Everyone wants to stand out, these days. Have you noticed?
Whether you’re Coke trying to differentiate yourself from Pepsi or Joe trying to differentiate yourself from Tom, the weirder the better.
It wasn’t always like this, though. I remember in my middle and high school days, always looking (or envying maybe?) to my peers and their respective styles for cues on what to purchase at the local mall. What logo was on their shirt? Their jeans? Their shoes?
Back then I imitated, but now I celebrate. I have fully embraced a unique flair – a differentiation if you will – that’s all my own and completely unencumbered by the peer pressure to conform to the evolving expectations of others.
Truth be told, my colors and pattern choices are still unlikely to match today too, but I no longer care. I give thanks and praise to God that I am “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14).
I am me.
I am different than you.
But that’s okay. That’s fabulous, actually. Isn’t it liberating to fully embrace the entirety of your unique self that has been formed and fashioned by the Creator?
There is one man, however, who is the same – all the time. Consider:
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:6).
Jesus is the same. He doesn’t change. His reckless love for us endures from one moment to the next. But let’s take a few moments and unpack the sameness of Jesus from the standpoint of time that the author of Hebrews references, i.e. yesterday, today, and forever.
What’s striking about Jesus as a man during his brief years of ministry is that he wasn’t the same as the leading religious groups of the day. The Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots and the rest all proffered their unique perspectives on what it meant to live under the Law (and live under the Roman occupiers). To their complete amazement and subsequent disappointment, however, Jesus did not align with any particular group.
Instead, he invited all of them to look beyond physical kingdoms and positions of power and politics and bickering among each other. He consistently started his teaching with the words, “The kingdom of heaven is like” or “You have heard that it was said.” He upended the religious norms by speaking and acting very different than what was expected of a rabbi.
Jesus stayed on the fringes by becoming a “friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Matthew 11:19), rejecting forceful advances to become a king and seek solitude (John 6:15), and unlawfully healing on the Sabbath (Mark 3:1-6).
He never wavered in his mission to “seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). In fully giving his life on the cross and robbing the grave, the Scriptures tell us plainly that the Jesus of yesterday made a way for us to be restored to God once and for all today (Romans 10:9).
The Jesus of yesterday is the Jesus of today as well.
It’s easy to think of Jesus as a man of history. “He lived back then. He taught thousands of years ago,” we say. After rising from the dead and appearing to many people, Jesus ascended to the Father and sent the Holy Spirit (John 14:26) to be our Advocate for spiritual guidance in this life. But Jesus is still acting – even now.
Like the Holy Spirit that came at Pentecost, Jesus is another Advocate (1 John 2:1-2) on our behalf. He is seated at the right hand of God the Father (Colossians 3:1) interceding for us (Romans 8:34). The enemy accuses us and singles out our sins, but Jesus is the great Defender who has paid the sin debt in full.
“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God,” writes Paul to the church in Corinth. In short, Jesus is alive, and thus his intercession – his prayers for us – do not end. Jesus prays for you and for me all the time.
There’s an old hymn I sporadically sang growing up in the church that speaks to a lasting joy. “Because He Lives,” written by Bill and Gloria Gaither, is a simple song but ripe with hope and anticipation for the days ahead. The last two lines of the chorus are a perfect summary for the confidence we all have in Christ:
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living just because He lives.
After promising to send the Holy Spirit, our Helper, Jesus told his disciples, “Because I live, you also will live” (John 14:19). He lives that we might live.
Though we are different from one another in clothing style and socioeconomic class and intelligence and professional vocation, our mutual hope is the same. Jesus is our hope. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. His sameness is enough though. It’s unwavering, unflinching, eternal. As minister Matthew Henry puts it, “Christ is the same in the Old-Testament day, in the gospel day, and will be so to his people forever.”