This, then, is the axis of Christian faith: that God, whose being is “with” – the inner interrelationship of the three persons of the Trinity – is not just “with” within, but determines to be with externally: to be with us. God’s whole life is shaped by the permanent resolve never to be except to be with us. Here is the direction, the fixed purpose, the orienting goal of the ordering of God’s life: being with us. This, indeed, is henceforth the name of God: if we are asked who God is, what God is called, what is God’s nature, what we most fundamentally answer is that God is “with us.”
The most tantalizing thing is that Jesus’ last words are a question – a question that does not receive an answer. The question shows us that Jesus has given everything that he is for the cause of being with us, for the cause of embracing us within the essence of God’s being. He has given so much – even despite our determination to be without him. And yet he has given beyond our imagination, because for the sake of our being with the Father he has, for this moment, lost his own being with the Father. And the Father has longed so much to be with us that he has, for this moment, lost his being with the Son, which is the essence of his being.
These two astonishing discoveries, the Father’s losing the Son for us, and the Son’s losing the Father for us, make us wonder “Is all then lost?” – not just for us, but even for God. Has the Trinity lost its identity for nothing? But this deepest of fears is what finds an answer in Christ’s resurrection, when it turns out that neither sin, nor suffering, nor death, nor alienation has the last word. With is restored at Easter, and, on the day of Ascension (God being with God), and Pentecost (God being with us, enabling us to be with one another), with has the last word.
At the central moment in history, Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, has to choose between being with the Father and being with us. And he chooses us. At the same time the Father has to choose between letting the Son be with us and keeping the Son to Himself. And he chooses to let the Son be with us. That is the choice on which our eternal destiny depends. That is the epicenter of the Christian faith, and our very definition of love. From this moment we can see that the word with becomes the key to the whole story. The Holy Trinity is the perfect epitome of with: God being with God. The incarnation of Jesus is the embodiment of with: God being with us, being among us. The Crucifixion, as we have seen, is the greatest test of God’s being with us, because, we see that God in Christ is so committed to being with us that Jesus will even risk his being with God to keep his commitment never to be separated from us. The resurrection is the vindication of God’s being both with us, and with God, and the ultimate and perpetual compatibility, and unity, of the two. And Pentecost is the embodiment of that resurrection breakthrough, because in Pentecost the Holy Spirit becomes the guarantee and gift of our union with God in Christ and our union with one another in Christ’s body.
Samuel Wells, A Nazareth Manifesto: Being with God (pp. 237, 70-71)