We were singing a song in church yesterday where Jesus was described as being innocent. In the context of the song they were using the word as the opposite of guilty but in one of those strong moments of insight I found myself drawn down a different path.
We also use the word innocent to describe a child and while the root thought is certainly related to a lack of guilt we mean something subtly but importantly different. A child’s innocence, for one thing, is understood to be temporary, even illusory. We loose that kind innocence not when we do something sinful but when we first understand the world to be broken. Perhaps we loose that innocence first when we eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and its only after that knowledge arrives that we try a little evil or ourselves. Indeed, when an innocent toddler says he didn’t spill the milk (the dinosaur did) we don’t generally condemn the child for lying because we perceive that there is no ill intent only the active imagination.
Maybe there is another way to put this. We loose our innocence to the degree that we no longer assume the world and the people in it to be good and safe.
And sadly, we say that childlike innocence is, in point of fact, erroneous. To “grow up” often means to loose hope, loose faith, doubt love, and expect bad. At the pinnacle is when we accept our own mortality as inevitable, normal, and even good. Innocence in this way is in many ways simple ignorance.
So I’m wondering how (if?) Jesus could be somehow innocent and fully informed. I don’t think I can say that Jesus always expected the best in every situation. After all, he wept over Jerusalem knowing something dreadful was about to happen. And while I might think, “Sure, but he also saw the even greater good behind it” - I’m not sure that really washes with me. Maybe there’s a place where we know without doubt that the very best thing could happen, even that it ‘wants’ to happen, but also that the same possibility exists for evil.
It was only a glimpse but this image of our king knowing every rotten, horrible thing in the universe but remaining in some way childlike...it was an infinitely beautiful image for that instant I caught it. I pray I’ll catch it again.