But Can We Really Trust Him
Thoughts on the Second Readings – Joe Frankenfield
Fourth Sunday of Advent
A priest I worked with many years ago had the reputation of being a simple, straight forward man. You got what you saw with him. He told you what he thought or he said nothing. He was kind to your face and kind behind your back. Folks loved and trusted him.
We all look for this you-get-what-you-see honesty in a friend. We deeply value knowing where we stand with people. This causes some people a problem with their faith in Jesus.
Scripture presents Jesus as having such a close relationship with God that he sometimes seems to merely play-act humanity. Paul writes “Through one man’s (i.e., Jesus’) obedience all shall become just.” [Romans 5:19] and “Though he was (God’s) son, he learned obedience from what he suffered.” [Hebrews 5:8]. “God so loved the world that he sent his only Son . . .” [John 3:16]. And in the back of our minds an itch begins: Are people just pawns in a giant chess game between God, Jesus and, maybe, Satan? Did Jesus actually love us or was he being loyal to a higher relationship? Do we have the Jesus we think we see?
The gospel-writing communities faced hard questions. How could God die? How could the Messiah, the promised world leader, end up executed as a third rate rabble-rouser? One way they answered their questions was to present Jesus as a Son obeying his divine Father’s request.
We may or may not find such an explanation credible or helpful but our core faith remains: Jesus, the true presence of God, was a real human loving us with a deep, human love. The gospels hold hints of the deeply human Jesus that those who lived with him knew. They tell how Jesus mourned when he visited the tomb of his friend Lazarus and felt the grief of his sisters. They narrate the real pain Jesus expressed when he was unable to convince the people of Jerusalem to accept his vision of God’s love.
Jesus lived and loved as one of us. In prayer, after his resurrection those who knew him realized that he was much more as well.