I’m impressed by the ordinariness of it all.
He was a man, like any other, coming from a rural village. He wasn’t much to look at — not strikingly handsome or tall or muscular. Just… well… ordinary.
If he hadn’t stood out by what he said and did, the chances are no-one would have noticed him. That’s what took so many by surprise. He was so ordinary-looking, and came from such an insignificant place, that it was easy to look askance at his words and deeds.
The Bible puts it this way: “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” (Isaiah 53:2)
I can’t say I can really blame people for the way they reacted. You see, you’ve got to be prepared to pierce the veil of unspoken expectations of how it should be; to go beyond the hidden prejudices of class that judge a man by his accent (“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”). You’ve got to be open enough — lateral thinking enough — to trust a man who says things that go against all you’ve been taught (“Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you have no life in you”).
Later, many who saw Him die, smacked their hands against their foreheads and uttered, “What have we done?” They looked upon the One they had pierced and mourned for Him as one mourns for an only child, grieving bitterly as one would for a firstborn.(Zech. 12:10)
I’m privy to the Truth, not because I worked it all out, but because I saw I needed a Saviour and, when I called, He broke through my prideful prejudice and revealed Himself to me.
Yet there are times when I’m like Peter, who walked and talked with Him for three years and then estranged Him in His time of greatest need. I too, have my “facepalm moments” — moments I think, How could I have done that? What was I thinking?!”
Like the time I told Penny, my darling wife, that she must realise she came second to my work. Or the time, in my arrogance as Head of Department, I spoke out so vehemently against inadequate treatment that landed a patient in intensive care, that the person responsible was dismissed in 24 hours. (Couldn’t I have just gone to him quietly and pointed out his error in treatment?”)
Or the time, in the apartheid era, when I gladly went to dinner with a Black family, but didn’t invite them back because of what the neighbours might think.
In hindsight, I see my life punctuated by these “facepalm moments” — many of which I only realised much later as I walked more deeply with my Lord and began to understand his heart — and mine — a little better.
There’s a temptation, like Adam and Eve, to hide these times — to cover my nakedness and pretend they never happened. There’s some wisdom in doing this with all and sundry, but not with God. He sees all anyway and I’ve discovered that He has a plan to work it for good.
As I recall those times and inwardly shudder, I’m touched by God’s amazing grace, not only to save a wretch like me, but to keep on saving me, and loving me when I don’t even like myself, let alone love myself. Then I’m like Peter, who came to a fresh understanding of God’s grace as he stood on the shore, the smell of wood smoke and flame-grilled fish in his nostrils. I’m better equipped to show that same grace to others.
I have no doubt Mary Magdalene not only wiped the feet of Jesus with her tears of love. I imagine, walking beside other women of the night, she shed tears of grace and compassion, wiping away their shame. One who has been forgiven much not only loves much, but forgives much. Such a person learns to live, not from episode to episode, forgiving, but with an attitude of forgiveness. Then, as Jesus was at pains to explain, counting how many times one should forgive becomes irrelevant. (Matt 18:21,22)
I’m not proud of my “facepalm moments” — hopefully they’re getting less frequent. Yet, knowing me, I dread to think how arrogant I would be without them. There’s nothing like those times to keep us gratefully kneeling at the foot of the Cross.