When I first met her she was more of a project to me than a person. My youth group was taking part in a 33-hour fast to raise money for relief efforts in Third World countries. Along with fasting and raising money we were to help someone poor in our community. I called Mrs. Anderson.
She sounded tired, the kind of tired that comes from a life of more “downs” than “ups.” More defeats than victories. And maybe one too many cold winter nights without a hot meal and a warm blanket. But a hint of hope surfaced in her voice as I began to picture for her how we wanted to help.
She answered “yes” and my project was underway. Something began to change, however, the day I drove up in front of her house. It was a bleak West Texas November. The steps up to the house were crooked and cracked. I knocked on the door.
“Come in!” “Mrs. Anderson?” “Yes, come in!” I turned the knob and took two tentative steps. The room was as unkempt as was Mrs. Anderson. Heavy-set, missing teeth, and “just out of bed” hair, she sat on the couch. Her left leg was noticeably larger than her right. She began to tell her story.
Her husband had passed away several years before leaving her with four children: one married daughter who was out of the house, a teenage boy and girl, and a fifth grade daughter. “Times have been hard,” she said. “I’m not able to get around to work because of my leg. Back in the 60’s I got bit by a spider and it got infected. The doctors say it isn’t getting any better and they may have to amputate.”
Insects scurried across the walls as she talked. The house would not have been so bad had it been clean. But what could she do? It was a chore for her to merely walk to the door. I began to lose sight of the project and see the person. And now, with a person within reach of me, I was faced with what kind of Jesus I believed in.
Maybe you’ve been there too. You’ve asked your questions about Jesus. If you’ve ever looked at him long enough you have. We’d rather him be spiritual and more tied to heaven than earth. That way we can worship him on one Sunday and not revisit him until the next.
But when you see that Jesus “became flesh and dwelt among us” things change. They have to. The truth you believe about Jesus matters. In 1 John, John is dealing with the virus of Gnosticism in his churches. A group had surfaced who said that Jesus did not come in the flesh, that he was a first century hologram of sorts. They taught that the world is divided into spirit and flesh and the only thing that mattered was spirit. Jesus could never—if he were truly God—be associated with things of the flesh.
Because of this belief their worship was focused only on spiritual things, disconnected from the material world. Their lives were disconnected from their flesh—their bodies could do whatever, whenever and with whomever—and they could still view themselves as righteous. Their love was disconnected from the hurting and sinful of their world.
This is not the Christ John knew. The only Christ John knows is the one who “became flesh and dwelt among us.” The only Son he knows is the one who was God-in-the-flesh, the Jesus he had seen with his eyes, heard with his own two ears, and had touched with his hands. So he writes, “every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God.” The truth we believe about Jesus matters.
It did to Mrs. Anderson. I had to come to grips with the Jesus I believed in. And when I began to understand more clearly what it meant that Jesus became flesh and dwelt among us, my need for a project disappeared into the West Texas sunset and my love for this person surfaced. My Jesus was one that would not let me retreat to my study. He led me into the mix of this messy world.
And that mattered to Mrs. Anderson. In the following months my youth group and I became friends with her. We brought canned goods and blankets during the fast. Turkey and trimmings at Thanksgiving. Tinsel and toys at Christmas. We held a “spring cleaning” and made trips to the hospital during the amputation. A “Jesus come in the flesh” will connect the spiritual and the material. He would bring heaven to earth.
That’s where Jesus would be. And that’s why we confess that Jesus Christ came in the flesh.
Question: How have you experienced “Jesus in the flesh” in your life?