Jesus is an unimaginable combination of Servant-King. Our modern society has no parallels or comparisons of such a person. No wonder so many people reading Isaiah’s prophecies thought that the Messiah and the Servant were two different people. It is easy to understand why Jesus went unrecognized for so long: he was a King who made himself nothing.
Jesus Identifies with the Lowly
Kings in Jesus’ day didn’t live like Jesus did, but there was no mistaking that he was the King. He came from the royal line of David; at birth he was announced as the King of the Jews; his coming was accompanied by dreams and heralded by angels, and a royal envoy preceded him. All these are unmistakable signs of royalty, yet Philippians 2:7 tells us that the King “made himself nothing.”
The angels sang to shepherds, who were men of the lowliest occupations. The King was making a huge statement. He made his home with the outcasts. This is how King Jesus chose to be introduced to the world. He is the Holy One who took on human flesh and opted for the most rejected place on the social ladder.
Jesus identified himself with things and people that were considered of no value. It is in that combination of Servant and King, where you can find hope for your own rejection.
The life and death of King Jesus was a life of reversal. The outcasts and unclean were accepted; the reputable people with power were declared pitiful outsiders. The Servant King was on the move, making everything the way it was intended to be. He was on the move back then and He’s on the move in your life today, making everything the way it is intended to be.
Your life depends on Jesus’ royalty. To discard shame, you must be connected to someone highly honored. To this end, the books of Matthew and Luke highlight His royal lineage. Yet, Matthew makes a point to include Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth, which are embarrassing limbs on the family tree that others might want to prune. One became pregnant by her father-in-law, one was an outsider and prostitute, and the other was an outsider who was reduced to nothing. Plus, they were all women, who didn’t have much social worth to begin with in those days.
Matthew was making a point about the King. These were all women whose sin and shame no longer defined them. Because of God’s mercy, they were honored as part of the Davidic line and ancestors of the Messiah. Now that’s divine power! You can now have hope that regardless of your sin or shame, you can be accepted by God’s mercy into his royal lineage.
Jesus is the Scapegoat
When Jesus touched or allowed people to touch him, He was demonstrating more than just physical connection. He was showing his solidarity with outcasts. He was identifying with them. Of that there is no doubt.
If that was all Jesus did, it would have been a nice but empty gesture. The outcasts would have felt temporary comfort, but no real change in status. Jesus made an important transaction through every intentional touch. “Power” went out from Jesus to the person who was touched.
Splice together various Scriptures and you will see that power is a loaded term that includes holiness conferred, forgiveness of sins, cleansing and purification, healing, and identification with Jesus’ status. The unclean person gave something to Jesus, the scapegoat. He or she gave sins, shameful acts, victimization and its perceived contamination, and disease. And in return, Jesus provided a new identity and inheritance.
This is the gospel: God touches us. It is an unbalanced transaction that displaces our shame and replaces it with holiness. The Apostle Paul put it this way in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” With our touch, Jesus becomes our scapegoat. With His touch, Jesus takes our sin and absorbs our shame (Psalm 69:9, Romans 15:3) and we receive His righteousness.
Left to ourselves, we instinctively turn inward rather than put our trust and confidence in Jesus. Shame has a natural affinity with self-protection and unbelief. It hides from others, feels undeserving of anything good, and believes it will contaminate whatever comes close. Look at what happened when Jesus came close: unclean people were suddenly filled with hope. Instead of hiding from the world, they became indifferent to the derision of the relatively clean townspeople and boldly went out to see Jesus. When they saw him, they felt compelled to touch him because they understood that their salvation was near. They chose God’s acceptance over the judgment of the people around them.
Shame argues for silence, but its most serious deception is its insistence that our problem is with the judgments of people more than the judgment of God. Though we can certainly feel our shame before people, our deepest shame is before God, then other human beings.
First before God, then before others. One, then two. The order makes a difference.
First turn to the one who delights in rescuing you. The turn toward him may seem like a small matter, but it is called faith and it joins you to God. When you are connected to someone of highest honor, you are less controlled by the rejection of mere mortals.
When you dine with the King, being snubbed for a lunch date by someone you like may hurt, but it can’t destroy. When you work for your loving Father, you may fail and others may notice, but you can be sure your Father’s plans for you will not be hindered.
Jesus will make you useful and fruitful. He will even use your apparent failures as a way to impact the world. Can you touch another with the love of the Lord and help displace their shame and fear of rejection with your accepting love? I look forward to hearing from you leave a comment on my blog.