Leaving the Manger: Being Jesus

Isaiah 61:1 “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives, and freedom to prisoners.”

2 Corinthians 4:11, “For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.”

Christmas is past for another year. Disappointment, regret, sadness, relief, stress, concern… these are just a few of the realities we deal with now that the holidays are gone. More than anything, however, I hope you can step into this new year with purpose.

The God of the universe stepped into our broken world “that all might be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.” A quick assessment of His life reminds us that Jesus was one of a kind! This humble king profoundly affected lives wherever He went. He treasured people of all sorts and loved them as they were.

Like the outcast adulterous woman he met at a community watering hole one day. Breaking the strict norms of culture, Jesus engaged this woman in a life-changing conversation. The compelling factor in all of this, however, was that He talked with her at all! Yet, in this very act He esteemed her highly and brought a whole new level of value and dignity to her life.

Like the banished lepers of Israel whose lives had deteriorated into a mode of survival, despair, loneliness, and meaninglessness. These disease-stricken castaways were excommunicated from any normal contact with people. The lepers would often form a small community together where they would grieve their condition together and help one another in their new business of begging for food. When entering the public venues of the day, a leper was required to call out, “Unclean! Unclean!” This was done so the people could remove themselves to a safe distance from the leper’s course of travel. But Jesus broke the norms with them too! Scripture records in numerous places that “He stretched out His hand and touched” them (Matthew 8:3) and brought healing to their lives. In fact one, Simon the Leper, hosted a meal for Jesus and His disciples. Jesus cared for, dined with, and loved people who no one else desired in the least.

Like the two blind men on the road to Jericho. As they called out from the crowd to gain Jesus’ attention, all those around them sternly told them to shut their mouths! In this culture, blind people were a nuisance. They were sentenced to begging on the public streets for survival. The land was filled with these pesky good-for-nothings. But Jesus saw them as precious children of God. When He heard them calling, He was gripped by their condition. In fact, the Bible tells us that Jesus was “moved with compassion”. He walked to them, talked with them, and touched them. He healed these two beggars and they became followers of Jesus.

The list could be very long…. The demon-possessed, the traitor tax-collectors, the oppressed women of the day, and at times, even the haughty Pharisees were all recipients of Jesus’ liberal unreserved goodness lavished upon those who needed it most.

Jesus’ arrival at Christmas was all about purpose. Hundreds of years before the Savior’s arrival, the prophet, Isaiah, expressed what this Promised One would be like. In the verses above we read a synopsis of what characterized this amazing Messiah—His Spirit-driven compassion would primarily extend to the afflicted, brokenhearted, and the captives. Yes—Jesus would focus primarily on those that everyone else generally forgets!

Maybe that’s why He arrived as a nobody. Maybe that’s why He came with no advantage over anyone…born into an impoverished family, exiled as an alien in Egypt, fleeing the rage of a mad dictator, homeless, needy, unassuming.

Guess what? You’re called to be Jesus! That’s why He invited you to come to the manger…

2 Corinthians 4:11 makes it quite clear that Jesus wants to live His life through us. Now get this:

  • The plan is not for us to live our lives and then add a dash of Jesus to it.
  • The plan is not for us to act like Jesus.
  • The plan is not to try really hard to do what Jesus did.

The plan is for Jesus to actually and miraculously live His life through our mortal flesh!

This is only possible when we die. The plan is for us to die to ourselves so that Jesus can live His life through us. That’s also what Romans 12:1-2 emphasize when it states that we are to become “a living sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is our reasonable service of worship.” Jesus wants to be right here in our world, in our workplace, in our health club, in our home…through you!

You can never achieve Jesus-status. You will never muster up the resolve or discipline to become Jesus on your own merit. This intended reality for you is only possible through a miracle from God. Our Father in Heaven longs for you to live the life of His son, Jesus, through you. He alone can make it happen as you offer yourself to die. In other words, you sacrifice yourself so Jesus can live through your arms, hands, feet, voice, motives, thoughts—every little nuance of who you are.

And you have to die daily. Jesus made that pretty clear in Luke 9:23-24.

“If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.”

By the way, when someone picked up their cross in Jesus’ day, it meant only one thing–they were going to die.

Christmas is over. It’s time to Leave the Manger–to step back into our world for all of the right reasons. This Child-King we have worshiped is calling us to give something back. Our very lives! And when we do, we will find life in a way we never imagined. We too will start doing things that we never thought possible. It won’t be us…it will be the Christ incarnated through our flesh!

That’s an adventure I hope none of us will miss.

ACTION: Take a moment to talk with God about dying to self and letting Jesus live His life through you.