The Desperate Son


[also available in Spanish]

“This is my chosen Son.”  –Thus spake the Almighty, about our beloved carpenter of Nazareth, the most-famous Jew of all time.

A month and a half ago, we discussed the mystery of all the events in Christ’s life.

We take two things as givens—two facts, which we cannot comprehend, but which we nonetheless believe with absolute certainty.  1.  God became man, Jesus.  2.  The one true God is three divine Persons:  Father, Son, Holy Spirit.

Two dogmas:  Inc… and Tri…  The Scriptures drip with these two dogmas like a piece of French toast, ready to go on the griddle, drips with egg.  We hold the dogmas of Trinity and Incarnation as the foundation of everything we know.

Your servant on Mt. Tabor (’08)

‘People, here is my beloved Son.’  This statement sounded in the heavens, like thunder, perhaps.  Or like a mighty gust of wind.  I have stood on Mt. Tabor a couple times.  The wind can blow there with a vengeance.

God generally stays way above the level of human chat.  But, in this decisive moment of the Transfiguration, He spoke.  In thunder, or wind, or both, or in some other way.  He made Himself understood by human ears and little human minds.  ‘This is my Son, in Whom I take my delight.’

God’s eternal, divine delight—delight which endures like the most-ancient mountainsides, but which laughs with no less jollity because of that.  The eternal Father rests in an eternal state of thoroughly animated, sober inebriation—everlasting jolly contemplation of His chosen Son.  Nothing can disturb the peace; nothing can lessen the excitement of God the Father, as He gazes with love at God the Son, Jesus, the sandal-wearing Galilean.

A door open on eternity, the Father loving the Son.  And who are we?  Who are we to try to peer through that door?  Let’s remember one thing from last Sunday.  Then we can try to resolve the question.

Last Sunday we read:  “Jesus ate nothing for forty days, and He was hungry.”

Now, we can give up Snickers Bars for Lent, or drinking wine, or playing video games—it’s all good.  The Lord rewards every little sacrifice we make for Him.  But, if we really want to keep Holy Lent, we have to do something other than just a nifty little appropriate penance.  We have to contemplate those words, long and hard.  “He was hungry.”

Recently I had the privilege of encountering someone who had just had sudden heavy-duty brain surgery.  He could not talk.  He could not hold his head up.  He vomited everything they tried to get down his gullet.  He could not use his hands.  His head hurt as if there were no other reality on the face of the earth.

Forty days of fasting had gotten Christ to a physical state like that.

Gerard David Transfiguration

I also recently encountered a dehydrated man who had not had water or any liquid for at least 48 hours.  He literally was like Christ on the cross, Who—though He had spikes nailed through His hands and feet, and a crown of thorns pressing into His temples—had only one physical complaint.  Christ considered none of His bodily suffering worth mentioning, except the one desperate need that He articulated when He cried out…  “I thirst.”

This lost outback hiker in the Sonoran desert suffered thirst like Christ suffered on the cross.  But the cross wasn’t the first time the Lord thirsted like that.  He also suffered it in the desert, during the first Lent.

My point is:  It’s good to give up little things, like a second cup of coffee, or listening to music.  But the real point of Holy Lent is:  for us to encounter the reality of Christ’s human body in a state of desperation unto death.  Forty days of fasting doesn’t just make you hungry.  It makes you desperate.  I’m not telling you to fast like this!  Please don’t!  But we must contemplate it.

The true physical desperation of the fasting Christ:  It can be found in hospital rooms, in prisons, in rehabs, in the corners of the world where war and cruelty have desiccated the soil.  In those places, a fast like Christ’s fast is actually underway right now.

Now, why must the Lord drag us into such unpleasantness as this?  Does He despise or dislike us?  No.  To the contrary.  He wants us to find the sure footing by which we can answer the question we had earlier.  Where do we stand, you and I, in the relationship that unites the divine Father with the divine Son?  Where do we belong, in that soberly syncopated everlasting festival dance of eternal triune love?

This is the Son I love! spake the Father.  The Son Who thirsted like a lost desert hiker who would ask a cactus for directions.  The Son Who hungered for food with all the physical vehemence that can overtake a man trying to dry out in a drunk tank.

There is nothing dainty about the physical extremes that the Son of God suffered in His Body.  And He didn’t just feel like He was going to die of hunger and thirst during His fast in the wilderness.  He knew He was going to die of asphyxiation, when His diaphragm ran out of cellular ATP and He could no longer distend His lungs to breathe, three years later.

The eternal Son has enjoyed the eternal love of the eternal Father from before the world began.  Neither the Father nor the Son lacked anything.  But the triune God is generous.  Infinitely generous.

So the Son embraced our utter physical desperation.  We human beings, desperate unto death–hungry, thirsty, sick, mortal.  He embraced us, right there, in our desperation.  Right at the moment where we cry out, Abba, Father!

And when we cry out to Him like the Son did, the Father replies—of you, and of me:  “This is My chosen son.  This is my chosen daughter.  This is the one I live to love.”

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