Skip to content

Japan Reflections: Where Was Jesus In Ancient Japan?

Many Japanese rock gardens contain a pair of large rocks. One is placed upright and vertical. The other is placed prone and horizontal.

ceramic-wall-Zen-Garden(see the two rocks on the back right)

Together the two rocks symbolize the sound “ah,” or “mouth open,” and “nn,” or “mouth closed.” This is the Japanese way of expressing the first and last letters of the Sanskrit alphabet, sister language to Latin and Greek, and language of the first Buddhist scriptures.

The Greek way of saying that is “alpha and omega.”

Both Greek and Sanskrit use the first and last letters of their respective alphabets to symbolize the boundaries of time.

The Apostle John, who does not hesitate to call Christ “the alpha and omega,” begins his gospel quoting the Book of Genesis. He then quickly shifts into an introduction of the preexistent Christ, whom he says was “with God and was God.” He says that through Christ, all things came to be” and that “without him there was not anything made that was made.”

John wraps up the Book of Revelation by saying that “time shall be no more.” This will occur sometime after the “kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of The Lord and His Christ.”

John thus describes Christ as both the beginning and the end of history, the “Alpha and the Omega.”

The universe, which is all we know or can know, thus exists between two boundaries. All religions confess this. It is the one spiritual principle with which modern science finally agrees. One boundary is the utterly mysterious beginning, when matter and energy spew out from nothingness to form all that exists. The other boundary is called simply the “summation of all things,” or “eternity.” In between these boundaries is a garden that we call time. Einstein taught us that time and space are the same thing and so this space-time stuff in which we exist is our appointed realm. It is the place where we come into being. It is the place where apparently we cease to be.

The East leaves it at that. The wise men and women of Asia meditate on the apparent finitude of human existence with peaceful acceptance. They view personality, including their own, as a bubble that forms for a moment on the surface of a pond and then dissolves back into the water that gave it its brief discernible form. It can be appreciated but any attachment to it causes suffering.

That was the Buddha’s great core idea.

Christians see things differently.

For us, the “ah-nn” is not merely the boundaries of our garden. For us, the “ah-nn” is a person who comes from eternity and returns there. However, while in this garden, he makes us a promise “that where I am there you may be also.”

In this view, personality begins, just as the wise people of Asia insist, as a bubble.  But for us, personality does not dissolve back into the water from which it came. This bubble — my personhood — has been given the gift of permanence by the Great “ah-nn.”

We indeed form in time. However, Christ prepares us to transcend time. This is our central quest as St. Paul puts it, “that I may obtain to the resurrection of the dead.”

Greek Christians call this concept “theois.” It is the belief that through Jesus, we have the unspeakable gift of timelessness. “This is He, who coming into the world enlightens every person.” “He was in the world and the word was made by him. He came unto his own and his own did not receive Him but to every one who does receive him, to them he gives the power to become the sons of God.”

I don’t know anyone who ever said it better than William Booth Clibborn,

What condescension, bringing us redemption;
That in the dark of night, not one faint hope in sight;
What glorious mystery!
Sacrifice of Calvary —
And just to think He is the great I Am!


-Pastor Dan Scott


One Comment (Add Yours)

  1. Your thoughts make me thankful that God created time, but lives outside of it…