A New Spin on the Old Story

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.  My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.  You know the way to the place where I am going.”

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”

Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?  Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.  Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves.  Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.  And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

  • John 14:1-14



In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

  • Hebrews 1:1-3



Part of my morning Bible study is an on-line devotional.  The other day, the title was “Getting to Know You.”  This is in reference to the song Getting to Know You in Rogers and Hammerstein’s musical The King and I. 


It was eye opening.  That’s kind of hard to do when talking about Christmas.  Is there a traditional Christmas story that we haven’t heard before?  Is there a traditional Christmas Carol that we haven’t sung before?  It kind of makes you think about all of the people that simply go through the motions this time of year.  Are they really worshiping, praising?  No, are they really thinking?  Can anyone put a different spin on the same old story?


Actually, they can.  It was only a few years ago that I heard one theologian surmise that the shepherds were the priest’s shepherds.  The lambs in their care would become Passover lambs.  Since the lambs had to be perfect to be chosen as a Passover lamb, they were treated with the utmost of care.  They might even wrap them in swaddling clothes to keep them from danger.  Thus, when the angels spoke of a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, they perked up their ears.  They knew that this baby was being prepared for something special.  There is no way that they could have anticipated that the baby was destined to die on a cross to take the place of the Passover Lamb for all time for those who believe in Him.


That was a new spin on an old story.


Studying the house building style at the time of Jesus’ birth, the ‘stable’ was basically the first floor of the family home.  The mangers were cut into the floor of the family dwelling with an ‘upper room’ added (if wealthy enough) for guests.  It was this upper room, not an inn, which was already full.


A new spin, but I’ve known that for 15 years.  Yet, people still write a stable on the edge of town into the story today.


Why can’t we see the possibility?  There are places that aren’t much different today.  Once, while in Germany in 1977, I took a scenic shortcut to our construction site about two hours down the road.  I went through a small village in the hills and had to come to a complete stop.  The farmer who lived in the middle of town had his home on the second floor and the cattle on the first floor.  He got out early to drive the cattle into the fields, thus to avoid the traffic on the road.  But I had left early to get to work on time.  Cattle and humans in the same home, today.  But we cannot imagine Jesus being born anywhere other than a stable outside of town.


In the scripture from Hebrews, in verse three, it states that Jesus (the Son) is an exact representation of God, the Father.  The devotion mentioned that Jesus came to earth so that we got to know the real God of the Universe and so that the God of the Universe could interact with us at our level with the tools of humanity (general speech, with metaphors, parables, etc. and facial expressions, gestures, and body language).  There was a mission and destiny for Jesus, but human interaction was a new spin that I had not thought about.


That was a new spin for me, but so elemental and obvious that it can get lost.


There aren’t a lot of conversations recorded with ‘common folk’, but two conversations are very interesting.  In John 3:1-21, Jesus talks to Nicodemus.  Nicodemus wasn’t a common person, being a member of the ruling council.  But it was this ruling council that would back the priest in demanding Jesus to be put to death.  Yet, Nicodemus helped place Jesus’ body in the tomb (John 19:39).  The other conversation that comes to mind is with the woman at the well in John 4:1-26.


The scripture from John 14 above is a conversation among the disciples.  In this case, it’s not the usual James, John, and Peter.  Thomas and Philip are trying to get their head wrapped around the concept of who Jesus is talking about when Jesus refers to His Father.  Jesus plainly tells them that if you see Him, you see the Father.  As we understand the Trinity, we have an easier time with the concept, but think about a father-son combination that you know.  Are they the same?  You can always find something different.  Maybe this contributed to the disciple’s confusion.


Our second son was born in Heidelberg, Germany.  My wife and I both had dark brown, almost black hair.  Our younger son was the blondest blonde you’d ever seen.  We called him our ‘Gerber baby’, since there had once been contests to become the picture on the baby food labels.  In our minds, he was that cute.  His three children are in the photo above, all with light hair.


But you wouldn’t believe the problem we had explaining the blonde hair.  My wife’s comeback to the question that was laced with innuendo, “Well, it’s obvious.  He was born in Germany.  What other color should his hair be?”


I had a naughtier response.  There was an officer’s wife that rubbed us the wrong way.  The colonel’s wife counseled us that this other officer’s wife had her problems and that we had to be ‘nice’ to her so as not to bruise her fragile ego.  Frankly, I thought that she had ‘ego’ to spare, but when she asked where the blonde came from, we were at a church coffee hour after the worship service.  I hung my head and replied, “I’m sorry, but I have a confession to make.”  I called her by name and suggested that this confession go no farther.  She nodded her assent.  Then I said, “I confess.  I was fooling around.”


She gasped, place her arms akimbo and walked the length of the military chapel’s fellowship hall.  She stopped with a jerk.  It was as if you could see the lightbulb finally come on.  If you remember the old episode of the Three Stooges – Slowly I turned, step by step, inch by inch.  You could have said that line twice while she turned ever so slowly.  Then she screamed loud enough for several coffee cups to clatter around the room (everyone stopped talking), “It doesn’t work that way!”  (For anyone still wondering.  Some of my cousins have blonde hair {my brother red} and my wife’s father, being Dutch, was the only member of a large family who was not blonde and blue-eyed and the only male not over six feet tall.  But when someone’s question is dripping with accusation, why answer with facts?)


Yet, Jesus, born of a virgin, conceived by God the Father, was the earthly embodiment of His Father.  An ‘exact representation.’  And He chose to come to earth to get to know us a little better.


For me, that was a new spin on the old story.  Jesus was getting to know humans in their imperfect state.


When Jesus met His disciples, were the disciples the cool, calm, collected Apostles that we read about in Acts, performing miracles, just as Jesus had done?  No.  Peter sank into the water when he took his eyes off Jesus.  He later denied Jesus three times.  James and John wanted special privilege, rank, and honor in Jesus’ kingdom.  And this text portrays Thomas and Philip as being so confused that if this were a college course, they’d drop it before getting a failing grade.  This stuff was way over their heads.


But Jesus found confused, flawed sinners to be His closest friends.


Does that sound like you?  Jesus loves you, and Jesus knows what that means, because He came to earth in the form of man to spend time getting to know people like you.  And look how they turned out when they believed in Jesus and became indwelled by the Holy Spirit.


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