What would God look like if he came to Earth? He would look like Jesus.
Admittedly hindsight is better than foresight, and I would not have been able to make that up if there were no record of Jesus’ life. Here’s why I bring it up, though. I’ve been asking myself, Why Jesus? Why would God show up here as that one man in that one place in that one time? The answer, it seems to me, is that nothing else makes sense.
If I had tried to invent the idea of God coming to earth, I wouldn’t have imagined him as a Jew. Yes, the Jews had a history of knowing God as loving, merciful, forgiving, powerful, holy, righteous, and jealous for the good. They had a tradition telling them to expect a great leader and prophet, a messiah, to come from God. They never thought that this person would actually be God. So this is hardly an exercise in re-inventing Jesus, on the assumption that the original Jesus was a human invention, too. He couldn’t have been invented as a Jew. Besides, we know from history that he really lived.
I try to think of other ways God could have manifested himself as a visitor among us. He could have come far more impressively, if that had been his purpose, by showing up out of nowhere as a full adult. He could have appeared in multiple locations all at the same time. He could have been fifteen feet tall. He could have had Superman powers like invulnerability or the ability to fly. He could have come with mind-control powers so that no one would have a choice about believing in him.
Yet he came as an infant, and he grew up as one of us. He impressed people, there’s no doubt about that; but not in the fearsome sense of a giant, but rather through his wisdom, his teaching, his love for the unloved, his opposition to the proud, his insistence upon truth as truth. He had the power of God, yet he used it for others. If he was tired, still he walked. His gifts of power were demonstrations of the same thing he was teaching: the Kingdom of God. His miracles were foretastes of the day when Jesus Christ reigns over all.
That Kingdom will be for those who “love his appearing,” as 2 Tim. 4:8 says. Love is a choice, not a compulsion, and not everyone is impressed by wisdom or love, even (as the record shows) when it’s expressed in miraculous power. “If all of a sudden I could feel and hear him,” wrote one person, “that would force me to choose between believing in God or believing I was insane. Kind of a toss up, depending on which way my ego is going at the time it were to occur.” Some people’s egos got in the way of believing in Christ even when they could feel and hear him.
A holy God would show up with a call for right (righteous) living. A loving God would bring a way of rescue from our weakness and failure. Jesus did both. His death on the cross is the ultimate demonstration that sin is wrong, horrible, and deadly. His death and resurrection are proof that he has overcome sin’s deathly hold on us.
What do you think? Was Jesus the way you would expect a good God to manifest himself among us?