What do you put your trust in? This may seem like an odd question given the topic of who Jesus is, but it’s extremely relevant. What, not just whom, do you trust in? What do you rely on to make it through this life. Sure, we trust God to lead us into eternal life in heaven, but what about this life here on earth? What do we trust will get us through our day-to-day routines?
Money? Do we assume that by acquiring enough materials and by getting the best-paying job, that we will find security in our lives? Maybe not to be rich, but to have enough to provide for our families and to help our communities. We’re not greedy, nor gluttonous, but we do know that financial stability is important in this life. Our jobs, our investments, our budgets are all crucial factors in helping us keep our heads above water.
Relationships? Do we assume that by knowing the right people we will find security? If we are to make our way through this world, we must network, meet the right folks, build our connections. And not just to get better jobs, but for our personal needs too: family, friends, colleagues. These are the people who help us out when times get rough, who encourage us, correct us, inspire us. We lean on them to get through.
Systems? Do we assume that our security in life depends on living in the best political system? Do we believe that our future is only safe as long as our republican democracy is strong? What about economics? Do we fear that anything that undermines free enterprise is a threat to our well-being? Or maybe we hold the opposite, desiring more government control over our economy to bring about equality, justice, and prosperity for all.
Rights? Do we assume that our lives cannot be secure until everyone’s civil rights are honored? We are only trying to do what is fair, and to allow all people the right to live freely according to what is best for them. We want our rights to be equal to everyone else’s, so that no matter what our race, age, gender, orientation, religion, political stance, etc., we will be able to participate fully in a peaceful and safe culture.
What do we trust in? What do we rely on, day-in and day-out? What are the foundations of our lives?
I ask all these questions because they truly do reveal to us who we think Christ is. By showing us how much we trust in Christ and how much in other things, they tell us where our faith is weak, where Jesus is not in fact Christ for us. For as soon as we trust in the things of this world, we no longer trust in God, who, as Abraham discovered and as the entire Biblical tradition testifies, is the Provider, Jehovah-Jireh (Gen. 22.14).
In fact, the Biblical witness is that God alone is the Provider; everything else is a creation, either of God’s hands or of ours. Consider the passage in Isaiah 44.9-20, where the prophet describes how the idols are carefully crafted by the workmen, only to be prayed to as gods when completed. Is this not the way we behave every day? We trust our own efforts to get us through: working harder, chasing every opportunity, making the most of our time. And what about the means we use to insure our security? People? They are only creations of God like ourselves; they have no more power to help us than we have to help ourselves. Institutions? Banks, governments, laws, military — these are all man-made things. The Constitution, the Bill of Rights, non-discrimination laws — ink on paper, made by men for men. With the best intentions and with good effect, certainly. But these things too will fade away with time. Only the God who created the universe is our sure foundation.
Which brings us to the question: Who is Jesus to us? We are all familiar with the fact that Jesus is God’s revelation to humanity. But what is not so often explained is that this revelation is a double-edged sword. For, as has been pointed out by Karl Barth, Jacques Ellul, et al., Jesus does not simply reveal to us the nature of God. No, Jesus also reveals to us the nature of humanity. He shows us what it truly means to be human by showing us a life lived in the hands of God and of God alone.
Consider how time and again Jesus refers to his lack of earthly security, having no place to lay his head, relying only the offerings of others. The gifts brought to him by the wise men only underscore his lack of social security: the King of kings, born not in a palace but in a manger, to the must humble of families. Yet his trust is perfect: as he tells us, God knows everything we need, and so we must not be concerned about such matters. This teaching is verified in the two miracles of the feeding of the large crowds: God can and will provide, if only we will trust. The lilies do no work, and yet how glorious is their clothing.
Consider as well how Jesus refuses to use his own authority as God, as most poignantly seen in his praying in the Garden, “Not my will but yours be done.” He continually points out that he will not glorify himself but will trust the Father-Mother to do that for him. He tells us that he has authority to call anyone he chooses, and yet he deliberately waits for God to bring people to him. He could have cast himself off the tower of the temple and into the arms of angels, but he refused to put God to the test. The creator of the universe, the Lord over all earthly rulers and spiritual powers, Jesus could have come with might to claim what is rightfully his. But he chose instead to “worship the Lord…God and serve only him” (Matt.4.10).
Who is Jesus? He is God’s revelation to us of who we are, of how we should live. He is both our savior and our example. For only in Jesus has any one ever completely trusted God and God alone. In God, Jesus received everything he needed, even as he neglected all the usual, human means to security.
Are we willing to do that? Are we willing to trust that our daily bread does not come from our job, our family, our government, our culture, or even our civil rights? Are we willing to trust that God will provide for us, here on earth, from day to day, our food, our clothing, all that we need? Do we have enough faith in God’s faithfulness that we can put all our trust in Jesus’ promises and truly be unconcerned for what we shall eat, drink and wear? Do we really believe what Jesus has told us? The testimony is clear: we can trust in the works of our own hands, which have no power to aid us, or in the loving-kindness of God, who both knows us and loves us, who has both the power and the desire to provide everything we need.
Who is Jesus? He is the Son of Man, the only person who has ever lived a fully human life, a life of complete fellowship with God. He is God’s revelation of what we are meant to be. And may we so be all that God desires. Amen.
Steve Pearson is a Protestant mutt and failed theologian who has a Ph.D. in Literature and teaches at a midsize university in the South.