I think a lot of us have a favorite Jesus. Maybe it’s one moment in one gospel where we are simply stunned by His mercy, strength, vulnerability, kindness, patience, or love. You might love Jesus as a teacher or Jesus as a healer among the many depictions of Jesus.
My favorite Jesus is the Gospel of Luke’s Jesus. This Jesus is such a rebel. He keenly observes the unwritten rules of who he is not supposed to associate with, and he immediately goes to find that exact “wrong” person. Then he does the unthinkable—calls them by name, invites them to dinner, creates a safe space for them, heals them, values them, respects them, brings them into the fold, sees their humanity and honors it.
This Jesus breaks all the rules for what you would expect in a Savior. He arrives on the scene without a weapon or army or fancy clothes or resources. He completely defies our expectations for the Messiah and comes to serve rather than be served. Not only that, he serves the outcast, the marginalized, the widow, the orphan, the poor, the sick, the ones society so often neglected, the least of these.
The symbol often used to portray the Gospel of Luke is an ox. They are strong and mighty creatures, but often they serve by carrying the burdens of others. Luke’s Jesus is a servant, willing to work and sacrifice for others, even those that the rest of the world may deem undeserving of such sacrifice.
While Luke’s servant-Jesus speaks powerfully to me, it is essential to view my favorite Jesus in the larger picture of all four gospels.
Mark’s gospel emphasizes Jesus as King. I must remember that not only did Jesus come to serve, his rightful place was as KING. He humbled himself to such an outrageous extent as to become flesh and blood in order to reveal the truth and love of God to us all. Wow.
Matthew’s gospel paints a beautiful picture of Jesus as a teacher. Jesus didn’t only come to challenge our perceptions about God through his actions, he taught some pretty incredible messages that completely upended the common beliefs about God. These ideas were so challenging and threatening to those in religious leadership that they were determined to have him killed. This stuns me.
John’s gospel is incredibly spiritual. In this book’s recounting of Jesus’ life, the Spirit moves in miraculous and powerful ways, and we are encouraged to behold the mystery, holiness, and love of God’s only Son, Jesus, our Savior. This book inspires us to take on an eternal perspective. I can’t read it without being moved to tears.
The four pictures of Jesus together create a much more accurate representation of all that Jesus is and was. But I’m not sure that we as the Church always emphasize the example set by Luke’s Jesus as much as the others. We know he is King, we repeat his words, and we believe Jesus is God, but Luke’s picture of Jesus speaks to our souls a little differently. If Christians are seeking to follow Luke’s portrayal of Jesus’ unexpected service to the marginalized and forgotten, then that means that we as Christians are answering the call to find their equivalent today and humbling ourselves to serve them in the ways that Jesus did.
When I think of those marginalized, forgotten, or treated poorly by many churches today, I think of the LGBTQ community, immigrants, refugees, people of low socioeconomic class, people of other religions, and people of color. Jesus said everything hangs on loving God and loving others. This means that we meet all people, especially those that society has historically pushed to the sides, with love and without prerequisite.
By “with love”, I mean we open our doors. To Jesus, all were welcome. We must not be the gatekeepers of our churches or of God. Not unless it is simply to throw those gates open.
By “with love”, I also mean lending our ears, defenses down. We must be open and we must, with humility, listen to and acknowledge people’s stories, their struggles, their grief, their suffering, their hopes, and their dreams.
By “with love”, I mean we must offer our hearts, as well as our hands and feet.
By “without prerequisite”, I mean that no one needs to change or make us more comfortable in order to receive our love. No one needs to belong here before they belong here. No one needs to become a Christian first in order to be cared for. That is the opposite of what Jesus taught us.
I believe that part of the path forward for the church in America is to spend time with Luke’s Jesus. I don’t think the biggest problem facing Christians today is, as it is often taught, that culture is going to hell in a hand basket. I think a much bigger problem is that many Christians, particularly those representing the church in the limelight, have lost sight of what Jesus really cared about, who he spent his time with, and how he treated people. My heart breaks every time I see a news headline about Christians building higher walls between themselves and other (mainly hurting or struggling) people groups, rather than building bridges as Jesus did.
What would 2018 look like if we followed Jesus into places where we can serve rather than be served? Into showing compassion rather than judgment? Into loving our neighbors, no matter who they are, what they stand for, or what they believe?
Let us live in love,