Why did Jesus choose to become human for a while? Why did the timeless one, who was eternal, choose to become time-bound for a few years? When we think about this type of question we can become overwhelmed at the enormity of Jesus coming to the earth as a human being. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews gives us some insight to these questions.
“Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, he likewise shared in their humanity, so that through death he could destroy the one who holds the power of death (that is, the devil), and set free those who were held in slavery all their lives by their fear of death. For surely his concern is not for angels, but he is concerned for Abraham’s descendants. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he could become a merciful and faithful high priest in things relating to God, to make atonement for the sins of the people. For since he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted.” (Hebrews 2:14-18 NET)
Jesus became human so he could share in what people go through. How often are politicians and other national leaders criticised because they don’t understand what those they want to represent go through? Such a criticism could have been levelled against God. Although we realise that he is omnipotent – he knows everything – someone could have said, “how can you understand what it is like to be human?” I’m not sure this would be a valid criticism but such thoughts undoubtedly have crossed minds.
With the coming of Jesus that criticism was rendered invalid. He came as a human being into the world. He was born a baby and he had to learn and develop as we all do. By doing this he became the perfect representative for humans before God. Jesus knows what we go through because he has been there. He knows what it is like to be someone from a poor family in a restrictive society because he grew up in a poor Jewish family at a time that the Romans were suppressing the Jews. Jesus understands what we go through and he cares.
Because he lived as a human he also knows what temptation is about. He “suffered when he was tempted”. When we refuse to give in to a temptation and suffer in someway because of it he understands because he has been there. By looking at the temptations that he endured following his immersion by John we can understand how he can relate to what we go through. But these weren’t the only temptations he had to go through. As a human he would continue to endure temptations.
Just as he overcame the temptations recorded in Matthew 4 and Luke 4, we can be confident that he overcame all the temptations that came his way. Because of this he is able to help us when we are tempted. Because he was made like us – humans – “in every respect, so that he could become a merciful and faithful high priest in things relating to God”. We can be confident we are in safe hands because he understands what being a human is all about.
Ultimately he had to become human so that he could “destroy the one who holds the power of death (that is, the devil)”. By living a sinless life as a person he was able to conquer death and provide a way we can also be freed from the slavery of sin and death. In his death he made atonement for our sins. He paid the price for our sin so that we can be forgiven and set free from sin to serve God.
Did Jesus have to live as a human? In order to do what he did this was necessary. We are thankful for all that he went through for us. Let us live lives of thankfulness and faithfulness because of all that he has done.
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Readings for next week: Hebrews 2-10