Saturday, February 27, 2016

Anxiety and Jesus

There is this amazing set of devotions in Reflections for Ragamuffins that speaks directly to the way Jesus dealt with anxiety and fear while he lived here. It feels strangely heretical to think of him as resisting fear and anxiety. But he was tempted in the desert with power, security, and sensation. The garden of Gethsemane demonstrated his resistance to anxiety and fear, and the strong hold he kept on his identity as Son-Servant-Beloved of his Father in the face of agonizing temptation.

I write that off, Lord forgive me. I write that off. He is God. How can he understand temptation the way a mere mortal does? But the writer of Hebrews says he is touched with the feeling of our infirmities.

(Interesting that it says he is touched with the feeling of our infirmities and not just that he understands them. He feels them. He sits inside them with us. He doesn't stand outside and say, “Wow, that's bad. You should... At least... Band-aid?” He absorbs them, he lives them with us. He lives with us in our messy, chaotic stuff that is bigger than some people's stuff and smaller than other people's stuff. He sits in there with us and GETS it. He's the ultimate empathizer.)

And Hebrews says the reason he knows our desert and garden temptations is because he had his own. He was tempted just as we are, yet without sin. When I get to this part, I always think, “Okay, yes. But He was God. That's different.”

Hebrews says it's not different. I can't fathom it, but somehow he is 100% human as well as 100% God. He did have temptations. He could have given in. But he didn't.

(That is amazing when you think of the enormity of his mission and the smallness of his physical goods and obscurity of his person. What poor, obscure, plain person wouldn't have jumped at the chance to have all worldly power, especially when his mission was to save humanity from itself and from the powers of evil in the world? Boromir demonstrated the seduction of this temptation when he succumbed to it in LoTR.)

It took gargantuan trust in the Father to stay true to his identity and not fall into the trap of worldly power, sensation, security. He identified with God and the topsy-turvy plan they made before the world began, and stayed with the downtrodden and discouraged-- the anxious and fearful people. He stayed true to his Self and his mission here on earth.

He spoke such gentle words to Martha, who was troubled about many things. He endorsed Mary's unusual, even counter-cultural choice to sit at his feet and soak in the supernatural comfort of his spirit and word-- even if that meant less physical ease for himself and others in the house. He allowed virtue and energy to go from himself to others in need. He depleted himself. In his humanity, he took intervals to refresh himself. He needed those intervals because he was 100% human.

100% human and 100% God. Is there a mathematical formula to explain this? That Jesus is all human, completely all human, suffered as a human being here on Earth (He suffered on the cross more than any other human being) and yet is all God, 100% God, fully God.

He gave up His divinity and took on flesh and blood. He could not have saved us without that component. I don't know why. Why did it have to be that way, Lord? Why couldn't You have just demanded Death give up its hold on us? There is some formula here. You followed some mysterious equation-- C.S. Lewis called it magic from before the dawn of time. There is some set of rules that needs be satisfied in order for us to righteously live with him in complete fellowship, and we are terrible at obedience. We couldn't do it. Jesus fulfilled it when he came as a man, lived as a man in the messy, beautiful, chaotic, ugly, fallen world, resisted so many agonizing temptations-- HE KEPT THE RULES when we wouldn't and couldn't-- and finally gave his life in the ultimate sacrifice of Self for those who did not deserve it.

Oh Lord. Oh Lord. What a Savior. How did he do that? And how can I dismiss his humanity because of his divinity? The Bible states clearly that he was tempted in all points just as we are. Somehow he experienced full humanity, including the anxiety and fear that comes with not knowing whether things will be okay, although he was at the same time God and knew the end from the beginning. How in the world did that work? I don't know. I trust it is true, but if I get an opportunity to ask him some things in Heaven, I hope I remember to ask him that question. 

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