An essay & a poem by Pamela Eason
Perhaps the concept of moving up in the world has been the only one presented to you. It is possible that, like many, upward mobility is your goal right now, but Jesus, who was already at the pinnacle of upward mobility, in his infinite wisdom, chose to move down before he moved up. Theologians call this movement his humiliation and exultation. His humiliation – his moving down – was the dissension of his whole existence.
Jesus chose to move down physically –
from the singular beauty that belongs to the King of Kings to human unattractiveness and eventually to grotesqueness. He had existed in the “form of God” (Philippians 2:6, NASB). “Before the world was,” and even for a time after the world was, he was so very glorious (John 17:5) that I’m sure there are not enough synonyms for the word, “beauty,” in all the languages of the world combined to adequately described him. But, at a critical point in human history, that merges Greek philosophy with Roman imperialism, he put aside his magnificent “form of God” self, to take on an unimpressive body. When he moved down, “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him,” (Isaiah 53:2, NIV). In the worst of his humiliation, “His appearance was so disfigured that He did not look like a man, and His form did not resemble a human being -” (Isaiah 52:14, HCSB).
Jesus chose to move down economically –
from the lavish wealth of the supreme, universes-possessing King to extreme poverty. There is perhaps some redemption for plainness if you can dress it up a bit with attractive clothes, and clean it up with a spa day here and there. But poverty affords no such relief to homely looks.
Because of the lack of resources to do better or the education to know better, the poor must live with their acne-riddled faces, swollen angles, fungus nails, and thinning hair. They must put up with yellowing teeth; dry, cracking skin; dirt-stained hands; and other such fixable disfigurements. They must live their lives in the outskirts of the white-teethed world where flawless skin, silky hair, toned muscles, manicured nails, and the wealth that makes all that happen are admired and celebrated.
Perhaps you are an outcast of a sort, and you can fully understand what I am about to ask you to imagine. Or perhaps you are not. Either way, mentally move yourself right slap down into the company of the wholly rejected. Stand with them for a moment. Try your best to make yourself one of them.
Where are you standing? Maybe you are among the unwashed homeless under a garbage bag that you found on some treeless trashy section of the street that runs through a cold, foreboding city. Perhaps you are pushing a garbage-filled buggy alongside buildings that cast long shadows over dingy sidewalks where patches of scraggly weeds, and sometimes delicate wild flowers, grow in cracks. Maybe your imagination carried you to a dreamy beach where the tanned black-haired wage-less lounge and fish on the west side of balmy and breezy Oahu. Their eyes gaze upon the same blue-green translucent Hawaiian waves that the refined resort guest, just down the street, enjoys as he peers lazily through his new Costa sunglasses. Or maybe you are somewhere that I have never seen where beauty oozes through even into the most pitiful of situations.
Move downtown to the most affluent upscale shopping section. Peer through a speciality-shop window that sits prettily over cobblestone paths. Or better yet, part the well-kept shrubbery and look in at the happy upper-class family breakfasting in a stately house that resides on a meandering tree-lined street. Stand with the outcast and look at the world where beauty abounds. Look at the beautiful, celebrated, gorgeous people surrounded by beautiful things wherever they are.
Run. Hop in the empty freight car of a train whose engine is pointed toward the countryside. Cast your eye over less populated landscapes. Don’t blink as the tranquil lakes, majestic mountain peaks, and woodland streams roll by in a blur. The poor outcast who cannot look into a bit of broken mirror at himself to find any aesthetic relief, may be very glad indeed for such a idyllic scene to provide him with some memory of natural beauty to hold fast to.
You hold fast to all this beauty too. Let it spill out your brain and help you create the most glorious scene of all. Don’t loose sight of this scene. The scene is Jesus in his breathtakingly splendid heavenly abode. Not the amazing worship scenes in Revelation that surround the throne of the Lion-Lamb – the scene where you really will be some day, but the heavenly scene before his incarnation – the scene where he is all wisdom and word, Creator, Sustainer, and LORD and where you are God’s thought yet to enter history. The scene occurs just before his humiliation. You can find him there. He is the most beautiful One – the strong and powerful One. He is Jesus glorified – Jesus praised and celebrated above all others. Jesus loved and adored by the Father and worshipped by the most amazing creatures you have never seen.
Jesus chose to move down in honor.
Pay attention to one particular part of this scene. Watch the Son closely as he abandons beauty, wealth, and honor so that he can become the obedient Suffering Servant. Notice the King’s complete humility as he discards his glory and the privileges of his deity, puts on the body of a plain-faced servant, and lands in a barn on the fringes of a dusty desert world. Notice as the reaction to him changes from celestial celebration to dismal degradation. Listen as his heavenly kingly honor is replaced by earthly disdain, ridicule, and extreme hatred. Behold him as human hostility fills up to the brim and spills over into cruel beatings and absurd mockery.
Walk behind him. Follow his deliberate steps. Look up and see him now on the cross where he is wrongly and wickedly executed in the most shame-filled way. Feel his warm blood splatter onto your face. Watch as he endures the greatest injustices without the slightest hint of grumbling, arguing, talking back, criticizing, bad-mouthing, attacking, condemning, slandering, or any other revengeful outburst you might expect. Wonder in amazement as you realize there is no vindictiveness or hatred rising up in him. Try to take in the expanse of the moral beauty that dwells in the hideousness of his torn and pierced body. Look undaunted into his compassionate eyes surrounded by ripped, bloody skin and find the beauty of mercy and grace flowing out to you from undeserved love. And, if when you are old, you are loosing your best memories, plead with God to remember that beauty above all others. Plead with God now to create a heart in you from which Christ-like beauty exudes.
Now Christian, when you hear, “have this same attitude in you,” it doesn’t seem so much to ask does it? The distance you may have to move down is not nearly so far as his.