Jesus Starts at the Bottom
Picture a woman who is about to rappel down the side of a tall cliff. Before taking off down the rock’s face, she will first make certain that the rope is long enough to reach the bottom. If the top of the cliff is one hundred feet high, she is going to ensure that she has more than one hundred feet of free rope hanging over the side. In order for her to complete her journey, she has to be able to reach the bottom. If the rope is long enough to reach the mountain’s floor, it is sufficient to reach every other part of the journey.
When Jesus left the high cliffs of Heaven and came down to earth, He showed us that the rope of His reach is sufficient to reach every single person in the world. By going to the bottom first, Jesus demonstrated that no one is too high or too low for His presence to draw near.
The presence of Jesus with the lowly was evident from His birth. He was not born in a palace fit for a king, let alone fit for the one true God. He was not even born in a place suitable for a child of His parents’ meager means. Jesus was born in a stable with the stench of manure and livestock stinging His nostrils. His first crib was a feeding trough. Jesus entered the world as an outcast, as someone absent from the inner circle of society.
God with us looked like nothing the world would have ever expected.
Jesus healed people of life-threatening diseases. He spoke and taught like no one had ever done before. He walked on water and could read people’s thoughts. But within Jesus’ work and miracles there was a message of presence. His primary sermon was,
Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven has come near. — Matthew 4:17 NIV
Not only was God near in the person of Jesus, but He was bringing His Kingdom of presence with Him. In the way Jesus functioned, there was news of nearness. When God comes to earth, wrongs are made right. Not only did He become close to humanity by becoming flesh, He drew near to the least of humanity to show that no one was outside His reach.
You may think your upbringing was too rough or dirty. You may think your past is too stained with sin and shame. You may have convinced yourself that because of where you came from God could never be present with you. But when we look at the one and only Immanuel, the one and only person who was called “God with us,” we see Him born at the bottom.
There is no length to which God will not go to rescue you from absence. There is no depth to which Jesus will not descend in order to be present with you.
God tested His rope to make sure it was long enough to reach the bottom, and He succeeded when He was born as a baby in a slop trough.
The life of Jesus was also an example of His nearness and presence with the outcasts of society. Jesus did not engage in trickle-down ministry. He did not go first to the kings and the rulers, working His way down the ladder of importance. Neither did Jesus just go to those lower in the social pyramid. He became present with those whom everyone else was absent from, regardless of their position in society.
Those suffering from the disease of leprosy — one of the most vile and contagious ailments of Jesus’ time — were quarantined off from the rest of society. No one went near them until God did. For the ill, the deformed, the unwanted, and the infectious, Jesus was Immanuel. Those living lives unfit for everyday life were scorned and neglected as second-rate, much like they are today. Prostitutes were untouchables, since to be seen with them would put you in suspicion of fornication. But Jesus spent time with prostitutes. For the sex workers, drug dealers, and smut peddlers, Jesus was Immanuel.
These people were not God’s side mission but His main mission. Listen to the words from the Old Testament that Jesus read in the temple and applied to himself in Luke 4:18:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.
God came to be with the homeless who live in poverty. The One who sees all took on mortal eyes so that He could put His healing hands on the blind. The only truly free being in the universe bound Himself under oppressive skin so that He could set free those under tyranny.
This liberating presence of Jesus applies to all of us. We are all poor, for we do not have the riches of God’s righteousness. We are all imprisoned by our shackles of sin and mortality. We are all utterly blind, for we cannot see the truth or our Creator. And we are all severely oppressed by our ever-looming and inevitable death.
Jesus is our Savior. He came to set us free.
By going to the lowest of the low and the neediest of the needy, Jesus showed us that there is no amount of absence we can heap upon ourselves that His presence cannot pierce. For the whole world, from bottom to top, Jesus is our Immanuel.
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Excerpted with permission from When God Isn’t There by David Bowden, copyright David Bowden.
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It is so easy when we’re at bottom to believe that God isn’t there. Today, let’s pause and remember that Jesus came to us lowly and He loved hanging out with the ones rejected from society. Come join the conversation on our blog. We would love to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily