The Common Good

Holy Week Reflection: God Made Flesh

The Cross is an inexhaustible mystery, but among the many things it does so well is make visible the love of God.

Cross of branches, Ihnatovich Maryia /
Cross of branches, Ihnatovich Maryia /

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In Jesus Christ, God is not an abstraction, concept, or idea. The Unknowable is made known. The Invisible is made material. All mysticism is now grounded, and all agnosticism now countered, in this particular Person; there is now, paradoxically, a Measure within Measurelessness.

"For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body." (Col. 2:9) "For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ." (Col. 1:19)

Conversely, whatever is not revealed in Jesus is not the Triune God.

Contemporary Christians (of all sorts of persuasions) tend to de-couple God from Jesus.

Traditionalists and progressives alike construct complicated (often confusing) systems of conceptual theology that collapse when confronted with the reality of Jesus, God enfleshed; the reality of Jesus, the crucified God.

Jesus makes it hard to claim that we don't really know who God is and can't really say much for certain about God, which is the temptation of many progressives. He also makes it hard to press Classical Greek attributes for the divine that no longer make sense when we encounter God's arrival in time, space, and matter, which is the temptation of many traditionalists.

We can say a great deal about God because of Jesus Christ. We can also rule out a lot about God because of Jesus Christ.

Many skeptics and cynics are actually opposing not Jesus but the systematic God of the ancient philosophers or the soft "Otherness" God (who can be whatever we want God to be). Christians worship neither of these gods.

We follow the flesh-and-blood manifestation of the Creator we have in Jesus Christ, revealed in the New Testament and in the worship of the church as the Lamb of God, slain from the foundation of the world for the sins of the whole world.

Jesus hanging as a curse on a tree is the exact image of Israel's unseen אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה "I Am That I Am."

With Lesslie Newbigin of blessed memory, I remember the note they found sewn into the lining of Pascal's coat: "Not the god of the philosophers, but the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob."

If we have seen Jesus, we have seen the Father. Jesus and the Father are One.

Jesus is the One who makes the demons tremble, who delivers us from death, who restores our membership in the divine family, not the god of the philosophers, sages, and gurus.

The Rev. Kenneth Tanner is pastor of Church of the Holy Redeemer in Rochester Hills, Mich. Follow him on Twitter: @kennethtanner.

Image: Cross of branches, Ihnatovich Maryia /

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