“Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, ‘Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.’ Jesus replied, ‘Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.’”
Matthew 8:19-20 (NIV UK)
Last year a small church in North Carolina placed a statue of Jesus out in front of their building. The only problem was that it portrayed Jesus as a vagrant sleeping on a park bench. And while the installation has spurred a variety of reactions from a lot of different groups, I think it highlights one of the central aspects of what Christ’s incarnation is really about.
Let me explain…
Over the centuries, artists have depicted Jesus in a variety of ways. Early Christians painted him as a humble shepherd leading his flock, while later generations enthroned Christ in a position of power on the clouds as transcendent Lord and Saviour over all creation—having the whole world in his hands. Now, modern artists have painted our Lord with more ethnically accurate features based on digital DNA recreation. All of these expressions of Christ are part of a complex mosaic that reflects our human perception of who God is.
More often than not, we like to cast Jesus based on our own experiences. We shape him to reflect certain aspects of change that we would like to see in our community. Prophet, best friend, healing physician—he was all of these things and much more. Here the artist created a picture of a homeless Jesus to remind us of Christ’s words to his Disciples: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40).
What I find so interesting about this statue is how it turns our image of Christ upside down. We remember him as the King of Kings, the Son of God who performed miracles and dazzled the learned religious leaders of his time. But we also need to remember that he was born in a humble stable, worked with his father in the family’s carpenter shop and probably helped his mother make breakfast. He dwelt among us, suffered with us, and I’m sure on at least one occasion, was forced to sleep under a tree just like any common vagrant. But that truth isn’t anything we should shy away from. Instead, as this statue, it serves as a way of reminding us that Christ came among us to bring forgiveness and redemption to all—from the greatest leader to the very “least of these.”
Mighty Father, so often we see your son in our image, as we would have him be. Help us to see Jesus as he was on earth and as he is now in heaven as you would have us see him. For that we pray for your help in his name.
Study by Joseph Tkach
About the Author: Joseph Tkach is the President of Grace Communion International (the Denominational name of The Worldwide Church of God UK), and resides in California, USA. You are welcome to attend one of our local Church congregations located throughout the UK and Ireland. For details of your nearest local congregation, check on our website, www.wcg.org.uk under the ‘Churches’ tab, or ring +44 (0)1858 437099.