Why Christ Came
Have you ever wanted to cry out: “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen”? But then when you tried to express your feelings in words, something down inside of you said: “Oh, what’s the use? No one can really understand.”
Have you ever felt like that? Have you ever felt that God is so untouchable, so far removed from you that you wanted to cry out: “God—up there or out there or wherever you are—you don’t know what it is like to live in a world like this. You are so above it all in the marbled halls of heaven that you just can’t understand”?
Well, there are many messages in the Christmas story, but one of the most important messages is this: God does understand. For when we speak of Christmas, we speak of the time when Christ came into the world. God Himself took on human flesh and dwelt among us. And in that Christmas event, which still happens in your heart and mine, Jesus Christ comes to us in the midst of our loneliness, in the midst of our despair, in the midst of our anguish—and He says to our waiting hearts: “I do know. I do understand. For once I was, as you are now, in flesh and blood on this earth.”
Jesus knew what it was to be a child. He was born in an animal’s feeding trough under circumstances which could leave any child with psychological trauma: rejection…minimum shelter…anxiety on the part of His parents…the flight of fear into Egypt…being hidden away as an infant fugitive to escape political assassination just because of who He was. He knew what it was to grow up in the village of Nazareth—a dusty little town rife with poverty and crime—a highway junction community filled with prostitution and degradation. It was so bad there that people used to quip: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”
Jesus knew what it was to be a teenager not understood by His parents. At age 12, perhaps after He had stood His own Ben Torah (we call it Bar Mitzvah), He was engaged in discussion with rabbis at the temple in Jerusalem. His parents after a long and frantic search found Him there. Out of their own hurt and frustration they cried out: “Did you not care that we have been looking for you for three days?” And He replied: “Don’t you know that I must be about my Father’s business?”
Jesus knew what it was to lose a loved one to death. At some point in His early life, His earthly father, Joseph, died, and Jesus then knew the terrible burden of an eldest son trying to supply the needs of His mother and His brothers and sisters. He knew what it was to rise at dawn and begin work with very little food. He knew how to saw and chisel, to file and plane, to shape wood into plows and chairs and yokes and wagons. He knew what it was to be a businessman—to exact a balance between supply and demand—to keep financial records straight, to deal with customer complaints, and to defend Himself against those who sought to take advantage of Him. He knew the physical fatigue that causes ones to fall upon His bed exhausted, so tired that He can’t even take His shoes off.
Jesus knew what it was to be a single young adult. I suppose He longed, as any other man for the love of a wife, for a home of tenderness, for a joy of family. After all, He had created that relationship and He knew most deeply its potential for human joy and satisfaction. That knowledge must have caused the desire for love and marriage to burn within Him, but He knew that His life was no life for a wife. All too soon she would be left a widow. But still He had deep needs for companionship, for deep friendships and for the presence of those who understood Him. He found that most often, I think, in the home of Mary and Martha and Lazarus.
Jesus knew what it was to be an adult. He knew the weary struggle of reaching high goals against phenomenal odds. He sensed the frustrations of watching humanity with so much potential for good, wasting and destroying those possibilities in the stupidity of war, hatred and ignorance. He knew the incessant demands of a healing ministry. He experienced daily the loss of personal freedom, the pressing crowds hanging on every word from His lips, the clutch of desperate people trying to thrust a loved one into His presence for that therapeutic touch. He knew the grasping and the grabbing at the hem of His garment.
Jesus knew the hard times in life. He knew fatigue so great that He could sleep in a pitching boat in the middle of a storm. He knew what it was to be hungry for silence—many nights He just stayed out in some olive grove praying to His heavenly Father and resting His weary bones. He knew what it was to watch His enemies marshall their forces and provoke the nasty confrontations which would ultimately lead to His death. He knew the inward demand of any human being to save His own skin, even if it meant fudging a little, making some concessions. After all, what good is a dead man in changing the course of history? He struggled with that reality right up to the last minute. In the Garden of Gethsemane, he agonized so deeply and so profoundly that his sweat was like great drops of blood. He knew the temptation to remove Himself from submission to the will of God. Yet ultimately He prayed the prayer of submission—undoubtedly the toughest prayer He ever prayed: “Father, not My will but Thine be done.” Yes, He was tempted and He suffered, at all points the same as you and I—and yet without sin.
Whenever we want to cry out to God: “Lord, You just don’t understand!”—remember that in Jesus Christ, He does understand. For in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, God became one of us. Our loneliness—He knew it. Our hunger for love and affection—He knew it. Our frustration with the way things are—He knew it. Our hope for civilization—He knew it. Our pain of rejection—He knew it. And a tragic, aching, painful, degrading death on the cross—He knew that, too.
Therefore, we do not have a God who is beyond our human feelings, a God who cannot be touched by our trials and tribulations, a God who is unable to understand what it means to be a woman or a man in a world like this. So we can come into His presence to receive help in our time of need, because a God who has known temptation, a God who has known suffering is a God who can help us when we are tempted and when we are suffering.
Why did Christ come? For one reason—to become one of us. He is here now. He can hear our prayers. He can understand our needs. He is one of us.