One of the things you will find when you delve into the life of Jesus of Nazareth is that he is not the kind of Messiah that people expected. When people expected a Messiah, they did not expect God the Son, Person of the Holy Trinity. They expected various things, primarily human: emperors, priests, warriors, etc. I grew up hearing sermons to that effect: Jesus is not who we expect Jesus to be. Jesus is not the Savior we want, but Jesus is the Savior we need. Then we get into conversations from liberals and conservatives alike that claim the other is making Jesus in their own image. In reality, Jesus is not who we want Jesus to be.
Over time, I have grown comfortable with that notion. I have become comfortable with the fact that Jesus makes me uncomfortable. That is obviously a life-long journey and requires the continual effort toward humility. But I was fine with it, so long as we were talking about Jesus. The problem is that when, as Christians, we are talking about Jesus, we are talking about God. Lest we forget that we believe that this human Jesus is unconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably divine, we must remember that when we speak of Jesus, we also speak of God.
Theologian Catherine LaCugna once said: “In Jesus Christ and the Spirit, we do not know a shadow image of God, but the real living God. This real living God who saves — this is God!” Elizabeth Johnson, another theologian, adds, “We know God from the way God has acted in history, through the incarnate Word and renewing Spirit.” Thomas Torrance perhaps put it most simply: “There is no God behind the back of Jesus.”
I think we always want there to be a God behind Jesus. We want some idea of God we have to really exist behind Jesus’ back. We want a God playing the strings of the universe like a harp, delicately strumming each string to the melody of a predetermined tune — that way, we do not have to worry about anything because God controls everything. We are thus absolved from our concerns for things to be made right in our lives and in the world, because God is in control. When God is in control, we need not be concerned.
But if there is no God behind Jesus, that isn’t the way it works. Continue reading “The God I Want”