Jesus Enjoyed People

Still learning about something so basic about our LORD.

Charles Wesley wrote of Jesus, that he was “Pleased as man with men to dwell.”

I secretly thought of Jesus’ 33 years on earth as mostly a duty (and burden) that he put up with in order to accomplish a greater end.

But Wesley is right. The Gospels show a man who thoroughly enjoyed being human.
He loved people! He enjoyed being with them 24/7. Kids loved him. Parents loved him. He could engage respectfully and successfully with outcasts, with nobles, with rich, with poor, with religious zealots, political zealots, low lifers and high rollers. He was a dynamic person that no one could forget.

This Jesus shows the heart of the True and Living God. He loves people. Truly loves people. Not just loves what they can become, not just what they might do. He truly from His heart loves all people as they are, who they are, where they are. This is the message of Christmas. This is the truth that can transform individuals, families, societies. This is the Gospel.

(Sorry to “preach”, I really am excited to finally see this side of things.)

God’s Relational Nature

A most incredible truth in the universe is that God “hearts” (truly feels love towards) each one of us.

What?

We are talking about an all-powerful, unstoppable BEING, and saying that he knows and cares about each of the estimated 7.8 billion mortals inhabiting this globe?

Selah! [“Selah” in the  Bible means “take a break and ponder it”].

Honestly, this is more than our 1.5 kg (3.3 lb.) brains can comprehend. Trips all circuit breakers.

Time to realize that HeDeity – has infinite capacity. Mental capacity, focus, attention span, all are unlimited and inexhaustible with Him. The Bible describes God as authentically relational and responsive toward human beings. He can engage with each man, woman, and child fully at the same time. Recognize God’s relational nature!

Has the Lord forgotten us? “Never! Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you. See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands. Always in my mind …” Isa. 49:14-16.[1]

From eternity to eternity I am God. No one can snatch anyone out of my hand.” Isa. 43:13.

BUTTTTTT

How, how, how could there be so much injustice and suffering in this world? If God “hearts” us, wouldn’t He fix everything that is wrong? These are burning, legitimate questions. Let’s see if HE answers them for us.

Some of the most significant episodes in human history are provided to us in the early chapters of the Bible, Genesis chapters 1 – 3. They form the bedrock for understanding life as we find it on planet earth.

  • God did not delegate the work of creating us. He Himself created us humans. He did so not only by handcrafting our amazing physical bodies, but He also went “mouth to mouth” to breath his very own eternal life into us![2] We humans are the only ones of whom He says, we are “created in God’s image.”[3]
  • He placed us in a wonderful, fault-free environment.[4]
  • He wanted to develop us humans within a relationship of trust and understanding of Him.
    The first step toward this was a simple way for humans to show respect and obedience. There was one thing Creator withheld for Himself. One fruit tree that his image bearers were to respect and reserve for Him alone.[5] We had all the reason in the world to honor Deity by obeying, but instead, we began millenniums of rebellion. Humankind lost all purity, and descended from bad to worse, and is still going downhill.[6]
  • And every day, all of us suffer the consequences, sometimes horrible consequences, of our insurrection. Killing, looting, theft, gender-based violence, racial-based oppression, religious persecution, etc. etc. etc. have their genesis in this first rejection of God’s authority and goodness. Each of us adds to the guilt of humanity.

What has Deity done about this?

Deity has gone far beyond expectation. Rather than obliterate us obstinate rebels, He left His glorious throne and came down to this infected planet. He entered this world as A HUMAN BABY!  Recalibrate this in your thinking.

Deity planted Divine sperm in a young girl who carried Him to full term. Mary gave birth to this Divine-human like any other human baby. Let this bounce around in your 1.5kg (3.3lbs) of grey-cells!  

Angelic beings lit the sky to announce His birth.[7] Deity shifted even some stars to proclaim the news.[8] 

This divine/human grew like other boys and earned the respect of all.[9]

As an adult he walked the country sides and towns, interacting with people of all classes, cultures, and reputations.[10] He showed interest and solidarity with everyone. Mothers were attracted to bring their young children to be held by him.[11] Outcast women found him to be a safe haven.[12] Blind, paralyzed, lepers, infirmed, were healed by him.[13]

Religious heads were jealous and frightened by his popularity. Jesus went to Jerusalem at the busiest time of the year, and purposely inflamed their fear and hatred of him.[14] He often told his close companions that would be killed by these authorities, be buried for a brief time, then resurrect to life again.[15]

This is how much Deity “hearts” you, me, everyone! He died a horrible physical death before the eyes of family, friends, and enemies.[16] But he suffered much worse. Deity on earth called out to Deity above and said, “My God, my God, why have your forsaken me?”[17] Deity broke![18] The God/man was banished, abandoned, rejected for three hours of earthly time (but something incalculable in Divine “time”).[19]                                        

You, me, all our family members, friends, associates, neighbors, and even our enemies and strangers on the street and in the marketplaces, are both: 1, The direct cause of Deity suffering untold turmoil (We are guilty of murder+). 2, The potential beneficiaries of that Love Act.[20] (We are forgiven, able to engage with Deity, become his children through facing our guilt and accepting His transcending offer of forgiveness and restoration to a new life has His children).

“God publicly endorsed Jesus the Nazarene by doing powerful miracles, wonders, and signs through him, as you well know. But God knew what would happen, and his prearranged plan was carried out when Jesus was betrayed. With the help of lawless Gentiles, you nailed him to a cross and killed him. But God released him from the horrors of death and raised him back to life, for death could not keep him in its grip.” Acts 2:22-24.

“Yes, it was written long ago that the Messiah would suffer and die and rise from the dead on the third day. It was also written that this message would be proclaimed in the authority of his name to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem: ‘There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent. You are witnesses of these things.’” Luke 24:46-48.

I wish I could say that Jesus’ followers have done an exemplary job of representing Him and displaying the same love, equity and service as Him. But the story of Christianity is a mishmash of highs and lows and everything in between.  But let’s not look at Christianity as a movement or a cause. See and ponder the revelation of Deity to all humankind. Deity sent his SON to this planet to make a way of peace and reconciliation. “For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, ‘Come back to God!’ For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.” 2 Cor. 5:19-21.

Please consider the implications of what is stated here. Deity truly does “heart” you, me, everyone more than we can fathom.

Blessings!


[1] All Bible quotations are from the New Living Translation.

[2] “Then the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person.” Gen. 2:7.

[3] “So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Then God blessed them and said, ‘Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it.’” Gen. 2:27-28.

[4] Eden, Gen. 2:8.

[5] Gen. 2:15-17.

[6] Gen. 3:7-8, 14-19, 21, 22-24; 4:8; 6:5-7; 11:4, 6-8 ???`

[7] Luke 2:8-15.

[8] Mat. 2:1-11.

[9] Luke 2:52.

[10] Even his band of 12, who stuck with him for 3 long years, was diverse group. A political zealot (Mat. 10:4), a political traitor (Mat. 10:3), fisherman (Mat. 4:18-22), and a thief and betrayer (John 12:4-6).

[11] Mat. 19:13-14.

[12] Luke 7:36-50, Luke 8:1-3; John 4:6-42; Mark 5:24-34; Luke 10:38-39

[13] Luke 11:4-6; Mark 10:46-52; Mark 2:1-12; Luke 5:12-14; Mat. 4:23

[14] Mat. 21:45-46; Mark 14:1-2; John 7:30-32; Mat. 23.

[15] Mat. 16:21, 17:22-23, 20:17-19.

[16] Mat. 27:31, 33-37, 54-56; John 19:25-27.

[17] Mark 15:33-34.

[18] Human language fails us here. Theologians will ask me to recant and denounce this description. They will vehemently say “Deity can’t break!” I will answer, “Nor can deity die. Nor can Holy Trinity be divided. Nor can Deity forsake Deity.” What happened that afternoon on a hill outside Jerusalem is above and beyond our comprehension and description. But the message, the impact, the relational meaning is inescapable. Deity “hearts” you, me, everyone to a degree that is inexplicable in human terms. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Rom. 5:8.

[19] As stated in the previous footnote. We are talking about truths beyond our comprehension. Like a colony of ants trying to discuss quantum physics.

[20] Deity does not make peoples’ decisions for them; this is why we are “potential beneficiaries.” Deut. 30:19; Josh. 24:14-15; Rom. 6:16.

Creator’s Visit

CREATOR fashioned a magnificent world in an unfathomable universe.

But this world rapidly grew [and there’s no soft way to state this] ugly, putrid, deathly, abhorrent.

How and why? 

The appointed caretakers – human beings named Adam and Eve – utterly failed their job.

CREATOR set one simple boundary: “This one tree, right here in the middle, is off limits to you!” A relationship builder. A simple opportunity to show respect for Creator and thereby grow in relationship.

What did the caretakers do? Bingo. They willfully trespassed in rebellion against CREATOR. Things could never be the same.

Genesis chapters 3-11 form the darkest literature in all existence, bar none.

Evil escalates. Those created by Beautiful CREATOR become warped beyond recognition. “The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought and imagined was constantly and totally evil.” Gen. 6:5. Uuugggghhhs!

CREATOR decided not to end this venture. He dug deeper. He revealed a plan to bless, to rescue these failed image-bearers.

Recovery Plan, stage 1.

He chose one man, one family, to become a nation and bring blessing – the offer of restoration – to the entire world. “I will make you a great nation… All the families of the earth will be blessed through you.” Gen. 12:1-3. 

Abraham’s descendants were intended by God to be a spiritual, moral and even economic boost to all the other peoples, lending food to those in need (Duet. 28:10-12).

But CREATOR’s chosen conduit of blessings also utterly failed their job.

Recovery Plan, stage 2.

The story Jesus told in Mat. 21:33-39 outlines a clear indictment against Israel while also stating CREATOR’smost remarkable, radical, “ridiculous” plan—having his own SON enter this cesspool and suffer a horrid, most repulsive death as the mediator who alone can reconcile his adopted family to the Holy, Eternal God.

With this motive and purpose the Son of CREATOR was born as a human baby. Why Christmas first happened. Why God the Son was conceived and birthed as a human baby. To forge the path for reconciliation. Millions and millions of people through history and today have entered this path; have received forgiveness and reconciliation with CREATOR-FATHER; and are working together to bring this message of hope to needy people all over the world.

Let’s honor Christ today by living and proclaiming His work, His message of reconciliation. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16. Let’s involve daily in God’s recovery plan!

Greatest Miracle of All

In a great hall of academia, a debate arose as to which of God’s acts in history is the greatest of all. The hall was filled with male and female Christian academics of all shapes, sizes and colors.

A booming scholarly voice opined that creation, of course, was the greatest miracle of all. Just six days of speech and the masterpiece of a universe we find ourselves in was formed.

Then a scratchy voice of a scholar said he prefers the 10 plagues in Egypt and especially the parting and closing of the Red Sea. There was a whole nation of people there [actually two nations] to observe these acts (as opposed to the “miracle” mentioned already).  It was these miracles that founded of the chosen nation of God.

Next someone promoted the merits of Elijah calling down fire from heaven since it was in direct contrast to the impotence of the false gods.

This was followed by Jesus raising Lazarus, then the resurrection of Jesus himself. These knowledgeable men and women could not find agreement, it looked like consensus could never be reached.

Finally, a younger person walked forward, head down, limbs shaking. And with hesitation and an unsteady voice this person proceeded to state the following.

“I am sorry if I am out of place here, but I do want to speak my thoughts. These miracles mentioned so far are stunning, powerful, and spectacular. They can all fit into the category of “The Greatest Miracles of All Time”. The miracle I want to mention, however, was not this way. It was a quiet, almost secret one. Very few people on earth knew about it until decades later. The impact wasn’t seen very well on earth, but it must have indelibly been seen, felt, wondered about, and discussed in heaven.

“God the Son, in all of His majesty and honor, departed and was joined – irretrievably – with fallible mankind. The Incarnation of Christ has to be the greatest miracle in all of eternity. If any of you had magical power to change yourself into something different, would you change yourself permanently into an earth worm? At the incarnation, eternity was broken. Change took place in the unchangeable Godhead. God the Son became the son of Mary, the “son of man”. This was an act of compassion, of solidarity, of commitment that should keep us all stunned for a million years.

“Previous to this, no human being dared called another human being “the Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:32). Never before could it be said, “But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me” (Luke 1:43).

Human language, human self-awareness, human future, and human VALUE changed forever at the incarnation. There could never be a greater miracle than this.”

While this young person spoke these words there was otherwise total silence in the room. Upon completion, the whole room stood, applauded loudly, shifted into prayer, confession and worship. No one knows how long this lasted, but eventually the men and women and young people throughout the room, shook hands, hugged, spoke loving and affirming words, and eventually headed home with a memory they could never forget, with an insight they must continually share with others. They enjoyed, briefly, the unforgettable taste of the peace, love, wonder, and bonding that our Most-Incredible God wants for us all.

“Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” 2 Cor. 9:15.

Why the Inn?

The story of Jesus’ birth is so familiar and oft repeated that readers may be tempted to skip this chapter in favor of “juicier” ones. Please don’t. There are some things in this story that most everyone has missed. But these missing pieces are certainly part of gaining a correct picture of Who Jesus IS. Read on.

Outstanding Writing

We have no way of knowing how good of a medical doctor Dr. Luke was. We probably assume he was wise and competent, but we have no direct evidence for this belief. However, if we want to evaluate his ability and care as a writer, we do have enough material to form an educated opinion. The truth is (in this writer’s opinion), as a writer Dr. Luke was top of the line. He researched,[1] interviewed his sources,[2] and composed his lengthy writings[3] with thoughtfulness and care.[4] He was an accomplished writer, and his two books in the New Testament are living proof.

Luke the writer sometimes employed an economy of words that reveal incredible skill and deliberation. He knew how to structure a story. With careful arrangement and a few choice words he could paint a vivid scene.

The story of Joseph and Mary going to Bethlehem and ending up in a stable is certainly written this way. Dr. Luke does not describe Bethlehem, does not describe the journey there. He simply gets them there and states that it was time for the baby to be born. He has not described a scene at all.

He writes, “He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant. And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth . . .” Luke 2:5-7a).[5]

He offers this bland reporting then finishes off this episode with two bomb-shells:

             “. . . and laid him in a manger,”

            “because there was no lodging available for them.[6] (Luke 2:7a).

We may not have (up till now) understood these as bomb-shells, but Luke’s original readers knew more than we do, and they couldn’t miss it![7]

To catch the impact of these words we have to go back to the time and the cultural practices of the day. Near eastern people, and particularly Jewish people, had very fixed cultural and societal practices (which can still be seen today). Dr. Luke knew these things, the person/people he wrote to knew these things. He was not going to state the obvious when it wasn’t necessary (and might prove a stumbling block to some).[8]  Keep reading.

The Culture of the Day

In modern times, in technological, advanced societies, we are able to plan out and arrange all the details of an upcoming trip: Plane, car, and accommodation can be booked and paid for months in advance. Wherever we go there are coffee shops, restaurants, public restrooms, and a large array of accommodations to choose from.  This was clearly not the case two millennia ago. But there were structures in place that assisted people with travel.

The Jewish people of Jesus’ day prided themselves on hospitality. Their houses were built to handle an influx of guests at any time.

The Jewish people of Jesus’ day also had very strong relational ties to their large extended families. They kept family trees and knew the complex interrelatedness of their families, clans and tribes. Relatives in need would always be taken in and cared for.

The Jewish people of Jesus’ day also celebrated life, they valued large families, and each and every child was welcomed and celebrated. The birth of a child was a joyful and sacred event.

Joseph and Mary didn’t voluntarily choose to go to Bethlehem during Mary’s ninth month. They (and everyone else) were ordered to return to their tribal and family homes by Caesar Augustus.[9] Joseph was from a proud family line.[10] He was a direct descendant of King David, and their ancestral home was Bethlehem. When Joseph and his betrothed,[11] Mary, arrived at Bethlehem, they arrived “home.”[12] The town was literally filled with relatives.

Under normal circumstances there would have been any number of relatives who would have welcomed them with open arms. And the advanced pregnancy gave an additional reason they would be welcomed, and this little family would be celebrated. Under normal circumstances.  

So why did they end up outside the inn with money in hand hoping for a place to stay? This is the very question that Luke expected his readers to ask. Look at his deliberate ordering of information and intentional wording. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”[13] Luke 2:6-7 NIV, 1984

What is left Unsaid

There is something desperately wrong here. Bethlehem was their ancestral home. It was filled with relatives, direct relatives, some were immediate relatives. Yet no one opened their door to them. No one welcomed them and their soon-to-be-born baby. Something was desperately wrong.

Here is Joseph taking his wife fiancée with him to his brother’s house, “please my brother, you see my wife fiancée is in great need, can you give us a corner of a room?” and the brother snorts, shakes his head, and briskly shuts the door.

Then there is Joseph going to his favorite aunt’s house, “we are so sorry to inconvenience you, aunty, but could we have a place to stay?”  And the aunt, with tears in her eyes, slowly closes the door and says softly, “sorry, I want to, but they won’t let me.”

Why did Joseph and Mary go to the inn with money in their hands hoping to find a place to sleep? Because every last relative in Bethlehem rejected them. No one offered a place to stay. They were resigned to let Mary have her baby outside in the elements. This is shocking!

Note this: Jesus was an unwelcome addition to the Davidic clan.[14] His own uncles and aunts and cousins and even grandparents did not rejoice at his birth. Why? Because whenever people looked at Joseph and Mary the word that came to their minds was a horrible one, “fornication.”[15]

No one in Bethlehem or anywhere in Israel was ready to believe any story about a virgin birth,[16] preposterous! This pregnancy was a scandal among a proud, devoted, judgmental people.

The impact of Luke’s account was not that there was no room for them at the inn, but that they were forced to check out the inn at all!

Jesus’ parents were outcasts among their own people, shunned, despised, hated. They would have been alone that night[17] if it were not for the host of angels announcing the special birth to shepherds on the hillsides. The shepherds came and gladly witnessed God’s greatest miracle.[18]

The Apostle John said it well, “He came to his own, yet his own people did not receive him.” John 1:11.CSB


[1] Luke 1:3.

[2] The detail he includes about Zechariah and Elisabeth and Mary and … must have come from detailed interviews.

[3] His books are the two longest in the New Testament.

[4] An example is given in this chapter, but they are all through. He also used the most expressive and varied vocabulary in all the Greek New Testament.

[5] The translation used here is NLT 2nd ed., 2004.

[6] The use of the word “lodging” in the NLT is a very good choice. KJV uses “inn”, as does GWT and earlier additions of NIV, and this has made it into all the Christmas performances. Another good choice is “guest room”, used in NIV and CSB. Houses were built with hospitality in mind, and it was every-day practice to take in relatives who are travelling.

[7] The insights in this chapter are not something I can take credit for. I would never in all my life observed and figured it out on my own. I am so grateful for a timely visit by Dr. John Hitchen of New Zealand during which we discussed many things including the kernel content of this chapter. I asked him if this is something he discovered himself or has he seen it written somewhere. He said he can’t remember seeing it anywhere in print. I told him on the spot that if I ever put it in print myself I would give credit to him as my source. So thank you, Dr. Hitchen.

[8] Dr. Luke uses tact here. He didn’t need to add extra words that might offend some of the line of David and possibly drive them away.

[9] Luke 2:1-3.

[10] It is commonly believed that Mary was also from the Davidic line. But what is the evidence for this? Contrary to this belief, we do know that she had a “close relative” who was from a completely different line, the line of Aaron (Luke 1:5, 36). 

[11] In modern language, the word “betrothed” gets switched out to our word “engaged.” These are similar but not synonymous arrangements. This is explained below.

[12] Even if they were born and raised elsewhere, their ancestral home is always “home.”

[13]  Normal narrative would have put the inn-search well ahead of the manger and birth. But by putting the inn-search at the end, it opens a pandora’s box to consider. [FYI, newer editions of NIV dropped the word “inn” and replaced it with “guest room”, but the point is still the same.].

[14] This explains Mathew’s genealogy. He hangs out the Davidic line’s “dirty laundry” for all to see. They should be ashamed to have rejected God’s chosen Deliverer.

[15] In modern language, the word “betrothed” gets switched out to our word “engaged.” These are similar but not synonymous arrangements. A betrothal is a legal agreement between two families (Individuals didn’t act alone, families were always involved.) Betrothal gave them (the families) about a year to prepare for the wedding. There was to be no sexual activity before or during the betrothal period. All Israelis’ were expected to marry as virgins. Deuteronomy 22:13-29 states very strict guidelines. Mary’s pregnancy caused a dilemma for Joseph and his extended family. They would have put pressure on him to report her as violating the betrothal, otherwise he himself will look like a guilty party. Mat. 1:19 shows he decided to break the legal agreement in as quiet a manner as possible [The Torah actually calls for the death penalty (Deu. 22:20-21), but under Roman rule this could not be done]. This was before the Lord told him to do otherwise Mat. 1:20-21. They then lived as an unmarried couple, or “too early” married couple from that point on. This was a serious violation of social and religious expectations, and a direct cause for being shunned.

[16] Except Elizabeth, Luke 1:42,43.

[17] It is very likely that midwives were present to assist with the birth. This would have been done out of a sense of duty and the value of life.

[18] If we were to enter the halls of deepest and greatest theological debate to answer the question of what is the most astounding act of God in known history, I would immediately put forward the answer – “the incarnation!”