16th December, 2009
SIU FUNG WU
Last week at my son's school the children did a Nativity play. As I watched the infant Jesus I was reminded of Jesus' humanity. He was fully God. Yet we must remember that at the same time He was fully human.
HUMANITY REVEALED: Jesus shows us what it is like to be 'truly human', according to Siu Fung Wu. PICTURE: © Lisa Thornberg (www.istockphoto.com)
"The Son of the Almighty God became a defenceless baby. Someone who is truly God was born as a truly human, with all its vulnerability and physical weaknesses. From the earliest stage of his life, He had to rely totally on the Father God who loved Him and cared for Him."
The Son of the Almighty God became a defenceless baby. Someone who is truly God was born as a truly human, with all its vulnerability and physical weaknesses. From the earliest stage of his life, He had to rely totally on the Father God who loved Him and cared for Him.
Sometimes I wonder whether we Christians have focused so much on our strength and power that we no longer trust in God totally. Maybe after all our sinful nature has stopped us from being truly human as God intends us to be. That is, perhaps we have chosen not to rely on the Holy Spirit's empowerment in our daily life. Instead, we want to follow our own way of life - a life that is independent of God, and one that focuses on what I can get from Him rather than what I can give to others. This kind of life is, after all, not in line with the renewed humanity that God wants us to belong to as followers of Jesus.
See people as who they really are
We often hear that the church's mission is to save those who are lost in the world. And often the parable of the Prodigal Son comes to mind. But I think this parable says a lot more. It tells us what it means to be truly human. That is, the type of human beings that reflects God's glory, love and amazing grace.
Luke 15 consists of three parables: The lost sheep; the lost coin; and the lost son (Prodigal Son). Verses one and two set the scene for the parables.
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered. “This man [that is. Jesus] welcomes sinners and eats with them.” (Luke 15: 1-2)
Clearly the younger son in the parable of the Prodigal Son refers to the tax collectors and sinners - that is, those who were rejected by the society because of their immoral lives and dishonest dealings. In the Gospels the sinners include the women who were sexually immoral, the lepers, the man born blind (hence considered as steeped in sin at birth; see John 9: 34), and anyone who were religiously unclean. The older son in the parable refers to the Pharisees and teachers of the law, who were the religious leaders in Jesus' days. They knew their Bible (the Jewish Scripture), and were people of high social and religious standing. But they failed to understand the true intent of the law, and they did not want to follow the way of Jesus.
We see signs of sinful humanity not only in the younger son, but also in the older brother. The younger son sinned against his father and pursued his own way of life. Like the rest of humanity he wanted to live a life independent of the Creator God. But he came to his senses, repented of his sins, and returned to the father. Here we see glimpses of the good in his humanity - glimpses of what it means to be truly God's image-bearers. I think Jesus sees the sinners, the sexually immoral, and the social outcasts, as first and foremost God's image-bearers. Like the father in the parable, he longs to see them come home, repent of their sins and receive God's forgiveness. That is why he spends time with the tax collectors and sinners.
In the older son we see another aspect of fallen humanity. He refused to welcome his brother. Like the Pharisees and teachers of the law, he failed to understand the love and grace of the Father God. I wonder whether we Christians sometimes have the same attitude as these religious leaders in Jesus' days. We do not want to associate with the social outcasts of our day. Instead of a heart yearning for God's beloved image-bearers to come home, we do not want to have anything to do with them. The parable speaks of a father who invites the older son to join the party and to welcome a beloved family member. The invitation is now extended to us. Let us join the party, for that is how we can live as truly humans! If we follow the way of Christ, who welcomed sinners and spent time with them, then we live as what God intends us to be.
"The life, death and resurrection of Jesus are not merely intellectual doctrinal truths to believe in. They are to be incorporated into our daily life."
The ultimate display of true humanity
The life, death and resurrection of Jesus are not merely intellectual doctrinal truths to believe in. They are to be incorporated into our daily life.
Jesus' confrontations with the religious leaders came to a head in Jerusalem at the end of his ministry. Despite his invitation to them to welcome sinners and the marginalised, they rejected Jesus as the true Lord and the Son of God.
Here we see the worst of fallen humanity. God himself came to the world, but the world rejected him - and that included those who were supposed to know the Scripture and God's purposes.
At the same time Jesus demonstrated the glory of what it means to be truly human. He boldly stood on the side of the poor and needy, the widows, the chronically sick, the demon-possessed, and he called sinners to repent and join the new community of the kingdom of God. His life and message finally caused so much trouble that the religious leaders called on the Roman governor Pontius Pilate to crucify him.
As a truly human being, in his anguish Jesus prayed to the Father in Gethsemane, “Abba Father,… Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:36) He decided to rely on his Father and follow the way of the cross, despite its shame and suffering. It is because of this humble submission and obedience that God raised him from the dead, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow and every tongue confess that he is Lord (Philippians 2:6-11).
As we reflect on the meaning of Christ's birth, life, death and resurrection, let us ask God to help us to follow his way of life. Let us speak up for the oppressed and powerless, even though we ourselves may be rejected. Let us show God's love to the social and religious outcasts of our days. Let us go where he wants to take us, knowing that in this journey he will never leave us or forsake us, and he will always help us in all our weakness and fear.
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