Your Heavenly Father rejects a remote control approach to your discipleship walk. You know: God way up there somewhere, pushing some buttons or pulling a few levers behind the curtain to make things happen in your life. Instead, in the person and work of Jesus, God rolls up metaphorical sleeves, puts on an artist’s smock, dips those divine fingers in the water, and engages your life the way a potter engages the lump of clay spinning on his wheel.
If you ever get a chance to see a potter shaping and molding clay—whether in person or on YouTube—watch the potter’s eyes! As that potter shapes and molds, her full attention is on what she is doing, on the pot she is starting to form. If the potter dares do something drastic—and I have seen potters take take a piece of wire or even a fork to use on their clay—if the potter does something unusual or unexpected, she doesn’t do it with her head turned, looking in the other direction! Instead, she focuses her full concentration and energy on the pot while she shapes and molds the clay. When the shaping gets most dramatic or difficult or sensitive, that’s when the potter is more engaged than ever.
As you go through something in your life that is causing you to be shaped and molded—and for the clay, that’s always uncomfortable!—when God allows something difficult in your life, and then uses that difficulty to make you look more like Jesus, you can trust that your heavenly Potter hasn’t abandoned you. It’s not that God is absent from your life and therefore difficult things are happening. No! In the difficult things God’s eyes and heart are focused on you more than ever! Pots get special attention when the sculpting is most drastic. When your life feels like it’s spinning out of control, divine eyes and divine hands are focused on you. You have a loving God with dirty hands.
That’s what the message of the incarnation is all about. As God shapes and molds the lives of real people, God ends up with dirty hands. Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary, just like you and I were born; in the same, messy way. And his dad probably wiped him off and picked him up by the feet and spanked him on the butt to make him cry. He came into the world just like you and I did.
Jesus walked–that’s what he did! He didn’t have an angel chariot that whisked him wherever he wanted to go! He didn’t even have a bike. Jesus walked everywhere he went, and his feet got dirty, and his legs got tired, and he got hungry; even, at times, exhausted.
Jesus knows what it’s like to bury a father; Jesus knows what it’s like to stand at the graveside of a friend and weep; Jesus knows what it’s like to be betrayed by someone you trusted. Jesus was willing to get his hands dirty.
Jesus got his hands dirty when he touched a woman who was ceremonially unclean because of an illness she had carried in her body for years; Jesus got his hands dirty when he made mud and put it on the eyes of a man born blind, in order to heal him. Jesus got his hands dirty when he knelt down and washed his disciples’ feet; Jesus got his hands dirty when he let Roman soldiers nail them to the rough wood of a cross.
God was not willing to play remote control with your discipleship walk from a distance. God rolled up potter’s sleeves and, in Jesus, touched your life to mold you and shape you in love. You have a loving God with dirty hands.
Whatever you are facing this week, you can trust the God who is willing to have a potter’s dirty hands. You can pray with the Psalmist: “Your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever; do not forsake the work of your hands!” (Psalm 138:8)
Excerpted from a sermon in Preaching Metaphor: How to Shape Sermons that Shape People by Justin Rossow. Minor formatting edits have been made.