Sent to reverse the order of things
Jesus was quick with an object lesson. His parables were given when the disciples crossed the threshold of what he knew to be the teachable moment. In a more vivid sense, he often placed a familiar object or person in front of them to show them Kingdom truth. One was a power message about why he as sent.
A choice lesson occurred when they were arguing about which one of them would be the greatest. Before we're too hard on them, let's remember that they were essentially spiritual infants under his careful discipleship. His pronouncements must have raised their Messianic expectations to the point they each coveted the treasured place of honor in the Kingdom. So, Jesus gave them an important object lesson. He stood a child in front of them and said,
Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me
receives him who sent me. For he who is least among you all is the one who is
Luke 9:48, ESV
Two important learnings happened in that demonstration.
1. Jesus emphasized his divinity.
The second part of his verbal equation clarifies his oneness with the Father. He
said, "...whoever receives me receives him who sent me". Once again, his
awareness of being sent to earth is central to understanding the miracles of
his birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension, and eventual second coming.
2. Jesus revealed that his Kingdom reversed cultural norms.
That he took a child, stood him in the place of honor beside him, and then
announced the child as being great (greatest in some translations), challenged
the disciples' and therefore the culture's understanding of greatness. In one
poignant moment Jesus showed them that the one who sent him had a
different scorecard than the religious hierarchy that defined so much of their
Well, duh--- two thousand years later we've grown accustomed to the reversals of God's economy. Who among us hasn't flinched at the strength/weakness dichotomy so evident in Scripture? Or, the many other opposites that stand the Christian community apart from the world system---wealth/poverty, fame/humility, life/death, self/others, more/less, position/servanthood, happiness/joy, turmoil/peace, not to mention the works of the flesh and the fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:19-23). They are the New Testament clarification of what Jesus was trying to demonstrate to his closest followers that day: he was sent to challenge and reverse the order of the world system.
Then again, there's been some slippage in those two thousand years too. In more ways than we can enumerate in the limits of this space some of the distinctives that once set Christ's church apart from the world system have become vague. While Jesus was sent in the flesh to close the gap that existed in that era's religious system and ordinary people, the modern church has become an exclusive suburban community of haves distanced from a vast world of have nots. In many ways we've become affinity minded cookie-cutter churches that mirror society's birds-of-feather mentality. Now, we have cowboy churches, biker churches, recovery churches, contemporary churches, traditional churches, reformed churches, special needs congregations, and not-your-grandmother's-church churches, not to mention the denominational lists. I've been thinking about planting a fat person's church, being uniquely gifted in that area of personal growth.
What's the deal with all of this specialization? Maybe it's the fit thing, twenty-first century version. Suburbanites don't fit the urban system, people in recovery don't fit those who aren't, minorities aren't welcomed by the WASP crowd, and everyone stares at the bikers' leather. Yes, we are the touchy-feely culture and church is the ultimate affinity group. Let's get some like-minded people together who can understand the unique spiritual needs of people like us.
Jesus was sent to create the level field and reverse the order of things. In Christ "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28). The Incarnation is the declaration that God reverses everything in Christ. It was the lesson Jesus was trying to impress on the Twelve that day when he brought a child to the honored place.
And, what a Christmas lesson it is! The baby in a manger makes all the quirks and preferences and biases that define us null and void.
O Come Let us Adore Him!