Most of us are comfortable with people who are like us. From social groupings in a community to the high school cafeteria, you will notice that people of similar educational levels, income, political views, and social strata tend to gravitate toward each other. Rare is the person who can move with comfort and ease among the various groups.
Jesus was a person who could do that. He was comfortable with saint or sinner. He could speak with ease to the educated head of the synagogue or to the disfellowshiped sinner who was cast out of that religious setting. He could dine with the Rabbis or the Reprobates.
Jesus was himself in any setting. He could rebuke a sinner and tell her not to sin anymore, or he could rebuke a preacher and tell him he was a hypocrite. He could engage a Pharisee wanting to know more about his work and mission, and he could engage a tax collector or woman of ill repute who needed his work and mission.
Many of us adapt our speech and behavior to fit different groups. We have regular speech and religious speech; regular behavior and religious behavior. A youth group member suggested a certain movie to watch. Another teen said it was too sensuous and wouldn’t be appropriate to watch with a church youth group; he would save it to watch with his worldly friends. I was at first appalled at the brazen inconsistency in his behavior; today I marvel at his honesty about it. Many adults do the same as this teenager, but with less honesty.
Jesus didn’t fit speech or behavior to a certain group; he was always the same. "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" (John 8:12). "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10). Jesus was always the same because he had integrity. In every setting he was the light, he was the offer of abundant life, he was the door, he was the good shepherd. With saint or sinner, royalty or commoner, Jesus was the same.
Jesus was the same because he knew his purpose. God sent him to redeem a fallen world. Though Jesus walked the path of man, enduring all of his struggles and temptations, Jesus could never give in. Too much was at stake. Nothing less than the redemption of the world weighed upon his shoulders.
Jesus could move with ease among different groups of people because he was so committed to the purpose God had for him. Leadership and power might tempt him, but that was not God’s call for him, so he never gave in. Jesus could enjoy the food and laughter of the tax collector and common sinner crowd without joining in their treachery or misbehavior. He was tempted in all points as they were, yet without sin.
His incredible inner strength with all people and situations came from remembering his purpose for all people. He belonged to everybody, yet would be controlled by no one. Thus he could walk among the various groups of Israel, offering comfort, sharing the Word, healing, forgiving and teaching, and he gained an audience.
Jesus "was to be all his life one of those men of the people whose natural nobility allows them to meet all men as equals." (Daniel-Rops, Jesus and His Times, p.113). He was the Son of God yet he could and did meet all men as equals. He condescended to the lowly and the upper crust, and met them where they were, on their terms, and made his offer of life.
As I study Jesus’ life and consider the impact it makes on us, I’m struck by his nobility and humility. The confidence in his purpose and the flawlessness of his life produced his nobility; his love for people and willingness to meet them anywhere gave him his humility. As we attempt to walk in his footsteps, I pray we can do so with the same nobility and humility that he did. We carry on his mission of extending ourselves in the name of the Father to a fallen world. Nothing less than the redemption of the world is at stake. Let’s pray that God makes us fit for the task.