I find how our memory works amazing. I was speaking on the phone this week to a person who recently lost their father. They made a comment to me that sparked a memory recall that I hadn’t thought of in 25 years. In telling me about the impact their Dad had had on them, they sincerely told me that he had been “Jesus with skin” to them. In other words, he was a person who brought Jesus to life in their life, encouraging faith and showing what it meant to live out grace and truth on a daily basis.
This reminded me of a story I heard during one of my Preaching classes in Seminary. The story was retold about the founder of one of the world’s largest Seminaries about a century ago going way out into the country to preach for a small church. This man held several theological degrees and was brilliant theologically. But when the service was over and he was greeted by an old farmer at the door, the farmer said, “Young man that was a fine sermon. And when you get some education, you’ll be able to use all those big words and be able to sound like those fancy preachers”. In other words, some day he could know enough so he could preach in a way no one could understand him.
So why did the “Jesus with skin” comment trigger recall of a memory of a superbly educated theologian presenting eternal truth in ways even a down to earth farmer could understand? I think it is because they were both doing what we should be doing. They both were taking everything they had experienced in Christ and learned about God and were filtering it through their personalities, character, attitudes, and so on such that it came out in a natural but powerful way. They were incarnating it. They were truly becoming what they already were in Christ.
I hope that someone can say someday about me, “They were Jesus with skin to me”. In fact, that is something we all should hope. It is something that we all can do because God is within us.