The Messy Story of Jesus

While Jesus was on earth, he didn’t spend his time in a gorgeous chapel with a harmonious choir, distinguished elders and tidy children. As the Creator, he designed this world to be a place where the messy, bloody and disgusting would contribute–where even manure brings life. There’s nothing clean about birth or death, but Jesus joined with our humanity in this very messy life from his cradle to his grave. The value of his solidarity with us was disregarded by the religious leaders of his day, because they thought his sinless life was too messy.

Manure Brings Life, Cherilyn Clough,
Print Available Here

In the first century AD, it was scandalous to be born to an unwed mother. Mary’s neighbors, when they realized she was pregnant probably didn’t consider she was pregnant from God. I imagine the village gossips stared at her growing belly and said, “That’s just plain wrong!”

Jesus probably had older stepbrothers. Did he get along with them? Or did they get jealous of him when they heard their parents speaking of his mission? Did they make fun of him like the brothers of Joseph? We don’t know because very little is recorded about his childhood, but there was the incident where his parents lost him.

As Mary and Joseph walked home to Nazareth from the temple (it was a three day walk) they discovered he was missing and went back to find him. Jesus didn’t agree that he was lost. He chose right then to set a boundary and let his parents know it was time to be about his heavenly Father’s business. Did Joseph feel rejected when Jesus said this? For Mary, it must have brought back the words of Simeon at the baby dedication saying that a sword will pierce her heart.

Even as an adult, Jesus was still setting boundaries with his mother. She needed help with a wedding reception and she knew what her son was capable of doing. She was eager for the world to know her son Jesus is the Messiah.  Jesus turned the water to wine, but first he made it clear this was not the time for an announcement.

When Phillip told his friend Nathaniel he had found the Messiah, Nathaniel said, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Apparently Jesus’s home town wasn’t a great place either.

One day somebody in the crowd called out to Jesus that his mother and brothers were present, but instead of honoring them, Jesus says, “Who are my mother and brothers? Whoever does the will of my father in heaven.”

When Jesus looked at the crowds, he saw beyond their filth, anger and addictions.

When he saw the crowds,
he had compassion on them,
because they were harassed and helpless,
like sheep without a shepherd.
-Matthew 9:36

Out of compassion, Jesus got dirty with us. He suffered with all of humanity as his life intersected with our chaotic, messy stories. Jesus surprised people because he welcomed the outcasts the Pharisees shunned.

* He ate with tax collectors.

* He put mud in the eyes of the blind.

* He broke Sabbath rules.

* He cleansed the temple.

* He allowed people to sneak around to see him in the dark.

* He let a bloody woman touch him.

* He touched lepers and demoniacs.

* He woke up the stinking dead.

One of the most telling stories about the way Jesus cares is his conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well. The disciples wondered what Jesus was doing by talking to a Samaritan woman—this was unheard of–Jews didn’t speak to Samaritans—much less a Samaritan woman, but Jesus drew her out on purpose. He pointed to her past by referring to her many husbands. After Jesus healed her heart, she was ready to share and ran back to the village to say, “Come, meet a man who told me everything I ever did.”

The climax and victory of Jesus’s life happened because his love intersected with the messiness of sin.

A prostitute washing his feet with her hair while an extravagant perfume filled the house.
An enthusiastic friend chopping off an ear.
The sullen kiss of a so called friend.
The running and hiding and denial of association.
The rooster crowing three times.
The sounds of a hammer echoing from the top of a hill.
The taunts of angry men.
The cries of woman and children.
The whispered prayer of a thief.
The cry of anguish.
Then silence as darkness filled the sky.

There was nothing well-ordered or sanitary about Jesus’s life on earth. He came and cried and bled and died, but he did it all with love. Love spent itself until there was nothing left in his humanity to spend. The only consolation would come in the morning, where an empty grave promises hope for all of our messy lives.

Check out this song by For King and Country–

When confusion’s my companion
And despair holds me for ransom
I will feel no fear
I know that You are near
When I’m caught deep in the valley
With chaos for my company
I’ll find my comfort here
‘Cause I know that You are near

My help comes from You
You’re right here, pulling me through
You carry my weakness, my sickness, 
My brokenness all on Your shoulders
Your shoulders
My help comes from You
You are my rest, my rescue
I don’t have to see to believe that
You’re lifting me up on Your shoulders
Your shoulders

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