There was a book I read a few years ago called “Lamb – The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal” by Christopher Moore. Yes there is satire in the story and yes it not necessarily the most reverent book but it strikes an important question for me – what was Jesus like as a boy? We have just one story in all of the 4 canonical Gospels about Jesus as a boy and it is in Luke 2 where Jesus separates from his parents while in Jerusalem. The story seems to indicate that he understood something of who he was in the way that he taught and spoke in the temple. But I go further than that personally – did Jesus’ parents tell him what they understood him to be? Did he know there was something “different” about him compared to the other kids on the streets of Nazareth? Was there something like a superhero origin story where his understanding and power suddenly manifested itself at an inopportune time?
Rich Mullins sang about this in a song called “Boy Like Me, Man Like You” and asked about whether Jesus was a kid who cried when he scraped his knee, did he skip rocks across creeks, and so forth. What was it like for Jesus himself to go from “just” Jesus to Christ?
Even these three chapters that begin Luke reflect this progression – from the baby (who had a rather “remarkable” beginning) to the one baptized and blessed and one whose story fits within a larger genealogy traced back to Adam as Luke tells it. From Jesus to Christ.
There’s a progression in our lives too – from just a limited view of God to one that grows and matures and widens and deepens. Richard Rohr wrote about this the other day in his daily email when he said:
A truly transformative God—for both the individual and all of history—needs to be experienced as personal and universal. Nothing less will fully work. If the overly personal (even sentimental) image of Jesus has shown itself to have severe limitations and problems, it is because this Jesus was not also universal. He became cozy and we lost the cosmic. History has clearly shown that worship of Jesus without worship of Christ invariably becomes a time- and culture-bound religion, often oppressive, misogynist, and racist, excluding much of humanity from God’s embrace.
This is why I can see Christ in my dog, the sky, and all creatures, and it’s why you, whoever you are, can experience God’s unadulterated care for you in your garden or kitchen. You can find Christ’s presence in your beloved partner or friend, an ordinary beetle, a fish in the deepest sea that no human will ever observe, and even in those who do not like you and those who are not like you.
This is the illuminating light that enlightens all things, making it possible for us to see things in their fullness. Light is less something we see directly and more something by which we see all other things. When Jesus Christ calls himself the “Light of the World” (John 8:12), he is not telling us to look just at him, but to look out at life with his all-merciful and non-dualistic eyes. We see him so we can see like him—with the same infinite compassion.
Initially I took a picture about this idea while on a walk yesterday morning where I zoomed the lens as I was taking the shot – trying to get a sense of movement. But as I looked at it, the movement was too quick. It is impossible to move and grow that quickly with this kind of idea. It is a lifetime (and maybe beyond) to grow in this way, to have our minds and hearts and consciousness broadened to take in the absolute breadth of God. That’s why these two simple rocks speak to this for me. One rock is still rough and jagged and the other smooth. The smooth one was not that way from the start. It took time. It took refining. It took countless washes of water. It took banging into other rocks. It took years and years and decades and decades to come to where it is now. That’s our faith life too – we start off ragged and rough but God works in us and on us and through us to a place that someday we will be able to look in the mirror and see ourselves as God already sees us. Smooth, cleaned, refined, beautiful.