There is something odd and unexpected about the way Jesus talked with people, and how He related to them. Over and over it does not fit the pattern you would expect. After all Jesus is God; He is almighty; He is all-knowing and able to see our deepest thoughts; and He claims us as “the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand.” (Psalm 95:7)
But Jesus moves comfortably through and with the crowds of the humble and poor, welcomes children and sits with Nicodemus the scholar, sits with the woman at the well, and puts mud on the eyes of the blind man. Look through the Gospels and you do not find Him strutting His power or showing off His status. Do you remember the story of Zacchaeus? He wanted to see Jesus, but was short. So He ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree. Jesus came by, looked up and said, “Hey Zacchaeus! Come on down. I have to stay at your house today.” (Luke 19:5) It is comfortable, informal and natural, even as Jesus is calling Zacchaeus to salvation. Even when Jesus was rebuking the Pharisees; He was challenging their entrenched beliefs in order to bring them to know the truth.
There are times when Jesus refused to take authority. Once when someone asked Him to make his brother divide the inheritance, Jesus said, “Man, who made Me a judge or arbitrator over you?” (Luke 12:14) At the wedding at Cana when His mother told Him they had run out of wine, Jesus said, “My hour has not yet come.” (John 2:4)
But it is not just authority or power. Jesus did not “lord it over” others. He could have. He is Lord. But instead, John describes Him:
- With Nicodemus (John 3:1-17) not lecturing but challenging and explaining.
- With the woman at the well (John 4:1-26) not scolding but talking about water and what she needs.
- With the woman caught in adultery (John 8:2-11) rescuing, asking where are the accusers, and saying “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”
- With the man born blind (John 9:1-38) Jesus spat on the ground, made mud with the saliva and put it on the man’s eyes. That is (ahem) a very down to earth thing.
Time and time again Jesus did the “look you in the eye and tell you what’s in your soul.” But even then Jesus was not “lording it over.” In the Gospel of Matthew Jesus talked about His manner. He said to those looking at and asking about Him, “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29) “Humble in heart,” He says. Not, “for I am God and you must obey My authority.”
Humble may be the most amazing characteristic of God ever mentioned in the Bible. Humble in heart or (KJV wording) "lowly in heart". It is unexpected, and it does not fit the pattern you would expect of God. But that is the way Jesus comes to call us. It confronts us with the actual character of God, surprising us and making His claims in a vivid way. There is a one-to-one pattern here. But it is not a sudden change in the Bible. You find it in back in the Old Testament, in the description of the "tent of meeting". “Thus the Lord used to speak with Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend.” (Exodus 33:11) Even further back, in Genesis, God came walking in the garden in the cool of the day to spend time with Adam and Eve, calling out to them. At the end of the Gospel of John, Jesus spent time simply having breakfast with the disciples, even cooking the breakfast for them.
There is a “down on our level” pattern to all this. And there is a “one soul to another” pattern to Jesus' words. With all the surprise and unexpectedness, that is part of what draws and attracts Christians so much to Jesus. This is our God who chose to be with us. And this is our God who chooses to bring us into sharing His glory. And this part of the character of Jesus is exactly why I say, “Not only is He God; He is the one I can trust and want to have all the power and authority in the universe and in my life.”
Lord Jesus, my friend – because You have called yourself my friend. You are the friend I can turn to in every need, and You were my friend when I did not deserve You as a friend. You carried me through salvation, out of sin and into Your grace, out of death and into life. And You did that by giving Yourself for me. Help me always to know You as my friend. And help me always to follow You as my Lord and my God. Fill me with Your word that Your holy will may form my soul and guide my life. Amen.