“During his life on earth, he offered up prayer and entreaty, aloud and in silent tears, to the one who had the power to save him out of death, and he submitted so humbly that his prayer was heard. Although he was son, he learned to obey through suffering.” – Hebrews 5: 7-8
Especially right after Christmas, we think about Jesus becoming human, helpless and frail and at the mercy of everything and everyone around him in this fragile world. But do we ever think about how it would have been for him to live out humanity, helpless humanity? We all have so many things in our lives, these days more than ever, that we wish so much that we could control. We feel our helplessness over our lives and the world careening out of control and over our loved ones and even over our own capacity to love. I think more and more we feel the precariousness of everything, but still we live amidst it all.
Imagine Jesus moving from the security of heaven and his father’s embrace and an environment of palpable love into this space so that he could be with us in it and someday carry us out of it. We know that he still had all the power of God in him while he was here—he healed people, calmed the storm, cast out demons and even raised people from the dead. But he doesn’t seem to have ever used that power for his own sake. He lived our lives so completely. He started his ministry in the desert with the devil, tempted to claim that power and use it to prove himself. How often, how relentlessly, how intensely must he have lived with such temptation every day of his life? Knowing he could do something, but mustn’t. Being helpless because he chose to be so completely in it with us, because he had to carry it all. Watching Joseph die. Watching so many people around him misunderstanding him and hating him. Day after day after day feeling all the instabilities and questions and temptations of being human, and choosing to stay in it.
How could he be free in it?
We know he spent a lot of time alone with his Father. Being in that moment of love with him. And we catch a glimpse of one of those times in the agony in the garden. In anguish he begged not to have to go through this next greatest trial of all. “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me. Nevertheless, let your will be done, not mine.” – Luke 22:42
I think he must have surrendered constantly. His aches, his longings, his wrestling, the people he loved, and ultimately always himself. And so, as God and as man, he could keep giving himself to us, living intimately in each one of our lives having lived it all himself. And not only that, but he showed us the way not only by how he loved but even by the surrender of himself that made it possible for him in his humanity to keep living as the God who is love. To keep saying yes to who he was.
And somehow, knowing that he experienced all the things about being human, even the ways we are weak and helpless, that gives me more space to be okay with being weak and helpless, too.
“It is not as if we had a high priest who was incapable of feeling our weaknesses with us; but we have one who has been tempted in every way that we are, though he is without sin. Let us be confident, then, in approaching the throne of grace, that we shall have mercy from him and find grace when we are in need of help.” – Hebrews 4:15-16