If Jesus Christ is man—And only a man—I say That of all mankind I cleave to him, And to him will cleave away. If Jesus Christ is a God—And the only God—I swear I will follow him through heaven and hell, The earth, the sea, the air.” –R.W. Gilder
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given…And he will be called Mighty God.” – The prophet Isaiah
How did Isaiah make the leap? How did he make the leap, over the course of one verse, from “look, here’s a baby of ours” to “and by the way, he is God.”
And how about Thomas? Isn’t this Jesus he speaks to the carpenter? Didn’t this guy come from Nazareth (what good comes from there)? And was not Thomas realistic and scientific enough that he was able to look at the convincing testimony of his 10 best friends in the world who claimed they saw Jesus back from the dead and still shake his head in disbelief (Jn 20:24-25)? Yet he looks a grown human being in the eyes and is able to say, “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20:26)
I’ve made the leap, too. And it is not because I am certain without a doubt. Oh, at times I am. At times I am blindly certain, finding myself believing it with very little evidence or feeling. At other times, I’m almost helplessly certain (my favorite kind) because I have seen such marvels in his teachings, or through actions done in his name, or through personal, mysterious experiences in or around me. But sometimes, I’m “certain with doubts”. That is, I’m certain in spite of some fairly valid doubts that (I hope) come from the integrity of my heart.
How have I made the leap, then? How have I come to look a human baby, a human being in the proverbial eyes and be capable of such a seemingly absurd statement as that of Isaiah? As that of Thomas?
How can I summon the faith to follow Jesus as God?
Well, I think its more complex than I have the ability or energy to completely think through or articulate at this stage of my life. However…
As a pragmatist, I have found the life, teachings, and ways of Jesus to work.
As an idealist (and, ironically, as a realist), I can’t find any high and noble virtue or value introduced by any other philosophy, political system, or religion not already embodied and promoted by him.
As an extremist, I find nothing that boldly calls for and daringly promises so much.
As a romantic, I love that everything he is and does is motivated and explained by love.
As a judgmental skeptic, I can’t find anything wrong with him.
As a sociologist, when I see his character, mission, and priorities imitated, I see unstoppable good flood into and through people.
As a contemplative, I can’t seem to exhaust his depth, but as a simpleton, I find his teachings easy to grasp and easy to discern application
As a scientist, he gives me categories to explore parts of humanity that science can’t.
As a relativist, he gives me a way of being open to new points of view without being afraid.
As an absolutist, he gives me a few strong, hard-to-argue-with bedrocks upon which the rest of life can be interpreted.
As an activist, he gives me something worthwhile to do, not as part of my life, but as my life.
As an ecumenicist, he gives me a basis upon which to call for unity.
As a sinner, he offers the only message that satisfies and heals completely.
As a son, the God he describes as Father is the only God I want.
As a follower, he gives me someone I can trust.
As a leader, he gives me somewhere of worth to take people.
Something in me is saying that I’m just barely skimming the surface of some very deep waters in me. Dark waters that must be plunged into fully in order to find the treasures.
But for now, this is a satisfying post to write. A sort of, “reasons I believe” proclamation.
Ultimately, I think I’ve experienced enough of myself, others, creation, and God in the light of my followership of Christ to have decided that even if Jesus Christ wasn’t God, I’d follow him still.
Interestingly, that may be how Thomas navigated through all of his complexity to arrive at making the leap that Jesus was God.
After all, earlier in the story, he was the follower that said, in spite of any doubt that would suggest it unwise, ill-advised, dangerous, or unnecessary, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” (Jn 11:16)
If Jesus isn’t God, well, then among all mere men, I choose to follow and die with him. In my journey, study, and exploration for truth, I have too many reasons not to.