When Jesus taught the people, I wonder how he sat?
There’s a famous painting by Rembrandt of King David and the prophet Nathan. It captures the moment in which the prophet says to the king, “Thou art the man.”
An interesting exercise if you ever have to think up church group work, is to read the story (it’s in 2 Samuel 11 and 12) about this together, and then ask the people in the group how they would direct the interaction between David and Nathan if it were to be portrayed on stage.
“Thou art the man!”
Some would have the prophet entering the throne room, with some trepidation. Others seem him with pointing finger and arm outstretched, denouncing David in a dramatic gesture. Almost always people envisage distance between the two figures. That’s what makes Rembrandt’s painting so extraordinary. The artist sees them sitting on the same level, close together, as equals and as friends, talking quietly.
How does God come to us?
If I come across a teacher of truth whose work I admire, I like (if I have the opportunity) to watch them, watch how they go about an ordinary day, how they conduct themselves when nothing special is happening; how they behave towards people who are unimportant, who don’t matter.
One of the things I look for is how the teacher of truth sits in relation to those around him.
If s/he is elevated on a dais, distanced from the people who have come to hear and see, it is a disappointment. This almost always happens, if only for practical reasons – so that the audience can hear and see. It is meant for accessibility, but it also smuggles in separation. The unimportant ones sit close together. The one who matters sits up there. When I have been a preacher, it was no different - up high in the pulpit, or standing up in front of the people. One accepts it, as though it had to be this way.
The snapshots of Jesus in the Bible are about where God sits.
Sleeping in the food trough for oats below the hayrack.
In the dust, resting his back against a well, hoping someone will come along with a cup so he can beg a drink.
Tired – exhausted – crashed out in the stern of a boat, asleep on a cushion.
On the grass.
On the lake shore.
On the hillside.
In the living room of a friend.
We do see him elevated, once, with a special placard saying “This is Jesus the King of the Jews”.
It's what “Emmanuel” means. No separation. One of us. Unassuming. Humble. Beside us.
We are all in this together.