My daughter came up to me yesterday crying because she was dissatisfied with her brother’s theology. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the first time.
When my 5 year old son wants to play by himself, much to the dismay of my 4 year old daughter, he tells her that Jesus is always with her so Jesus can play with her. Not very satisfying to her tender child’s heart.
Her tears come from the reality that though Jesus is always with her, he makes an unsatisfactory playmate because he has no body Right Now.
This is the eternal struggle, isn’t it? No matter if you’re a child or an adult it’s difficult to believe in the unseen, have faith in the invisible. We have no tactile God to grasp and hold.
I envy the disciples. I envy the women, Mary, Martha, Mary Magdalene. I envy the blind man, the woman at the well, those who saw and touched Jesus.
Those who called him friend. Friends because of the shared trials, friends because of the time spent, because of the laughter and tears, the meals and comfortable silences.
What did they know and see that we will never understand. To look into the face of their friend and try to grasp the fullness of the Almighty.
That tension exists for me. My son and daughter see a friend in Jesus, but that sits less comfortably with me. Through the years I’ve heard songs sing of Jesus our friend. But I wiggle and struggle with that phrase. It is and always has been difficult for my finite human brain to grasp the Almighty contained within the Incarnate.
How can Jesus be my friend?
Fear can lean us towards an imbalance. Fear of the perceived mercilessness and judgement of God can draw us towards a Jesus who is friend but not saviour. The sacrificial lamb without the Lion of Judah.
This is a continual struggle with me but in the other direction. When I perceive that Jesus is being watered down, I lean more towards the image of God as creator and bringer of all things. And I lean away from Jesus, because I know that the nature of my sins cannot be wiped clean by someone who is friend and not God.
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together…For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself and all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” Colossians 1:15-17, 19-20
This is the glory of what God has done for me, for us. That Jesus is the image of the invisible God. A true Saviour cloaked in flesh. Flesh that was capable of gladness and sorrow, sore feet and loving arms, jokes and stillness.
True goodness and power that could touch and be touched. That called them and me friend. There is no weakness in that. The greatest gift Jesus gave was his life laid down for us so that we might turn towards him and be clean in his eyes and have the right to call him friend.
It is the aspect of friend that strikes me this Easter season. That his sacrifice on the cross was an act of mercy and love. And because of this I can see and imagine new things about God. Because he drew himself closer, close enough to see and touch, to laugh and grieve alongside of us. The God of the universe drawn close with gentleness and power held in balanced measure. No loss of power and no lessening of mercy. Love incarnate in ways we can imagine and beyond our wildest dreams.