Who’s the smartest person you know? I suspect there’d be a range of answers to that question – you might have a particularly brainy friend or family member. Some of you will naturally think of famous big brains, like Albert Einstein or Alan Turing.
I bet not many of us said ‘Jesus’. It’s funny isn’t it? He’s the Son of God, co-creator of the universe, the one holding it all together (1:17). He can rise from the dead, heal people spontaneously, calm the natural elements at his command, and know what people are thinking without saying it. He can do all that… but we don’t usually think of him as clever.
I wonder if this is partly to do with our image of Jesus which tends to be of the ‘wandering hippy’ variety – we think of Jesus meandering around with long hair and sandals. Charismatic, yes; approachable, definitely; clever… er, maybe?
It’s also partly to do with a strong anti-intellectual current in modern Christian culture. Whilst ultimately our faith does rest on… well, faith – that doesn’t mean that it lacks rigour, or good evidence, or that we only believe so long as we don’t ask tough questions. That is the kind of ‘fine sounding argument’ (v4) aimed at us by both clever atheists and spiritual teachers peddling ‘add-ons’ to biblical faith, and deep down many of us are worried that it might be true.
And it’s nothing new. It was around right from the early years of the church. Greek culture was very sophisticated, and from the beginning the church faced suspicions that its belief system was a bit lightweight and needing beefing up with a bit of Greek philosophy or hidden knowledge (gnosis – its adherents were called Gnostics. It’s where the word agnostic comes from: literally ‘no hidden knowledge’ i.e. I haven’t made up my mind yet!)
The little Christian community in Colossae were under particular attack by these gnostic teachers. And it was denting their faith. But Paul has good news for them: Christ has everything we need. Absolutely everything. We don’t need to look anywhere else for true wisdom, because ‘in [Christ] are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.’ (v3) Jesus is not just all-sufficient for love, peace, hope, joy, comfort and strength in times of trial. He has all the wisdom we need as well!
I’ll leave the final word to the great writer on the spiritual life, Dallas Willard: ‘Once you stop to think about it, how could he be what we take him to be in all other respects and not be the best-informed and most intelligent person of all, the smartest person who ever lived? …[Jesus] is not just nice, he is brilliant. He is the smartest man who ever lived. He is now supervising the entire course of world history (Rev 1:5) while simultaneously preparing the rest of the universe for our future role in it (John 14:2). He always has the best information on everything and certainly also on the things that matter most in human life.’
As we close this week, let’s be amazed afresh at how awesome Jesus is: the One who is before all things, completes the great act of reconciliation in history, dwells in us, leads us to his glory and has all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge… that’s quite a list – hallelujah!