by Joe McKeever
Some years ago, Rosie Ruiz ran in the New York City Marathon and came in first in the women's division. After giving her the star treatment at the finish line, someone remarked that they did not recall seeing her pass several checkpoints along the route. By studying the videos of the race, judges learned that Ruiz had run the first mile or so, then taken a bus across town where she waited for the cluster of lead runners, and blended in. She might have run three miles in all. Rosie Ruiz' name will forever stand for those who want to take shortcuts but still receive full credit.
God could have cut corners and sent Jesus into our world full-grown. There are, some will remember, pre-incarnate, man-sized appearances of the Lord Jesus in the Old Testament. He is usually referred to there as "the Angel of the Lord." God could have done that. He could have saved Himself a lot of trouble by canceling the stable in Bethlehem, the torturous trek of the magi, and the murderous tirade of Herod. But He didn't. Why? Why a Baby?
Theologians and scholars can produce a long list of possible answers to this puzzle. Here are my top three.
One: to Reveal God to us.
Had a thirty-year-old Jesus suddenly appeared on earth, ready to do battle with the devil, He could have accomplished a lot, but there's one thing we never would have known: what God is really like. The Father would forever be a stranger to us-an Intruder, a Visitor from outside our world. But He took the long way. He "became flesh and dwelt among us." We got to see up close and personal what God was like. "He who has seen me has seen the Father," Jesus told us.
In the center of London sits Trafalgar Square, named for the 1805 battle in which Admiral Horatio Nelson led the British to victory against Napoleon's fleet. Nelson was killed in that battle and a statue was erected in his honor. The pedestal supporting the statue stands 170 feet in the air-so high that no one can see the figure of Nelson. Eventually, Parliament commissioned the artist to produce an identical figure to be placed at eye level.
Jesus Christ is God at eye level. To see what God is like, look at Jesus.
Two: to Share Our Humanity.
God was not content to sit in heaven sending memos and angels and prophets to a lost mankind. In the fullness of time, God came Himself in the person of His Son. The name "Immanuel" which both testaments apply to Jesus, literally means "God with us." God in a manger. God, the baby boy. All God and all man. It staggers our imagination.
The genius of our Lord's dual nature is also the source of much consternation. He was a miraculous blend of the best of heaven and the best of earth. How could this be?
Historians trace spiritual movements in which God's people have gotten this out of balance, sometimes seeing Him as strictly human but not divine, and at other times all deity and no humanity. Each extreme is heresy. The Scripture presents Jesus' dual nature in beautiful simplicity, without any attempt to explain it or reconcile it. As man, He hungered and thirsted, grew tired and was angry. He was tempted and He wept. He hurt and perspired and laughed.
As God, Jesus was able to do for us what only God can do. He healed the sick and forgave sinners and raised the dead. As God, Jesus was the Giver, as man the Gift. On Calvary, as God Jesus was the Priest and as man the Sacrifice. In redeeming us, as God He paid the price, while as man He was that price. We know these things and confess these truths, and find our minds reeling at the complexity.
Three: to Connect with the Hurting.
Jesus has been where we are, has felt what we feel, and knows what it's like to be us.
Roger was a frequent visitor in my home some years ago when I was his pastor. He was 19 or 20 years old, and may have been slightly retarded. He was kind and lovable, but Roger was a misfit. He drove his pickup around town and was able to work at fast food restaurants for short periods, but that was the limit of his abilities. Roger's social skills were almost totally lacking, but the desire to love and be loved was completely normal. He would sit in my living room and through his tears tell how he would approach women on the street and ask if they were married. He knew enough not to ask a married woman for a date, but no instruction beyond that seemed to take with him. The women he accosted, of course, were frightened and hurried away. "Joe," he would say to me through his pain, "why doesn't God know what it feels like to be me?" I tried to explain to Roger that that was the one thing we could be sure of, that God knows what it is like to be rejected and that He hurts with us.
"We do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses," the writer of Hebrews declares, "but One who was tempted in all things just as we are, yet without sin." Our Savior has walked this earth and been where you are and knows how you feel. A former politician saw the power this has to connect with the hurting, and made something shallow and trite of it, but it is nevertheless true that the Lord Jesus "feels our pain."
An old gospel song by Marijohn Wilkins celebrates the wonders of heaven. The refrain says,
And the only thing there
That's been made by a man
Are the scars in the hands of Jesus.
At this moment in heaven there is One who has personal experience with our condition-our capacity, our potential, our problems, and our needs. He understands our sufferings and our tears. He is our personal Intercessor with the heavenly Father. He is our Lord and Savior, the Only Begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ.
There is no one else like Him. Jesus and only Jesus is Lord.