First, the Word of Life update.
Only one of our ladies was able to make it today. We had a good talk about the Incarnation anyway, starting with Jesus’ family life. What must it have been like for your older brother to be literally perfect? How can you look at the boy you watched grow up, the boy you’ve played games with, the boy who had to learn how to spell His own name and drive a nail straight into a piece of wood — and then come to the conclusion that He really is God? For a time, Jesus’ brothers couldn’t do it (John 7:5). But we know at least two of them (James and Jude — see Galatians 1:19 and Jude 1) eventually came around.
We also talked about what Oden calls “the scandal of particularity”. Basically, all this means is that Jesus did not literally experience every aspect of every human existence. It’s true that He was made in every way like us (Heb 2:17), and it’s true that He was tempted just as we are (Heb 4:15), but there were a limited number of things that happened to Him in His thirty-three years on earth. In other words, Jesus is not “whoever you want Him to be”. He is a Man (not a woman). He lived in Israel (not in China, the USA, Spain, or anywhere else). He was a carpenter by trade (not a stock broker or IT professional, or even a fisherman like most of His disciples were). He had a certain number of brothers and sisters. He never aged past thirty-three. He never got married or had children.
The reason this is referred to as a scandal is because it can throw some people off. Some fringe theological feminist movements are offended at the idea of Jesus being a Man. Other groups make bizarre statements like, “Jesus is whatever race you picture Him as being.” These kind of statements end up not making any sense, and the picture of Jesus we walk away with is an abstract, non-human entity. We end up picturing Him (at best) as some kind of mystical Santa Claus figure, who we all know isn’t actually real, but we pretend like he is so we feel better about our pathetic little existance. Such outlandish claims simply cannot be the case. One real, physical human being cannot be everything to everybody. It’s just not possible. As Oden put it, it is the very fact that Jesus was subject to limitations that we can actually identify with Him as a real Person.
What this mistaken line of thinking evidences, however, is a lack of the understanding of the compassion of Jesus. The word “compassion”, in English, literally means to suffer with [derived from Latin — com-: with; -passion: suffer]. I love how Stephen Venable differentiated this in our Christology class from pity. Pity is more of looking down on all the little lowly people around you, and from your place of superiority, you feel sorry for them. Compassion is seeing yourself in the same boat as those who are suffering, and coming alongside of them to love them through it. When Jesus saw the crowds coming to Him, lonely, scattered, aimless and lost, like sheep without a shepherd, He did not cluck His tongue in pity. He was “moved with compassion” (Matthew 9:36). Sympathy means essentially the same thing [derived from Greek — sym-: with; –pathos: feelings or emotion]. So when you read that Jesus is a sympathetic high Priest, think compassion rather than pity.
So I, as a twenty-something year old woman, do not have to feel at arms’ length from Jesus. Even though He was never (nor will He ever be) a young woman trying to find her identity and role in this life, I know He can still identify with me in my suffering. Although He never had to walk into a room full of TV screens or posters of underwear models, and He never had access to adult sites on the internet, He can identify with a young man who is struggling to keep his eyes pure in the midst of a technologically advanced, perverse society. He can identify with a victim of human trafficking, even though He Himself was not physically subjected to that torture. Jesus knows our frame — He knows from experience the limitations and weaknesses that come with living on a fallen earth in an unglorified body. He knows from experience what it is like to live among a broken people. And from His extreme, perfect compassion, He can suffer with the suffering today. He is no stranger to our plight. And knowing that we are deeply loved by a real Jesus — not “the Force”, not “whoever you want Him to be”, but a real Man with a real body and real history — that is what can bring true comfort to our souls. That is what is the basis of a real friendship with a real Person.
There will be no meeting next week, due to the Thanksgiving weekend, but check back in two weeks for our next installment. The plan is to still be discussing the Incarnation.
P.S. – I promised you it was coming, so here it is: the random d’oh moment.
I was in the prayer room just now, and the worship team on stage was playing a Luke Wood song. This is happening more and more lately, because the guy writes awesome music and even better lyrics. It always makes me happy to hear worship teams borrowing from each other, so I thought, “Oh, this is so nice! I love this song. I’m so happy Luke’s songs are getting around.”
And then it struck me… the person leading worship on stage was none other than (no points for guessing) Luke Wood himself. Yep, that’s right. It’s Saturday 10:00pm-midnight, and his team was leading the set just like every other week.