By Judy Salisbury
Isn’t it curious how many of us who claim complete trust in Jesus still imagine Him as a bit too lofty and beyond us to the point that often He is the last Person we go to during our most troubled times? I am sure you have heard or perhaps have said, “Well, since there is nothing else I can do I just have to leave it in His hands.” It is as if we treated those nail-scared hands as a last resort instead of our first thought. Self-effort failed, so I might as well try Jesus. Why do so many of us fall into this pattern? Because intuitively we realize that true intimacy comes with knowing and while we are all on board with His omniscience, many of us as believers tend to miss a much greater picture.
Indeed, Jesus is God; and as a Man, He lived a sinless life. Indeed, He died, rose from the dead and is in Heaven, not only making intercession before the Father on behalf of our sins but also preparing a place for us to be with Him for all eternity. With all that going on can He really relate to little old us? Can He relate to us in our pain and frailty? Can He truly be our Wonderful Counselor? He most certainly can. All that Christ endured alone makes Him the perfect One with whom to take our cares and woes. For me, as the author of The Conversation: An Intimate Journal of the Emmaus Encounter, this lofty truth became a personal reality as I attempted to expound on what He experienced when He walked among us. Let’s take a moment to consider just some of what he faced.
Jesus knew poverty and homelessness. In Matthew 8:20 Jesus said, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” His every need was met on a day-to-day basis, including His taxes.
He can relate to us through the painful loss of a close friend or family member. Jesus wept over His friend Lazarus, the painful intrusion of death itself on His very good creation, and for those who wailed at the loss of their beloved brother and friend.
He knew what it was like to be misunderstood by those who should have known Him better—His own family. In Mark, Chapter 3, when the crowds in His hometown became so large that He was even unable to take time to eat, His family tried to take Him forcefully as we read in Mark 3:21, “He has lost His senses.” In John 7:5, the Scripture states, “For even His own brothers did not believe in Him.” Of course, after His compelling Resurrection, they couldn’t help but come around.
Do you know the pain of a wayward child who you long to embrace with your arms and the truth of God’s love as they reject everything you’ve taught them and that you hold dear? Jesus knew even this pain as he lamented in Matthew 23:37, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.”
Jesus constantly seemed to encounter people who wanted to trap Him in something He would say or do. He also had false friends or followers, who only used Him for what they could get out of Him. Many of these individuals wanted the miracles and the matzos but not the Messiah. At the beginning of the Passion Week, when He came into Jerusalem on a lowly donkey’s colt, the crowd cried, “Hosanna to Him who comes in the Name of the Lord.” By the end of that week, cries of, “Crucify Him, crucify Him,” rang out as He stood condemned before Pilate.
Jesus knew spiritual warfare, confronting demons yet casting them out. He even squared off with Satan, facing temptation yet winning the day by quoting Scripture. He also faced people who denied His relation to the Father and true paternity by accusing, in John 8:41, “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father: God.” In addition, in Mark, Chapter 3, the scribes attacked His spiritual stance as they accused Him of demon possession.
Have you suffered at the hands of someone’s cruel jealousy? Our Lord experienced that kind of hatred constantly; even Pilot knew the religious leaders had handed Him over to be crucified, as the Scriptures say, “for envy sake” (Matthew 27:18, Mark 15:10).
Jesus knew anguish to the very depth of His soul, experiencing a medical condition in the Garden of Gethsemane called hematidrosis, which happens to people when they are in overwhelmingly stressful states resulting in sweat tinged with blood. Have you ever experienced anguish to that point? Our Lord certainly did as He faced the sins of the world—past, present, and future—and the horror and shame of the cross falling upon Himself.
Who among us has not known the heartbreaking sting of betrayal? One of His closest friends from His inner circle betrayed Jesus for worldly gain, bringing Him to that very moment before Pilate. It must have been so sorrowful to receive that kiss on the cheek as Judas willingly handed Jesus over to those who hated Him.
In Jesus’s darkest hour, He knew the loneliness of abandonment by His closest friends, those who promised they would never forsake Him. He knew what it was like to be arrested, led away, and imprisoned. While at the mercy of His captors, He experienced evil men surrounding, mocking, and beating Him.
Jesus endured listening to false accusers at His mock trial before the religious leaders. He suffered the agony of a Roman scourging. He knew utter shame as soldiers stripped Him of His only earthly possessions, His clothing, then hung Him publicly on a cross in humiliation for all to see.
He knew physical pain unlike any human being, as He was tortured on the cross from head to toe. Our word excruciating literally means “out of the cross,” describing the pain of piercing a particular nerve in the wrists.
Indeed, Jesus can identify with each one of us more than any other human being can. He can understand so much more, since He knows not only our thoughts but also the intent of our thoughts. We do not fully know why, many times, we think what we think, but He does. First Chronicles 28:9 states, “Serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind; for the Lord searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will let you find Him.”
Can He relate to us in our pain and frailty? Can He truly be our Wonderful Counselor? Yes indeed—as no other human being can be. “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore, let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16). Now that is a lesson to celebrate!