decisive for determining the church’s own direction and attitudes, rather than the denomination’s distinctives, or vote of its members, or decision of its pastor.
But how easy is it to truly embrace him as head? How readily do we revert to our own preferences and comforts when it comes to church life? If his heart is to seek and to save the lost, why is this so often simply a minor subset of our own agenda? And if the Lord who lays down his rights in sacrificial service is the very source of the church’s own life and character, why do we so easily fall into squabbles and backbiting, power struggles and politics?
Our Lord has triumphed over death. He has paved the way for us to receive resurrection life. He will have supremacy in all things, in that day when every knee bows. In the meantime, we, the church, who are his body, have opportunity to honour him with supremacy here and now. May we do it gladly. To him be the glory.
Lord Jesus, you are head over everything for the church. Praise your name. Thank you that you have birthed me into this family. Help me to live my part, lifting my sights to you, drawing on your life, laying down rights, serving like you. May the whole body be strengthened to your glory. Amen.
Reflect: In your own local church, what part has the Lord called you to play? How can you fulfill it in a way that reflects Jesus as head? (If you are not part of a local church, what step can you take this next week to find one?)
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