It may be of some comfort to be reminded that the Christmas story at the core of the Christian faith was rooted in hostility and cruelty. That’s precisely where and why God expressed his love for a broken world, by incarnating his Son.
Christianity is not weak, and neither does it hide it’s head in religious sand……. It tackles the root of all evil…… ultimately every expression of good and/or evil has to first pass through the human heart……
The Man from the Middle East
She nearly jumped out of her skin when the recruiting angel appeared – she’d wondered all her life if they existed. Now she knew. Of course she was terrified. Surprisingly, as she recounted later, there’d been no coercion; but rather a deep sense of awe and affirmation. The angel told her with quiet assurance that God would miraculously and mysteriously impregnate her with a son, whom she’d carry to birth and nurture into adulthood. His Son, on earth, promises repeated along the prophetic pipeline, whispered of through the ages, recorded in Scripture, and now fulfilled in her. She dropped to her knees, “According to your will let it be so.”
She was no-one special, anonymous, couldn’t read or write – knew her place, in the background, subservient; engaged to a carpenter’s apprentice living in a nondescript town in the back of beyond in the Middle East. Neither their home nor the land had ever been theirs to own. Occupied for generations by an autocratic regime whose empire spread to places she’d never heard of. Fear numbed them. At any moment they could decree another tax, snatch the men for special ‘projects’, or brutally remind them of who’s in charge.
How the ruling authorities got wind of the birth of her son she’d never know – undercover agents no doubt. They responded by kicking down doors in the neighbourhood in the early hours. They grabbed infant boys from their terrified mothers, beheading or stabbing them to death before their mortified eyes. They took no prisoners, gave no chances, showed no mercy, and ruthlessly carried out orders to squash the rumours of the clandestine birth of a king.
She fled, babe in arms, by night with her husband to Egypt where they eked out an existence for some years before covertly returning to Nazareth. The authorities would’ve massacred the family if they knew what she smuggled. The dust settled. Deeply embedded in the community her son eventually inherited the family business. He was a skilful carpenter like his dad, strong and kind to his neighbours and friends. No-one suspected he was a man on a mission terminating in death
That chapter began when he stepped into the river and out of the wilderness. The time for hiding was over. He burst out of nowhere onto the scene. He travelled throughout the region propagating the good news, the inauguration of a Kingdom sanctioned by God, whom he called Father. Recruiting seemed effortless as people from the surrounding regions flocked to his charismatic rallies. Religious and secular leaders sat up and took notice, jealous of his appeal, astonished at his methods, and threatened by his growing band of disciples.
His weapons were extraordinary and supernatural. He read people like books and slipped through their facades with uncanny discernment. He didn’t merely talk about love, forgiveness and healing, he generously released them to whomever was willing to receive – without question or condition. Who on earth did he think he was? His power over sickness and the demonic was bewildering beyond belief – astonishing miracles. Unfazed by threats his words carried wisdom, authority and truth as he challenged tired mindsets and worn out paradigms. After encountering his presence ordinary men and women appeared to gain confidence, walk taller, exude hope, and live bold before their tormentors.
The authorities took note and were afraid; they paid spies, bribed friends, and intimidated many. Before long he was dragged through a kangaroo court to a bloody crucifixion – enduring torture, flogging, and relentless violence. Strapping nakedness to his form, crushed beneath the weight of injustice, he ripped the chord and detonated forgiveness and grace to fall down like rain upon his accusers. No-one realized that all was not as it seemed. They didn’t have a clue.
Three days after his humiliating public slaughter and hasty entombment under surveillance by well-armed guards, his grave was discovered – empty. Scandalous reports surfaced that he’d been spotted in the neighbourhood by countless witnesses. His inflammatory teaching spread like wildfire with ‘copy cats’ multiplying in alarming numbers. Instead of death being the end it fueled the movement and inspired his followers to ever more heroic deeds.
Years later the multitude bearing his name grew so influential that the mighty empire that pierced his side came crashing down. Yet still they marched, ever forward despite persecution, into every corner of the earth, generation after generation.
On and on it goes, adapting and changing, yet always the same.
Jesus, the man from the Middle East, subversively infiltrated the region in the most unexpected disguise – “one of us”. After years of nurture, acclimatization and patient waiting, he finally exploded into action with maximum collateral impact.
He offered people life without ever stealing theirs. He shared his healing gift free of charge rather than maiming and hurting. He never intimidated, bullied or harassed with threats of fear and reprisal. He took no captives, instead he delighted in liberating those held captive in body, mind or spirit. He press-ganged no-one to believe, loved those of every tribe, gender and political affiliation, and was never swayed by status – rich or poor. His hospitality was without limit or national prejudice. He invited everyone to enter his extraordinary kingdom, heaven on earth. “My peace is for all, the price is paid…. Come follow me,” he said, whether they deserved it or not.
Today the same cries and battles continue as the invitations are extended. England has no time for him and recycles his buildings; Europe doesn’t believe him but appreciates his art. America won’t trust him but loves the logo, Canada has no need of him, Asia and India regard him as ‘one among many’. Africa and South America are somewhat interested in him as an icon for liberation and a poster boy for religion.
Any, or all of us might crucify or kill him again, if pushed. There but for the grace of God……
Jesus, the man from the Middle East; a passionate revolutionary who radically redefined love, God, identity and purpose for the world. A subversive, intent on toppling humanity from masquerading as all-knowing gods, refusing to blend in with the status quo. He came as a friend but was treated like an enemy. He walked in peace but was slaughtered amidst unrequited hostility.
Now resurrected… he still walks in peace as a friend…. Through the troubled streets of Paris, London, New York and across every threshold where people dwell. Despite the setbacks intelligence reports warn of a worldwide resurgence; light dispelling darkness, good overpowering evil, love overcoming hatred.
He’s a dangerous man against whom the gates of hell will not prevail. Foolishly underestimated by some he never gives up. He’ll passionately pursue his mission until the whole earth is filled with the glory of the Lord, every tear is wiped away and every captive set free.
The door bursts open and the question pierces your heart like a bullet: “Are you for him or against him?”