So he dressed like a peasant and walked the streets. While in a pub, a man pointed to the king and said the bartender, “Who is that man? He looks like a peasant, but he talks like a king.”
The most important impact of the incarnation of God in Christ...is the incarnation of God in Christ. Because we’ve been doing this for so long, we sometimes forget just how astonishing that really is.
John writes, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him...” That makes sense. The omnipotent, omnipresent, glorious, awesome, and sovereign God created. No big deal. But then John writes something quite astonishing, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us...” (John 1:1-3, 14).
Some other astonishing things:
“Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me’” (Matthew 25:37-40).
Jesus said, “‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (John 20:21-22).
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12).
We often forget just how counterintuitive biblical Christianity really is. We’re no longer astonished by the truth God gave us. If you never say, “Wow! Nothing could be that good” or “I don’t believe it,” you probably need to ask God to restore the joy of your salvation...or become a Buddhist.
The most astonishing thing about the Christian faith is the incarnation of God in Christ. The second most astonishing thing about the Christian faith is the incarnation of Christ in you.
God has invited us into the fellowship of the Trinity and he has sent us in the same way the Father sent God the Son.
Jesus said that we would do greater works than he had done, life-changing things in fact. Healing? Yes. Miracles? Yes. Power? Yes. Loving the unlovely? Yes. All of that.
The reason we are here is to reach out and minister to others.
We don’t go just to help them...but because we are them.
Jesus said that when you’ve done it to least of his brothers, you’ve done it to him. The truth is that when you reach out to them, you identify with them the way Christ identified with us.
The most dangerous place for Christians is thinking that we’re the good guys and we’ve been sent into the world to make the bad guys the good guys.
I love Brennan Manning. In the introduction to his book, All Is Grace, he writes:
All is Grace was written in a certain frame of mind—that of a ragamuffin.
This book is by the one who thought he’d be farther along by now, but he’s not.
It is by the inmate who promised the parole board he’d be good, but he wasn’t.
It is by the dim-eyed who showed the path to others but kept losing his way.
It is by the wet-brained who believed if a little wine is good for the stomach, then a lot is great.
It is by the liar, tramp, and thief; otherwise known as the priest, speaker, and author.
It is by the disciple whose cheese slid off his cracker so many times he said, “to hell with cheese ‘n’ crackers.”
That is us.
We don’t go just to fix them...but because we need fixing.
While this isn’t specifically taught in those verses, there is a secondary benefit of Jesus’ words. We need fixing just as much as they do. And if you want to be fixed, do your best to fix somebody else.
Did you hear this story? A man in the barbershop was talking about his pastor who had stolen money from the church. The barber asked, “Well, did you fire him?” “Nah,” the man answered, “We figured we would keep him and let him work it out. Besides, if he went somewhere else, they would trust him and he would do it again.”
My seminary students sometimes thought they were the best of the flock and God had chosen them to lead. I would often tell them, “Let me disabuse you of that view. You’re not the best of the flock. You’re the worst. And the only way God can keep you in line is to put you in front of the congregation so they can keep an eye on you.”
Reaching out to love and serve others doesn’t come out of obligation and “do more, try harder” religion. It comes out of our natural response to God’s love.
I was a pastor for a whole lot of years and, frankly, I was never that comfortable with it. In fact, I wanted to run most of the time. I would often say to Jesus, “I wouldn’t do this for anybody but you.” And Jesus would often say to me, “I wouldn’t do this for anybody but you. It’s the only way I can keep you straight.”
But let me tell you something else. Being a pastor redeemed my soul. Of course Jesus identifying with us redeems us, but our identifying with others redeems us in a sense too.
We don’t go just to take Jesus to them...but because that is where he is.
“Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40).
It is said that Woodrow Wilson as he walked to The White House once on a very cold day stopped to talk to a little boy standing on the street corner. Later his assistant admonished him, “Mr. President, you simply don’t have that kind of time.” “I know,” the president said, “But you never know what was wrapped in that coat.”
You don’t, you know.
If I had only known it was you...
There’s a story about two young men who had grown up together. When they were old enough, they joined the army and went into combat in World War II together.
In a major battle, one man was wounded behind enemy lines and cried out for help. His friend asked his commanding officer if he could go and get his friend. “That’s crazy,” the officer said, “You’ll only get killed and your friend is probably dead anyway.” The young man persisted and the officer finally gave him permission to go.
Sometime later the young man came back to the foxhole, carrying the body of his fallen friend. The officer said, “It wasn’t worth it. He’s dead.” “Oh, no,” the young man responded, “Just before my friend died, he said, ‘I knew you would come.’”
When we reach out to others with hope, when we go and minister to them, there are the unspoken words in response, “Jesus, I knew you would come.”
Time to Draw Away
Read John 13:1-17, 34-35
Reaching out to love and serve others doesn’t come out of obligation and “do more, try harder” religion. It comes out of our natural response to God’s love. The principle is this: You can’t love until you’ve been loved, and then only to the degree to which you’ve been loved. Once we know, really know, we’re loved...then we’re free to go out and share that love with others. We just can’t help it. We love as he first loved us. And it changes them and us.