Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Lent
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“I cannot do anything on my own; I judge as I hear, and my judgment is just, because I do not seek my own will but the will of the one who sent me.”
Jesus continues to do his work under the ominous glares of the Pharisees, for he does His work in the name of his Father, God. Although the modern Christian can deride this group of men for the obvious ignorance of Jesus’ divine patrimony, the ongoing resentment they seem to direct towards Jesus should prompt some reflection: What makes anyone so sure about Jesus’ claim of God as His father? Do most Christians even know what being the Son of God even means?
Consider this scenario playing out today. Jesus performs miracles that defy the known laws of science, shows wisdom that exceeds even the most subtle philosophers, and commands more authority than the most powerful leaders in history. Everyone, from the highest station in life to the lowest, would ask how any man can have these qualities and where he must have come from. Interviewers from so many countries would swarm around him and ask him his motives, his inspirations, his background, his plans for the future. To this, Jesus responds rather simply, “My Father is at work now, so I am at work.” These perplexed people later learn that by “Father” he means “God,” which leads to some uncomfortable speculations about who this man, Jesus, really is.
Everyone would want to know how God could possibly father a human child. People would demand proof of God’s paternity—even the miracles will not suffice in this case. They would likely take a sample of Jesus’ blood and examine his body, chart his family tree, talk with his friends and family; and with all that, these interrogators would come up short. DNA, lineage, and background, all do not make Jesus’ God’s son necessarily, particularly for those conditioned by the classical world. Jesus is not like the demigods of the pagans, Aeneas or Hercules, whose superhuman stature dwarf the men around them; rather, He humbles himself to the level of normal men. Jesus is not like the pharaohs or Roman emperors who enjoy a privileged authority enabled by their family’s divine roots; rather, though a descendent of David, He resides in obscurity as a manual laborer. Jesus does not summon God to make a show for others; except for perhaps the Transfiguration, which he only shows to a few select disciples, Jesus prays quietly at night to His father.
Seeing that Jesus cannot provide the birth certificate, DNA, or physical grandeur of a man born of God, determining his Sonship becomes tricky. Some, like Emerson and other transcendentalists, might take this absence of obvious proof to mean that Jesus only claims Sonship metaphorically, not in reality. Under this logic, He says that He is the Son of God because He has learned to see God in all things, in all life, in a life spirit penetrating the cosmos—or some such pantheistic reasoning. In this way, He has become one with Nature, or the Oversoul, or his Ego, and that is why He speaks the way he does. Unfortunately, this does not really conform the mission of Jesus. Expert meditation does not bring up people from the dead, nor does it enable the resurrection of the body to a heavenly kingdom. Metaphors can only work for Romantic writers and spiritual charlatans; they do not equate to a spiritual reality.
Moving past these bogus theories perpetuated by not a few illustrious thinkers, the Pharisees probably come the closest to determining the source of Jesus’ claim to God as Father. If a person were to be the Messiah, the Son of God, he would follow God’s laws perfectly. Not only this, but he would place God’s laws on a highest pedestal imaginable, execute them with perfect wisdom and authority, and empower God’s people to impose these laws on the rest of the world. In this evaluation, Jesus agrees with them wholeheartedly, “[God] has given all judgment to the Son, so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father.” As the Pharisees thought, the Son would obey the Father, and that would prove his Sonship; moreover, that Son would have the authority of God and restore Zion. This obedience, this authority, is what Jesus communicates to his listeners: “Amen, amen, I say to you, the Son cannot do anything on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing.” Jesus proves His Sonship through his obedience and authority. He shares His Father’s will perfectly, and this makes Him the Son of God. Others may follow and become adopted sons and daughters, through that same obedience, but He will lead as the one begotten Son, with unique authority in the Kingdom of Heaven.
However, even if they acknowledge Jesus’ obedience to God, the Pharisees, and many Christians throughout the ages, will still struggle with His special authority “making himself equal to God.” Unfortunately, at this reluctance, no golden argument can be made. Jesus can only offer Himself while there is still time on Earth, and leave it to his listeners to accept His Sonship or turn away. They can experience the joys promised by the Father in Isaiah, and fulfilled by Jesus in the gospels, or they can lose their souls in the pointless pursuit of a false messiah who proves his divinity in other ways.
This meditation was written by Benedict Augustine, an English teacher who works in the DFW area. He has taken on the pseudonym, Benedict Augustine, to honor his two favorite Catholic thinkers: St. Augustine and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.