We are still celebrating Christmas and nearing Epiphany. Thoughts of the incarnation of the Word of God continue. Like Mary, I want to ponder these things in my heart.
A scripture (Hebrews 2) from a recent daily reading: “It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. For this reason, Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters…Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death…”
In the previous chapter the writer has told us that the Son “is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word.” This is the Incarnate One. The One who sustains all things is the One who was glad to share our very flesh and blood. Our Elder Brother, who taught us to call God, “Father,” shares our sufferings. He was “made perfect” through them. A couple of chapters on (ch. 4), he is the great and perfectly sympathetic high priest, who knows our temptation, having been tempted in every way as we are (yet without sin).
These scriptures announce an utterly mind-boggling claim. By sharing human existence the Son exposes himself to all that afflicts us. Doing so, he made the Father known. Doing so, he destroyed the works of the devil and freed us from the power of death. Doing so, he brings many children to glory.
While we western, usually Protestant, Christians tend to skip from Christmas to Easter in our Christology, scriptures like this one confront us with truly astonishing clarity about the whole trajectory of human life. When it says that Jesus was made perfect through suffering, it does not refer only to his passion and death. He emptied himself (Philippians 2), taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. Not only was he born, he humbled himself and became obedient. The Gospel of John says the same: “My food is to do the will of my Father, and to accomplish his work.”
The whole of Christ’s life was a suffering, not in the sense of feeling pain or sorrow every moment, but in the sense of enduring, or going through, an experience. So many realizations radiate from this one: In sharing our nature, in being brought to completion through what he suffered, he undertook to reclaim every fiber, every molecule, every corner of human nature.
He crawled. He toddled. He scrawled out his first letters. He learned. He grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and humans. He wrestled with thoughts of God in the temple as a soon-to-be son of the law. He wrestled with the tempter’s taunt, “If you are the Son of God” in the wilderness. He transformed the untouchable by his touch. He restored a daughter of Abraham to wholeness. He put a terrifyingly deranged man back into his right mind. He fed the hungry and ate with sinners. He taught. He brought sight and insight. He made friends and enemies. He endured ridicule and alienation. He prayed.
And much, much more.
It was fitting, Hebrews 2 says, that he should do all these things. He is the Last Adam.
Dare I say? Here, truly, is the most interesting Man in the world. May we grow in the knowledge and grace of the One who took up our nature.