“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” (2 Cor. 4:7)
By entering into a human body through the incarnation…Jesus Christ the Son of God is opening Himself up to the challenging realities of a radical, precipitous downgrading in outward appearances compared to His exalted glory in heaven…which by the most brilliantly fine-tuned calculus in the history of moral reasoning…opens up the one and only narrow pathway leading to the cross at Calvary…and our salvation.
The classic book The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain gives us a wonderfully adventurous and compelling story that parallels the situation of Jesus Christ closely in this regard.
The real prince in Mark Twain’s story, outside of the king’s palace and disguised in pauper’s clothes…unprotected by his voluntary loss of royal status out in the rough-and-tumble world at-large…is subject to the same perils and abuses faced every day by the look-alike pauper boy with whom the prince has temporarily and secretly exchanged places with.
One fundamental question asked by probably every person who has ever lived…during a contemplative moment of reflection on the purpose and meaning of life…is…why is human life for most people a challenging, rough-and-tumble, sometimes bruising affair?
Why isn’t the entrance into our world for Jesus Christ the Son of God…at the very least in His special case…a smooth-sailing, carefree, life-of-ease, rolled-out red carpet…a seamless transition of welcome from the heavenly world of being the exalted Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:6) to the world of merely being a lowly pauper?
Few of us are “born with a silver spoon in our mouths.” We complain when we struggle with making financial ends meet each month, week, or on a daily basis.
Can we begin to imagine what it would be like for the divine Son of God to live a life of poverty…so that He can make it all the way to the cross?
Jesus Christ the Son of God cannot be born with a silver spoon in His mouth…because if He was…He would never make it to the cross…that contain elements of humiliation and disgrace that would never be imposed upon a person having wealth, stature, and political power.
Only a humble person of humble means can make it all the way to the total worldly rejection of the cross…especially if He is the morally perfect Son of God destined to be the blemish-free Lamb of God…slain as the Passover sacrifice for our sins.
After thousands of years of advancements in knowledge, technological gadgets, medicine, farming, and political and social lessons-learned…why has not humanity gotten our collective act together a long time ago in terms of being able to offer a peaceful, supportive, welcoming environment…for the fulfillment of purpose, meaning, character growth, and personal destiny…as the normal expectation for every person on the planet?
Why does the real-world have the actual disparity between the privileged insides of the palace grounds and the hard conditions of the outside world…that forms the backdrop of reality for Mark Twain to craft his brilliantly insightful fictional story around?
I think that Mark Twain in his classic book The Prince and the Pauper partially answers this question as to why the world-at-large…outside of the palace…is a rough-and-tumble reality for most people…explored from the human analytical and perceptual eye of a literary genius.
One thematic take-away lesson from the story…from a human standpoint…is that the young prince must leave the confines of the preferential unreality of the palace…and experience real-life among his subjects in the guise of a regular person like them…in order to be able to return to the palace and someday become a good king who can rule the realm for the benefit of the people in justice and compassionate understanding…and not as a self-centered tyrant merely using his subjects for his own pleasure…merely as means to his own ends.
This moral framework that Mark Twain…a religious skeptic…posits in his book…is at such a high level of sophisticated complexity that it blows the atheistic philosophies of materialism and naturalism…out of the water.
The irony here is that material particles and energy would never come up with the contemplation of this deeply sophisticated, highly elevated of issues…no matter how much time was given to their development.
Absent the existence of a Creator God…and absent a moral standard independent of ourselves…two tenets that are central to an atheistic philosophy of naturalistic materialism…what would be the point of pursuing the concepts of optimum leadership in rulers, kings, and presidents…if this material universe is all there is?
Citing the gospel of John, Chapter One verses 1-5 and verse 10 would be helpful here:
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 The same was in the beginning with God.
3 All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made.
4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.
Another commonsense apologetic argument I want to make in this book for the divine origin of the Bible and its message…that has parallel inspirational value…is that Jesus Christ in a human body meets us precisely at the point where we are…and that this profound concept creates a clear path for the Passover Lamb of God to make it all the way to the cross at Calvary…to make a successful divine atonement for sin…at our human level.
In the story of The Prince and the Pauper…as a matter of practicality…to meet us at the point where we are…simply cannot happen as long as the young prince goes outside the palace dressed in princely clothes, riding in a royal carriage, and surrounded by a retinue of soldiers.
Only by having an absence of the royal accoutrement of clothing and the dignity of his office…surrounding his personage…can the young prince meet and engage with his unknowing subjects at the same place…on the same level…where they are in their lives.
A critical point I want to make here is that Mark Twain published his remarkably brilliant book The Prince and the Pauper in 1881…based on an incredibly perceptive insight…I would say inspired… into the reality of elevated moral leadership…whether as a king…or as a democratically elected president or prime minister…or as the Almighty God and Creator of the universe.
The life of Jesus Christ in the first-century A.D. is anchored in history…not fiction. His death by Roman crucifixion in Jerusalem during the administration of Pontius Pilate is an undisputed fact of history.
The rapid growth of the Christian church in the first-century testifies to the historicity of the events surrounding the life and death of Jesus Christ…and His resurrection.
Is it plausible to the modern thinker…having now the benefit of historical hindsight…to suggest that Matthew, a tax collector…Mark, a younger friend of Peter…Luke, a Greek physician…John, a fisherman from Galilee…Paul, an educated Pharisee and an actual persecutor of the early Christian church…James, the half-brother of Jesus…and Peter, also a common fisherman…could insightfully as a group effort pre-empt Mark Twain by 1,800 years in inventing as fiction or clever added embellishment…this pinnacle concept of the moral leadership quality of Jesus Christ stepping down from His glory in heaven to enter into a human body…to be able to meet us at the precise point where we are?