Years ago some American missionaries stayed in our home. They told us about an animated evangelist they saw try to communicate to a Russian audience—through a less-than-animated translator.
The evangelist began, “Okay folks, tonight I want you to tell the Holy Spirit something! I want you to say, ‘Yeeessss!’” (pronounced with three syllables).
But instead of translating the passionate “Yeeessss!” the interpreter flatly translated, “Da.” And when the evangelist hollered, “Now, give God a hand!” the interpreter translated the words literally—and the audience stared at one another in confusion. (“Give Him what?”)
The words were translated, sure, but their meaning failed to connect.
Jesus, on the other hand, was a perfect translator. Here’s how.
More Than Mere Words
All of that evangelist’s giftedness and abilities did not matter without someone to interpret the meaning as well as the message.
In contrast, when I went to Russia, I worked with a national translator so fluent in English that when I first met him I thought he was American. And when I stood before the congregation, ready with the message, Vladimir stood next to me, equipped with the language.
With him by my side, I could share freely with foreigners the intricacies of God’s grace—and they understood. Heads nodded, eyes welled up, and laughter filled the hall.
My interpreter did not just translate my words; he translated me.
God’s Ultimate Missionary
In a grander sense, I wonder if God the Father felt a similar satisfaction as Jesus stood and translated the message of salvation through the means of humanity.
- By becoming human, Jesus put skin on God’s Word and revealed the Father, who for centuries had been veiled in a temple and obscured through ritual.
- Jesus became God’s ultimate missionary: He came to earth and translated the Father in perfect words, actions, and passions.
On the first Christmas, God gave humanity more than words—He gave them Himself. He gave them One whose very words were God’s Word, and so was called “the Word” (John 1:1).
(Photo: Russian children at Christmas. By Сергей Евтушенко. Own work. CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
After I came to recognize Jesus as one who translated the Father, the fact that the Russians and I needed an interpreter became a powerful illustration to them.
Jesus crossed the barriers of race, language, and culture by embracing them all.
- He didn’t just come to translate God to man, but to reconcile man to God.
- Jesus took on more than the physical and cultural boundaries.
- As our Translator He embraced our impenetrable boundary to God—our sin—and removed it by dying in our place on the cross.
For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time. —1 Timothy 2:5–6
Jesus’ Journey is Ours Now
He represents God. He represents man. And He stands in between. How can we respond to such an indescribable gift?
Jesus’s short-term mission trip to earth stamped the imprint of His own passport on the hearts of every believer in Jesus. “As the Father has sent me, I also send you,” He told the disciples (John 20:21).
In other words, the mission trip the Father sent Jesus on, Jesus now sends us to continue.
Adapted from Wayne Stiles, “Jesus—God’s Ultimate Missionary,” Insights (Dec. 2005): 3. Copyright © 2005, Insight for Living. All rights reserved worldwide.