Something has crept into our assumptions about Jesus that makes it almost impossible to relate to him, not to mention love him. I say “crept” because it has not been a conscious decision; few of the things that shape our actual convictions are. I think much of the creep has happened, ironically, as a result of our attempts to love and revere Christ. But crept in this notion has, and it has done great damage to our perceptions of him, our experience of him.
It’s the notion that Jesus was really “pretending” when he presented himself as a man.
We who worship Jesus Christ hold fast to the belief that he was God. “Very God of very God,” as the Nicene Creed states. The heroic actions and miraculous powers of Jesus’ life attest to it. So, when we read what we would call the more human moments, we feel that Jesus was sort of . . . cheating. With a nod and a wink we know that what’s really happening is that Einstein has dropped in to take the first-grade math quiz. Mozart is playing a measure in the kindergarten song flute choir. After all, we’re talking about Jesus here. The guy walked on water, raised Lazarus from the dead. He never broke a sweat, right?
But then, what do you make of that terrible sweat in Gethsemane?
Overwhelmed with sorrow.
This doesn’t sound like somebody cheating to me. He begs his Father, with tears, that this awful cup might be taken from him. Please, let there be some other way. He doesn’t want to do it. Sweat like blood pouring from his tormented brow. He pleads with his Father, and then he pleads a second time, and then a third. Does this sound like Einstein adding two and two?
He was human. Really.