Arguably among the best violinists in the world, Joshua Bell was involved in an experiment a few years ago. He stood in a Washington subway tunnel and played his heart out for hours. Here's the thing--nobody noticed him! The same player who commands standing ovations from the most discriminating musical ears on earth barely turned a head. The subway masses came and went, eyes on the turnstiles and doors, minds occupied with the mundane cares of life. They failed to recognize the fact that, for a moment, they were in the company of greatness. They just were not expecting to find it there.
Similarly, when Jesus walked among men, there was nothing in his appearance to draw him any special attention. Those who knew him while he was growing up found any claims that he was great to be preposterous. They were astonished that he eventually drew multitudes to himself for healing, teaching and saving. So accustomed to the boy with dirty feet and splinters in his fingers from working in his father's carpentry shop, they missed the greatness in their midst.
Today, too, we have forgotten much of his greatness. Even with the benefit of hindsight, we tend to boil him down to more comfortable, manageable dimensions--a gentle spirit, a humble servant, a great moral teacher, a lover of people. While there is truth in these descriptors, they are, in and of themselves, extremely misleading.
You see, we want Jesus to be our buddy, our tolerant older brother, or just our friend. We want that guy who slaps us on the back and beams at us with his unrelenting smile. We prefer the friendly Jesus who will never tell us we are wrong and will never use the "S" word, instead framing our transgressions as mere mistakes, human errors to be overlooked because, we are, after all, good people. Who would not want to hang out with such a relentless encourager?
One problem with this, revamped, user-friendly, politically correct Jesus is that he is not the Jesus of the New Testament. Gentle with the broken, harsh with the proud, impatient with the self-centered, the Jesus of the Bible commanded wind and waves and forgave--here it comes--SIN. His claims about himself were impossible (unless of course they are true). And the things the apostles later wrote about him stretch the limits of theological and scientific understanding. Creator, Savior, Son of God, the one and only Way to the Father, Jesus may be your friend, but not because you are good people. He chose to dwell among us in grace and truth so that he could restore relationship between a holy God and a fallen world (including us).
In one of his more astounding statements about himself Jesus said that if you want to see God you should look at him! While this is not our usual idea of humility, he was, nevertheless, the very epitome of humility--leaving the throne room of heaven in obedience to the Father to walk among the sweaty, sinful, and unwashed--out of nothing but the pure, unadulterated love of God. The love he has for us is not based on our worthiness, rather on the quality and unlimited quantity of God's love for people. It says little about us, and everything about him, Jesus, the greatest name in the world.
New International Version (NIV)