“Did Jesus really say that?” Robert, a dear friend of ours, stood with his head slightly askew as he examined the verse scribbled on our chalkboard wall: “Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast’ (John 21:12a).”
We could see Robert carefully processing the implications of someone like Jesus rustling up Galilean-style fish tacos with his disciples. In that brief moment of contemplation, it was as if Jesus—the God-man—came surprisingly close to Robert.
Jesus taking on flesh surely means God has come near, but what does His human nature mean for us today? What does Jesus’ humanity teach us about our own humanness?
Have you ever considered how many different and conflicting voices are out there telling us what it means to be truly human? The voices, and their standards, are always changing!
If you’re a mom, there are powerful voices saying it’s wrong to work a job while having young kids. Still other influential voices say the best moms can have a career and kids. If you’re a Dad, you may feel the pressure to simply produce—earn more, save more, do more (at work and home). Or maybe you’re not a parent, but you still feel the constant pressure to be more than human: be the smartest, funniest, prettiest, strongest, and the list goes on ad infinitum.
If you’re like me, you sometimes feel the shame of not meeting these standards. In those moments, I feel like no matter what I do, it’s never enough.
With so many voices telling us what it means to be human, or flourish as human beings, it can be overwhelming to consider the questions which naturally arise in this conversation. Who and what defines what it means to be truly human? Is it based on what we can produce, how we look, who is in our social circle, or something else?
Jesus tells a parable in Luke 14 about two wedding guests that I believe helps us answer these questions. As He so often does, Jesus illustrates the way of life and the way of death by pointing to two kinds of people.
In verses 7-11, the first guest pushes his way to the “place of honor” at a banquet, appearing desperate to define his own worth. He abrasively “exalts himself” (v.11) above the other guests, looking for value via comparison. More importantly, however, the presumptuous guest creates conflict with the host and is put in his place.
The second guest rests in the “least important place” (v. 10) and knows the host will not overlook him or forget about him. This guest appears secure in his place at the party and trusts that his value and worth is determined only by the host; not by striving to procure the place of honor. The result? The host calls the second guest a “friend,” calls him to his side, and is honored by all.
What is Jesus trying to tell us about our humanness? The Master, the host of the great banquet, defines you – He is enough. How the Father views you, what He says, is enough.
The first guest was trying to play the role of the host, determining where he could sit and saying who is most honorable or valuable. He was playing God. We do this quite often, don’t we?
Following the second way, Jesus’ way of being human, can be summed up in a word: alignment. Aligning oneself in the universe comes by admitting, “I am human. I am not God. I can rest in my place and let go.”
How can we daily align ourselves? By daring to believe we are beloved children, meditating on the truth Jesus embodies in the Scriptures, agreeing with the Holy Spirit’s voice, and engaging restful practices like Sabbath, we take our place at the table as human beings and not just as human doings.
This doesn’t come easy. Many days I move so fast that I forget to slow down and listen to the One who says, “Come and have breakfast.” But if we pay attention to our hunger pangs—the burning desire to connect with our Maker and rest in who we are—we will know it’s time to come and take our place at the table. Seated next to the One who calls us friend, we can find rest in our fragile and wonderful humanness.