Part two of the Back to the Heart of the Faith series.
“In the beginning…” John writes at the start of his particular Gospel account regarding the very Word [made flesh], continuing to write that the Word itself existed as both uniquely unified and distinguishable from God, which is to say that, as he writes, “the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1; emphasis added appropriately). Going further, the Word was in the beginning with God and all created things have their beginning through Him, yet, the Word, being God and existing prior to creation, was not created and existed just as God exists, for “without him nothing was made that has been made” (v. 2-3). Despite the speechless and incomprehensible existence, of which the human mind could not so much as feign understanding, the Word became flesh – that is, condescended to man (v. 14; Phil 2:7). Even though donning the suit of a servant, in Him the very fullness of the Godhead existed in bodily form, but this One, though divine, was not too lofty so as to become detached from us, no, see in His very life here, walking among the people, He too suffered.
Soon after Jesus had been baptized by John, He had gone into the desert and fasted for forty days and nights. Suffering from hunger, He began to be tempted by Satan. The tempter, knowing Jesus’ hunger, entices Him to turn the stones to bread if He really was who He said He was. If He truly was who He claimed to be, the tempter offers again, bringing Him to the highest point of the temple, He should then throw Himself from it, for God offered protection. Finally, he attempts to offer Jesus power – the kingdoms of the world were to be given to Jesus if He would bow before and worship him. These things are why the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews offers, “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted…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” (Mt 4:1-11; He 2:18; 4:15).
Jesus is able to empathize with human weaknesses and His compassion is profound. While He walked among the people, He took time to heal broken, dying, or dead for both the sake of those grieving and as an attestation to the validity of His own authority. Jesus showed this in His healing of the paralytic man (Mt 9:1-8), where He forgave the man of His sins and healed Him to show the truth behind His own authority. Not all had to have that underlying purpose and such attestations occurred as a consequence or effect of the action, such as the healing of every disease He came across (Mt 4:23) or the healing of Lazarus, who had died (Jn 11:1-16). The Gospel accounts contain numerous recorded events where Jesus felt compassion for the sick and dying, but this compassion is not limited to the healing of physical ailments, for He even gave a longstanding offer of refuge from the difficulties of this life.
Jesus as refuge is a common theme in the New Testament and this is found in no more specific manner than Matthew 11:28-30, wherein He extends to all, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Knowing the human propensity to worry and struggle, Jesus gave all mankind a way to find peace, but it is not simply to end the matter with this alone. Jesus appealed to humanity’s insatiable thirst and hunger when reinforcing Himself as the bread of life and giver of living water to sate the appetites and thirsts of humanity’s need (Jn 4:10; 6:35; 7:37-38). It is in this that one may understand Jesus’ encouragement, for, in seeking first the kingdom of God, one may have both freedom from concern and assurance of one’s needs being filled.
Finally, as simple as it is to say and as common knowledge as it is for all among the brethren, Christ Jesus serves as the example for those who have been circumcised in their hearts. Jesus, in offering us certain refuge and rest, described Himself as being both gentle and humble and Paul, writing to the Ephesians, urged the brethren to be “imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:1-2). Those in Him should, then, in like manner, follow after His example, becoming humble, gentle, loving of one another and the truth. Further, more than just loving one another, the sheep must love those who are also not among the flock, just as He came and gave His life for all of mankind. In this, one cannot pass the fact that Jesus was more than just His crucifixion and the significance is more than the consequence of a sacrifice. No, He lived a life which we are meant to follow with every step and every breath, thanking and praying, loving and giving, until we are called to eternal, intimate fellowship with the Most High. All to the glory of the very Word made flesh, who, in the beginning was with and was God, then, donning the suit of a servant, became a little lower than the angels, but, in bodily form, all the fullness of the Godhead. Amen.