Perfect People

Speaker: John McLarty

Audio Recording:

When God was figuring out who to pick as the mother of Jesus, he picked an ordinary peasant woman. We can embellish the legend endlessly. We can make up all kinds of fanciful stories. But the facts are very basic: Mary was a young Jewish woman engaged to a man named Joseph and she was just right to serve as the mother of Jesus, or as we say in Christian circles, to be the Mother of God.

She was perfect.

So, is the height of perfection being a young peasant?

When God was looking around for someone to lead the people of Israel out of slavery across forbidden international borders into freedom, he picked the most highly educated man in the world at that time. Moses was heir to the very best of the highest, richest culture of that time. He was adopted, to be sure. But his adoption was like being adopted into the Bush or Kennedy clan. His education was the equivalent of a degree from Harvard and Stanford and Berkeley and MIT all rolled into one. He was a graduate of the Navy SEAL course.

Moses was perfect.

Some of you who know the story well might protest, but don’t you remember that he killed a man in his rage against the enslavement of his people? Don’t you remember the time when he disobeyed and struck the rock when he was supposed to only speak and God got so mad at him that he refused to let him enter the Promised Land? And don’t you remember that his marriage was problematic? And don’t you remember that he failed to lead his people into consistent, cheerful righteousness? Don’t you remember all that?

Yes. I remember. All those things are part of Moses’ story. But he was perfect. Perfect for the job God called him to. He set his people free. He led them out of Egypt. He was perfect.

Nebuchadnezzar wrote a perfect story.

Nebuchadnezzar was the king of Babylon. When he took over the throne from his father, things were already going very well. Babylon was on the make. Nebuchadnezzar was a brilliant military leader. His armies bulldozed nearly every army that opposed them. The empire spread across the Middle East like spilled milk running for the corners of the kitchen floor. He was a masterful administrator. In an era of city states he built a nation that spanned thousands of miles.

He knew what it was like to be top dog. When he bragged about his prowess and his success, it was true. Except for one detail. He imagined he had done all this on his own. “I did it myself,” he told himself and others. He was the perfect model of arrogance.

Then he went mad and was kept like an animal in a zoo. Seven years later his sanity returned. He returned to the throne, humbled. A perfect model of the mighty brought low.

He wrote the story of his conversion and published it, circulating it across the empire. God thought the story was so perfect, he included it in the Bible.

The king of Babylon was perfect.

Ruth was perfect. She was born in the wrong country. She was a native of Moab. But she married a Jewish man who had come to Moab as an economic refugee. When he died, she migrated to Israel to take care of her mother-in-law. She was so good that God chose her to be one of the great, great, great grandmothers of Jesus, a grandmother of God.


Mary and Moses and Nebuchadnezzar and Ruth were very different from each other. Different nationalities, different genders. They had different social status, different educational levels. They had very different characters and each was perfect for something.

You, too, are perfect and I am. Each of us is uniquely shaped for some special task.

In our New Testament passage for today, we read about Jesus choosing his twelve disciples. Twelve guys that were to serve as his inner circle, his cabinet in the kingdom of heaven. At the time of this selection, Jesus was routinely surrounded by crowds of thousands of people. He had no shortage of candidates for the position. He chose these twelve.

They must have been perfect for the job. If they were not perfect, then we would say that Jesus made a mistake in choosing them. Jesus did not have to choose anyone. But he did choose and when he chose, he chose these guys. So they must have been perfect.

I said this to Hanz as I was working on the sermon this week, and he responded with the standard Christian answer. They weren’t perfect. Rather Jesus chose them so he could make them perfect. Jesus chose them so he could save them.

But I argued that even it is true that they had defects of character, flaws in their humanity, these defects and flaws were part of their perfection. Jesus needed a collection of ordinary people to serve as a model for the church. If this first official gathering of “Christians” consisted of people with no observable weaknesses, they would be useless as models of the church. Their flawlessness would become an impediment to the accomplishment of the mission of Jesus.

Jesus made a perfect choice.

His disciples were perfect.

Just like you.

I hope two things for us this week.

First, that we will savor the glory that is ours. We are perfect. We are perfectly shaped for some task that will make the world a sweeter, better place. Especially today, on the Sabbath, when we remember that God looked at creation and said, “It is very good. I am very happy.” Today, enjoy the truth that you and your children and your cousins and neighbors are perfect.

Don’t start saying, “But . . .” I know all about the “buts.” And so does God. But for today, you are perfect and so are they.

Second. Let’s consider what we can do with our perfection. We are perfectly shaped for some special task. Let’s busy ourselves in that direction. Let’s do what we can to cooperate with Jesus in his mission to extend the reach of the Kingdom of Heaven.