What is the correlation between intimacy and risk? Have you ever thought about your relationships in this way? How does Jesus model this – what can we learn from His life, and ultimately, His death and resurrection?
Over the next few weeks, ChaplaincyPlus member and author John Arthur will be exploring the roles Jesus has in our life and how we can learn from Him.
· The Unexpected
· The Other
· The Abandoned
· The Pierced
· The Commander
· The Groom
John Arthur is a practicing Christian, hoping to get it right some day. He lives in Birmingham with his wife and daughter and two motorbikes. John is also the author of a recent book (Gadfly: Reading Church through Reading Jesus) from which he adapted these images of Jesus for you.
“Why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you”, says Peter, the denier. “Let us also go, that we may die with him”, says Thomas, the doubter.
In resurrection time, Peter gets another miraculous catch of fish, another chance to plead evident unworthiness. He is fully loved again and commanded: “follow me”. In resurrection time Thomas is given another chance to doubt or let doubt be assuaged by acceptance. He is fully loved again and commanded: “stop doubting and believe”. In resurrection time all are loved intimately, despite failings, all commanded to take a risk.
“I am poured out like water, all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me.” “Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones”
We cannot help the pierced one.
We cannot implore Him to stop, because we don’t want what we see.
We cannot offer comfort in this hour.
We cannot catch drops of blood and pour it back into His veins.
We cannot even wrench our own hands from the spear.
He is pierced.
For all that we cannot.
Here is intimacy.
Here is risk.
“My father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
In the intimacy of Gethsemane, Jesus accepts the full abandonment that is His humanity. Every intimate second of connection shared, every iota of support received, actually drives the knife in deeper. This will be taken. This is the cost. The full mantle of humanity leaves Him stripped not just of relationship, but of certainty about God at all – that He might fully be us so as to fully die in our place. His last breaths make the searing pain of this, on top of the physical agony, abundantly clear to all. Abandoned for us, here is intimacy with risk.
“I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.” – John 8:23
Jesus offers to be ‘the other’. We cannot claim relationship with Him without a profound surrender to this fact. His tripartite offer is to be ‘other to us’, ‘other in us’ and, more tellingly, ‘other in the other’. Simultaneously, each makes Him knowable. Each is by His initiative. Each, staggeringly, continues the incarnation beyond my grasp of it. In that otherness Jesus will never offer Himself as the ‘same as me’ come to convince. He is always an intimate, risky ‘other’ who comes to compel.
“I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” – John 3: 5-6
You may need to accept that Jesus has not come to fulfil you as an equal partner who fills up the other half of your glass. Rather, He is the unexpected deluge. He lays waste to the room and everything in it and leaves you paradoxically laughing and alive in consequence. Soaked to the skin with this Jesus, that’s the Christian pursuit. It is part of what our sacraments of baptism are promising after all. To relate to such a Jesus your account of Him, your actions for Him, your sacramental life in Him must speak of intimacy and risk.