I’ve been having a conversation with Jesus for close to two years. It is a curiosity issue at its heart. Is it theology? Possibly. Yet it stems more from a desire to understand God. I simply do not accept that anything God does is random. There is an underlying purpose that will manifest itself in the culmination of some event in time. So it brings me to my question. Why did you have to live?
Why 33 years? Why not 20? Or even 10 for that matter? What is the significance of 33 years of life on earth?
I travelled to Israel with the hope of gaining some understanding. I returned disappointed. In my quiet times with Holy Spirit, I occasionally would bring this up again. “Jesus, why 33 years? Why did you have to live? I understand in part why you chose to be born of a virgin. You made perfectly clear, the importance of your death and resurrection. But there’s the space in between. Only 3 of those years were spent investing in those who chose to follow you. That leaves 30 years with very little clarity.
To embrace the Biblical account of Jesus, you embrace his divinity. You acknowledge that he is the spoken Word who declared creation into existence (Genesis 1 with John 1). It then necessitates that all else spoken about God; his attributes and nature, would be declarations about Jesus. Incarnate. All knowing. Everywhere present. Limitless power. Eternal existence.
Tell me again Jesus, how does that work? God, from beyond physical boundaries, places Himself within his creation so that Creator and created can meet at eye-level. ~ Jesus, you realize, I’ve been told my whole life that it was all about the ending. It is all about you reconciling all things to yourself (Colossians 1:15-20). And that is why I struggle with the need for 33 years. You could have sacrificed yourself in a much shorter timeframe.
Not long ago, I sat again in my office. It was early ~ my favourite time of the day, between 4 am and 7. I asked him again. Why did you have to live? And this time I actually heard in an almost audible voice, an answer I did not compose. It interrupted my thoughts like any normal conversation would. He simply spoke.
“Because I wanted to feel what it was like to be human.”
The conversation that day was short. It began with the question and ended with the answer ~ the answer that would and will require a significant amount of reflection. Could it honestly be that simple? Jesus simply wanted to experience what life, restricted by time, space and dependence, felt like?
My God box began to crack. It began to expand and evolve. Words from Scripture began to take on new significance. “The Word became flesh and lived among us. He is the one who brought all things into existence.” (John 1:1-18)
It’s one thing to breathe life into something. It is another thing altogether to experience in an identical way, life the way your creation experiences life. God knows his creation because he is its Source, but he can only experience what his creation experiences by becoming part of his own creation.
Many shake a fist at God in disbelief that he truly understands. They’ve been wounded, betrayed and suffered unmeasured loss. How could they ever trust a God who cannot relate to their level of pain?
What would be required, for him to be able to advocate for us? Would help if he had experienced a skinned knee; or chosen last for a pick up game of ball; or to have the love of his life dump him for another guy; or fail a test; or to struggle with being drawn into lust, envy, pride, selfishness. He would need to experience temptation, just like we do ~ but not give in to it. (Hebrews 4:14-16) There’s something comforting in knowing that he didn’t always have the answers, but he knew where to find them; that he had to study and learn and mature (Luke 2:40, 52; John 5:19, 30; 15:5).
It seems a bit heretical to say that God had to learn; that there was a time when he didn’t know everything; when he was vulnerable, scared and naive. ~ Yet it’s all in there; especially in the Gospels. Some say, “Ya, but that was Jesus. God is different.” ~ Not really.
Others say, “Jesus didn’t struggle like us. He was fully God even as an infant. That’s not the same as being human like us. ‘Little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes.’” ~ Really? Because Jesus was God, he didn’t cry as a baby? Does it surprise you that some believe crying is a weakness?
I’m taken back to that interruption of thought ~ “I wanted to feel what it was like to be human.”
Imagine our God, not limited by time and space because he created both. Imagine him entering time and space for 33 years, then stepping back into eternity with no beginning. That God can see all of history before there was history. That God can experience time and space before he ever sets creation into motion. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1 NIV).” “In the very beginning the Living Expression was already there. And the Living Expression was with God, yet fully God. They were together—face-to-face, in the very beginning. And through his creative inspiration this Living Expression made all things, for nothing has existence apart from him! Life came into being because of him, for his life is light for all humanity… He entered into the very world he created, yet the world was unaware… Now he has unfolded to us the full explanation of who God truly is! (John 1:1-4, 10, 18b Passion Translation)
This God, when he first began to weave the cosmos into existence, understood the temptations of lust, power, poverty and greed. This God, when he made you, fully understood what it was like to be you. You were not born into a vacuum. You were designed and birthed by One who understands that love needs to have a choice; freewill needs to be able to walk away; loyalty only exists when there is something to tempt it to betray. Before time began, Jesus knew what it was like to be human.
Maybe there was more theology in that one sentence answer than I realized.