By: Rev. Chris Troxel
When is God most like God?
That sounds like a weird question. Maybe phrased this way: when is Jesus most God-like? Perhaps you think of when He’s healing. The God of creation, the Father, cares for, and heals His creation. Maybe you think when He is preaching and teaching, making known God’s identity and will for this world. You could be thinking the Transfiguration: when Jesus is on a mountain filled with the glory of God, shining brighter than the sun, whiter than snow. Another possibility could be the resurrection, Jesus showing the power God, life conquering death.
The answer you give depends on the place you start. Your answer for Jesus’ most God-like moment depends on how you define God. A creator, a healer; the word made known; the displaying glory; life itself. What does God define as God in His word?
Jesus is most like God on the cross.
This goes against almost everything we think about God. We define God as all-powerful, almighty, present everywhere, all-knowing. Jesus on the cross is weak, shameful, limited, confined, sin-laden. Where’s the power? Where’s the God-likeness? God, through his prophet Isaiah, describes the suffering servant of Israel (Isaiah 52-53). Isaiah describes the suffering servant and being lifted up, glorified, even as he suffers for God’s people. We see this elsewhere in God’s Word. In Revelation, the slaughtered lamb is worshipped, bearing marks of death, marks that are the glory of the Lamb. These death marks are part of who God is. Why does the Father exalt the Son? Because Jesus humbled himself, as Paul writes in Philippians chapter 2. Jesus’ humility to the point of death is the very moment He is exalted. God is suffering for the sake of His people, for your sake and mine.
To be clear, dying on a cross does indicate dishonor, shame, suffering. Yet somehow Jesus simultaneously makes it into the best picture: only God can do this. Only after this moment of shame swallowed in glory does Jesus usher in new life via the resurrection. Not only that, He begins a new exodus, reveals a new name (Father, Son, Holy Spirit); Christ is the new and final passover lamb.
If Jesus is most like God on the cross, when are we most like Jesus? When we bear one another’s burdens; when we bear the burdens of our neighbors, Christian or not. When our care, compassion, healing, sharing and studying God’s Word, and new life in Christ all point to Christ. When our efforts point away from ourselves and only point to Christ, that’s when we are most like Jesus. May God grant the Holy Spirit do this work in you and me, that people who need to know Jesus see Him at work in you and me.