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Can Jesus relate to Me? 20 Reasons Why He Can.

It is easy for us to become too heavenly minded when thinking about Jesus of Nazareth. He is, of course, the man from heaven and He now reigns in heaven over all things.  But it's easier for we believers to think of the Jesus who walked on water, than being able to imagine that same Jesus walking to the pantry to get a bowl for his mother. We need to always keep the heavenly side of Jesus in mind, He is Lord of all. However, sometimes focusing only on that side of Jesus may lead us to feel distant from Him and that all this talk of heaven and heavenly-stuff just doesn't matter much down here in the middle of the mundane. So what if Jesus is Lord, what does my dish-washing, car-commuting, diaper-changing, dinner-making, work-managing, lawn-mowing, kids-screaming, spouse-fighting, bill-collecting existence have to do with Him? So what if He's the Messiah-deliver, can He deliver me from these dishes, homework, or Friday TPS reports?

The answer is yes, of course He can deliver you from all that, but the truth is no, He won't do it. Instead He's interested in redeeming your life and forming you to be like Him mostly through the very things we want to avoid: the messy mundane things of life, relationships, work, family, church, and community. The comforting news is that He is with us always and He's been here before personally. The Lord fully took upon Himself humanity in Jesus of Nazareth and entered completely into the human experience. So can He relate? Absolutely, and here's why:

  • #1 - Jesus had a family. This says it all. When he was born, he was born into a family that over time grew to be quite a household. He had a mother, a step-father, and brothers, and likely had sisters. At one point during his ministry, his mother and brothers chase him down to talk to him (Mark 3:31-34).
  • #2 - Jesus knew how to make a meal. That's right Jesus could cook. After His resurrection, Jesus prepared a meal of fish for some of His disciples. With His glorified hands, He filleted fish and baked bread over an open fire and fed his disciples (Jn 21:9-14).
  • #3 - Jesus knew how to work a job.Survival in the First Century meant that the whole family worked. It was asked of Jesus, "Is not this the carpenter's son?" (Mt 13:55). Presumably, Jesus learned this trade and spent much of his youth and young adulthood working. Think of this: Jesus of Nazareth spent more time on earth working prior to his ministry than He did in ministry.
  • #4 - Jesus handled the small stuff. Not only did Jesus handle small stuff, He commended it to us. It was Jesus who took up the towel and poured water over the feet of his disciples and washed them (Jn 13:4-5). As we can see, Jesus did not belittle the mundane, but actually glorified it and demonstrates to us that literally every small thing can be a part of the eternal life we have now.
  • #5 - Jesus had time for kids. While others attempted to shield Jesus from the children, Jesus rebuked them, and let the children come right to Him saying, "for to such belongs the kingdom of God" (Mk 10:13-15).
  • #6 - Jesus had time for parties. The first miracle of Jesus recorded in John's Gospel was Jesus turning water into wine at a wedding party (Jn 2:1-12). And indeed, after He did so, the party apparently got better (Jn 2:10).
  • #7 - Jesus lived under authority. The man with all power in heaven and earth did not grasp for authority, but submitted Himself to the divinely-appointed authorities in his own life. He was a good son, an obedient one, and Luke tells us that after the episode in the Temple, Jesus went home with his mom and dad and became submissive to them (Lk 2:51).
  • #8 - Jesus had to pay taxes. Jesus didn't even have the money to pay the taxes, but when they were asked of him, He performed a small miracle, and paid taxes (Mt 17:24-27).
  • #9 - Jesus got hungry. After his 40-day fast, Matthew's Gospel tells us that Jesus was hungry. Of course He was! How could He not be?
  • #10 - Jesus got tired. When Jesus stopped in Samaria, we learn that He was weary (Jn 4:6). Before the miracle of the loaves and fishes, we learn from Mark that Jesus was trying to take  rest in the countryside (Mk 6:31). During a great storm at sea, Jesus lay sleeping in the boat (Mk 4:35-39).
  • #11 - Jesus was misunderstood. When reading the Gospels it sometimes seems that the only ones who understood Jesus were his very enemies! In the whole of the Gospel of Mark, the first person to declare Jesus as the Son of God was the centurion overseeing His crucifixion (Mk 15:39). While the crowds followed, rarely did they fully understand, and the Twelve were often confused (Mk 15:16).
  • #12 - Jesus's friends didn't all get along. The Twelve were no exception. They squabbled and vied for position in Jesus's coming kingdom (Mk 9:33-35) and some even had their mother come and seek his favor (Mt 20:20-22).
  • #13 - Jesus experienced the loss of a friend. In John chapter 11, Lazarus is no random dead guy, but Jesus's own friend whose family He loved (Jn 11:5). When Jesus weeps, i.e. the shortest verse of Scripture: "Jesus wept" (Jn 11:35), let us lay aside all speculation, and just imagine that Jesus is weeping because of what Lazarus and his family had endured.
  • #14 - Jesus experienced the full force of temptation. The Scriptures tell us that He was tempted in every way just like us (Heb 4:15), but we might add more so because He persevered through the personal attack of Satan himself (Lk 4:1-12).
  • #15 - Jesus faced intense personal opposition. As His ministry wore on, Jesus collected more and more enemies who opposed him. Publicly they assailed Him with questions and criticisms. Secretly they conspired to destroy Him (Jn 11:45-57).
  • #16 - Jesus submitted His will to God for very difficult obedience. Even Jesus did not find obedience easy or simple. When Jesus realized the nearness of His impending betrayal and death, He found strength only in long prayer during which He submitted Himself to God: "not my will, but yours, be done" (Lk 22:42).
  • #17 - Jesus experienced personal rejection. This rejection began in his own hometown with his own neighbors who could not receive Him as Messiah because He had grown up in their midst as the son of Joseph and Mary (Mt 13:53-59). When He said hard things, some followers left to the point that Jesus even asked the Twelve, "will you leave as well?" (Jn 6:60-67). He was betrayed by own of his closest followers by a kiss (Lk 22:47-48). Ultimately His own nation and people rejected Him and turned Him over to be crucified (Jn 1:11, 19:16-22). And when this happened, his own hand-picked followers fled: "and they all left him and fled" (Mk 14:50). And in a tragic turn, His most ardent follower, Peter denied Him (Lk 22:54-62).
  • #18 - Jesus experienced horrible physical pain. Crucifixion was the culmination of the Roman science of execution. It was designed to maximize pain, misery, shame, and humiliation for the sake of displaying the result of the Empire's most severe displeasure. The experience of pain is difficult to compare, but surely Jesus endured among the worse for six hours on that dark Friday.
  • #19 - Jesus experienced the full weight of guilt and shame for sin. As Jesus hung upon the cross, naked between heaven and earth, He endured not only terrible physical pain but also the full penalty of sin: separation from the Father. The wrath of God for all sin fell like a hammer from heaven and He screamed to the heavens: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Mk 15:34). Of all that we have covered so far, here we go beyond anything to which we can now relate to fully. Yes, we know what guilt and shame are, but we have never experienced the full wrath of God for sin. The glory of the Gospel is that this is something which believers will not have to relate to, but will be shielded from by the grace of God because Jesus has already endured that wrath.
  • #20 - Jesus experienced death. The wages of sin is death, and sin, even when laid upon the perfect Lamb of God, sin resulted in death. Whatever the experience of death is, Jesus of Nazareth underwent it completely. His heart stopped beating, His brainwaves ceased, His lungs rested, and His life was gone. His body was removed from the cross lifeless, wrapped for burial, and laid in a tomb. Where our ancestors have gone, our loves ones laid to rest, and ourselves will someday go, even there Jesus has already been.

The greatness of our God is that the Lord Himself came to us. He experienced all this AND He is the Lord and Savior of all, present, near, and indwelling those who trust Him.  In thinking on all this, we are not to feel sorry for Jesus, but to praise God for our Savior Jesus is a great High Priest who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses (Hb 4:15).

Studying for Joy: A Forgotten Discipline

Psalm 111:2 - "Great are the works of the LORD, studied by all who delight in them." I have been thinking about this verse a lot of recent. It motivates me and encourages me as a student of the Lord. Studying is a hobby of mind, as well as reading and collecting good books, so a Scripture like this ready ammunition against those who demean the labor of study and hard thinking.  But what can we learn from this verse?

First, studying is one of the basic spiritual disciplines of the Christian life. Praising, praying, and pushing back our plates to fast are all basic disciplines but we rarely talk about this one, the discipline of study. Studying takes time. Studying requires effort. Studying requires patience. It is more than reading. It is doubtless related to seeking solitude and meditation but it goes beyond that. It involves an intentional seeking out, investigation, process of discovery, and the capture of one's effort by pen, paper, keyboard, or computer.

Second, this discipline is engaged in by those who delight in the works of the LORD. There is a sense of inevitability here, like the moth drawn to the flame, or to give a more life-affirming metaphor, a deer drawn to a stream. We see here that the "upright" (vs. 1) are those who delight in God's work. And because they delight in God's works they are pulled into contemplation, reflection, and deep thinking on what God has accomplished, revealed, and spoken. This impulse to study is not driven by duty or demand but by delight. Delight is the greatest motivator in the world.  People do what they enjoy. What kind of people are the upright? Those who enjoy thinking upon the things of God. 

Of course, studying is not easy. We are talking about disciplines but drudgery is not a necessary component of discipline. Some use verses such as Ecclesiastes 12:12, "Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh," in reference to study of the Scriptures but it does not apply here.  Ecclesiastes is a book which poetically and proverbially lays out the futility of man-centered thinking. In that context, the kind of study implied in Ecclesiastes is from a man-centered view of the universe that is "vanity of vanities." Just think of the piles of books in the stacks of your nearby public university and imagine being stuck there forever looking for answers from the great learned men of the ages-Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Hume, Spinoza, and all the rest with their lineage of interpreters-and never able to arrive at coherent answers. Yes, that is futility!  Those books will wear you out, but the Book will give you life. University studies may exhaust you, but those who wait upon the Lord receive strength (Isaiah 40:31).

Third, the focus of study is on the works of the LORD.  It is the great works of the Lord that the upright delight in, not the exercise of study itself. Study for the sake of study for the sake of personal smarts is not the goal here, that kind of study is the kind that leads to weariness of the flesh! The works of the Lord is a broad term encompassing all that God has done from the awesomeness of His creative power, to His mighty acts of deliverance and judgment, the giving of His law, and His inspired words through the prophets.  This is all of reality under God and God-filled.  The upright see the universe as a stage for the drama of God's plan.  This allows the believer to stake a claim on everything and study it before God with God in clear view but giving each subject its own due.  However, we must not lose sight here that the centerpiece of this study is God Himself and all His works.  There is an implied circle of delight here: God reveals Himself in His works, the upright delight in them and study them, God reveals more of Himself, the upright study and find delight, and forever this will continue...  As Lewis ended the Chronicles of Narnia with the words, "...and every chapter was better than the last!"

In Awe of God's Humility

God models perfectly every virtue that the Spirit is trying to bear in us as we are slowly being reformed in Christ's image. Humility is one of those virtues. Philippians 2:3 says, "do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves." I believe that God in Christ perfectly displayed this kind of humility. Even though it really was all about Him, He made Himself all about other people. We often think of God's power and knowledge, love and grace, and certainly His Holiness. But rarely do we think of His humility. God's humility is holy humility. The perfect combination of love and grace wedded together to display what humility truly is.

I'm in awe of the humility displayed in the manger.

Christ's roots are royal but not necessarily noble. Instead of a grand entrance into the world, God displayed His humility in His Son's humble beginnings. I can't believe that God came in Christ as a man that was born as a baby in the midst of barn animals, reared by parents who could only afford a turtledove-sized offering, and he was trained in carpentry in a small village.

I'm in awe of the humility displayed in a king on his knees washing the feet of his followers.

This action is not a tactic to be found in books of leadership. It will not be advised in books on management. It's upside-down, inside-out, backwards, the last is first, and the least is the greatest. Here is a leader who says: "You will not serve me, but I will serve you. You will not die for me, but I will die for you." Read it for yourself: Mark 10:45.

I'm in awe of the humility displayed in a king hanging on a cross.

Humility is often displayed in ways that humans consider weakness. Like Jesus dying on a cross between thieves, the failed prophet of a lost cause. But humility is not weakness, rather it is an acknowledgement of where true power comes from. Like Jesus dying on the cross saying, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do."

I'm in awe of the humility of a king ascending into heaven, leaving His kingdom in the hands of his followers.

Humble is the leader who delegates with trust. And that's what Christ did when He ascended into heaven to pour out His Spirit upon His followers and to leave the Church in their hands.

Even though it really was all about Him, He made Himself all about other people. What amazes me most is that I'm one of those other people. God came in Christ for me. This is mind-blowing, earth-shaking, pulsating truth. I don't know how to calculate, weigh, or figure this out. The only thing I know to do is to worship, serve, and pursue. To humble myself before the mighty hand of a God who humbled Himself in Christ.

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