“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” – Hebrews 4:15
To date, I don’t think anyone has ever preached on this verse as part of the Advent Season. After all, it has never been equated with Jesus’s birth. However, I think it should be. This verse states clearly despite using a double negative that God DOES sympathize with your weaknesses. God does get you.
Yesterday, I wrote that the Incarnation is much like a loving father who stoops down to his child’s level. He has squatted down to be eye level with his child. More than, he has entered their world at their intellectual, emotional, and spiritual level.
The Incarnation is more than that. It is the answer to the age-old cry: “No one gets me. Who can really understand my pain?” The answer is the Lord Jesus Christ and that is more than a Sunday School answer.
Let’s start from the beginning. If you look at the family tree of Jesus in Matthew 1, you’ll notice four named women: Tamar, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary. The first three women were Gentile, not Jewish women. Tamar and Bathsheba were both adulterers and Ruth comes from a nation born out of incest. If you think your family tree is checkered, you are not alone. As for Mary, she too lived under a cloud. She would forever be remembered as the girl who had a child out of wedlock. Back then in the ancient world, that stigma would stay with you.
Second, Jesus was born of humble origins. His earthly father was Joseph who was a carpenter. By tradition, Jesus learned his trade from Joseph. Carpentry then and today is not an easy job. It’s more than just banging hammers and nail; you have to know how to choose the right tree to provide the right lumber. You have to know how to use the right tools. The work might be steady but might not pay much. If you have ever lived from paycheck to paycheck, had multiple low paying jobs, or worked on commission, you know how tight money can get. Jesus understood that.
Third, Jesus grew up in Nazareth, a backwater town. Depending on where you are from, you can probably picture a village that has no more than 1000 people with only one store and two gas stations. Blink and you probably missed it. Worse, Nazareth had the reputation for being immoral. “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” one of the Apostles asked when introduced to Jesus.
In her book Nickel and Dimed, On (not) Getting by in America, Barbara Ehrenreich went undercover as an unskilled laborer in America. She worked low paying jobs like a hotel maid, a waitress, and Walmart Sales clerk. She lived in the cheapest motels since that was what she could afford on the low wages. She concluded that there is no such thing as “unskilled labor” since all those jobs require training, discipline, and physical energy. Jesus hung out with the working classes than the social and religious elite. He had friends in all social levels but those closest to him were also blue collared workers.
“The foxes have holes, the birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to place his head.” Jesus understood that. Throughout his earthly ministry, he had no home of his own. He relied on the generosity of others. There were probably plenty of inns and taverns throughout the ancient world. The richest might get a private room but the poorest would have to sleep together in a massive room with twenty or thirty strangers. Jesus knew what it was like have little.
“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.”2 Cor 8:9
Fourth, Jesus Himself knew what it was like to be slandered and misunderstood. “A glutton and friend of sinners” was the often heard refrain. Here is another one: “Are you not the son of Joseph?” That could be read two ways – both bad. Since Jesus was considered born out of wedlock, Joseph was not really his father. Those are also fighting words. The other way it was used – “you’re just a carpenter’s son – what do you know about spiritual truths? Where did you go to school?” the Pharisees and Sadducees would sneer.
If his enemies were not enough, His own family thought he was crazy and wanted to take him home. They feared that Jesus was having a meltdown or something. You would think his own mother and brothers would have believed but they did not.
I am sure those reading this post have also gone through some family drama. Even the most living and supportive families will still have strife. If there is money enough like inheritances and properties, that has the power and potential to turn siblings against each other. Or consider my friend Bill; he is the sole Christian in his family and avoids family reunions since half of them will be drunk and obnoxious before the night is over. He truly loves them and wants to be with them, but not when they reach that state and then insult him for being a Christian. I can say confidently Jesus understood that too.
As you read this, perhaps some or all of this will resonate with you.
- Your family tree is like a Christmas cake: full of fruits and nuts.
- You can from the wrong sides of the tracks.
- No one thought you would amount to anything good.
- You might have been misunderstood or slandered.
- You just don’t get along with your family – however hard you tried.
- Your education background – what education background?
None of the above has ever stopped Jesus from loving you. That is why He came. That is why the Incarnation is so special above all at Christmas.