Nothing Unimportant

Dec 06, 2017

John Wood, a great friend to this congregation and to Sandy Willson, once visited my family and I in our home when we were living in St. Louis. He is an ecclesiastical dignitary of sorts and pastors one of the largest churches in the EPC. Even though he had been a friend for a long time, even before he was so well-known, I must confess that I was a bit nervous about having him in our home. My wife is a wonderful homemaker, so I had no doubts about her hospitality. However, at the time, our children were very young and could sometimes undo everything that she had done! I worried about his having to tromp through toys and about his putting up with loud children.

However, when we arrived home from the airport, my fears were relieved. He walked in the door and started looking for my kids. When he found them, he sat on the floor and started playing with them. Later on, I said I had to go to the grocery store so he volunteered to go with me. We loaded up in my little car, he walked in the store with me, and we bought bagels together. We talked about everything and prayed intensely on several occasions for each other. We spent a lot of time together that weekend and there was not anything in my life that was unimportant to him. When I introduced him that Sunday in our church as my friend, I meant it. I believed it. 

We bond to people who show such interest in us, people who consider everything about us important. That is the kind of Savior Jesus came to be, one who says to you, “There is nothing in your life that is unimportant to me.” Have you distanced yourself from him because you thought he did not care? Have you failed to embrace him as passionately as you might because you thought he really did not have much to say about what bothered you? The text of Hebrews 2:14-18 relates four areas that are important to us and demonstrates that Jesus considers each one important enough to make a vital part of his mission in coming to this world.

Feels Our Pain

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things… For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. (Hebrews 2: 14a, 18)

One of the most basic rules that any counselor learns is not to say to one experiencing pain that he or she has never known, “I know how you feel.” I can never say to someone who has lost a child, for instance, “I know how you feel.” I cannot say to someone who has been diagnosed with cancer, “I know how you feel.” I have not had those experiences. Likewise, some are tempted to shrug off Jesus because they think, “He is the Son of God; he cannot know how I feel.” But that is not true. Jesus became a genuine, flesh and blood human being, because that is what we are. He became exactly like us in order to be a complete Savior. He experienced hunger because he had a belly. He was thirsty because he had a throat. He grew weary because he had a heart and blood vessels. He knew pain because he had nerve endings and lactic acid in his muscles. He was joyful and sad because he had a brain.

It is because he took up the full reality of our flesh and blood experience that he is able to feel our pain and help us when we are suffering. This Jesus is still a human being. He ascended from this earth in bodily form, remains in such, and will return with the same. You never have to translate for him how you feel. You never have to say, “Jesus, human beings sometimes get tired or lonely or hungry or sad.” He still understands what it means to be a human. He can still feel your pain. 

My wife, Jackie, is an occupational therapist and used to work frequently in the burn unit at St. John’s Mercy Medical Center in St. Louis. She used to work with a physician there who was particularly skilled at addressing not only the physiological but also the psychological needs of the patient. He drove the patients beyond their pain in a way that was mysteriously understanding, even empathetic. Jackie eventually discovered his secret. He had been burned himself. He personally understood the trials, the pain, and the temptation to give up. He knew what the patient had to do to heal, because he had experienced it himself. This is the kind of Savior Christ is for us. Nothing you feel is unimportant to him. 

Faces Our Fear

…that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. (Hebrews 2: 14b, 15)

Another great struggle we face is fear. If we are honest, we must admit that we are a fearful people. We fear that we will lose our possessions, that someone will discover that we don’t have it all together, that we will lose our children, that our spouses will be unfaithful to us, and that our nation will collapse. Most acutely, we fear for our lives. We are afraid we will lose our health or have an accident or run out of money and become destitute and die.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “The minute you conquer the fear of death, at that moment you are free.” But how does one conquer the fear of death? No sinful human can, because to conquer the fear of death means one must conquer death itself.

However, there is one who has conquered death and thus is able to conquer the fear of it in us. The wages of sin is death (Ro. 6:23), but because Jesus was sinless, death could not take his life from him. He died because he chose to become sin in the place of those who would accept him. It is important to realize that he experienced real death as a real human being. His divinity did not inoculate him against the pains and terrors of death. He experienced every aspect of death. He dreaded its approach to the point that he sweated drops of blood. He knew the terror of drowning and suffocating as he hung on the cross. He even knew the phenomenon of parched lips, saying, “I thirst.” 

This one who faced and conquered man’s greatest fear offers to remove it and all other fears from you if you will come to him. No fear will be unimportant to him. 

Faithful to Help 

For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God. (Hebrews 2: 16, 17a)

We also need someone who will be faithful to us. We have become a distrusting people because of the many broken promises and dishonest dealings we have and witness around us. We have to be wary of everyone. The car dealer may cheat us, the contractor may defraud us, and the threat of online attackers always looms. Couples sign pre-nuptial agreements because they don’t trust each other. Politicians and even preachers have disappointed us with their unfaithfulness. 

But the Lord Jesus is faithful. He will never fail. More specifically, he will never fail to show his own mercy. The reason he came to earth and fulfilled all of God’s righteous requirements was so that he could help us. He helps sinful human beings with faithful mercy. The Son of God came to help you and is present today to help you.

Forgives Our Sins 

…to make propitiation for the sins of the people. (Hebrews 2:17b)

The greatest need that we have is not always one that we recognize. We need forgiveness of sins. It is our sin that has estranged us from God and sin that must be atoned for if we will ever be reconciled with him and experience eternal life after we die. This faithful and merciful Christ became a priest for repentant sinners. But he did not offer animals for sacrifice; he offered himself. He gave himself as the once-for-all sufficient sacrifice to atone for all the sins of his people — all the sins they have ever committed and all they will ever commit. If you will ask him, he will take your sins and put them on his cross, and take his righteousness and give it to you. 

Some years ago, I read about a Moravian who wanted to be a missionary to the slaves in the West Indies. For years, he tried to reach them but because they identified him with their masters, they would have nothing to do with him. Finally, he sold himself into slavery and went to work with them in the fields every day. He became one of them. Their problems and challenges became his and, one by one, they began to accept the message of the Gospel he offered them. By taking up their condition, he convinced them that nothing in their lives was unimportant to him. 

Jesus reaches out to you with the same convincing proof. He was born into your world and took up flesh and blood that he might remove your fears, faithfully help you, and forgive your sins.