December 29th, 2019
“Jesus of Nazareth”
Have you ever experienced feeling weak?
I experienced terrible pain in my left shoulder a few years ago. The pain was excruciating. It felt like my muscle was being cut without anesthesia. I couldn’t move my left arm at all. I had never experienced such severe pain before. I was crying that night because I didn’t know what to do with the pain at midnight. At that time, I lived with a roommate and her daughter. My roommate heard me crying and took me to the emergency room. I stayed in the hospital overnight and went through several tests. It was a fearful and terrifying experience. I did not know what was going on with my shoulder. I was afraid something was wrong with my health and felt all alone and powerless.
It turned out, though, that my roommate and her daughter stayed with me in the hospital all night long, praying for me. I did not expect them to stay with me that such a long.
Even though the pain did not go away, somehow, my fear went away. I can’t explain it entirely, but I sensed the presence of God through my roommate and her daughter. I realized that I was not alone, after all. In my weakest and most vulnerable moment, God was with me through those around me.
The Bible is full of stories about our God, who advocates for the weak, the least, and the powerless in various contexts. One of the stories is about Jesus. The reason I said Jesus is one of the vulnerable, the least and the powerless is that he was an escaper, an illegal immigrant, a boy of a rural area, and a youth head of household.
Today’s text shows us the beginning of Jesus’ life as an escaper and an illegal immigrant.
The tremendous birthday party of Jesus is done. Even though Jesus was born at an animal place, it was the best birthday party for him because all the angels, wise men of all the nations, shepherd men, and even all the animals gathered together to celebrate his born. After the splendid party is done, all the guests left from them. Only Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus remained at the stable, where it is smelled and dirty. Joseph stole away from the king Herod according to the instruction of an angel. According to some scholars, Jewish used to escape to Egypt to avoid the persecution of Rome at that time and did first Christians as well. Jesus became an illegal immigrant in Egypt. We could not find out Jesus’ life in Egypt in any document. However, we find his experience of childhood in Nazareth of Galilee even it is rare. So, we do not know how many years he lived in Egypt, but we might assume that it would be for three or four years according to a historical record about King Herod’s death. According to the instruction of an angel, Joseph took Mary and Jesus to the land of Israel, and they stayed in Nazareth of Galilee. We notice that Joseph followed the instruction of the angel thoroughly. He must be believed that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, is born by God, and will live for the people of God as the angel mentioned him at first.
According to some scholars, Nazareth is the hometown of Joseph and Mary (The Communicator’s Commentary by Myron S. Augsburger). In fact, Nazareth is never mentioned in the Old Testament, which means it is a too little village to recognize. For Jews, the Nazareth was a mockery of an immutable origin. In the Gospel of John 1:46, Nathanael asked Phillip about Jesus, “what good things can come from Nazareth?” which means that regarded Jesus as a poor rural young adult, nothing special. In Matthew’s view, Jesus came from such a humble village that he could not be seen as a special man at all, and it became the object of people’s contempt and assassination (Isaiah 53). Jesus prepared to reach the age of 30 in a small, unnamed village, Nazareth, in contempt of the people, living as a youth head of household due to Joseph’s early death.
Jesus is only Son of God, and the incarnated God. However, he was extremely weak, and powerless as a human being in the earth. The adjective to indicate Jesus is of Nazareth. It means not a good, not a tremendous, and not a special man. The reason they called Jesus as “Jesus of Nazareth” is that they have contempt for him. The identity of Jesus in the earth is a poor man from a too small village. In other words, it means that he is the object of a mockery of the people.
Through Jesus’s life as a human being, you may find the implication of what God wanted us, and what God wanted to teach us. We are Christians, which means that we are following Jesus Christ as the disciples of Jesus Christ. Many people pursue a successful life. To have a successful life, they think that they should fight, compete, and finally should win. Furthermore, they believe that a successful life is that they have the power and authority in economically, politically, and socially. It could be right in a view of the world. However, we should rethink how to live if we want to meet Jesus Christ in our daily lives. Jesus did not live in the Palace of the king Herod. Jesus did not live in a powerful place. However, Jesus was in the presence of escapers. Jesus was in the life of an illegal immigrant.
I am not talking about what Christians should be poor, or be powerless. My point is that Jesus came to the world for the weak, the least, and the powerless. Therefore, Christians should not do contempt and disregard of the weak, the least, and the powerless.
My experiences and backgrounds led me to proclaim that “the weak” is those who suffer from physical, emotional, and mental pains without knowing whether healing might happen; those who suffer without adequate resources for basic needs of food, shelter, and education; or those who suffer under the unjust systems of discrimination and inequality.
When have you felt most vulnerable in your life? Perhaps it was when your loved one died. Or, perhaps it was when you felt like you were a failure. You see, no one can always be strong. We all go through some weak moments in life. A personal crisis like my shoulder pain may cause us to be vulnerable. Sometimes, we may feel powerless under a system of injustice.
Just as my roommate and her daughter became the presence of the living God in one of my most frightening experiences of life, God invites us to be the presence of God’s love, God’s grace, and God’s Spirit in our everyday life. That is the Kin(g)dom’s life! The Kin(g)dom of God is already here, and at the same time, not fully here yet. As we live out God’s love, advocate for the weakest and the last of our world, and extend God’s hospitality, more will experience the Kin(g)dom of God.
The more we share the love of God, the more the grace of God increases, 30 times, 60 times, or 100 times. Even though we have a small gift like a tiny mustard seed, when we share with others, the seed grows and becomes a big tree that birds may have shelter on.
Let us share the love of God with our neighbors. May God’s Holy Spirit empowers us to share the love of God with the last, the least, and the vulnerable, and guide us to experience the Kin(g)dom of God! John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, argued that divine love is the remedy for all the evils of a disordered world. Everyone has the equal right to receive the grace of God. Let us be the channel of God’s grace for all people of God.
Thanks be to God! Amen.