The story of Christ begins with the shadow of the cross falling across the manger. God knew his death was going to happen the day he entered into human flesh. While we may assume being a good Christian brings health and wealth, suffering and crucifixion are part of life, for Jesus and for us. But there is no suffering we experience that Jesus hasn’t known.
Enacting the kingdom of God, Jesus healed – simple as that. Some assume the story of Jesus is only about his death. The story of Jesus is also about serving, which is about life. Ministry is not only for the select few. Even when you have every excuse to say no, Jesus is still calling you to serve others.
It’s typical to think of true Christianity as a pure transfiguration experience. But the truest experience of Jesus isn’t found on the mountaintop, but down in the valley and in the grime of the city, at the foot of the cross. We love the shiny moments, but Christianity isn’t shiny and smooth, but dingy and gritty, among the people of the world, whom God loves.
Jesus entered into human flesh without our modern technologies but with the same temptations. Temptation is as much a part of his first-century world as it is our 21st century world, because temptation is part of the Christian life. It is not that we are tempted, but how we respond that matters.
The Jewish people were waiting for a Messiah to release them from Roman oppression. But Jesus had a different image of what it meant to be released. When he travels to the east side of the Sea of Galilee and heals a man chained in a graveyard, he shows us what it really looks like to be a part of God’s kingdom. As Jesus sends out the man released from his demons, so he sends us - healed, released, and unqualified, yet ready.
The Christian belief that Jesus came to save the world and establish the kingdom of God is a given. But what does “kingdom” mean? For first century Jews, a kingdom didn’t mean a state of truth, spirit and relationship, but a physical ruling government. His followers expected Jesus to begin a revolution: attack the Romans and seize political control of the region. But that wasn’t Jesus’ plan at all. When Jesus entered Jerusalem, he had a different plan in mind.