A friend of mine was telling me a story of a time he was at a conference, and he heard a preacher/speaker say that if Jesus came through the door right then that everyone one in the room would immediately fall to their knees, overcome with his might and majesty.
Just a couple days ago I was listening to the last episode of the podcast series, “The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill,” and I heard Mark Driscoll say something similar. Referring to an image of Jesus out of Revelation (an interpretation that I’d probably disagree with), Driscoll remarked that beating Jesus suffered at the hands of the Roman troops before his execution was “the last beating he would ever take,” and that when Jesus came back (again from an image in the book of Revelation), he’d be like a bad-ass, avenging angel.
For a long time, I probably thought and believed the same way. I read the same passages in Revelation, and had similar reactions. There was a part of me that struggled to reconcile Jesus as the very presence of God on earth with the suffering, the meekness, the weakness that he seemed to willing embrace in the gospels.
(He displayed extraordinary courage, faith, and conviction as well, but that’s another story for another day.)
But I realize now that my ideas about God, Jesus, and in particular ”power and strength” were clouded by a limited understanding.
For me, I’ve come to understand that, actually, to be God is to be willing to empty yourself, to be weak.
Maybe to be “strong,” in a Biblical sense is to be unafraid of weakness.
Saint Paul writes about this idea in Philippians, when he says that precisely because Jesus was God, he did not consider himself equal to God.
If Jesus would have been less than God, he would have grasped at a human conception of “God,” including power, strength, might (and probably a strong tendency to “smite enemies”).
But that’s not who Jesus is. And it’s not who God is.
And, by God’s definition, it’s not what power is.
What’s the point?
First, the point is that if Jesus walked into a room that you were in, I’m not sure you’d fall over, struck by laser beam lights.
(Actually, you it’s entirely possible you would not even notice that he walked in.)
But if you did notice him, you’d probably be aware of how much space he made for people. How he was unafraid of letting others talk.
Because power like this is utterly unafraid of what I call “weakness.”
Second, the point is that, in light of all of this, how could God not choose to show up on earth in all of the vulnerability of a human baby, utterly dependent on his mother for food and nourishment, needing others for his protection.
Makes me think.