We post-modern people like our facts neat, without any flourishes, black or white, not grey, either supporting one side or the other, and certainly not both. So what do we do with Jesus who clearly embraces more than just one facet of life, who lives out the ultimate paradox of being divine and human at the same time! This is confounding to our modern way of thinking: impossible! Why didn’t he just use the magical, divine powers to escape his fate? Why did he endure the most human thing of all, dying a wrenching death? Was there some special magic that allowed him not to feel all that pain? Did he as God escape all that we humans suffer? How can we fully embrace both Jesus as God and Jesus as a man? Can we accept that he suffered as much as we do and that he was intrinsically God, too.
But as we look at Jesus’ life and work we see that the divine/human paradox is only the beginning. Jesus is frequently portrayed as hanging out with the poor, the disenfranchised, the rejected, the tax collectors who were despised, the lepers. He helps and heals the blind and lame. He challenges his disciples(and us) to help the needy. But he also dines at the homes of the wealthy, in one case Simon the Pharisee’s home, where a sinful woman washed his feet.[Mark 10:17] He looks on with love as the rich young ruler walks sadly away because he can’t give up all his wealth to follow Jesus. [Luke 7: 36-50 NIV]
He also complains about both the poor and the rich. There were the ten lepers he healed and only one, a Samaritan, thanked him for healing him.[Luke 17:11-19] He rebuked the Pharisees often, calling them “hypocrites!” “blind guides!” “you snakes! you brood of vipers!”[Matthew 23:13-33] So Jesus embraces and chastises both the rich and the poor.
Jesus was a very public figure, talking to crowds all over the country, in towns and cities, near Lake Galilee. And he was very private, often seeking alone time in prayer, seeking time away from the crowds, even at times actively avoiding the crowds.
Jesus was teaching the crowds what he knew, but being divine as well, I imagine he could have just told everyone what they were thinking. But he didn’t show off; he asked often when a healing was requested: “What do you want?” Even though divine he chose a humble, human way, a tenderer way into someone’s life. He acknowledged who the people before him were, listened to their deepest desires, credited them with knowing what they wanted.
Will we only see one side of Jesus? Is he only God—it was so easy for him, because he had all the power in the world so he did not suffer? Is he only human, no way to rescue himself, so he was doomed to the fate of us human beings? Or will we allow him to be wholly human, wholly divine in a life with the limitations of the human body and mind and the oneness with God in which life he clearly experiences all our pain and suffering and yet remains totally connected to God. The interesting thing about paradoxes, the conjoining of two opposite states is that they are discerned, not understood, embraced only in the acceptance of the mystery. We can see that the two opposites do come together, in this case, in Jesus, but they do not lend themselves to easy understanding, they remain shrouded in mystery.