Jesus Knows How It Feels

He came into the world to suffer. Hunger, thirst, fatigue, temptation, poverty, the agonies of death at its worst.

Slandered by His enemies, rejected by those He came to bless, and mocked even as He was paying the ultimate price for their redemption and ours: His blood.

“. . . He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest . . . . For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted” (Hebrews 2:17-18).

“Once He came,” wrote Fulton Sheen, “then never again could they say, ‘He does not know what it is like to suffer’” (Life is Worth Living, 209).

For the Christian, here’s one of the most comforting promises in Scripture: “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16).

Shouldn’t that be sufficient to lift our spirits on a dark day?

He suffered. He understands. He cares!


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“Vindicated in the Spirit”

Tall claims!

Jesus made some outstanding (or as His detractors would have said, “outrageous”) claims for Himself during His ministry.

He claimed to be divine, to fulfill Old Testament prophecy, to be the only way to God, to have the authority to forgive sins, to be without sin, to raise the dead someday, and to judge the world.

Either these claims are true or they are false.

He was crucified for making such claims as these.

The Vindicator

How could He be vindicated of the slanders His enemies made against Him—that He was a deceiver, a blasphemer, in league with Satan, a mere man, a glutton and a drunkard?

Who would vindicate the one who was so unjustly arrested, mocked, slapped, spat upon, reviled, and executed as a criminal?

Jesus, Paul said, was “vindicated in the Spirit” (1 Timothy 3:16). How?

The Spirit enabled the prophets to predict Jesus’ death and glorification (1 Peter 1:10-12).

The Spirit descended on Him at His baptism (John 1:31-34; Matthew 12:18).

The Spirit empowered Him to preach and work miracles (Luke 4:14-21; Matthew 12:28). These miracles proved His claims (Luke 5:24; John 3:1-2; 5:36; 10:25, 38).

The Spirit powerfully endowed the apostles on the Day of Pentecost, as Jesus had predicted—thus proving the message Peter proclaimed, that Jesus is indeed “both Lord and Christ” (Acts 1:4-5, 8; 2:1-4, 33, 36).

Jesus now sits enthroned beside the Father—supremely victorious, fully vindicated.


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Born to Die

Why was He born?

“But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5).

For Jesus to be Redeemer He had to die. For Jesus to die He had first to be born.

If you add up the chapters of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the total is 89. About 29 of these chapters pertain to Jesus’ last week, His death, burial, resurrection, and His appearances following His resurrection.

So about a third of the Gospels is devoted to what Paul refers to as matters of “first importance” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

But while the great weight of the Gospels is on His redeeming work, only about three of the 89 chapters pertain to Jesus’ birth, and only Matthew and Luke give much attention to it. All four emphasize His death, as does the apostolic preaching in the book of Acts. Jesus instituted a memorial to His death, not His birth (1 Corinthians 11:26).

This is not at all to minimize His birth, but to put it in perspective: Jesus was born to die.

The shadow of the cross

Even in the birth narratives the cross casts its long shadow.

The angel announced to Joseph regarding Mary, “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).

As Simeon held the infant Jesus in his arms, he prophesied to Mary, “Behold, this Child is appointed . . . for a sign to be opposed—and a sword will pierce even your own soul . . .” (Luke 2:34-35).

Mary gave birth to Jesus, but also watched Him die. She experienced pain on both occasions—followed by great joy (John 16:20-22).

Myrrh was one of the wise men’s gifts, but it was also used in Jesus’ burial (Matthew 2:11; John 19:39-40).

Look in the manger and you see a babe whose tiny hands and feet will one day be pierced by cruel Roman nails, and whose infant brow will someday wear the crown of thorns.

The wise men asked, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?” (Matthew 2:2).

The sign on the cross said, “This is Jesus the King of the Jews” (Matthew 27:37).

Born to die.


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Isn’t That Just Like God?

Who would have thought?

Israel had been eagerly anticipating the long-awaited Messiah. But who could have imagined that His first bed would be an animal’s feeding trough! Or that He would grow up in a poor home in a small town with little to recommend it.

After Jesus began His ministry, Philip excitedly announced to his friend Nathanael, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote—Jesus of Nazareth . . . .” Nathanael exclaimed, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” “Come and see,” Philip replied (John 1:45-46).

Respectable folks could not understand why Jesus would spend so much of His time with society’s rejects.

And the very idea that the Messiah, of all people, would be executed as a common criminal on a despised Roman cross! No, that was absolutely too much (1 Corinthians 1:23; Deuteronomy 21:23).

Why would God do it this way?

God was making a statement.

In explaining why God chooses that which is lowly and unimpressive to accomplish His purposes, Paul observed that in the Corinthian church “there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God” (1 Corinthians 1:26-29).

Pride has no place in God’s kingdom.

Only the humble may apply.


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Spared from Death


Two incidents, one from the Old Testament and one from the New, point in the same direction.

The first occurred when God instructed Israel to take the blood of a lamb and put it on their doorposts.

“The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt” (Exodus 12:13).

Many centuries later John the apostle described what he witnessed at the cross. “But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you also may believe” (John 19:34-35).

God witnessed the blood of a lamb on the door. John witnessed the blood of “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

Comparisons and contrasts

The blood of the Passover lamb spared the Israelites from physical death. We are spared a doom far worse than the death if we apply the blood of “Christ our Passover” (1 Corinthians 5:7).

The first blood pointed to the second. The lesser was a sign of the greater.

In homes without the blood, there was death. In hearts without the blood of Christ, there is spiritual death.

For Israel, applying the blood was an act of faith and obedience. We too exercise faith and obedience when the blood of Christ cleanses us in baptism (Acts 2:38; 22:16; Romans 6:3-5; Colossians 2:12-13).

God made a way for Israel to be spared that awful night when death came calling.

God has made a way for us to be spared on the awesome Day when His wrath is poured out on the disobedient.

It’s the blood that makes the difference.


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Pictures of the Coming Christ

What do these have in common: a lamb, bread, and a serpent? Very little, yet all are used as likenesses of Christ. All three have their roots in the early history of Israel.

The Lamb

In preparing His people for leaving Egypt, God commanded them to apply the blood of an unblemished lamb to the door frames of their houses.

He told them, “. . . and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt” (Exodus 12:13).

This is the basis for the Passover—when God passed over the houses of the Israelites, just as He had promised. The Egyptian homes, however, were struck with the death of their firstborn sons.

The New Testament brings out the significance of this. As John the Baptist saw Jesus approaching he announced, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).

And Paul writes, “For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed” (1 Corinthians 5:7).

The Bread

Once Israel left Egypt and entered the wilderness, how would they be fed? In response to their needs God provided a special miraculous bread called manna.

Jesus declared, “Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died . . . . I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh” (John 6:49, 51).

The Serpent

After God sent serpents to punish His people for their faithless complaining, He instructed Moses to erect a bronze serpent on a staff; and that whoever looked at the serpent would not die from the venomous bites (Numbers 21:4-9).

“As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness,” Jesus said, “even so must the Son of Man be lifted up . . .” (John 3:14-15).

“”And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.”

The apostle John then explained, “But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die” (John 12:32-33).

Lamb, bread, serpent

All three pointed to the Christ and the cross.

May God be praised for His great plan to save us—a plan which He forecast centuries before and then so wonderfully fulfilled in the giving of His Son for our sake!

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Amazingly Saved and Radically Changed by the Cross

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Why did Jesus die on the cross? To save our souls? Indeed He did, but that’s not all.

For Him

First, His death means the end of self-centered living and the beginning of Christ-centered living: “. . . He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf” (2 Corinthians 5:15).

Second, because we’ve been purchased by His blood, our bodies, which now belong to Him, must be used for God’s glory, not for immorality (1 Corinthians 6:18-20).

Like Him

Third, His death sets us an example of humility and obedience. “Have this attitude in yourselves, which was also in Christ Jesus . . . . He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:5-8).

Fourth, His refusal to retaliate (1 Peter 2:21-23) and His endurance in the face of opposition (Hebrews 12:1-3) should lead us to do the same.

For others

Fifth, His death  prompts us to love others as we have been loved. “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us . . .” (Ephesians 5:1-2).

Sixth, His death calls us to love sacrificially: “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16).

Seventh, now that we belong to Him, we are to put evil deeds behind us and now engage in good deeds (Titus 2:14).

Eighth, His death means we forgive as we have been forgiven (Ephesians 4:32).

But that’s not all—and yet these eight passages should be sufficient to show that God means for the death of His Son to open up for us wonderful new vistas of thinking and living.

And what a life it is!

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