I don’t usually mention Jesus terribly often here at HFG. Almost always I’ll refer to “God” instead. I guess in my head I’ve kind of lumped the Trinity into a glowy orb that’s God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit all at the same time. These words aren’t coming easy, and I think it’s because I’m about to say something that I really would prefer to leave buried somewhere inside of me instead of unearthing it to face the light of day and risk horrifying my readers.
I’m a little embarrassed by Jesus.
Wait! Come back! At least… Let me try to explain.
Listen. I love God. I think he’s a pretty awesome guy. I know there’s some stuff in the Old Testament that’s a little tricky, but he seemed to turn a corner in the New Testament and He’s always been pretty good to me. I trust God. I like him. But Jesus… Where does he fit in?
This baby shows up two thousand years ago, disappears for a few years, pops up for just a second as a teenager, and then the next time we hear about him, he’s thirty years old. And not just a normal thirty year old; he’s turning water into wine and collecting disciples like they were Pokemon and starting revolutions and it seems like no one ever really understands exactly what he’s talking about. The book that first told me about God tells me that God says that this dude is an okay guy.
So I give him the benefit of the doubt. But that doesn’t mean all that weird stuff just goes away.
I grew up in the Church. More specifically, I grew up in an Evangelical Pentecostal church, which means I bore witness to speaking in tongues and Jericho marches and spontaneous dancing down the aisles of the church. Because I grew up in it, that was totally base line normal behavior in my book. And then I got old enough to start inviting friends to church.
The feeling I get when I try to explain Jesus to someone is the same feeling I had when when I had to explain why the old lady that played the organ had begun speaking another language and rolling around on the floor of our church: A little amused, a little embarrassed, and more than anything else, desperately wishing I could make it make sense.
Generally speaking, people will give you the belief in God. If you tell a stranger you believe in a benevolent force that takes an active interest in our lives, even if they disagree with you, they’ll more or less be okay with it. If you tell them that the benevolent force chose to become a human, lived with us for thirty-three years, allowed himself to be brutally murdered, and then came back to life three days later… Well, I think you can understand why they might have a hard time accepting that.
So… Why Jesus? Why an incarnation?
I don’t know. The obvious answer is so that Jesus could die for our sins, but we believe that God is omnipotent. He can do anything. So why wouldn’t he have done it differently? Why would he have chosen a path riddled with fear and darkness and spattered with blood?
Sometimes I think that if I had the chance to re-live my life, I’d totally do it if I could go in knowing what I’ve learned this time around from the start. What if Jesus really wanted to come to Earth? He had already experienced the vast, infinite realm of exploration and joy that Heaven had to offer. He was so eager to show us humans what we were missing. What if from the very beginning he had been pestering God and the Ghost (BTdubs, I would totally watch that sitcom) to let him come down here?
Finally, God relents, and Jesus is allowed to appear inside our world. Jesus is so excited to show us what we needed to know! It’s so obvious! So simple! Love God! Love your neighbor! He would be the example humanity needed. He was going to show us exactly who we were supposed to be.
But… he didn’t realize how broken we were. He hadn’t seen the depths of human despair and cruelty. He had never smelled the stink of death. Felt the anguish of a loved one dying. How did that affect him? How did that change him?
He watched for thirty-three years as miracles he had been positive would change us fell upon deaf ears and eyes. His options started to dwindle. What if Jesus’ decision to die on the cross was the final desperate act of a man who didn’t know what else to do?
What if… it wasn’t morality that Jesus came to model for us, but a life fully lived? Certainly, how we choose to live our life plays a role in that, but what if Jesus forgave us on the cross because he knew we would never live up to the perfection he modeled? What if what Jesus wants, is for us to realize why we’re on this planet and use that knowledge to better love God and love people?
What if Jesus has less to do with weird miracles and strange stories and more to do with being fully present to your loved ones? What if the point of his time on earth wasn’t so we could toss his name around to justify our fears and prejudices, but to show us what it looked like when we loved those around us complete regardless of who they were or what they did?
Maybe it’s not Jesus I’m embarrassed by, but rather it’s my faulty understanding of he is and what that should mean to me.