We Are Saved Through The Most Ordinary Means
by Nate Gibson
When Jesus began his ministry with the call to “repent, for the kingdom of heaven has drawn near”, there was no shortage of misunderstanding about what kind of kingdom he was referring to, and how, exactly, that kingdom would be initiated. The zealots, a faction of radicals to which several of Jesus’ disciples belonged, longed for a revolutionary leader to drive out the Romans and re-establish a politically independent kingdom of Israel. Those familiar with Jewish history may remember the story of Judah Maccabee, the Jewish priest-turned-warrior who led a rebellion against the ruling Seleucids several centuries before Jesus was born. Certainly, the zealots and others chafing under Roman rule during Jesus’ lifetime would have remembered, and this shaped their image of who the Messiah would be.
With the benefit of two millennia of hindsight, we may well be tempted to shake our heads, click our tongues, and chuckle to ourselves. Of course that wasn’t who Jesus was! How could anyone have possibly made that mistake?
However, we’re more like the zealots than we realize. It’s all too easy to for us to imagine Jesus in ways that suit us best. We focus on teachings that are palatable, or which align neatly with a particular political agenda, and either ignore or attempt to explain away those tough teachings that do not fit.
The Christmas story reminds us that even as Jesus fulfilled ancient prophecies, he defied popular expectations. The promised Messiah was also the Prince of Peace. The King of Kings was born in a manger, in a stable, to the wife of a carpenter.
Our savior is not a demigod who uses his superpowers to vanquish evil with billions of dollars worth of special effects, nor is he a guerilla warrior who seeks to overthrow one earthly kingdom and replace it with another.
On the contrary, through Jesus, God stepped down into our lowly condition to face the same trials and temptations which we face. He spent his ministry as an itinerant teacher, challenged and despised by the established authorities of the day. He died on a cross, executed in a manner reserved for criminals. The aspects of the Christmas story, and of Jesus’ life in general, that seem so ordinary are in fact what make it extraordinary. Our Sinless Savior knows what it is to be tempted and resist. Our King knows what it is to be poor and homeless. Our Lord knows what it is to be a humble servant.
Paradoxes may make our mortal minds spin, but once the vertigo passes, let us rejoice that we have been saved through the most ordinary means!
For Advent devotions this year, we are using Pastor Tim Keller’s themes in his new book Hidden Christmas