Monday, June 25, 2012

If Jesus Reveals God...

Call me crazy, but I've come to believe that the scandalous opinion of Christian theology is that the person Jesus of Nazareth reveals God. John the Evangelist wrote, "No one has ever seen God; the only Son has made him known." (John 1:18) The Apostle Paul once said that in Jesus "the fullness of God was pleased to dwell." (Col. 1:19 and 2:9) The author of Hebrews also confessed that Jesus "reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of God's nature." (Heb. 1:3) 

Others have come to believe this as well. The second century Christian bishop Irenaeus once said that the Incarnation of Jesus "means nothing else than that God is comprehended in Christ alone." Constructive theologian Sallie McFague calls Jesus the parable of God. She asserts that Jesus is the metaphor for understanding the character and nature of God. We cannot go around Jesus nor contemplate God apart from Jesus of Nazareth. Another theologian, Jurgen Moltmann writes, "When the crucified Jesus is called the 'image of the invisible God,' [Col. 1:15] the meaning is that this is God, and God is like this."

Much of the time Jesus is viewed as God's special rescue mission and is seen more in terms of what he does [for us] rather than who he is. But the Christian tradition pushes us to see Jesus more in terms of him "who reflects God's glory" and "makes God known." In this sense, Jesus is the normative paradigm for thinking about God. He is like the special lenses we must put on when attempting to look at God, for without them we cannot see God. 

According to Christianity's outrageous faith claim, the only way to know God is through Jesus. What does this mean for our view of God? 

If Jesus reveals God, then...
  • God is not a coercive being
  • the power of God is revealed in weakness
  • God is a God of kenosis (i.e. gives up power for the sake of others)
  • God speaks and moves within the limitations of particular cultural contexts (i.e. within the language, thought patterns, symbols, etc.)
  • God speaks through stories, not just propositions and 'facts'
  • God is fundamentally concerned for the poor and the oppressed (Luke 4:18-20); yet also the oppressors (Matt. 9:9-13)
  • God suffers (indeed suffered a most shameful and grievous death)
  • God bears the scars of suffering
  • God would rather experience death than be without creation
  • God is not repulsed by sin but chooses to be the friend of sinners

These are just some of the ways I see Jesus. In what other ways does this scandalous claim influence our understanding of God? Please add to this conversation by commenting. Thanks. - jmw


  1. I wonder what the "messianic secret" reveals about God. Is it naivete to try and keep his identity a secret? Or is it keen insight that commanding secrecy will ensure the news will spread?

    Does Jesus know that "tell to nothing to no one" will be as readily followed as "you must not eat of that tree"?


  2. If God chooses to reveal Godself through relationship, then it means God must be deeply and at the core a relational being. And, not only is the method of God's revelation to humanity relational (because it happens through the person of Jesus and not directly through God the Father) but, the expression is relational too. By that, I mean that Jesus is human, therefore interacting with humans in a relational way.
    Basically, humanity has been hit by a divine, relational double whammy!

  3. @Moose: Interesting thought. The "messianic secret" of Jesus might reveal that God moves in very upside-down ways. One way, as you pointed out, is by spreading the news of the kingdom by telling others to remain silent (but, honestly, can one remain silent about such good news?). Another example that I find similar is that God leads by serving. Indeed, Jesus reveals a very upside-down God. Thanks for your input.

    @Heather: How could I overlook the relational (trinitarian) elements of the Incarnation! Thank you for pointing this out. Another way to articulate what I think you are saying is (perhaps) that the MEDIUM IS THE MESSAGE! That is, God IS this particular human-way-of-relating-revealed-in-Jesus. Beautiful.

    One of the other areas that I love to explore is how the revelation of God in Christ influences our view of personal eschatology. How do Jesus' words ["I will draw all men to myself" and "Father forgive them for they know not what they do"] influence our view of ultimate salvation?