Jesus wears street clothes

God showed up in street clothes when he came to visit Abraham and Sarah.

Three travelers in the plains of Mamre approached a tent in the heat of the day, the time when people rested from their usual work.

Abraham was sitting in the tent door and when he looked up, there they were — three men, travelers. Tourists? Tradesmen? What did they look like?

Apparently they looked like ordinary travelers, perhaps a little dusty from walking along the road. They all wore the normal street clothes of the day for that part of the world.

But they weren’t ordinary travelers, of course. One of them was Jehovah, God himself. The other two were angels on assignment to destroy Sodom. (Genesis 18:1 – 19:1)

What do you imagine when you think about God’s appearance, or the appearance of angels? Probably not men in street clothes.

It didn’t take much, though, for Abraham to realize that he was talking to the Lord God. He had seen him before. He had heard his voice before (Genesis 12 ff). But he couldn’t have told that by the physical appearance this day.

Jesus showed up in street clothes when he lingered near the tomb to talk to Mary Magdalene. She’d already seen two angels, and she recognized them as angels because of their appearance. This man looked ordinary, a gardener perhaps, Mary thought.

“Why are you crying?” he asked her. She explained as best she could, still not realizing who he was. But he wasn’t an ordinary gardener, of course. It took one more word, “Mary,” from Jesus’s voice for her to recognize the Lord, Jesus resurrected from the dead. (John 20:15)

Jesus showed up in street clothes when he caught up to Cleopas and his friend. Ttraveling from Jerusalem to Emmaus, “It was great while it lasted,” they must have thought as they commiserated.

They’d had high hopes that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah, they explained sadly to the inquisitive stranger. Quite a conversation took place on the remaining walk into town. This well educated stranger really knew the prophecies! And he had a knack for opening the scriptures.

They didn’t realize who he was, this ordinary looking fellow. It took Jesus breaking bread and blessing it for them to recognize him. (Luke 24:30-31)

Jesus showed up in street clothes a few hours later, when he suddenly stood in the middle of the 11 apostles, terrifying them by his appearance. They supposed he was a spirit! I wonder what they imagined a spirit to look like…

Why didn’t they immediately recognize the Lord? Mary Magdalene? Cleopas and his friend? The 11 apostles? Their master, their teacher, the one they had followed and worshiped for so long?

Think about the last time they had seen him. Dirty, bloody, ragged, naked. Broken. Dead. This man was none of those things. He was clean and healthy. Any scars he had were totally healed – he kept those for evidence, I think.

Jesus had taken every punishment I deserved, every sickness or disease I could be afflicted with, every fear and anxiety, every sin and guilt, for me and every other human being on planet earth. Whether physical, mental, emotional or spiritual, he accepted them all as his own.

Then he overcame them. Defeated them. Destroyed their power. The creator of the universe had recreated everything about his own personal appearance, in a moment of time.

Now he looked like, and was, a healthy, confident and knowledgeable adult male. No wonder they didn’t know who he was.

Many artists have painted depictions of Jesus over the centuries. Did you notice — they always seem to paint him in the past tense? Wearing street clothes of ancient Israel?

That’s not how I see him.

I imagine him dressed in ordinary street clothes, a workman’s uniform maybe, or a business suit, or jeans and a t-shirt. Whatever would be appropriate for the place and time, and perhaps the occasion, that’s how I visualize him.

Would you recognize Jesus if he showed up physically at your house, dressed in modern-day street clothes?

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.” (Heb. 13:2 NASB)

Crowds

How do you raise a crowd?

Go to a synagogue. See a demon-possessed man. Cast the demon out. (Mark 1)

Soon a crowd shows up. Not even at Jesus’ house, he had gone to Peter’s house.

News had spread like wildfire and pretty soon everyone knew where Jesus was. And the entire city came to the doorstep.

Who was in the crowd? Some thoughts:

The newly-free man. Other men from the synagogue. Their wives. Their neighbors. Their relatives. Travelers who were just passing through. Curiosity seekers. And religious leaders.

Sick people. Demon-possessed people. If he did it for one poor man, maybe he’ll do it for me. My child. My friend. And he did. The crowd grew.

Questions: Why was the demon-possessed man in the synagogue? Why hadn’t the religious leaders recognized the demon? Why hadn’t they cast it out of him?

More thoughts about crowds:

Crowds change. Evolve.

Some in the crowd showed up when it was convenient. When Jesus was nearby, or speaking when they were off work. Had nothing better to do. Curiosity-seekers.

If he came back to the area, maybe they’d come hear him again. But they wouldn’t go out of their way.

After all, such teachers had come and gone over the years. Some attracted disciples and eventually tried to do something – like overthrow Roman rule – and failed. Maybe this one would succeed, who knows.

Other people went from crowd to fan. They kept up with his schedule. The grapevine kept them informed. Every time he was nearby, they would go.

Fascinated with his words and his actions, they began to hope he was the real thing. Began to believe he was the real thing.

But they couldn’t (or wouldn’t) take off from work. Couldn’t (or wouldn’t) follow Jesus from Galilee to Judea. They were fans — but not die-hard fans.

Some were, though. Some did become die-hard fans. Some of the crowd went from curiosity-seekers, to fans, to followers.

They didn’t just change their schedules, they changed their whole lives. They gave up their jobs. Used their life savings if necessary. Did odd jobs if necessary.

From Galilee to Judea, Lebanon to Syria and back, wherever he went, they went. Whenever he was preaching, they were listening. They saw him heal the sick, cast out demons, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead.

They heard him teach that the kingdom of heaven was near. Yes! We’ve waited so long for that!

They heard him describe the kingdom of heaven. Hmm. Not what we have been taught — but he can raise the dead. I’ll go with Jesus.

And they went from followers to disciples. From listener to learner.

They were still a crowd. A large crowd, they followed Jesus everywhere he went. He called twelve out of the crowd, hand-picked not just to be disciples but apostles.

Twelve men who had on-the-job training, who he could send out to do the same things he was doing. Heal the sick, cast out demons, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead.

Men he could use to help multiply food for the crowd of men, women and children. Imagine. Whole families were in that crowd, on that hillside.

After a while he appointed seventy other disciples to do what he was doing. They were so excited. So happy. So joyful. And the crowd continued to follow and to learn. Until…

The day he told the crowd, If you want eternal life, you have to eat my body and drink my blood. (John 6:53)

Many disciples in the crowd had enough. That was too hard. Too hard to understand. Too hard to “swallow.” They went home. The crowd shrunk for the first time. (Sort of reminds me of Gideon’s army, actually.)

Jesus asked the twelve You want to leave too? They decided to stick with him.

But the Pharisees and teachers of the law had enough of Jesus, too. They quit playing around the edges and openly opposed him. They tried to kill him, but he wouldn’t let them. Yet. It wasn’t time…

And even as many abandoned the journey, others joined in. The crowds grew again for a time, though at the cross that crowd had shrunk again, to almost nothing.

(They were still enough to turn the world upside down… but that’s a story for another time.)

You can probably guess my next question: What kind of crowd are you in?