Skip to main content

Portraits of Christ: Luke’s Gospel, part 3

What does it mean to you that Jesus was a man? We hear a lot about him being God (and later blog posts in this series will address that), but we don’t hear as much about his human side. Luke emphasizes this aspect of Jesus, and it’s important for understanding how we relate to him.  
 
He grew up in the small farm village of Nazareth, which means that he lived doing hard work and manual labor for the first thirty years of his life before he became an itinerant rabbi (a travelling teacher and preacher). He may have been a carpenter, though that’s not clear. The word translated ‘carpenter’ in the original Greek New Testament (tektōn) could refer to a carpenter, builder, stonemason, craftsman, or other occupation. He nonetheless would have worked like others around him - not an easy life. And growing up in a farm village, he would have been acquainted with farm work, too. He was in a low socioeconomic class, like the majority of people in Palestine in his day, and would have had a difficult life like everyone else, trying to make ends meet.  
 
In his second career as a rabbi, he spoke to the masses in everyday parables and illustrations aimed at the common person - stories about farming, planting, harvesting, trees, seeds, fishing, sheep, and common life events. Jesus shows us a God who is full of love, compassion and mercy, especially for those who are not successful in worldly terms, and for those the world has forgotten. He comes as a God who readily relates to us. 
 
Jesus then became a travelling rabbi and minister of the gospel, teaching and healing the masses. His three years of ministry was not easy, either, as he travelled extensively and probably undertook a more ambitious ministry than any other rabbi of his day. For example, at one point he sends out 72 disciples to preach and practice the gospel after training them (Luke 10). His earthly ministry ended in seeming failure, in worldly terms, with his disciples  deserting him upon his arrest and his humiliating crucifixion. And he never got the perks of ministry that many ministers get today. 
 
In his ministry, we see in him a God who is humble and loving, not only toward the poor, but to all sinners. For example, the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15), Jesus pulls a suprise ending on his listeners. In that patriarchal society, the father would have had every right to disown the son and never let him return; that is what those hearing the parable probably would have expected. The ending where the father eagerly awaits the son and welcomes him back would have been heard as a shocking ending, as well as Jesus’ portrayal of the “good” brother. This twist ending dramatically shows God’s love and patience for us sinners. 
 
Jesus identifies with us. He did not come as a prince living in a palace, trying to get to know and influence the shakers and movers, the elite, the rich, or the powerful of the world. He came for us. Jesus gave up his heavenly glory to live a difficult life as a lowly human for thirty years, first as a common laborer, and then as a controversial rabbi. He was also a “man of sorrows” who probably had a difficult life personally (as we’ll see in a future blog post). 
 
We sometimes find our jobs or studies stressful, boring, or unfulfilling. It may be because it seems burdensome. It may be because of a bad boss or bad relationships at work. Maybe it’s just too much work and stress, physically or psychologically. Jesus would have felt those kinds of things as a common laborer or as a rabbi for much of his life. Imagine the Son of God coming into human form and enduring the life he did. He knows what you're going through. He identifies with you. 
 
If you are a lay leader or a pastor in church, do you find church ministry discouraging, tiring or stressful? He knows, too, from his three years of ministry. He experienced much burden, stress and hurt as the first ever minister of the gospel. He identifies with you, too. 
 
He not only knows your pain in the sense that God knows everything, but also because he personally experienced it all.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Gossip, accusation and spiritual warfare

Paul once wrote to the Corinthians, “For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder” [1 Cor. 12:20]. Gossip is diagnosed as a serious spiritual problem, not a harmless form of conversation and social entertainment, as many in the secular world would view it.God views it differently. Gossip is the opposite of the love and grace that God wants to display in our lives.
Gossip is often exaggerated (and thus, untrue), or outright fabricated. Even church people engage in gossip in a seemingly sanctimonious guise (“We really ought to pray for X – you wouldn’t believe what he told me yesterday!...”). Whether secular or “christianized,” gossip betrays trust. “A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret” [Prov. 11:13]; “A perverse person stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates clo…

Book review: Green Eggs and Ham (Dr. Seuss)

Green eggs and ham, as a recolorized staple breakfast food, captures the reader's attention by turning this diurnal sustenance into an unexpected and apparently unappetizing foodstuff. It thus symbolizes the existential angst of modern life, wherein we are unfulfilled by modern life, and are repelled by something that might impart nourishment. The "protagonist" to be convinced of its desirability remains anonymous, while the other actor refers to himself with an emphatic identifier "Sam I am", formed with a pronominal subject and copular verb of existence. This character thus seeks to emphasize his existence and existential wholeness, and even establish a sense of self-existence, with an apparent Old Testament allusion to Elohim speaking to Moses as the "I Am". This emphatic personal identifier thus introduces a prominent theme of religious existentialism to the narrative, probably more in line with original Kierkegaardian religious existentialism, ra…

Portraits of Christ: John’s Gospel, part 2

In John’s Gospel we have an emphasis on Jesus that is unique compared to the other gospels. John not only emphasizes his deity, but his mysteriousness. The reader is left with an impression of Jesus as a mystical teacher, in the sense that his words and actions are not only those of a profound religious teacher, but of one who is other-worldly. So often in this gospel we read of Jesus making statements that the crowds, the religious teachers, and even his own disciples sometimes could not fathom.

For starters, there are the “I am” statements (e.g., I am the bread of life; I am the living water; I am the good shepherd; I am the way, the truth, and the life), which were clearly claims to divinity, for these statements in the Jewish context referred to God’s title “I am,” given when Moses inquired of his name at the burning bush. Jesus makes much use of mystical metaphors like these and others, like all the ‘day’ and ‘night’ references in this book, which portrays him as mystical or mys…