"Judah is a lion's whelp;
From the prey, my son, you have gone up.
He crouches, he lies down as a lion,
And as a lion, who dares rouse him up?
Genesis 49:9 NASB
. . . . .
'It's always like that,' says the magician, Coriakin, in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. 'You can't keep him; it's not as if he were a tame lion.' The lion in question is Aslan, of course, who has just vanished. Someone working on some Bible studies to accompany Rowan Williams' recent book on Narnia asked this week what passage I might use to illustrate the idea that Aslan is not a tame lion. My first thought (which is apparently the consensus) was to use the description of Jesus cleansing the temple.
But this Sunday in church, as I looked around at the images of Christ and watched my own children fidget, as children do, I thought, why not the story about Jesus being found in the temple? What about Jesus the strong-willed child? Not unruly, perhaps; one wouldn't want to ascribe unruliness to the Messiah, after all. There is, however, a strength of character that might present itself as a stubborn streak, or a tendency to wander.
I find myself increasingly resistant to images of Jesus that depict him as nice, anodyne. 'He went around doing good,' and that's pretty much the extent of it. No. I am just not convinced that Jesus came that we might be nice to each other. He came that we might have life abundantly, and he never shrank back from the purpose for which he came. Perhaps he wasn't an unruly child, but he was at least a tad unpredictable--there was no expectation that he would wander off. If he'd been prone to such things, Mary and Joseph surely would have kept a closer watch on him. (I know something about this, having a daughter who is prone to just this sort of wandering: she keeps you on your toes.)
He is not a tame lion. He tries our patience and sometimes frightens us; he refuses to stay in the habitats we build for him. And just when we think we've nabbed him (as the disciples did in the breaking of bread after their conversation on the road to Emmaus), he vanishes. 'Gone!' said the magician. 'And you and I quite crestfallen.' Indeed.