Isaiah 53:4 (ESV) Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.
Throughout the gospels we see Jesus reveal a God that is accessible. Matthew 8:16 (ESV) says that evening they brought to him many who were oppressed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick. Crowds surrounded Him. People where engaged by Him. His love was initiating. Jesus did not wait for people to come to Him; He went to the people.
Because Jesus was accessible to us, He revealed our importance to Him. John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. If God was willing to become flesh and dwell with us…if He who created the world was willing to step down from the thrown of heaven, there shouldn’t be anyone on this planet we are unwilling to dwell with. Christ was absolutely accessible. Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan women, Nicodemus, the paralytic, the Canaanite women, even pilot, just to name a few, all reveal the accessibility of Christ. “Instead of secluding Himself in a hermit’s cell in order to show His heavenly character, He labored earnestly for humanity,” (1). Jesus was accessible to the haves and have-nots, the prince and pauper, the Jew and Gentile, the clean and unclean. Christ was accessible to everyone and so should we.
Is the church as accessible as Christ was? Are we doing a good job of being on earth as it is in heaven? Sadly, some churches, and self-proclaimed believers, have become very inaccessible. Some have traded being a light for the world for a lamp under a basket. We have traded the city on a hill, for a cottage 40 miles from town. But, if we are exclusive, or reclusive, in our ministry we are not ministering the ministry of Christ. The sole purpose of the church is to promote the accessibility of God through Christ. In Matthew 5:16 Jesus says …let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Sadly, this has been a struggle for God’s people down through the ages.
The church when Christ walked the earth was incredibly inaccessible. Pharisees woke up each morning saying, “Thank God I am a man and not a woman, a Jew and not a Gentile, a free-man and not a slave. The church was not being on earth as it is in heaven, so heaven came down to earth. Christ’s ministry, and life, was a walking challenge to the divisions the society of that time held sacred. The Gospel transcends every culture, race, ethnicity, and socio-economic division, making God accessible through Christ. Jesus obliterated the divisions between Jew and Gentile, slave and free, and male and female. He ate with tax collectors, engaged Samaritans, and treated women as equals in time when behavior like that was socially and culturally unacceptable. In a time when the temple had a court for women, and a court for Gentiles, God seemed incredibly inaccessible. But than Jesus comes on the scene and says in John 2:19 I’m going to destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. Jesus was the true temple, and He was going to give us free access to God. What sin had separated Jesus was bringing back together with His body. The Jewish leaders didn’t appreciate Christ removing the middleman, (them) so they killed Him. However, Jesus didn’t die in order for us to live these safe, little, comfortable lives. Jesus didn’t leave the comforts of heaven so that we would hide away in our gated communities or in our country communes. He came to make God accessible to humanity. Is the church making Christ accessible to the world?
In Matthew 10:34 Jesus says Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. Jesus throws a sword where peace was expected. He does bring peace, just not the way you might expect. It is not the force of compromise with evil, but of conquest over wrong, over Satan, the triumph of the cross. Meanwhile there will be inevitably division in families, in communities, in states. It is no namby-pamby sentimentalism that Christ preaches, no peace at any price (2). When Jesus said, “I haven’t come to bring peace, but a sword” It was not to divide us, but to cut diametrically across the lines we use to divide us. Jesus was discipling His future church to be accessible to the world. Matthew 8:1 (ESV) says when he came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him. Great multitudes followed Him because he was willing to come down off the mountain. He didn’t stay at the top of the mountain, expecting us to get to Him. He came down to us!
In contrast, some today seem to only want to grant access to people who will climb the mountain to them. In fact, it seems like they choose the hardest part of the mountain for people to climb, a sheer cliff with nothing to hold on too. Unlike Christ, they want to wait for people to get to them, (embrace their traditions, lifestyle, etc) before they will grant them access to the church. However, it isn’t until we grant accessibility to Christ that any doctrine, tradition, or lifestyle choice will even make sense to people. Some of us have retreated to the country, quarantined ourselves off from the rest of the world, for fear of being polluted by the ways of the world. We are lights to our own little world, but not to “the world”. However, if that were the way every Christian should live we would never finish the work! There is nothing wrong with living in the country in of itself. But if I am doing it in hopes of trying to perfect my character and remain “undefiled.” I am cutting myself off from the calling God has given the church. If we make the church a place where we only permit people who eat like us, dress like us, look like us, then we’re making clones but not disciples.
The bible depicts our Lord and Savior forever surrounded by people. He touched the people the church wouldn’t touch. He witnessed to the people the church would not witness to. He loved the people the church would not love. He granted us access to God. But it’s more than that…He paid for our access to God with His body. Isaiah 53:4 says Surely he has borne our grief and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. On the cross we see the Son’s access to the Father cut-off. Jesus took on our penalty and sin. He was forsaken by the Father so that we might gain access to the Father. Mark 15:38 And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. No longer was there veil between the Holy place and the Most Holy place. With His body, that was torn, he became a bridge gaining us access to God.
This is how we can become a church that is fully accessible to people seeking a transformative relationship with Jesus. When we see how He gave infinitely for us, we will be compelled to give our everything to Him, and to others. When we see what God did for us, we will naturally ask God: What can we do for you? The Gospel will shape the church. We present the attractions of Christ. We help people fall in love with Jesus, and the outcropping of that love is always obedience. As Keller put, eloquently, in His book Prodigal God, Many in the church operate on the principle of “I obey—therefore I am accepted by God.” However, the gospel says “I am accepted by God through the work of Jesus Christ—therefore I obey, (4).
How can we become accessible Christians? By tearing down anything that might hinder someone from coming to Christ. We become a church that is accessible by allowing the sword of the Gospel to cut through everything we do, not as a means to divide us, but to remove the lines we use to divide us. We allow the sword to remove the things that make us more like a club than a church. We become accessible when we help people feel like insiders instead of outsiders. Is your church a loving, and considerate, place? Is your church intentional about connecting people to Christ? Are we doing everything in out power to make redemption, transformation, and restoration possible? Have we committed ourselves to making Him accessible? Because look at the cross! Look at Jesus on the cross and how absolutely accessible He has made Himself to us. May that melt our hearts. May that change our church. May that transform our lives.
(1) White, E. G. (1898). The Desire of Ages; Conflict of the Ages Series, Volume 3; Desire of Ages (86). Pacific Press Publishing Association.
(2) Robertson, A. (1933). Word Pictures in the New Testament (Mt 10:34). Nashville, TN: Broadman Press.
(3) Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). Be Comforted. “Be” Commentary Series (136). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
(4) Keller, Timothy. “The Prodigal God.” PENGUIN group, 2010-03-01