Thank God that Jesus did NOT maintain a safe distance

Over the last couple of weeks I have written about Biblical principles and covid (safety and truth). After Christmas I will, God-willing, continue – but for now I just wanted to share a brief thought. This is what it says in John 1:14: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”

Jesus, the Word of God, became flesh – a human being, like us – and lived as one of us. What an amazing thing to think about, especially in 2020.

Jesus didn’t keep his distance

One of my favourite Christmas carols is Thou who wast rich beyond all splendour.

This carol tells the story of how Jesus, who was rich beyond all splendour, came down to us for love’s sake. It begins:

Thou who wast rich beyond all splendour,
All for love’s sake becamest poor;
Thrones for a manger didst surrender,
Sapphire-paved courts for stable floor.

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, could have kept a safe distance away from us. His were ‘Sapphire-paved courts’ – all the treasures of heaven. And yet he exchanged that for the lowly birth – a manger and a stable floor. Why? “All for love’s sake”. Because, out of love, he couldn’t keep away.

Jesus came to us to heal us

In Matthew chapter 8, we read of how Jesus healed a man with leprosy:

When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, ‘Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.’

Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. ‘I am willing,’ he said. ‘Be clean!’ Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy.

Leprosy in those days was a horrible disease – but not just because of its physical effects. It meant that you had to live away from the community, and it even separated you from God (you couldn’t go into the temple). Lepers had to shout ‘unclean, unclean’ to keep people away from them. Lepers, you might say, were doing social distancing before social distancing was a thing!

Jesus, however, did not keep his distance. Jesus even comes up to the man and touches him. But Jesus doesn’t get ill – instead, Jesus’ touch makes the man clean. The leper was healed of his disease, and able once again to enjoy life in the community and life with God.

The leprosy was symbolic of something deeper which is wrong with all of us: sin. Sin separates us from each other, and it separates us from God. But Jesus comes to us in our sinfulness, forgives us, heals us, and restores us to right relationships with God and each other.

Go and do likewise

Christians are commanded to love one another as Jesus loved. As Jesus said: “As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35). Jesus’ love is the model for our love.

One of the things I have found most difficult about the last year is the social distancing and masks etc. It’s changing the way that we see each other: rather than seeing each other as people to love, we are starting to see each other as people to avoid because they might be bearers of an infectious disease. I think long-term this will cause far more damaging effects than covid.

What I want to say, this Christmas-time, is simply this: Jesus could have kept his distance. He could have stayed away from us – it was his right to do so. He didn’t have to, as a hymn puts it, “exchange the joy of heaven for the anguish of a cross”. He could have stayed away. But he didn’t – because he loved us.

My hope and prayer is that covid will not change the way that we see each other. The restrictions may be necessary at times, but fundamentally we are all human beings in need of love. When you look at another person you are seeing someone made in God’s image who needs love. We mustn’t let the restrictions interfere with how we see each other.

Jesus came into a world which had a sickness far worse than covid. He came to save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). He came to heal and to forgive. Let’s follow his example.

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