From Praying the Names of Jesus Week Twenty-Two, Day Two
Like the Father, Jesus is God. He always was, always is, and always will be. But unlike the Father, Jesus is also a human being. Though charged with blasphemy and crucified for claiming to be one with the Father, Jesus' resurrection validates his claim to be God's Son in a unique way. When we confess our belief that Jesus is the Son of God, we share in the love the Father has for the Son, becoming adopted children of God.
Though Jesus was the Son of God, he was also the Son of Man, a title that emphasizes both his lowliness and his eventual dominion. Near the end of his life, when the high priest asked him whether he was the Son of God, Jesus no longer avoided the title but said that he would one day "see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven" (Matthew 26:64).
When you pray to Jesus as Son of God and Son of Man, you are praying to the One who is your Brother and your Lord.
"But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven." Matthew 16:15-17
Praying the Name
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?"
They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets."
"But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?"
Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." Matthew 16:13-16
Reflect On: Matthew 16:13-16.
Praise God: Who is Infinite Mystery.
Offer Thanks: For Jesus who is both Son of God and Son of Man.
Confess: Your limited understanding.
Ask God: To give you deeper insights into his nature.
I have a sneaking suspicion that many of us who believe in the doctrine of the Trinity still tend to relate to Jesus and the Father as though they are two separate deities. Last year I tried to shore up my theological understanding by purchasing a couple of hefty tomes on the Trinity.
Perhaps I am naïve, but I expected it to be a thrilling experience. After all I was hunting God, intent on knowing him better. What could be more exciting?
But sadly my search produced more yawns than insight. After wading through page after page of theological lingo, I still didn't get it — how could there be three Persons in one God? I was reduced to thinking about all the simplistic metaphors that have been devised to help children approach this awesome mystery — water as liquid, steam, and ice; a clover with three leaves; a chord with three notes; an egg with shell, white, and yolk; sunlight refracted into a rainbow of colors.
I have the same problem when it comes to understanding the mystery of how Jesus can be both Son of God and Son of Man. How can these two natures coexist? Not meaning to be irreverent, I think of my favorite salad dressing, a calorie-rich balsamic vinaigrette. But this isn't a workable analogy because the oil in the dressing always separates from the vinegar, settling on top like a thick yellow ribbon. Maybe, I think, it is more like a vial of clear water into which brightly colored dye is poured. The water is still water but every bit of it is imbued with the color of the dye. But this seems like such a feeble way of imagining a muscular theological truth. In the end, I simply give up. I cannot fathom how Jesus can be both human and divine though I believe he is.
Toward the end of his life, one of the twentieth century's most famous theologians had the humility to remark about himself that "the angels are laughing at old Karl Barth for trying to grasp God." All of us need this kind of humility when it comes to understanding the mystery of who God is.
George Washington Carver, a former slave who became a scientist, is famous for his many discoveries, including hundreds of uses for the peanut. He once charmingly remarked, "When I was young, I said to God, ‘God, tell me the mystery of the universe.' But God answered, ‘That knowledge is for me alone.' So I said, ‘God, tell me the mystery of the peanut.' Then God said, ‘Well, George, that's more nearly your size.' "
So God is mystery, unfathomable and profound. Yet he reveals as much of himself as we can take in, that he is powerful, loving, good, and forgiving, and that in the Person of Jesus he has taken up our infirmities and carried our sorrows in order to save us. When it comes to penetrating the mystery of Christ, love is a better tool even than intellectual curiosity. To quote George Washington Carver again: "Anything will give up its secrets if you love it enough. Not only have I found that when I talk to the little flower or to the little peanut they will give up their secrets but I have found that when I silently commune with people they give up their secrets also — if you love them enough." Today, may we love Christ enough to entice him to reveal more of who he is and how he cares for us.
Two of Ann Spangler's most-loved books have been released in paperback: Praying the Names of God and Praying the Names of Jesus.
These books help us understand the biblical context in which these names and titles were revealed, and help us gain a more intimate knowledge of the Father and of the Son.