Part VII of our series on Doing Good
The book of 1 John begins with this verse:
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.”
One of the themes we come back to again and again is that the Christian life is very physical.
We are here because God creates a physical world in which his glory may be manifested, and he creates human beings in his image to manifest his glory. Through the sin of the first Adam, human beings abandon their vocation; through the victory over sin of the second Adam, human beings recover their vocation, in him. And all of this happens in the physical world, as the spiritual world watches on, influences the action, and presses in on every side. But it is a physical calling to which we are called, and in the end we don’t abandon the physical and go to heaven; we sleep, and then we are resurrected physically to a new heavens and a new earth, where God makes his home among very physical human beings.
When Christ undertakes his earthly mission, he is in all ways physical like us. The one difference between he and us is that he did not sin. Because he did not sin, evil could not touch him. Look at how this played out in Luke 4:14-30.
First of all, he describes a very physical mission:
Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him. He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked.
Jesus said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself!’ And you will tell me, ‘Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.’”
“Truly I tell you,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown. I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.”
And then look how they are unable to lay hands on him:
All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.
In fact, in Luke 8:43-46, Jesus is genuinely surprised when someone–a woman with an issue of blood—is able to touch him:
And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.
“Who touched me?” Jesus asked.
When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.”
But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.”
Listen carefully to how Jesus describes his coming crucifixion.
He teaches his disciples in Mark 9:31, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.” (Note the statement of the Gospel there.) And again in Mark 14:41, in the Garden of Gesthemane, “Returning the third time, he said to them, ‘Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners.’”
When Jesus is resurrected from the dead and when he appears in heaven in the book of Revelation (see Revelation 5:1-6, for example), he continues to bear the marks of his having been in the hands of sinners.
God gives Jesus as a gift to his enemies. Jesus willingly accepts being handed over as that gift. And in that process, we learn something very important about the difference between how God views his enemies and how we view our enemies:
God is not threatened by his enemies.
God is not intimidated by his enemies. God is not frightened of his enemies. God is not worried about what his enemies will do to him.
Instead, God loves his enemies. Physically.
In our next post, we’ll look at how and why God commands us to do the same.
For now, comment below and share your thoughts about why God would be emphatic about loving his enemies physically.
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