One walks in dangerous territory when one embarks on rating the acts of Jesus. What were his greatest statements? His greatest sermons? His most convicting commands? His greatest miracles?
I’m going to venture out there today and suggest his greatest miracle was…
I’m going to call on two witnesses to make my case – Philip Yancey and J. B. Phillips.
I hold Philip Yancey as one of the greatest Christian voices of the late 20th century. Yancey has an amazing ability to communicate complex Christian concepts in ways the man in the street can embrace. He wrote numerous books, the most highly acclaimed is What’s So Amazing About Grace, while I hold Prayer as having the most profound impact on my life.
In one of his early books, he offered a visual which still resonates with me. Imagine owning an aquarium and caring for its fish. All you want to do is care for them, feed them, and admire their beauty, yet they tremble in fear. Every time you enter the room and turn on the lights to feed them, they cower in the plants and rocks in the tank.
The only way you could make them understand is to become a fish yourself and live among them in the aquarium.
Every time God, or one of his messengers, appears in the Old Testament, the people cower in fear. In almost every instance, the opening command is some form of “Fear not!” God was constantly trying to get us to understand he wants to feed us, love us and admire our beauty.
The only way for God to make us understand was to become human and live among us here on earth.
I’ve written before that one of the mysteries of the faith I embrace but don’t comprehend is Jesus fully human and fully divine. That being the case, I have no concept of what was required for God to become human.
I know this, though. It was indeed a miracle. As much as I might want to become a fish in order to relate to the fish in the tank, it is beyond my ability. It was indeed a miracle by which Jesus became flesh and dwelt among us.
J. B. Phillips was a great voice of Christianity in the middle of the 20th century. Most people today associate him with Your God is Too Small and the J. B. Phillips New Testament in Modern English. My personal favorite though is New Testament Christianity, the opening chapter of which is entitled “The Angels Point of View.”
The story therein is what I refer to as “The Visited Planet” story. It’s a fantastical story of two angels, one recently minted and the other a veteran angel. The veteran angel is showing the rookie angel around the universe when they come upon the little blue ball we call Earth. The rookie dismisses it as insignificant until the veteran explains this is the planet God visited. The rookie is incredulous.
What follows is the angelic view of God’s coming to Earth. From their perspective, God is light. The little angel is wide-eyed as the light enters the Earth and spreads across a tiny section of it, and then falls into despair when the light goes out. But wait. Shortly thereafter the light reappears in a small zone and begins to spread across the sphere.
These two stories should provide you some insight as to why I well up when I hear the term Emmanuel – God with us! This is why the most hopeful and enduring verse in the Bible is Matthew 28:20b, “Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Oh come, Oh come Emmanuel,