Would you say that you understand better what it is like to be a person… or what it is like to be God? Do you have a greater sense of humanity or divinity? I can answer that. I know exactly what it’s like to be a person, but I have absolutely no idea what it would be like to be God. To me, that is a great mystery, something out of reach and completely unrelatable.
I get the human thing. The divine thing? Not so much.
Ok, so now I ask you: Do you have a better sense of Jesus as human? Or Jesus as God? As I think about that question, and I have actually been thinking about that question a lot, I have to say that I understand his divinity far more than I understand his humanity. I appreciate that he experienced much of what I can experience – that’s the human part – but the fact that he is one third of the Divine and Holy Trinity compels me to… well… think of him as God.
Plus, I feel comfortable praying to God. But not to a human.
The great mystery of our faith is that Jesus is both… fully God and fully human. He is not Clark Kent who really was Superman just dressed up like a regular, nerdy guy with big eyeglasses. Clark Kent was a superhero under that three-piece suit. Jesus is not God hidden underneath a human shell. He is fully and completely human.
I find this to be fascinating. And complicated. And perplexing. When I try to think about Jesus, I have to confess, I see him more like God in human’s clothing. Much as I try not to think about it that way, I just do.
It’s hard for me to relate to the divine because I understand it so poorly. So, I have been focusing on Jesus’ humanity as a way to get to know him better, because the point of Christianity is to develop a relationship with Christ. Redemption, salvation and the gateway to eternity are all dependent upon this… that is, getting to know Jesus.
I will tell you something that has helped me in this regard immeasurably and that is reflecting upon Jesus as a newborn. Considering Jesus in such a vulnerable and totally dependent state has really reinforced to me that Jesus actually was a human. He was the Creator sure… but also totally and completely dependent upon his Created parents. And then all through his childhood, he relied upon Mary and Joseph in the way that children rely upon the adults in their lives – for food, shelter, safety and belonging.
It is hard for me to believe that once Jesus became an adult and was baptized by his cousin as we just celebrated last weekend, that he made some type of dramatic conversion from vulnerable human to almighty God. That he initially experienced all the dimensions of humanity and then subsequently grew into some kind of invincible divine state.
I have been seeing that the human part of him still experienced the vulnerabilities and the challenges of life. That’s what made him human.
Which brings us to today’s Gospel reading where we hear about Jesus selecting the first apostles. The way I have always thought about this, and the way I have seen it depicted in some films, is that Jesus comes upon these simple men and peers toward them with his deeply penetrating eyes and with the effervescent glow of his divinity just pouring off of him… and that those men knew precisely who he was and that their lives were about to be completely transformed in that very moment. And that he offered them something they were missing and longing for. Jesus the divine would do this in just this manner.
But what about Jesus the human? When I think about this, I see it all a little differently. My imagination takes me in a different direction. Jesus has just been baptized and has declared his ministry. He is acknowledging publicly who he is and that he has a job to do. Could the human Jesus have been wondering just how exactly he was to do this job? Or even what that job would entail or require of him?
Instead of pointing a glowing Godly finger at a small group of very fortunate men… I am wondering… I am imagining… that perhaps he is seeking help. And is feeling the weight of this task on his shoulders and is expressing some uncertainty about where to begin… and realizing that he can’t do it all by himself. It is a very human thing to feel uncertainty and fear. To want to try to gather up others who will be willing to share this experience. To get support and accompaniment.
Is it so strange to think that Jesus the child who was dependent on his parents could turn out to be Jesus the man who was also dependent on his friends? Jesus was human and dependency is a human reality.
Those first disciples were called and chosen to help fulfill the salvation story. We are no less called and chosen to do the very same thing.
This understanding can radically impact how we interact with this Savior. How we get to know him. How we build relationship. And how we pray.
And speaking of prayer…
To Jesus the divine, we might say: “Transform me Lord, bring me with you into eternity… and save my soul.”
But to Jesus the human, we might say: “How can I help you, Lord… and what can I do for you?”
Give it a try. Honor Jesus as God, sure… but relate to him as human.
We are called and chosen. Helping him is our part of the salvation story.