Sunday, January 10, 2010

Baby Jesus and Crucified Jesus: Strength in Weakness

The baby Jesus in the arms of his mother Mary.
Jesus dying on the cross.

These are depictions of weakness.

I have heard Catholics accused of making Jesus look too weak to be our Lord by too often depicting him as a baby and as on the cross.
Of course, Catholics depict Jesus in all sorts of states of his life. But it is true that if you walk into a Catholic church, you will see Jesus on the cross in the front, as well as the stations of the cross, depicting Jesus' passion, on the sides of the church. There is usually a statue of Mary somewhere, and she is often holding the baby Jesus.  A large percentage of Catholic art seems to depict these two parts of Jesus' life.
These are indeed depictions of weakness.

But perhaps that's the point.

Philippians 2.5-8
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God,
      did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
      taking the very nature
 of a servant,
      being made in human likeness. 

And being found in appearance as a man,
      he humbled himself
      and became obedient to death—
         even death on a cross!

1 Corinthians 1.27
God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.

Yes, those depictions might make Jesus weak from the perspective of the world. Jesus showed us a different kind of strength. Though being both God and man, he did not come in power - at least not the kind of power we might expect.  He came to us first as a tiny baby born in a stable "because there was no room for them in inn." (Luke 2.7)  And he ended his life in the most cruel and humiliating way - a death on a cross.
Of course, the story doesn't end there. Jesus came back! And the Catholic Church celebrates this every day, especially every Sunday, but even more especially during their 50 day celebration of Easter, which itself is preceded by a 40 day preparation period (Lent).

Jesus did not come to this world with avengence to destroy evildoers. He came with love to die for them. This is a strength that the world cannot understand.

John 3.16-17
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

Romans 5.6-8
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

The baby Jesus in the arms of his mother Mary.
Jesus dying on the cross.

These are depictions of weakness. And these are depictions of strength.


  1. I am somehow strengthened and edified by the fact that God is strong AND weak. Scary and gentle. Love and Judge.

    Makes sense. If He is all things, all times, all wisdom, all beauty, then He'd better be all paradoxes, too.

    Welcome to the journey! I'm your near neighbor in Glen Ellyn.

  2. Beautiful post. I look forward to reading more.

    I have found that reflecting on Jesus in these "weak" states ( as the world sees them ) gives me courage and strength to seek humility myself. I can only do that which God enables me.

  3. God chooses to express his power through weakness in order to make the strong humble.

  4. One of the many beautiful things about the Church is that her art depicts Jesus in many different ways in order to draw in many different souls. If someone is looking for Christ in majesty, this mosaic in the National Basilica is a good example:

    Found your site from Mark Shea's blog; you've hit the big time! And you can be assured of many prayers, including mine, while you and your wife journey toward Christ's Church.

  5. Hi there! Found you via Mark Shea as well. God bless you as you come to know the Church better.

    My wife and I converted about three years ago, also during my wife's first pregnancy and also while living in Wheaton, of all places.

    If you'd like a real treat, come visit us at St. George Romanian Catholic Church in Aurora, IL. It was the first Catholic Church my wife and I visited after deciding to convert, and we never left.

    (Warning: Shameless plug ahead)

    You might also want to check out a site I write for called "" The authors are all converts from the Reformed end of Protestantism to Catholicism and we seek to foster dialog with our Reformed brothers that's a little deeper than the average level of internet apologetics.

    Again, all the best to you, the little lady and the baby as you go through RCIA.

  6. I don't know quite what it was about this, but you brought me to tears this morning. Your choices of scripture summoned deep emotion. God Bless you.

  7. Beautiful thoughts! Really powerful application of scripture. Saying a prayer for you and your wife today - I am a convert to Catholicism after being raised by wonderful, devout parents in various Baptist churches.

  8. Thanks to Mark Shea, I've found you too! I can't believe you're only 21 and not even Catholic yet. Beautiful meditation. Be assured of my prayers for you and your wife.

    From a fellow convert...still on a pilgrimage to God.

  9. I had no idea there was a Byzantine church in Aurora -- I thought the nearest was Homer Glen (Annunciation of the Mother of God)

  10. Anonymous -- Absolutely there is! It's a great parish. It's not quite aesthetically on par with Annunciation, but it's a great liturgy and a great Church family. Give us a visit sometime!