For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. 1 Corinthians 1:25
Our church is presenting a drive-through nativity this weekend for the Fort Wayne community. Last night 380 cars drove through scenes that progressed from the modern-day hustle and bustle of the Christmas season back to the hustle and bustle of Bethlehem in the first century. There, amongst the activity of the Jewish people and a census by the Roman government, a miracle took place and God the Son, Jesus, entered the world.
Many times when we think of the Christmas story we are drown a picture of Mary and Joseph admiring baby Jesus lying in his manger, asleep on the hay. No crying he makes–right?
What has struck me about this story, and indeed about so many scenes form Jesus’ life, is the way God displays Himself through human vulnerability. Think about how Jesus was born: He arrived through the flesh of his mother. His head was squeezed (was it painful?). He was wet and sticky, and no doubt that left him cold. Having given birth four times myself, I know that babies arrive either stunned, or they come out screaming. Can you imagine going through this experience by choice? Can you imagine the Creator of the universe putting Himself in such a vulnerable position?
Yet we learn that this is exactly what he did. Philippians 2 tells us that Jesus, although he was God, did not consider equality with God something to use to his own advantage. Rather, he emptied himself (ESV), he made himself nothing (NIV), he gave up his divine privileges (NLT), he made himself of no reputation (KJV). Jesus made himself vulnerable in order to come and live among us.
Jesus ministry was a commentary on vulnerability. He spent time with the outcasts of society: the uneducated fishermen, the sick, the despised tax collector, the ostracized women of poor reputation. Although he came under scrutiny, he continually chose to spend time with the vulnerable.
Philippians 2 goes on to tell us: “And being found in appearance as a man, (Jesus) humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross” (NIV). Think of the vulnerability Jesus experienced in Gethsemane. He told the Father, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” Scripture further tells us, “he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.’“ Yet Jesus was vulnerable enough to become obedient to the point of death.
Jesus’ death was his most vulnerable act. Although he was Creator of all things, he allowed himself to be beaten, accused, spat upon, and crucified. He hung naked on a cross in front of his followers where he was mocked and thrust through with a spear until his blood flowed freely to the ground. He did this to repair the relationship between God and mankind. I cannot think of more true picture of vulnerability.
2 Corinthians 13 tells us that Jesus was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. It is this weakness (vulnerability) that allows God to work in us today. He says to us: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9, NIV).
What does vulnerability look like to us today? Certainly we see it in our world. The weak have been attacked, terrorized, trafficked, and have perished in mass shootings. We feel it in our society, where we see the right to practice our faith diminishing under the law of our land. We feel vulnerable when we are portrayed as hateful, when in fact we have no such feelings. We feel vulnerable when we don’t represent God that way we want to, knowing that others may not leave us room for imperfection.
Yet Jesus invites us to be vulnerable. In the words of Dr. Sarah Sumner in her book Men and Women in the Church, the word vulnerable comes from a Greek word meaning “to wound.” It is a willingness to be touched by the needs of others. To be vulnerable is to be responsive to God’s call no matter the outcome. For you it may mean acknowledging your need for Christ for the first time. For someone it may mean admitting you’re not who you’ve pretended to be. Maybe it will mean being open about your faith with others. Maybe vulnerability will result in identifying with the downtrodden, responding to their needs. Maybe vulnerability will cause you to step forward and lead, even when you lack courage.
God’s response to Jesus’ vulnerability?
“Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11 ESV).
God has a plan for your vulnerability. He will use it to advance His kingdom. Listen to this song about Jesus’ mother Mary, when God asked her to become vulnerable for His kingdom. In my favorite line, Mary says, “Before my head agrees, my heart is on its knees.” May we each respond to God with humility, trusting that in our weakness, He is strong.