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As part of our worship this Lent, we’ve been using our sermon meditations to think about things that Jesus gave up to be our Savior from sin. Today I want to focus our thoughts on the fact that Jesus gave up independence and control to be our Savior.
The Bible tells us that Jesus was fully human, and fully God at the same time. As the Son of God, He had existed from eternity with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. Together as the One true God, they were completely independent. They knew everything, were everywhere, had absolute power, and were eternal. It’s impossible to think of anyone being more independent and in control than God.
It was this concept of the completely self-sufficient God that the apostle Paul spoke about when he addressed the great thinkers of Athens. On one of Paul’s missionary journeys, he was invited to speak at a meeting of the Areopagus in Athens, Greece. This was a gathering of people who liked to talk about cutting edge philosophy and religion. When Paul spoke to them, he told them…
“24 God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. 25 Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things” (Acts 17:24-25 NKJV).
Many of the old world religions treated “the gods” as if they were just big humans. The gods wanted certain things from mankind, and could give blessings in return for receiving these things.
Paul pointed out that this idea of God was silly. He is not like us. He does not need things from us. He is the one who gives all things to us.
But when the God the Son became human this changed. When the eternal Son of God was born, all the sudden, He became an infant who needed to be clothed, fed, changed, rocked, and put to bed. He grew into a child who needed to be taught, guided, comforted, and loved.
To a degree this is beyond our understanding. How could the all-knowing Son of God learn anything? How could He grow and change? Scholars throughout the ages have tried to understand this. And with centuries of study and meditation, they have come up with precious little. To comprehend God becoming human, all we can really do is look to passages of the Bible which tell us something about how this all worked.
Some passages in the Bible tell us that Jesus definitely did learn and grow. When Jesus was twelve His family went up to Jerusalem for worship. When His parents left for home, Jesus was accidentally left behind. When they finally found Jesus again, the Bible records the following.
“46 Now so it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers. 48 So when they saw Him, they were amazed; and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously.”
49 And He said to them, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” 50 But they did not understand the statement which He spoke to them.
51 Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them, but His mother kept all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” (Luke 2:46-52 NKJV).
On different occasions during Jesus’ ministry there are times when Jesus is said to “marvel” at what He sees or hears from people. It’s like He’s surprised by one thing or another. Like He didn’t know everything that was going to happen to Him in life.
In Mark 13 Jesus specifically tells His disciples that He doesn’t know when the final day of judgment will be, that neither He nor the angels know when that day will come, that only the Father knows.
And yet, there were other times when Jesus dipped into the well of divine knowledge and showed that He was the all-knowing God. Mark 9 records one of these times. It says...
“3 And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” 4 But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts?” (Mark 9:3-4 ESV).
On another occasion, Jesus met a woman who had come to draw water from a well outside the city of Sychar. In the course of their conversation Jesus told her details about her life that He couldn’t have known without divine power. When she went back to her village she told her neighbors,
“Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” (John 4:29 NKJV).
When Jesus was making His final journey to Jerusalem, He took His disciples aside and told them that He would soon be condemned, mocked, flogged, crucified, and that He would then be raised from the dead on the third day. Though Jesus didn’t reveal it at the time, He even knew which one of His disciples would betray Him.
And yet, on the night when He was betrayed, Jesus prayed the following to His Father in heaven. He said,
“My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39 ESV).
As Jesus thought about the hell He was going to have to suffer in order to redeem sinners, He asked if there was some other way.
It’s all so confusing for us mortal men and women to comprehend. The divine made human. But using the Bible we can understand it to a degree. Jesus was the Son of God, and He was the Son of Mary. He was both God and human. He had to be human in order to live a life like ours. A life where He was tempted in every way that we are. And so He had to suppress His powers as God so that this was a real test. So where Jesus could have used His powers as God to benefit Himself, He didn’t. And where Jesus could use His powers as God to benefit His ministry to sinners, He did.
What a strange thing this must have been for the eternal Son of God. What a sacrifice. To go from being the top of the pyramid, to humbling Himself as a mortal man. How mysterious and wonderful that He was willing to put His own power and glory on the shelf – in order to earn our forgiveness by suffering for our sins on the cross.
The book of Hebrews describes Jesus’ humbling experience like this,
“7 In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. 8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. 9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him” (Hebrews 5:7-9 ESV).
I don’t pretend to comprehend Jesus’ humiliation completely, or even come close. But Scripture says that this was a new relationship where the Son had to trust His heavenly Father in a different way. It says that as a real human being, He learned obedience through what He suffered.
To say that you trust someone completely is one thing, but to be at someone’s mercy and yet to trust them implicitly – that is something altogether different.
In the 1800’s there was a tightrope walker named Charles Blondin. I’ve mentioned him before in a sermon, but I’m going to tell his story again today. Blondin made his living by walking a tightrope over the Niagara Falls river gorge. The tightrope was three inches wide and a quarter of a mile long. One time when Blondin was about to walk the rope, he turned and harangued the crowd saying, “Do you believe that I can walk all the way across this rope?” The excited crowd responded enthusiastically, “Yes!” Blondin asked again, “Do you believe that I can do it with a man on my back?!” The crowd roared with delight, “Yes!” Blondin spoke one more time asking, “Then who’s coming with me?”
But the crowd had lost it’s voice. It was one thing to say that they believed he could do it, it was another thing to put their own lives on the line to prove it.
That’s what Jesus did. He trusted His Heavenly Father, and His Father’s plan. He went to the cross and offered His own sinless soul. He suffered our hell. He died our death. And He trusted that the Father would be true to His word and raise Him to life on the third day.
The fully human Jesus learned obedience through what He suffered. He learned complete trust by experience. And by His sacrifice, we are pronounced clean. Forgiven of all our sins. Sins that we could never have been freed from otherwise. Sins that would have damned us for eternity.
The Son of God became human and put aside independence and control in order to pay our debt. And He invites us to trust in Him in the same way He trusted in the Father. Thank God that He sends us the Holy Spirit to create this faith in our hearts, for without the Holy Spirit working through the message of the cross, we could NEVER do it. But through the Gospel, we do believe. We do trust. We are redeemed.
You probably remember the punch line to the Blondin story right? It wasn’t just silence. When that tightrope walker asked the crowd who was going to climb on his back to cross the gorge with him, one man raised his hand. It was Harry Colcord, Blondin’s manager. Colcord couldn’t have made it alone, but on Blondin’s back – he did.
In the same way, we trust in Jesus. He alone can carry us through all of life’s hardships, across the gorge of death itself. He alone can set us safely down in the land of heaven. We could never make it ourselves. Our own sins make it impossible. But when we give up the illusion of independence and control that we all cling to, and hold tightly to the God-Man instead – then we are safer than ever before.
Prayer: Dear Father in heaven, thank you for sending Jesus to be human. Dear Jesus, thank you for taking our place on the cross, for suffering the hell of punishment that our sins had earned. By your Spirit move us to trust in you more and more. Help us to cling to your grace and your promise of forgiveness no matter what comes in this life. Teach us to trust you as you trusted the Father. And bring us at last to your side in heaven, where we will praise your Name for all eternity. Amen.