Did Jesus Have Faith?

 

This question probably strikes many Christians as strange. But if Jesus was, as is often said, "like us in everything but sin", then it would be, it seems to me, even more strange if he didn't have faith.

Yet the fact is that almost from the very beginning of Christianity, my question has been considered generally out-of-bounds. In fact, when one fairly unknown theologian toward the end of the fourth century happened to write something on the subject, St. Augustine, the single-most influential thinker in Christendom, denounced that theologian as a "heretic". It seems that the great Augustine could admit that Jesus could be hungry or thirsty, or even tempted just like us, but drew the line at the idea that, just like the rest of us, he might have needed to have faith. To Augustine's way of thinking (like that of many Christians) if Jesus was truly divine, he must have known the answer to everything. And if that is the case, how could Jesus be said to have had faith?

Of course it is possible to simply say that Jesus had, humanly speaking, "faith" in the fundamental gospel sense of that word, which is a loving trust in God. I think that is obvious to anyone who consistently reads the Gospels and mediates upon them. As the story about St. Peter trying it out tells us, one can't walk on water unless one really believes God will not let him sink!

But did Jesus have faith in the sense of holding certain religious beliefs? Again I think it is clear that he did. For example, he seems to have believed that the end of the world (or was he just predicting the destruction of Jerusalem?) would come very soon. In any case, when Jesus was asked for an exact time-table as to when whatever he was taking about would take place, we are told that he answered that even he didn't know the exact day or the hour.

But even more significant regarding this whole question, Jesus apparently defended his belief in angels and even more importantly the resurrection of the dead things that not every Jew of his time did believe in. In fact, he seems to have bet the whole meaning of his life on that resurrection taking place. How much more faith can one have than that?

So if all this is the case, and Jesus had faith in every meaning of that term, how could he also be the very "Son" or "Word" of God?

Maybe this answer is too simple, but it seems to me that if Jesus really was God's special "Word" given to the human race, then that Word or message is that if we too wish to be God's "sons" or "daughters", then we too must live by faith. In fact, I think that even Augustine was saying much the same when he wrote that "the only Son of God became a man that the many sons of men might become sons of God".

Just substitute "Word of God" for "Son of God" (for that is what John, whose Gospel Augustine was writing about, prefers to call him) and update the "sons of men" to "humans", and I think you'll see what I mean. It simply comes down to saying that if we become really people of faith, trusting, even risking, the meaning of our life on God and God's plans for this world, then we too will be found worthy to share God's kingdom with Christ.

 

R W Kropf 1/29/06

 

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