I once waded into the Jordan River. On a trip to Israel, my family and I stopped to see the traditional spot of Jesus’ baptism. It’s a charming place. Sycamores cast their shadows. Birds chirp. The water invites. So I accepted the invitation and waded in to be baptized.
No one wanted to join me so I immersed myself. I declared my belief in Christ and sank so low in the water I could touch the river bottom. When I did, I felt a stick and pulled it out. Well, what do you know–a baptism memento! Some people get certificates or Bibles; I like my stick. It’s about as thick as your wrist, long as your forearm, and smooth as a baby’s behind. I keep it on my office credenza so I can show it to fear-filled people.
When they chronicle their anxieties about the economy or concern about their kids, I hand them the stick. I tell them how God muddied his feet in our world of diapers, death, digestion, and disease. How John told him to stay on the riverbank, but Jesus wouldn’t listen. How he came to earth for this very purpose, to become one of us. “Why, he might have touched this very stick,” I like to say.
As they smile, I ask, “Since he came this far to reach us, can’t we take our fears to him?”
“For our high priest [Jesus] is able to understand our weaknesses. When he lived on earth he was tempted in every way that we are, but he did not sin. Let us, then, feel very sure that we can come before God’s throne where there is grace. There we can receive mercy and grace to help us when we need it” (Hebrews 4:15-16 NCV).
Does this miracle matter? It does if you are bedridden. It does if you battle disease. It does if chronic pain is a part of your life. The One who hears your prayers understands your pain. He never shrugs or scoffs or dismisses physical struggle. He had a human body.
Does this miracle matter? If you ever wonder if God understands you, it does. If you ever wonder if God listens, it does. If you ever wonder if the Uncreated Creator can, in a million years, comprehend the life of a truck driver, housewife, or immigrant, then ponder long and hard the promise of the incarnation. God say: I understand you and I always will.
Are you troubled in spirit? He was, too. (John 12:27)
Are you so anxious that you could die? He was, too. (Matthew 26:38)
Are you overwhelmed with grief? He was, too. (John 11:35)
Have you ever prayed with loud cries and tears? He did, too. (Hebrews 5:7)
Some have pointed to the sinlessness of Jesus as evidence that he cannot fully understand us. After all, if he never sinned, they reason, how could he understand the full force of sin? Simple, he felt it more than we do. We give in! He never did. We surrender. He never did. He stood before the tsunami and never wavered. In that manner, he understands it more than anyone who ever lived.
And then, in his grandest deed, he volunteered to feel the consequence of sin.
“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21 NIV).
The greatest pain of the cross was the pain of sin. Jesus didn’t deserve to feel the shame, but he felt it. He didn’t deserve the humiliation, but he experienced it. He had never sinned, yet was treated like a sinner. He became sin. All the guilt, remorse, and embarrassment– Jesus understands it.
Does this miracle matter? To the hypocrite, it does. To the person who can’t remember last night’s party it does. To the cheater, slanderer, gossip, or scoundrel who comes to God with a contrite spirit, it matters. It matters because they need to know, “we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16 NIV).
Because Jesus is human, he understands you. Because he is divine he can help you. But he does neither if you don’t go to him. He didn’t remain aloof; why would we? He didn’t keep his distance; why would we keep ours?
Let this be the day you draw near to him. He entered your world so that you could enter his.
© Max Lucado, January, 2017