When I was growing up, I used to set out rabbit gums. They were wooden boxes with a trap door; the animal would smell the bait, enter the box, hit a stick that was connected to the door and the trap would slam shut. Every morning before the school bus came, I would run down in the woods and check my traps. I can’t tell you how many possums I caught. I can tell you how many rabbits. One. They’re just too smart. But nobody ever accused a possum of being smart. Ugly, yes. Slow, yes. But smart? Why do you think there’s so much free possum meat on the highways and byways?
So, let’s suppose I go on a campaign to “Save the Possums.” Somebody is already committed to saving the whales and the snails and the males. I want to save the possums, but how am I going to do that? Let’s say I realize that the only way to save the whole possum race is to become one. I somehow add to my human essence the essence of possum, and believe me, you won’t find that fragrance at Belk’s, and I come in the likeness of a possum. I travel down, way down, down to possumland, where those critters live. Where will I find those possums so I can save them? Well, I know I can find most of them waiting by the side of the road, watching for cars to come so they can run out in front of them. So I would go to them and speak possum to them, pleading with them to change their ways. “Look!,” I would say, “you don’t have to do this. Step away from the road and that oncoming transfer truck and follow me back to the woods. That’s where we will find the possums with three or more brain cells left, frolicking in a way that only possums can.”
What do you think? Would it work? I don’t know, but I can assure you that I am not interested in that plan at all. I can think of little worse than becoming a possum.
Friends, as greasy and distasteful as it might be for us to consider trading in human form for possum posture, that pales in comparison to what Jesus did when He left glory and put on humanity, coming in the likeness of a man to save us. He was and is “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made,” as stated in the Nicene Creed. There is no way our finite minds can begin to comprehend how high He was and therefore how low He had to come.
There’s something else about my possum-pretending that pleads for pointing out. It would not do for me to just become a possum and implore my furry kinfolk to change their sneaky and destructive ways. I would have to somehow give my life in exchange for theirs. Just as it was not enough for Jesus just to come and live a good life and show us how to “be better people.” Jesus Christ did not come to earth to be our example; He came to be our Savior and our Lord. To accomplish that purpose, Jesus was born to die. He said of Himself, “The Son of Man must suffer many things … and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”
That little baby, born long ago in a manger in Bethlehem, did not come to make bad people good or good people better. He came to make dead people live.