Hi there! This post is part of a 31-Day writing adventure I’m embarking on. I’d love for you to join me and read along. You can find the introduction to the series, and a “Table of Contents” as each day goes live, right here. Thanks so much for dropping in!
The idea really struck me for the first time the other day as I was driving down Second Street in our wee town, taking the Tank to preschool. Two more little ones were in the car, and I don’t know if we were listening to music or the kids were watching something — but I am usually just inspired by thankfulness most mornings when all three of my children wake up and we have the privilege of another day together.
Whatever was happening in the seats behind me, I was in the front pondering the existence of Jesus. Not the question of whether or not he existed — I think there’s more evidence that Jesus existed than that Abraham Lincoln existed, so that’s not really a question in my mind.
I was deep in thought about the fact that God decided to come to the Earth as a human. It hadn’t occurred to me before, really, this thought that He could have showed up as a magical talking dragon, delighting fifth grade boys everywhere, and instantly winning favor with people because, ya know, who wouldn’t like a nice dragon on their team?
Or, perhaps more realistically (although God could do anything, ya know — He’s God!) He could have walked among us as some sort of angelic being that seemed kind of human but also had majestic wings and tended to appear and disappear at will whenever we needed help. With some superhero qualities thrown in for good measure. No one would’ve questioned whether or not an Angelic Super Hero had come from God. At least I don’t think so.
But what an unexpected risk the God of the Universe took, in His Incarnation, His arrival on the scene, in human form! And He didn’t just show up as an adult human either — He went all in and was born, a helpless baby just like the rest of us, who trusted His mother and (earthly) father to care for Him.
How risky, He arrived just like everybody else. Some of you reading these words right now might not believe He was anything other than just a guy who showed up with a lot of useful things to say and probably did some nice stuff. Maybe you think His miracles were smoke and mirrors. Maybe you think the Bible is full of holes and errors and not worth building a life on. (Mind you, I’ve been reading it cover to cover for years and I haven’t found any yet.)
God really took a risk when He decided to arrive like you and me.
But the people who lived in Jesus’ time? They knew something was different about Him. Some thought He was dangerous, a threat to tradition, some thought He was the hope for the political deliverance of the Jewish nation, still others confessed Him to be the long-awaited Messiah, the Son of God.
After a few years of ministry and miracles, and of pouring out into a needy world and especially investing in the twelve disciples who would later turn the world upside down, Jesus announced His departure. In John 13, the story is retold — how He washed His disciples’ feet and then predicted His betrayal, and that Peter would deny Him.
Clearly, the disciples, many of whom were planning on “ruling the joint” as Jesus’ right-hand-men, were disappointed to know that this man who’d completely changed their lives was leaving. In John 14, Jesus encouraged them that He would prepare a place for them, and then they could come, too. And, He added, “you know the way to where I am going.”
I can almost hear the ache in Thomas’ heart when he says “We have no idea where you’re going, so how can we know the way!?!?!” (John 14:5)
Then Jesus answers, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is. From now on, you do know him, and have seen him!”
The guys still aren’t catching on, this time Philip asks, “Lord, show us the Father and we will be satisfied.”
Jesus replies, “Have I been with you all this time Philip, and yet you still don’t know who I am? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! … Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I speak are not my own, but my Father who lives in me does his work through me.”
And that is the marvelously unexpected mystery unfolding before our eyes — seeing a human, someone of flesh and bone who is just like us, can allow us to see God. And perhaps that’s because it’s not about what God looks like — a magical dragon or a strapping, mysterious angel.
If Jesus was a human, just like us, but we can still see God when we look at Him, then what is it we’re supposed to see?
What God wants us to see is the actions of a human who is doing God’s will, living out God’s heart.
In His glorious goodness, God arrived on the scene looking just like us, which in turn shows us that there is hope for this broken humanity — when we learn how to live with a heart like His.
It’s no mistake that the next topic of conversation between Jesus and His disciples at this point was the discussion of the Holy Spirit — the Third Person in the Trinity, the Helper who comes into human hearts and allows us to live out God’s heart, to walk the way Jesus walked. Jesus lived out a relationship of constant communication with God, of constantly doing God’s will, and showed us what it would look like, and then told us how we would be enabled to live that way, too.
Will you join me to talk about that tomorrow?