Jesus’ Career Path
I know that God is thought to be perfect and does all things well, but I have to confess I don’t think God is much of a campaign manager. The career path God chose for Jesus wasn’t a good one. Oh, it started well enough. If you are going to groom a world leader, it’s probably a good idea to have them born of lowly state. You know, a man of the people, that kind of thing. like Brian Mulroney coming from a mining town in Quebec or Andrew Scheer having been an insurance clerk. But you also have to make them seem special.
So, having Jesus born in Bethlehem, the royal city of King David, was a good start. Add to that a royal blood line, a direct descendant of the iconic King David. Throw in a few prominent wise men adoring him at his birth, and you have the makings of something special. Jesus is politically well placed. And then, having this Jesus’ family heading to Egypt, accomplished three things. First, it showed that Jesus had experienced and would be empathetic to the persecution of the Israelites. Secondly, it showed that he was capable of outsmarting Herod. Always good for your supporters to know that you’re smart enough to politically outmaneuver your opponents. Finally, the connection to Egypt also shows a connection to sacred history. It doesn’t take much of an imagination to see Jesus as the new Moses, leading his people out of slavery into a new promised land.
But when the holy family returned from Egypt, Jesus should have fired God. It was all downhill from there. What was God thinking, sending Jesus to Galilee? Galilee was known as the ‘Galilee of the Gentiles.’ Although it was once a part of the northern Kingdom of Israel, the land had never really recovered from its fall to the Assyrians nearly 700 years before. Galilee was now populated with ‘foreigners’. The blue-blooded Jews of Judea considered Galilee one step above the Samaritans, which was one step above being hated to being despised.
For anyone craving the credentials of a Messiah, this was not a wise career choice. But here’s the straw that broke the camel’s back. Nazareth? Really? Nazareth? This was the worst. A little agricultural village with a population of about 500 people? Nazareth was so insignificant that, at one time, some historians and archaeologists denied that such a place even existed. Can anything good come out of Nazareth? Not according to the priests of Judea.
So, what can we conclude? That Jesus started out with such promise and then faded fast? That he had his ‘fifteen’ minutes of fame and now it is over?
2,000 years has proven that this is simply not true. Jesus has etched himself into the history of humankind.
So, what can we conclude? That maybe God was not as bad a campaign manager as we might have thought. That maybe God had a few political tricks left up God’s sleeve or… maybe we simply have to acknowledge that God is simply smarter than we will ever be. And that maybe, just maybe, God has a different plan to bring about salvation. After leading us through the nativity, making us believe that this Christ Child would be one before whom Kings of this earth would kneel and tremble, God now reveals a turn towards lowliness. God reveals that the King of kings, Lord of all lords, the Prince of Peace, will be identified with the helpless, the vulnerable, the forgotten and dismissed. These would be this King’s citizens. And it is with a nation comprised of the lowly that God will save the world.
Here is a hard-to-hear truth. God was incarnated into a world where his chosen people had stopped looking for a Messiah. It had been too long. It had been years of repression and feeling the absence of God. They relegated God to a place if legend and mythology. The truth is, it has been too long for us. We have stopped believing that God is really active in the world. For too long we have heard prayers being unanswered, and the bad winning and good people being repressed. We have stopped believing that a Messiah, someone who can shake the very foundations of this world, could ever come from lowly estate. We have been sold a package of goods that says only the Harvard graduates and Wall Street money lenders can change the world, not a 16-year-old Swedish girl who tries to hold world leaders accountable. No, people like this are politically smeared and dismissed as adorable, innocent, naïve, but not realistic. Those in power dare not dismiss her publicly and risk losing political support. So, they appease. They grin and agree with her when she declares that they are more interested in their money and power than the future of their children. Then they continue to do nothing. Worse, they hire the Pilates of our world to drum up a smear campaign against her.
I have often wondered what would happen if we placed all the world’s leaders in a room with God. Judgment aside, what would God say to them? “You’re going to tell ME about power? I am the GREAT I AM. I created all you have. Without me you would own nothing and have nothing to lord over. Don’t tell me that power is something to be pursued and acquired and owned in exclusion. That is so short-sighted. That kind of thinking shows a preoccupation with gaining rewards for today with no thought given to the long term repercussions of your actions. Sure, your bank accounts are topping out in the trillions, but what happens when there is no more coal, or iron ore, or natural gas, or gold, or diamonds to mine? What happens when there is nowhere left on earth to run and hide because there is no more clean water or uncontaminated soil to grow your food. You know who will survive? The lowly for they have spent their lives learning to survive. Where is all your privilege going to leave you?”
God will say, “I am the only one here who is truly all powerful and I have never believed that power was power over anything. Power grows from empowering. Power comes from serving. Power comes from creation, not control.”
So, as it turns out, God is a pretty good campaign manager. God gave us what we needed not what we expected or necessarily what we ever wanted. Certainly nothing we were looking for. A messiah who takes his place in the world with those who are at the mercy of political tyrants. Who takes his place with those who have been made to feel lesser than, insignificant, dismissed, victims. A Messiah who is not interested in attaining power but promises to lift up the lowly, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the prisoners, help the peace makers be heard. That’s God’s plan. Always has been and always will be.