John 13:20 “I tell you the truth, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.”
The central truth of Christian faith is the belief that God is willing to become flesh. “Incarnation” we call it. Of course THE Incarnation is the pivotal event of God being revealed in the person of Jesus…fully God, yet fully human…both together. But time and time again in the Bible, both in the Old and New Testaments, we see evidence of God’s tendency toward incarnation in smaller ways. From God breathing God’s spirit into Adam’s flesh through all the ways that God worked in and through the fallible human leaders of the Old Testament; through the willingness of Jesus to leave the Gospel message in the hands of a bunch of guys who were too afraid to show their faces at the crucifixion all the way to God pouring the Holy Spirit into those gathered at Pentecost, God’s preference seems to be to work in and through us…to be somehow incarnate in us and in that way move salvation history forward.
Jesus makes that indwelling presence pretty plain. He says that to deny a hungry person food is to deny Him food, saying in Matthew 25 that what we do to the “least of these,” we are doing to Him. In the Great Commandment, Jesus calls the command from Leviticus 19:18 to love our neighbor as ourselves “like unto” the command in Deuteronomy 6:5—to love God with all our heart, soul, and strength. John’s first letter tells us that we’re lying if we say we love God but don’t love a brother or sister, and here in John’s Gospel, Jesus points out that to accept a person that Jesus has sent is to accept Jesus which is to accept God. A few chapters later, as Jesus is praying for his disciples, he asks God to make them all one. “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one. I in them and you in me.” The evidence could go on for pages.
King David understood this. We’ve also been reading his story in these past weeks, and although his misdeeds are legendary, he also shows an honor that few have matched in his dealings with King Saul. Even though Saul has turned on David, wants to kill him, and has forced him into exile in the desert while Saul hunts David with his armies, David remembers that God anointed Saul as king and sees an attack on Saul as an attack on God. Time and time again David is in a position to take Saul’s life, become king himself, and end the war. But he doesn’t. And when someone else does it for him and brings him the crown, David has the poor guy killed, bringing the army that has been attacked by Saul again and again into a time of mourning for their slain enemy. A thousand years before the birth of Jesus, David had figured out how to love his enemy, and that capacity sprang from his ability to love God with all his heart. David loved the God in Saul.
All of that means that God is much more present and accessible than we generally assume. I have been with people in a time of crisis who cry to me, “Where is God? Why doesn’t God help me?” I want to say, “Who do you think brought you that casserole yesterday? Who do you think it was that just called you on the phone to see how you were doing? Who do you think is sitting next to you right now?” We often assume that God is distant and that seeing God is a matter of visions and special revelation. Jesus seems to show us a different picture. Jesus was tangible proof that God works through the Spirit, but in the flesh.
twice about saying those harsh words, reach out to those around you, even your
enemy might be the anointed of God. To
accept them is to accept the one who sent them.
Oh, and just a note about the news this week. If you’re climbing
Incarnate God, help us to recognize you in others. Amen.
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