Summary: A short talk given at Corscombe at the end of Walk West Dorset 2011. God speaks our language, and as in an old legend Christ holds out his hand and invites us to grab hold.
Philip Yancey kept a salt water aquarium. He wrote: ‘I [ran] a portable chemical laboratory to monitor the nitrate levels and the ammonia content. I pumped in vitamins, antibiotics, sulpha drugs and enough enzymes to make a rock grow. I filtered the water …and exposed it to ultraviolet light. You would think …my fish would …be grateful. Not so. Every time my shadow loomed above the tank they [swam] for cover into the nearest shell. They showed one emotion only: fear. Although I opened the lid and dropped in food [regularly] …they responded to each visit as a sure sign of my designs to torture them. I could not convince [my fish] …To them I was [god]. I was too large for them, my actions too incomprehensible. My acts of mercy they saw as cruelty; my attempts at healing they viewed as destruction. To change their perceptions, I began to see would require a form of incarnation. I would have to become a fish and speak to them in a language they could understand.
Here we have the character of God revealed. In the form of Jesus God humbled himself (2:8). From heaven he came as a helpless babe, not as a mighty warrior but as a servant (2:7), for us. Christ put the interests of men and women before his own, and he asks Christian believers to also do the same; to have the attitude of Christ Jesus 2:5) by looking out for the interests of others (2:4).
An old legend goes like this: A man fell into quicksand and started to sink. While he was sinking, the Chinese philosopher Confucius walked by and said, “There is evidence that men should stay out of such places”; but the man was still sinking in quicksand. Buddha walked by saying, “Let that be a lesson to the world.”
But the man was still sinking in quicksand. Then Mohammed walked by and said, “Alas, it is the will of Allah”; but the man was still sinking in quicksand. Then a Hindu walked by and said, “Never mind, you will return to Earth in another form”.
But the man was still sinking in quicksand. Finally, Jesus walked by. He reached out his hand and said, “Grab hold of my hand and I will pull you out.”
From the glory of heaven, and ‘being in [his] very nature God’ (2:6) in every way Jesus left behind all of the privileges that were rightly his. In comparison to what he had and what he was Jesus ‘made himself nothing’ (2:7). He saw us, humankind, stuck in a place from which we could not escape. We wanted to be good people but messed it up. We wanted to worship God but our desires were elsewhere. We wanted to do the right thing but so often the wrong thing was on our lips or the wrong thing was in our hearts. Men and women were sinking but God did something about it.
Jesus reached down from heaven and said, “Grab hold of my hand and I will pull you out.” Christ become human like us and spoke to us in a language we can understand.
How wonderful is that! How marvellous! No wonder John Newton wrote these wonderful words of praise: “How sweet the name of Jesus sounds in a believer’s ear! It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds, and drives away his fear!”