Did Jesus have an Identity Crisis?

This past Sunday at our church gathering we talked about, and storied through, Jesus’ baptism, temptation and the calling of first disciples. It was really eye opening for me to talk about all three of these stories together in one sitting as a sort of continuation of each other. It really struck me this time that these aren’t really separate stories they are very integrated with each other.

I have been thinking a bit about calling and vocation lately as well as about identity and finding who I am in Christ, so maybe I saw these things in the story just because of where I am at currently, but none the less I feel like God spoke to me about this stuff.  I saw in this story a time of identity crisis for Jesus, a time of coming more fully into his own.  

So, here’s Jesus, He has this wonderful time of confirmation where John the Baptist confirms he is the Christ and then he hears a voice saying “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” That is the ultimate confirmation. God calls him his Son and says he loves him and is pleased with him – isn’t that what we all long to hear? What a beautiful time of realizing and being confirmed in who you are and who you were made to be and realizing more deeply how God sees you?!? But, then Jesus is “led by the Spirit into the desert”. And the devil comes and tempts him. Maybe I’m totally off but it seemed like it wasn’t a coincidence that the first thing the devil seems to attack is that identity and calling that Christ had just received. Each of the first two temptations begins with “If you are the Son of God…”

I wonder… I wonder if after 40 days and 40 nights without food Jesus started to question whether he had really heard that voice from heaven. I wonder if he started to doubt and question who he was in God and if he started to doubt and question his calling. Isn’t that what we do? When we have moments of calling in our lives, moments when God speaks to us and shows us more of who we are in him and how He see’s us, aren’t those often followed by such strong doubts and questions? So, here’s Jesus in the desert, alone, hungry, tired, and the devil shows up and says essentially, “Are you really the Son of God? Did you really hear that voice? Ok, well, IF you are the Son of God then do this – prove it to me and to yourself.” Isn’t the so often the voice we hear, “Does God really love you? Did he really call you to this or that? Maybe you just thought you heard him speak and it was all in your head? Who are you really?” These are questions that I know I hear often and they seem to hit me especially hard after those beautiful experiences when I hear God speaking truth to me about who I am and who he created me to be and the part in his kingdom he created me to play.

I started reading the book He Leadeth Me by Fr. Walter J. Ciszek, S.J. recently and I was struck by the section where he wrestles with whether or not to go to Russian. It was a wrestling that I felt in my own life and looking again at the temptation I wonder if it is some of what Jesus went through after his baptism and before beginning his ministry…

“Anyone who has ever wrestled with his conscience over a particular course of action has experienced what I went through then. Any young man or woman who has felt called to a vocation and then hesitated, wondering if the call is genuine, knows the agonies of such second thoughts and how powerful the counter arguments can be. Reasons and rationalizations boil through your mind. There are present and future responsibilities toward family and friends to think of, thoughts of the good to be done at home or in other possible ways of serving God and man, mistrust about the motives swaying the mind now this way and now that, doubts about one’s abilities to live up to the call (and even about the call itself), vague fears for the future and very real fears of making a mistake right here and now, knowing a decision must be made and yet knowing, too, that it involves a commitment from which there can be no turning back, something that will change the whole course of your life.”

I wonder if that is some of what Jesus went through out in the desert. It just seems to me that the temptations are about more than the actual temptations themselves, they seem to also be about whether Jesus will trust God with who He is and what his calling is or whether he will doubt God and try to step out on his own and prove himself on his own strength. I just wonder. It seems like this is a common struggle for each of us as humans and I saw this struggle in the temptations on Sunday and it made me love Jesus more to think of him having gone through this struggle with identity as well. But, of course these thoughts could lead to even stranger thoughts in relation to the trinity and the nature of Christ and all that so maybe its best not to take them too far, but I liked the idea of Jesus being fully human wrestling like we wrestle with doubts and questions of identity and calling. I’ll leave it at that.

Rejoicing in the journey - Bethany Stedman