God Might Know Us
The living God also took on skin so that God might know us. Two thousand years ago, when the invisible God became visible for the first time, God was only barely visible—a single, fertilized egg, an embryo almost imperceptible to the naked human eye. John tells us that the Light of the World voluntarily entered the darkness of the womb for nine months, before he was born.
Let’s pause and reflect on this for a moment. As a newborn baby, the One who designed the eye could not focus his eyes. Like the rest of us, he first saw in black and white and then eventually in color. The living God of the universe could not feed himself, and so he had to learn to breastfeed. The God who holds the universe together could not control his bladder or bowel, and so he had to crawl around in the first century equivalent of diapers. At about age one, the Word learns to say his first word. Around this time, he probably learned to take his first steps. As a boy, he would likely fall and scrape his knee.
There is much, in fact nearly everything, about Jesus’s growing years that we do not know. But let’s imagine for a moment. Perhaps as a child, he grew bored of his toys and walked away from them. He likely went through the emotional ups and downs of adolescence as the waves of hormonal change tossed him about. As a junior apprentice carpenter, perhaps splinters in his fingers were common; as he learned to use a hammer, he occasionally missed and hit his thumb. How did he react to that? Jesus wasn’t born knowing that he was the unique Son of God, but with the help of the Holy Spirit, he discovered this over the course of time. Scripture tells us that Jesus went through a spiritual maturing process as he learned to obey God through what he suffered (Hebrews 5:8).
When I was in seminary, I read textbooks about people’s problems and poured over case studies based on true stories. When I became a pastor, I sat across from people who told me about the deep pain they were going through. Since I had already read about these various problems, and I was now hearing about them from people whom I was growing to know and love, I felt like I knew quite a lot about suffering. Then I experienced some of that pain for myself. I was engaged, and I went through a devastating breakup. Sometime later, my wife and I lost an unborn baby. Then, in time, I experienced the pain of losing my father. It’s one thing to read about pain, and it’s another to listen to and sympathize with someone else’s pain. But it’s altogether different to go through the pain and then be able to empathize deeply because you yourself have suffered.
Because Jesus Christ was fully human, he knows what it is like to feel hungry and tired, to be financially destitute, or to suffer the loss of a loved one. He knows how it feels to have his prayers go unanswered or to feel completely alone, abandoned by God. Some of his last words on the cross were, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34, Psalm 22:1). Jesus experienced abuse, torture, and then paralysis when his limbs were pinned by nails. He was tempted by the Evil One to sin, and even though he didn’t sin, he felt shame when he absorbed our sins on the cross.
Whatever we are going through—loss, oppression, depression—Jesus has suffered as well, and so he can stand with us in our pain. I don’t want to minimize the suffering you have experienced, but the pain and suffering Jesus faced was greater than yours or mine. Thus Scripture teaches that Jesus empathizes with our suffering because he has been tried and tempted in every way we are (Hebrews 4:15–16).
God knows everything; we call it omniscience. But Scripture is clear that Jesus grew and learned. What things did Jesus learn about being human during his time on earth?
Have you ever had a struggle that you thought God doesn’t understand? Some temptation that feels beyond his realm of experience? Take a moment to be honest with God about those things.
Hebrews 4 encourages us that Jesus can relate to our experience of temptation—yet did not sin. How can you remind yourself to go to him when you are tempted and ask him for his strength to resist?