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at Welcome Hall Evangelical Church, Catshill

An office meeting between a senior executive and six of his junior staff members

The Undercover Boss

by Samuel Jack

Have you heard about The Undercover Boss? There’s a TV series by that name that has been running on Channel 4 for several years now. If you haven’t seen it, the idea is very simple: the boss, the CEO of a big company, leaves his office for a week and goes undercover in his own company to find out what life is like as an ordinary worker.

Each episode of the programme follows the same structure. First there’s the boardroom scene. The CEO, at the head of boardroom table, announces that he’s stepping down. Shock ripples round the table, followed by relief as the he clarifies that it is just for one week. Then you see the CEO leaving his mansion, waving goodbye to wife and children, and driving to a shabby motel room. There he gets himself up in a mild disguise and puts on the company uniform, using an alias on his name badge. For the next week he’ll spend a day at a time in different entry level jobs, doing all the menial tasks, at the beck and call of those who are actually several pay grades below him.

During the course of the week, the boss sees it all: the workers and the shirkers, heroes and villains. Some open their hearts to the boss as he listens sympathetically, not knowing who he really is. Other times, the boss bears the brunt of outbursts from employees frustrated at company policy.

At the end of the week, the boss hands in his uniform, signs out of the motel, and heads back to the boardroom. Then comes the final scene. Everyone who had particular dealings with the boss are mysteriously summoned to headquarters. They’re ushered into a grand office, the boss walks in, they stare at him, do a double take, and to shock, wonder – and sometimes embarrassment -he confirms that yes, that fumbling new boy was none other than the CEO. The heroes are rewarded, and the villains are reprimanded or sacked.

It makes for intriguing viewing. I suppose it appeals to some sense in us that we’d like those at the top to know what life is really like for us, how hard we sometimes struggle to get on. Perhaps if we’re feeling hard done by, we’d like to see the big guys get their comeuppance. Or maybe we’d like someone to stoop down and give us a helping hand.

That’s Channel 4’s “Undercover Boss”. I want to tell you about The Undercover Boss. Because the bible is the record of something far more wonderful than a CEO stepping down from his boardroom. Every Christmas we hear these words from Matthew 1:23 “Behold the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which is translated, “God with us.””

Have you ever thought about what that means? This tells us that the Eternal Son of God, the creator of the world, came to this earth as a man, a real human being, just like us, except that he had a flawless, sinless character.

Imagine the shock that rippled around the courts of heaven when it was announced to the angels that the Son of God, the Prince of Glory would come down to this earth, to be born as a baby. He left his palace, and His throne at His Father’s side, and checked in to this world as a baby at a stable in Bethlehem. The one who commanded the armies of heaven took up a saw, hammer and chisel and plied his trade as a carpenter for 30 years of his life. It was no disguise: He became truly human, so that he could experience human life from the inside.

He had left behind all visible appearance of his glory and splendour, but he couldn’t hide his authority and power. It was there for all to see. People said of him “Nobody has ever spoken like this man”: his words had such clarity and authority – all the evidence of truth. His miracles proved him to be the creator of the world. There was nothing he couldn’t do: whether it was feed the hungry, calm a raging storm, heal the sick, or even raise the dead.

One thing that stands out as you read the gospels is his approachability. Anybody could come to him, at any time, and he always received them. He was never too busy, never preoccupied, and he was always able to help anybody who was willing to be helped.

It was the end of Jesus life which made clear what kind of help he’d come to give. Jesus lived a perfect life, yet he suffered a cruel death at the hands of those he came to help. When he rose from the dead he explained to his disciples the meaning of it all: he had lived his life for them, and for everyone who would believe in him. All his merits would be counted to everyone who trusted in him. They would be given the reward he had earned. And his death, which he didn’t deserve, was on their behalf too. By his death he had taken the penalty due to those who believe on him, so that their names could be cleared of all wrongdoing, and they could be held innocent by God.

A day is coming when he will be revealed in His glory to all the world. Everyone will be summoned, even those who died long ago, because all will be raised to life. That is when all those who have ignored him, and lived in rebellion will be judged and condemned. But all those who have believed on him and lived in loving obedience will be vindicated and rewarded.

If we are to avoid judgement, we must come to him now. He is just as approachable now as he was then. We can’t see him, but he is near to everyone who seeks him in prayer. He never turned away anyone then, and he’ll never turn away anyone now. We just have to ask for his help, for strength to obey, and forgiveness when we fall into sin, and he will always help us.

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