Harvard psychiatrist Dr. Robert Coles has spent much of his professional life studying children from very rich homes and from very poor homes. In 1979 Coles and his son visited one of Rio de Janeiros shantytowns where the people had no electricity, no heating, no plumbing, no water, no medical care.
Within sight of these people was the famous statue of Christ the Redeemer that overlooks the city of Rio. Coles asked a mother living there what she thought of the depiction of Jesus in the monument. She replied:
I look at Christ everyday over there, across the city, on the hill. I think how hard his life was; he was crucified, even if he was God. No, he was crucified because he was God. Oh, I cant figure out why he was crucified. I cant figure out why I was born so poor. But I do know this: Jesus is someone for all of us. He lives in my heart. It is best to remember that, and I do. He loved us, the poor, and he lives.
The mother from Brazils slum, more eloquently than any preacher, shows that Jesus power transforms the lives of all who trust and obey him. He is someone for all of us.
The New Testament writers affirm Gods complete identification with human beings. The apostle John describes Gods empathetic participation with us when he writes that God became flesh and dwelt among us.
The Christian affirmation is that, far from being aloof, God chose to participate in his world. The Son of God lived as a real human being. And, while an all-powerful God certainly had the ability to understand our condition fully without sending his son as a human, we humans needed to know that he endured and overcame the bitterest that life had to offer.
Jesus epitomized Gods great message that he is with us. Jesus overcame the rule of Satan, healing those who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. God has dramatically demonstrated his loving nature. When he raised Jesus from the dead, he powerfully displayed his commitment to help us overcome the worst the Devil could offer.
We see and understand God best when we look into the face of Jesus. As we watch Jesus react, we see how God reacts to our real problems and challenges. The gospel writers describe how deeply touched Jesus was by human pain and grief. A major aspect of Jesus ministry was the healing of the sick.
When Jesus faced his own pain in the Garden of Gethsemane, he prayed, Father...remove this cup from me. Later, on the cross, he cried out his feelings of abandonment: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? You cannot read the story of Jesus crucifixion without thinking about Gods pain in that event.
They want to know where God is when they are hurting.
Sometimes people talk to me about feeling alone. They want to know where God is when they are hurting. I can only respond that God is in the same place he was when his son died. He is watching, identifying, and enduring the death with the one he loves. On the cross of Jesus, God allowed himself to be crucified.
Close your eyes. Visit Calvary for a moment. You see a rejected, writhing, abandoned figure on that cross. Nails cruelly pierce his hands and feet. His body has been severely beaten. He is bruised and bleeding. Blood drips from the jagged thorns circling his forehead. And yet, he hangs there willingly.
You are watching an involved God in action. After that scene, all human struggle must be understood in the light of Gods suffering. The cross gives meaning, hope, and new life to sufferers. When we want to cry out that God doesnt care! or that God is immune to pain! we are brought again to the foot of the cross to see the truth.
The cross and resurrection hold the key to the mystery of suffering. Something occurred in those two events that forever affect human suffering. God broke the power of death and showed us the way of everlasting life.
There is no better teacher than someone who knows what hes talking about because he has been through it and someone who loves you and will patiently work with you until you can do it too. Jesus meets all these criteria to be our perfect spiritual example and mentor.
The writer of Hebrews says that Jesus came to earth to be near to us and to identify with us. He suffered because it was appropriate that a Savior suffer with suffering people. Then, when believers suffer hardships, they know they have a Savior who really understands what they are going through.
So Jesus, who offered himself willingly as a sacrifice for mans sin, is Lord. He understands the human situation totally. He didnt have it easy. He knew severe suffering. He cried out for relief. He trusted God when it was dark and he didnt fully understand. Thats why I accept him fully as my teacher and my example in many areas, but especially in suffering.