His name was common, his hometown despised and there were tons of would be messiahs and saviors littering the countryside. The Romans put down one rebellion after another. People were known for dropping their nets to follow an itinerant preacher, usually to the point of disillusionment or death. Herod built a temple, or revamped a temple, the Jews sold out to Hellenization and many brig ant groups, like the Essenes, Pharisees and others fought against the Greco-Roman Imperilization and then a baby was born in an animal shelter and laid in a feeding troth.
Can we wipe away centuries of Western costumes to discover the man, Jesus Christ in history? Can we discover him without His Spirit? Research alone is a rough sketch, the Spirit enlivens the body. Without the Spirit of Christ we cannot know Christ. What did he tell Nicodemus, what did he tell his disciples, what did he say to the women at the well and the man born blind? “I who speak to you am He!” How many who closely followed the letter of the law and traditions and institutions of men could not recognize the Lord. He came in an unexpected form to the disappointment of many and the surprise of all. Few testified of his true identity,e.g. John the Baptist- Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, Simeon (Luke 2:25-38) For my eyes have seen your salvation and Anna the prophetess who remained in the temple day and night even at 84 years of age waiting for the redemption of Israel.
How could they see what others could not? How were their spiritual eyes open and ears attuned to the glorious unveiling of the once and future King of the universe? Only God could condense his glory into a helpless child wholly dependent on the grace of its mother for survival. How delicate, vulnerable, defenseless and beautiful. We believe the King of Glory was a child born to poverty stricken, maligned, disgraced Jewish teenagers traveling under the decree of a corrupt Roman Creaser. Why such humble beginnings? Has he changed? Does he still come in humble and unexpected ways? Does he still refuse to meet our nationalistic and selfish expectations? Do we demand that he relieve our suffering and do we become discouraged when we discover that we have a suffering savior who chooses rather to meet us in our weakness rather then remove it? He chooses to overcome evil with good, forgive his enemies and walk the extra mile with anyone trying to slight him. Who wants to do that? No one at first. The first step of the extra mile is on the neck of the old man (the flesh, carnal nature) the next step crushes our agenda, and the next catches a fresh wind of the Spirit who assures us that he is with us and the journey will prove fruitful. As long as we stick to what is familiar, comfortable and within our scope of understanding we will never walk the mile. We may flirt with generosity, revelation of His love, understanding of his purpose in the world and all that kind of stuff but we will never feel his breath in our lungs, his compassion in our hearts, his poetry in our souls or his dirt on our feet until we step away from convention, take the adventure and let the chips fall where they may.
In the walk of faith you have to let things be what they are. No amount of manipulating, arguing, reasoning, begging, or bargaining can change the truth. It is dangerous to erect fortified walls of misinterpreted scripture around our presuppositions and doctrines. The truth is that some of what we have been taught and believe is completely wrong. No worries, we know the person of the truth and he has promised to lead us into all truth if we continue in his word. So let us continue, let us open our eyes and allow Jesus to be who he is and set us free to be who we are in him. St. Irenaeus said the glory of God is man fully alive. I would say the glory of God is Christ fully alive in man. The sharper the image of God in me the greater my light will shine into the darkness, separating truth from error, fact from fiction, light from darkness, hate from love, flesh from Spirit and life from death. The clearer the perception the greater the vision. I want to look out over history and the future and see the unfolding plan of salvation for the nations. I want to see, with my eyes, the reality of salvation. I want to know the man Jesus Christ, in all his humanity and divinity and all points in between. He said, “Take up your cross and follow me.” Perhaps my cross is the death of everything I think I know about the sinless man murdered for me. Maybe my cross is found in the extra mile, somewhere between towns on a dusty road full of spies and liars and one good man bending down to help a weary and weather-beaten traveler like me. I will find him in the extra mile when I go the extra mile. We can’t find him anywhere but where we are. I had a teacher say once, “You cannot get from where you think you are to where you want to be, you go from where you really are to where you want to be.” How much of the Holy Spirits’ work is pulling our hands off our eyes and revealing to us who and where we are. There is no way to fulfill the dreams in our hearts unless we see things as they are. The point is the best place to be is where you are, it is reality. All else is deception. The only way to get from here (wanting to see Christ for who he is) to there (seeing him) is the extra mile. He has traveled through the heavens and hovers over every human heart waiting for us to muster the slightest hint of faith we can to reach out and touch his hand. The distance we must span is a thought whispered on the lips, a hope rising from the wreckage, a dream waking to the light of day inspiring one confident step into the one good thing we have ever seen in this world, the footprint of the man Jesus Christ on time and eternity.