Once upon a time, there was a light that shone so brightly, a fire that burned so pure and true. It illuminated all things, turning night into day and opening eyes so they could see. Everyone was amazed that this should be. “Is this light real?” they asked. “How can the light brighten our darkness, when the light cannot brighten itself?”
It is very common to hear about Jesus’ life through his three and a half years of ministry, and it is sometimes difficult for us to identify with his milestones in a meaningful way. Not many of us have had to stand up against the religious and political leaders of the day with a completely new message. In a similar way, it is easier to see ourselves receiving miracles instead of performing miracles as Jesus did for others.
Jesus’ life was set apart to be totally different but, when we take a closer look, we find that it also very much like yours and mine.
He was a refugee.
As a babe, he had to flee from his homeland because of the ambitions of King Herod against him. As a child refugee, he grew up in the land of Egypt, whose pharaohs once enslaved his people. He had to wait until the death of Herod before his family returned to the land of his birth.
He lived under occupation.
He returned from Egypt to a land under occupation by a foreign power. The land of his forefathers had become the Judaea Province of Rome. A Jewish child, he grew up in the faith and traditions of his people, “like a tender plant, a root from dry ground”- Isaiah’s imagery. He had an inquisitive and sharp mind and amazed teachers in the Temple at Jerusalem at the age of twelve.
He was a carpenter, a tradesman by occupation. However, he had a rather nondescript appearance and physique. Isaiah spoke of him as having “no form nor comeliness… there is no beauty that we should desire him”.
He was familiar with discrimination in many situations. He knew what it felt to be at the receiving end of contempt and rejection by others. Sorrow was a frequent companion, grief a regular acquaintance.
He was also familiar with Zealots openly inciting the local populace to rebel against Roman authority. He saw and felt the yoke of the Law that the Teachers of the Law imposed on the general populace. They had retained its forms but lost its substance.
It was this man, living with the challenges and concerns common to the day, who professed to be equal to God. Quite a number found his claim to be blasphemous. How can this man be God?