Friday, October 13, 2023

The Kingdom of Reversals

Shepherds. Angels, Wise Men. A little Baby in a Manger. A mother and a father looking on in adoration and wonder. Animals bathed in a warm glow. If we look beyond the malls, the sales, the hustle and bustle and stressing over who gets what, Christmas at its core is really beyond belief. 

Let us look on in adoration and wonder at who Jesus is:

"The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross." (Col. 1:15-20)

Let us continue:

"In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father." (Phil. 2:5-8)

So, let's ponder this together. Christ is what holds everything together in this universe--He created all we see and don't see and He is the reason why what exists, exists. He is the head of the church and was the first One to defeat death altogether by His resurrection. He reconciled the world to Himself through His sacrificial death.  He made peace and is peace to all who believe.

Keep thinking of that wee Baby in the manger as we ponder this. 

Then, given this divine resume, all honor and glory are due Him. But wait!  He divested Himself and became (wait for it!) a servant. Can you think of anything lower?  Here is a quick snapshot about being a servant in Jesus' day:

"Roman slavery, as it existed in the time of Christ, was comparatively unknown to the Jews. The Romans held in bondage captives taken in war, had purchased slaves. Their bondage was perpetual, and the master held unquestioned control of the person and life of his slaves. Yet large numbers were set free, and in many instances Roman freedmen rose to the highest honors" (ATS Bible Dictionary).

So, a Roman slave did not have the protections of the Old Testament Law--was Paul referring to the Roman slave's status in these verses?  Contrast the status of slaves in the Old Testament: 

"The condition of a Hebrew servant was by no means intolerable. His master was admonished to treat him, not "as a bond-servant, but as an hired servant and as a sojourner," and, again, "not to rule over him with rigor." (Leviticus 25:39,40,43) At the termination of his servitude the master was enjoined not to "let him go away empty," but to remunerate him liberally out of his flock, his floor and his wine-press. (15:13,14) In the event of a Hebrew becoming the servant of a "stranger," meaning a non-Hebrew, the servitude could be terminated only in two ways, viz. by the arrival of the year of jubilee, or by the repayment to the master of the purchase money paid for the servant, after deducting a sum for the value of his services proportioned to the length of his servitude. (Leviticus 25:47-55)" (Smith's Bible Dictionary). 

I propose Paul had Roman slaves in mind when he was inspired to write these verses--his Gentile readers would immediately understand his meaning; if he was referring the Jewish slaves, he would have had to describe how they were different than Roman slaves, which he did not do.

Point?  The reversal is this:  Jesus, the King, the Son, the Son of David, the Darling of the Father, cast off His heavenly robes at an appointed time and took on the status of a Roman slave (lowest of the low) and walked among us.  That wee Baby, visited by kings (who was a king Himself) who acknowledged His royalty, was raised as a son of a carpenter, lived in a village with His brothers and sisters, was thirsty, hungry and walked with the lowly, the outcasts, the sinners. 

Last thought: We are all familiar with the parable of the sheep and the goats, where the King (Jesus) has rightfully returned to His throne and His judging the nations: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left." (Matt. 25:31-33). 

The sheep had responded to the cries of the world's beleaguered while the goats galloped on by.  Who are the beleaguered?  “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’"(Matt. 25: 34-36). 

If Jesus is our Emmanuel, the One who is God with us, then consider that Jesus was:
  • Hungry and thirsty: out in the desert, facing privation as He battled Satan 
  • Stranger:  to His own people who misinterpreted His claims and His mission with many turning against Him
  • Needing clothes:  criminals were crucified naked; the Roman soldiers gambled for His tunic
  • Sick: exhaustion and sorrow were His lot--read Isaiah 53 for His experiences even though the Gospels may not chronicle each instance
  • Prison:  He was arrested and treated like a common criminal and His followers fled and denied Him
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’" (Matt. 25:40).

The King became a servant, walked with the lowly and calls us to do the same.  The Kingdom of God is an odd place to inhabit given how so opposite it is to the world, but it's a beautiful place for those whom the world casts out.  

That's where Jesus is standing with open arms. 


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