I grew up in the church- so it was surprising to get to college and realize that I didn’t really know Jesus at all. Jesus seemed irrelevant. How could I possibly relate to this weird guy in a dress knocking on this old timey door?
The gift that my college ministry gave me, was introducing me to a compelling picture of Jesus in the Bible. They helped the Bible come alive and suddenly Jesus was three dimensional. After reading Henri Nouwen’s Compassion I was taken by the significance of the incarnation. And as I began to volunteer in inner city LA, and travelled to Tanzania to volunteer with AIDs orphans, and worked with college students of all stripes, I began to gather my thoughts on what I find to be compelling about the incarnation of Jesus.
When we are in pain, feeling alone can make things even worse. Through his incarnation Jesus chose to draw near to the lives and personal experiences of those in pain in an intimate way.
I shared these reflections at a conference a couple weekends ago. And thought I would share them with you.
Jesus was born the illegitimate child of a teenage mom, and raised by a man who was not his biological father.
So every inner city kid born to a teenage mom and every kid raised by someone who isn’t their biological father can know that Jesus is good news to them, because he chose to be just like them.
Jesus was born under an unjust political regime that forced his family to flee from the Middle East to Northern Africa as political refugees.
So every diplaced person, every person in a refugee camp, every person living under political oppression, every person that has crossed a border out of desperation, can know that Jesus is good news because he is just like them. When he came to earth he chose a life that was just like theirs.
Jesus returned from Egypt and grew up in a small town doing manual labor. He never owned a home and described his own life as one where he had no place to lay his head.
So everyone who works in manual labor to earn a days wages knows that Jesus can relate. Every homeless person on the streets knows that Jesus is good news, because Jesus himself chose to be homeless.
At the end of his life Jesus was arrested on trumped up charges, suffered police brutality, and capital punishment with two hardened criminals at his side and a racial slur over his head.
So every victim of racial profiling, every person that has experienced police brutality, every prisoner on death row, and person under a violent government can know Jesus has drawn close.
Jesus was able to debate with the best thinkers and teachers of his time. He schooled them in public debate. He moved in well respected circles and constantly shocked the refined with his tendency to party with the equivalent of drug dealers, corrupt wall street traders, drunken partiers, and hookers.
Jesus was unexpected, unconventional, and challenging. He was radically compassionate, upset by hypocrisy, a vibrant public speaker, and able to make the most profound theology accessible to an illiterate farmer. He was unaffected by people in power, impressively compassionate towards the poor and sick, and shockingly powerful in his authority over all things.
And this amazing person, this amazing Jesus, this amazing Messiah, came into the world and continues to come into the world. He is coming to you and pressing into your life. He is offering you satisfaction for your soul thirst and transformation for the world you live in.
I shared this reflection with some college students from East Los Angeles a few years ago. When I paused and asked for a response a young Latino man sitting next to me began to cry.
“What’s going on for you?” I asked.
“I didn’t know that. I didn’t have a dad. My mom was a teenager when she had me. I didn’t know Jesus was like that. He’s just like me.”
And suddenly this young man felt less alone and more known by Jesus.
Jesus’ choice to be poor, to walk this earth homeless, to suffer political oppression and violence- speaks to so many today. He is more than relevant, he chose a life that completely identifies with those on the margins on society. He is good news in so many way and I am in love with the good news of his incarnation.