So last week Leslie and I took off for Arizona. I was speaking at a church in Phoenix for the weekend and we decided to head over there early and spend the better part of the week in Flagstaff, and one day we went to see the Grand Canyon.
Eden was in rare form the day we went. Waving at everyone, pointing at everything and screaming loudly at what she could only assume was a big hole in the ground. I know I should have been looking at the Grand Canyon more, but in some ways Eden was stealing the show that day. For example, this picture. This is one of my favorite pictures we took this week because juxtaposed against the backdrop of one of the greatest scenic views in the world is Eden’s tiny blue eyes.
About a month ago, I picked up a book called, “Jesus, mean and wild.” It’s written in the vein of books like Wild at Heart or Your God is too Safe. The basic premise is that most American churches have created a kind of Mr. Rogers Jesus. A Messiah who’s goal is to create nice people who pay their taxes and say Please.
Now I get these books. I thought when I signed up for following Jesus it would be a bit more revolutionary then just being a good citizen. But I recently started thinking about another side of this.
There are plenty of people who don’t need to read books like that. They have no problem envisioning a mean Jesus. Maybe it’s the Jesus they always heard about, or the way God would be if he ever met them. I’ve met with many people in this situation, and just reading the gospel with them, when they see how gently Jesus interacted with broken people, it helps them let down their guard.
Sometimes people need to see the kinder side of Jesus.
Sometimes people need to see the Jesus turning tables over in the Temple.
And both Jesus’ are in this story. Filled with grace and truth.
The Theological word for this is God’s transcendence and immanence, which are just million dollar words for saying God is both big and near. But the Scriptures normally don’t use theological words, what they do is paint a picture.
One of my favorite pictures in the Bible is in Isaiah 65. Isaiah is telling about how the world will be one day. When war is a distant past, and no longer will infants die. It’s a world where evil has been judged and found wanting and peace is the commodity of the entire universe, and Isaiah says The Lion will lay down with the Lamb.
Which is an interesting way to say that.
He’s saying the predator will lay down with the prey. But more than that, those are two metaphors that describe the Lord repeatedly. But they are talking about different aspects of his character. His transcendence and his immanence. And in the end they come together.
That is after all the beauty of Jesus. The God who created the Grand Canyon is embodied by a God who doesn’t turn away anyone.
The lion lays down with the lamb, because in Jesus we find, the Lion is the Lamb.