Imagine this . . . a man walking, leading a donkey carrying his pregnant wife. Stars shine around them, as in the dead of night they come to an inn. They’re tired, hungry, frustrated, for they’ve traveled far and no one will give them shelter. They knock on the heavy door, voice their needs, and once again they’re denied. They turn away, disappointed, then stop at the sound of the innkeeper’s voice. “You can spend the night in the stable if you want. Better than nothing, get you out of the cold at least.” They’re exhausted, they can’t face being turned away again, and so they agree. They put away their pride and accept the lowliest of places to sleep in.
And there, in the dead of night, with only a few animals to witness, the Son of God is born. He’s born of a woman, not in glory as He deserves, but in squalor, in anonymity, in darkness. He gives up the throne of heaven for a bed of straw and so begins His life on earth, among us. The shepherds know He’s born, the wise men come to worship, but almost no one else knows who He truly is.
It’s an ordinary life that He lives. The way He lives it is anything but ordinary, but the events are everyday stuff, routine that we all know, that we all grew up with. He goes through infancy, learns to walk, cries when He scrapes His knee, smiles when He learns something knew. He makes friends as He grows older, boys He plays with, spends the day imagining and dreaming with. He skips rocks across the creek, He goes swimming, He runs around barefoot, He climbs trees, He enjoys life. He goes to school, learns the lessons just like the others. As He gets older, He begins to work in His father’s carpentry shop. He learns the trade, and then works long, hard, sweaty hours. He gets blisters on His hands, He hits His thumb with the hammer, He drinks gallons of water as He labors in the hot sun. He knows what it is to come home exhausted, to eat dinner and then fall into bed, only to get up and do it all again the next day. He has a physical body that sweats and bleeds and hurts, just like we do. He has an emotional nature like us–He gets tired, pushed to the breaking point, tempted. He walks and lives and breathes just as we do.
He’s one of us, a human in every respect. He lives the same life we do. And yet, He doesn’t. He’s extraordinary. He never, not once in the course of His entire life, sins. He’s respectful to His parents, never talks back to them. He never gets angry with the boys He plays with when He disagrees with them. He never curses when the hammer lands on His thumb instead of the nail. He never takes a lustful glance at a beautiful woman passing by. He never tells a dirty joke, loses His temper, gets impatient, or does the wrong thing. He’s utterly perfect. The same temptations we have given into a million times, He resists. The exact same temptations. He’s human, but He’s perfect.
He begins His ministry among us, works unbelievable miracles, teaches us how to live, gives us so much, and what is our reaction? We kill Him. We can’t stand Him, so we kill Him. We free a condemned murderer so we can crucify a man who has done absolutely nothing wrong. He’s mocked, spit on, rejected. His clothes are torn, His head bleeds from the thorns pressed into it, His back is ripped open from the scourging. He’s jeered, shouted at, humiliated, even denied by His closest friends. And He never says a word. He just lets it happen, with love in His eyes. He doesn’t get angry and fight back, He doesn’t call down angels from heaven as He could have. He knows He must endure this greatest of wrongs and so He does.
We can’t say we wouldn’t have crucified Him if we were there. We would have done the same thing. Our sins hung Him on that cross. We delivered the hammer blows. We crucified Him.
And so He dies, but when He does, even His enemies know they’ve done something irrevocably wrong. A shadow passes over the land, the veil of the temple is torn in two, there’s a feeling in the air that something is utterly different. Three days pass, Mary goes to visit the tomb and looks into the gardener’s eyes, knowing she’s seen them somewhere before. And then she realizes. The compassion shining from the eyes tells her everything. It is her Lord, it is Jesus himself. He has risen from the grave. Death could not contain Him, He’s alive and well. The best efforts of man could not defeat Him. He is alive. Imagine her joy, imagine the joy of the disciples when they find out. Amazing.
Christ did all of that for us. He sees us, born sinners, dead in our trespasses, knows that we can’t save ourselves, that we can’t be right with God on our own. So He calls us, reaches down and raises us from the dead just like Lazarus, and makes us His own. It’s incredible that He chose us, who had sinned against Him, who had crucified Him. He adopts us, makes us His own children, gives us a new heart to serve Him. And why? Because He loves us with an unspeakable love. It pleases Him to save us and so He does. He goes through the unimaginable agony of the cross to take our place, to satisfy His Father, and now we can live through Him. There’s nothing greater than grace. It’s given to us freely, undeservedly, gladly. We deserve the exact opposite and yet, somehow, here we are, children of God, going to spend an eternity with Him. He had everything and gave it up for us. We had nothing and gained everything. Amazing grace, indeed.