It is very common to hear about Jesus’ life through his three and a half years of ministry, and it is sometimes difficult for us to identify with his milestones in a meaningful way. Not many of us have had to stand up against the religious and political leaders of the day with a completely new message. In a similar way, it is easier to see ourselves receiving miracles instead of performing miracles as Jesus did for others.
Jesus’ life was set apart to be totally different but, when we take a closer look, we find that it also very much like yours and mine.
He was a refugee.
As a babe, he had to flee from his homeland because of the ambitions of King Herod against him. As a child refugee, he grew up in the land of Egypt, whose pharaohs once enslaved his people. He had to wait until the death of Herod before his family returned to the land of his birth.
He lived under occupation.
He returned from Egypt to a land under occupation by a foreign power. The land of his forefathers had become the Judaea Province of Rome. A Jewish child, he grew up in the faith and traditions of his people, “like a tender plant, a root from dry ground”- Isaiah’s imagery. He had an inquisitive and sharp mind and amazed teachers in the Temple at Jerusalem at the age of twelve.
He was a carpenter, a tradesman by occupation. However, he had a rather nondescript appearance and physique. Isaiah spoke of him as having “no form nor comeliness… there is no beauty that we should desire him”.
He was familiar with discrimination in many situations. He knew what it felt to be at the receiving end of contempt and rejection by others. Sorrow was a frequent companion, grief a regular acquaintance.
He was also familiar with Zealots openly inciting the local populace to rebel against Roman authority. He saw and felt the yoke of the Law that the Teachers of the Law imposed on the general populace. They had retained its forms but lost its substance.
It was this man, living with the challenges and concerns common to the day, who professed to be equal to God. Quite a number found his claim to be blasphemous. How can this man be God?
Jesus claimed: “I and Father are One”… “I am the Son of God”. John 10:30,36
He challenged his hearers, primarily Jews, with the words: “If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do, though you believe not me, believe the works: that you may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him. (John 10:37,38)
Many took offense and some who knew him and his family said: “Is this not Joseph’s son?” (Lk 4:22) “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us?”(Mk 6:3)
It culminated in his crucifixion and death on Golgotha, the place of the skulls. [Even the Roman historian Tacitus, has a reference to this event in one page of his final work, Annals (written ca. AD 116), book 15, chapter 44.]
Further debate arose after Jesus died. God actually died? To many Greeks of that time, God crucified and dying on a cross was nonsensical and utter foolishness.
But his followers proclaimed that he resurrected on the third day after his burial. That he later ascended into heaven and now sits at the right hand of Father God as a man, like us.
For me, this man is God invading into time and history. In being born a Savior, Christ the Lord, God has now become historically and concretely accessible to you and me here on earth.
I have heard this man’s voice. I have felt his touch. I have experienced his comfort, warmth, tenderness and love.
I have found this man, Christ Jesus, to be human like (one with) me in all ways, “flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone”. Yet, at the same time, in him I encounter the Divine, for he is also the Word, Who is God, Who, in love became flesh.
In this man Jesus, I see the cross of love that God, Father, Son and Spirit had to bear for you and me. To enable you and me to partake of their Triune divine nature, Father and Spirit jointly through Son had to first partake of our human nature, in and through Son becoming this man, Jesus.
Triune God, in love with humanity, in and through suffering, bore this cross.
Love without suffering and love in and through suffering has great significant differences, among others, depth, feelings, emotions, warmth and tenderness. To me, the latter is far deeper, more meaningful and has greater value than the former.
Becoming a “man of sorrows and acquainted with grief”, despised and afflicted by us, continuing to love and forgive us, even unto death at the cross, that we might have eternal life through him; this to me, is the epitome of God’s expression of love for you and me. This expression of love continually evokes a deep response within me to love him ever anew and more deeply in return.
In love, one with(like) us in all ways, perfected through suffering, this man is now also our High Priest, ever ready, willing and able to present our request and petitions before God: “For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize and understand our weaknesses and temptations, but One who has been tempted [knowing exactly how it feels to be human] in every respect as we are, yet without [committing any] sin.”(Amplified Bible).
Consequently, you and I can now boldly approach God’s throne of grace to obtain mercy, and find grace to help in all times of need.
What a man, this man: God with us, God with me, God with you!