Who Is This Jesus?


Executive Director
Selah Center

As I journey through Lent, I’m discovering the freedom that comes from letting Jesus be Jesus instead of me trying to manage who he is, as I understand my life and the life of others. Previously and currently, I want to make Jesus palatable for those triggered by previous bad, even traumatic experiences of churches that use Jesus as a weapon. On the other end of the spectrum, for those curious about Jesus, I want to show off who this Jesus is, almost in a faddish zealous way. And then I realize it’s not up to me to “show off” Jesus, one way or another. Jesus is Jesus. And if I sit within the Gospel stories, I discover that Jesus has something for me, you, and our world, and it’s not up to me to convince anyone.

When I first read this piece below, I wondered if I might need to hide in a closet to even consider a perspective so counter to what I’ve experienced growing up in my faith tradition. Could there be another way to encounter this Jesus the Christ? After many years of familiarity with a Jesus who became somewhat of an Elf on the Shelf, [1] I’m intrigued by this provocative Jesus who doesn’t let me sit comfortably in my way of thinking and being. There is a call to something deeper within me, even in the disequilibrium of this Jesus.

For those of you who have participated in Living From the Heart, our previous Selah core course, [2] you may remember a piece by Beldon Lane called: The Image of Christ: Who is Jesus Anyway?! [3]

The Image of Christ: Who Is This ‘Jesus,’ Anyway?!

WHO IS THIS JESUS who rattles my cage and rumbles through the history of my life? This contradictory figure proves an embarrassment and stumbling block to my mind, but who won’t go away? This man who brings awe and tears to my eyes, who makes me want to resist authority when it’s wrong, who points me to a God who works from the underside of every system of power?

Who is this Jesus? Disturbing teacher of the gospels, comfortable with children and irritating to scholars, unsettling people by his enigmatic stories. Dancing member of the Holy Trinity, looking out from a stunning Russian icon. Object of saccharine devotion in the Sacred Heart of Catholic spirituality, the “Jesus and me” sentimentality of evangelical piety, the unbridled passion of 17th-century metaphysical poets.

He’s the first-century Jewish rabbi of the Jesus Seminar, calling for justice and inclusivity, making no ethereal claims about his own divinity. He’s the Jesus of Jelaluddin Rumi, who wants to be born in the mystical experience of every soul. The Cosmic Christ who weaves his spirit through the fabric of the natural world, causing all things to scintillate with the sacramental, Christic presence of the divine.

He wanders in and out of my reading of Bernard of Clairvaux, Marcus Borg, Dorothy Day, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and John Shelby Spong. Each with a finger on the mystery of this figure who pulses back and forth in my life: “Jesus, lover of my soul.” “He walks with me and he talks with me and he tells me I am his own.” “Jesus, the very thought of thee.”                         

Beldon Lane [3]

And so the question for me, and perhaps for you, who is this Jesus anyway?


[1] Elf on the Shelf is a recent tradition of keeping kids obedient during Christmas time – you never know where the Elf may show up, and he’s always watching you to ensure you’re being good. Learn more on Wikipedia.

[2] We now offer something unique and new from Selah: SoulAwake: Participating in Divine Life and Love is the signature course of Selah that orients our posture towards deeper communion with the Holy One, rooted in the Christ story that upholds/strengthens/sustains us through embodied spiritual practices, to be in richer and honest connection with others and our world. Learn more about SoulAwake.

[3] Source: Beldon Lane – https://sojo.net/biography/belden-c-lane