Click here to listen to Nancy answer this question on Moody Radio with Kelly and Steve.
When Jesus came to earth, He came to suffer and die for all humanity’s sins. God the Father could have sent His son to become a worldly, wealthy king who lived in a palace and wore expensive garments with many servants waiting on him. Instead, Jesus came like one of us. His earthly dad was a carpenter, and his mom gave birth to him when she was between the ages of 13 to15. He grew up in Nazareth with kids in His neighborhood. Very little has been written about His childhood. We know that He spent much time in the Synagogue learning and, at times, preaching.
“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:5-8)
The “least of these” refers to those who are poor, sick, and lost and need help. God calls all of us to help meet the needs of people who struggle to help themselves. Jesus loved and ministered to people who were hungry, thirsty, depressed, sick, and imprisoned. By living, loving, and serving others as Christ did, we are also doing it for Him.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'” Matthew 25:31–46
As human beings, we tend to live for ourselves and choose friends most like us. We feel safe in those spaces. God, however, expects us to reach out beyond our comfort zones and actively learn the cultures of others by being His hands and feet. Engaging with others we can learn about their lives and hopefully, earn the right to share the gospel with them.
“If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same” (Luke 6: 32,33).
Jesus’ life on earth has been chronicled in the Bible with stories of how He reaches out to the least of these, including those who hate Him. He spoke to and healed many who would turn against Jesus in His greatest hour of need when He was being crucified. Through His suffering moments before He died, He asked His Father in Heaven to forgive those who beat Him, hollered to “crucify Him,” and mocked Him. The woman at the well, who was a total outcast in her town, was the one that Jesus singled out to share the good news to her personally about being the Messiah who would forgive her sins. Many people were saved because of this woman’s belief and excitement to share with everyone in her town.
“And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction” (Matthew 9:35).
The Christmas story of Jesus’ birth is filled with reminders about God’s heart to encourage and include the least of these to carry out God’s will. In this case, He used the lowly shepherds to be the first to witness seeing the Messiah, but also to be the first evangels to spread the good news in Bethlehem and beyond.
The shepherds were men who were considered to be the outcasts of outcasts. They were uneducated herders who tended animals, smelled, and kept to themselves. No one would converse with any of them. The religious people of their day despised them. How wonderful that God chose the lowest of the low to see the birth of the Messiah. If God had chosen a king or a religious leader to be the first witness of God’s Son Jesus, you could only imagine the pride and ownership of the moment. Instead, God chose the least of these, who were honored to be selected, listen to and obey the Angel, and would not hesitate to share the good news with everyone! God’s choice of inviting the shepherds reflected Jesus’ life and future ministry.
“And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger because there was no place for them in the inn. And in the same region, shepherds were out in the field, watching their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the Angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the Angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
“When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them” (Luke 2: 7-18).
God has and always will pour His love into the poor, needy, lost, sick, and hungry. He calls us to do the same. Helping feed and care for the sick, the lonely and the lost is our way of pleasing and bringing Him glory.
“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).