Christ, a Stranger on Earth
The Lord from heaven—as the apostle speaks in 1 Corinthians 15:47—was a Stranger here. He was “in the world,” which in its Paradisicial condition, was the work of His hands, but “the world knew Him not” (John 1:10). It had “no room” for Him at His birth in Bethlehem; no home for His infant days in the land of Abraham, or city of David, so He had to find a shelter from Herod, the Edomite king, in Egypt. There was no ear to hear His words of grace and truth in its Nazareth synagogue, the place of His upbringing; no eye to see His “mighty acts” in Capernaum, “His own city” (Mt. 9:2; 11:23); and no place for Him or His doctrine in His “Father’s House” (Mt. 21:12; 23:38), the temple at Jerusalem.
So He passed along on His solitary way, a Stranger here. He would not, although often invited, enter as an arbitrator of His nation’s wrongs (Luke 12:13). He refused to interfere with its politics (Mt. 22:17), or to contest its claims, even when they were unjust (Mt. 17:25). He endured all wrongs and yielded to all demands, silently and meekly passing along the path appointed for Him by His God. He knew what the world was, and how it would treat Him, before He came. But its coldness wrought no change in His love for men, nor could its opposition and hatred divert Him from the work He had come to do.
He stood amid the ruin sin had made, pure and spotless. His eye looked forth with compassion on the uncared-for multitudes, His hand of “healing” was laid on the sick and the suffering; He spoke words of mercy and of grace to the sinful, and blessed the babe which He held in His arms. But He made no friends among men of the world. He received no compliments from those whom He blessed. Only the humble dwellings of disciples were hospitably open to Him, and He never intruded even there. The “desert place,” far from the city crowd, was His place of retreat. The groves of Gethsemane were His frequent resort for quietude, and the slopes of Olivet His dewy couch by night. Yes, the Lord of Glory was a Stranger here. And now from His heavenly home, the land to which He has gone to “prepare a place” for His own, He points to the path trodden by His own feet, and says, “Follow thou Me”; “If any man serve Me, let him follow Me”; “I have given you an example.”
And an inspired apostle, writing to the saints whom he addresses as “strangers” (1 Pet. 2:11), says of the Lord in His earthly path, “leaving us an Example that we should follow His steps.” So, as He was a Stranger here, His people are to be “strangers and pilgrims” (1 Pet. 2:11) on the earth, not citizens or rulers in it, as if their calling were to earth, either to renovate or to govern it. It is not that the Christian is to be heedless of the world’s need, or deaf to its cry; indeed, he cannot be, for the groan of creation without, finds its response in the experience of his spirit within (Rom. 8:22-23). But he knows that creation’s deliverance awaits the “manifestation of the sons of God,” in that hour when the glorious Lord, accompanied by His glorified saints, will take over its government, and rid the scene of its great Oppressor and all his host.
Till then, the pilgrim path is his portion, and a place “without the camp,” bearing his Lord’s “reproach,” his glory. He is content to be accounted as the “offscouring of all things,” fit only to be “cast out” (John 9:34), like his Lord, and to be ostracised as “beside himself,” or pitied for his “narrowness of vision” by the worldly wise. Be it so. It is the path of honour, in which the One whom we know as Lord walked, as the heavenly Stranger here.
No doubt, to “the many,” whose love is waxing cold, another and more popular path will have its lure and its attractions, and they will be able to find reasons to satisfy themselves, that it is the way of influence and of success. There are many voices raised in advocacy of this more “up-to-date” way of life for the Christian, in our time. The path of “strangership” is to be exchanged for that of “citizenship” in the earth. And what our Divine Lord and His earliest followers took no part in, we are supposed to share, as if the transformation of a ruined world, and not the rescue of a people out of it (Gal. 1:4), were the Gospel’s mission and its object. But in the true heart who finds its bliss in “following the steps” of Him who was the Stranger here, there will ever be the unfailing, joyful assurance, that the path of identification with Christ is the way of blessing, as it is of true success.
The path where my Saviour has gone
Has led up to His Father and God,
To the place where He’s now on the throne,
And His strength shall be mine on the road.
Article series: Our Glorious LordAll in Christ: Christ Is All Christ and the Scriptures