Putting God into a Jesus-Shaped Box

“He who has seen Me has seen the Father”
I had a bit of a paradigm shift today. When I read about Jesus in the Gospels, I have a tendency to picture whats going on in the text in my mind as I read. A strangely Jim-Caviezel looking Jesus standing before sinister looking Pharisees, with their hoods up like closet-Sith lords, brooding over crowds of innocent middle-class looking Jewish people fawning and fainting as Jesus’ feet. My imagination can be a strange place sometimes.
But too often I fall into this faulty line of thinking, where Jesus is kind of like the good guy who comes and saves the day because God’s angry with us for all the bad stuff we’ve done. As if God the Father and Jesus are pulling the classic good cop/bad cop on us to get us to confess. Jesus is here on earth, sort of the front man for the Trinity, telling us that everything is ok and we can be right with the Father, while God the Father is standing back, still angry but willing to let us off the hook since Jesus is taking care of things.
I realized today that that is a wrong way of looking at it. Jesus is constantly saying in John statements like, “I and the Father are one.” To which I, in my overly informed theology, write of as, “oh yeah, that Trinity thing” and move on. But I need to stop and really think about what that means. John 1:18 says that Jesus “explained” the Father. He is literally “the exegesis” of God the Father, meaning that makes Jesus who He is and defines what He does is what makes the Father who He is and defines what He does. There is no God the Father/Jesus the Son sort of good/bad, mercy/wrath dichotomy like I’ve tended to think. Jesus isn’t standing between me and God, as if holding the two of us back to keep us from going at it.
The things that Christ does on earth explain to us the nature and desires of the Father. Whatever Jesus does, God the Father does.
Think about this in light of the stories we have of Jesus here on earth.
Jesus touches a ceremonially unclean and outcasted leper to heal and restore him. God touches, heals and restores the leper (Matt. 8 )

Jesus dines with tax collectors and sinners. God dines with tax collectors and sinners (Matt. 9)

Jesus lets a bunch of children climb all over him. God lets a bunch of children climb all over him.  (Matt. 19)

Jesus weeps at the death of his friend. God weeps at the death of his friend.  (John 11)

Jesus dies a sacrificial death. God dies a sacrificial death.

Those last two are the toughest ones to get around. A God who weeps? A God who dies?
And yet, before he goes to the cross, Jesus prays “glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You.” All along, the Father has been glorified and pleased in everything Christ has done, but there’s a sense in which He is about to be even more pleased and glorified in the sacrificial death of Jesus.
There’s a sense in which I have been attempting to put Jesus into this box of what I know of who God is. God is omni this and omni that. And so when Jesus acts surprised, when he weeps over the death of his friend, I’m at a loss to explain that. But maybe my definitions of God are misguided. (Don’t read “wrong,” read “misemphasized”).
So I’m trying to wrap my head around this idea: Putting God into a Jesus-shaped box rather than trying to fit Jesus into a God-shaped box. Jesus is the incarnation of God, the things that he loves and the things that he weeps over are the same things the Father loves and weeps over. If I want to know God, I must look to the man Jesus Christ.
We emphasize Jesus being God, but perhaps we inadvertenly emphasize one half of that phrase to the neglect of the other.
Jesus is God.
Yes, but-
Jesus is God.
I should credit Dr. Timothy Gombis, Cedarville University (among many other individuals) for the framework of this discussion and the inspiration for many of these thoughts.

2 thoughts on “Putting God into a Jesus-Shaped Box”

  1. you’re on *exactly* the right track here Jon. Upholding the homo-ousios (the Nicene pronouncement that Jesus and the Father are of ‘one being’) is definitely the most important theological battle of all time. And it wasn’t a one-off victory in 325AD. Every day I personally have to remind myself that God is *exactly* what I see in Jesus.

    Jesus stoops down to wash His disciple’s feet in order to do His *Father’s* business.

    I recently phrased it like this:

    Jesus is God-sized. God is Jesus-shaped.

    We’re good at telling people that Jesus is God. But the god they have in mind *is* the sullen, arms-crossed, lonely, bitter, arm-chair deity who cares little for his creation. To proclaim that Jesus is *that* god is not good news. The good news we have to tell the world is that Jesus reveals a God unlike anything the world has seen – a God who is not big and nasty nor small and petty – a God big enough to climb off the throne and spread His arms to the whole world in love.

    Here’s one of my all time favourite sermons on the subject. By Darrell Johnson: “So that’s what it means to be God”

    It’s here:

    Preached Jan 7, 2007.

  2. Interesting article Jon! To emphasize Jesus’ deity at times i say that God died for us on the cross as Jesus is God.

    Let me ask you when you said, “And so when Jesus acts surprised, when he weeps over the death of his friend, I’m at a loss to explain that. But maybe my definitions of God are misguided. (Don’t read “wrong,” read “misemphasized”).” Do you think it was a matter of being surprised? Or simply that Jesus heart went out to his friends weeping at a funeral for one they loved. For instance, when I was at the nursing home ministry Sunday I was called into a room by a family wanting me to say a prayer for their dad that just died. So I prayer with the family and was moved with compassion, with tears, even though I didn’t know the guy,but I cried with them. Why? I know they were hurting and missed the father they loved and that moved me.

    Jesus knew he would raise Lazarus from the dead, but was still moved with the compassion for the people around Him (especially Mary who fell at his feet weeping) and for the one that was in the tomb/grave. I just don’t think He was surprised as the text speaks of his knowing he was dead in John 11:14.

    Jon, i think you are a fantastic writer that has an ability to be used for God and has been used by God!

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