A God Who Understands

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SCRIPTURE:   Luke 15:1-2   Now all the tax-gatherers and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him.  And both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, "This man receives sinners and eats with them  ".


        Luke, in emphasizing the humanity of Jesus in his gospel account, is saying, "We have a God who understands."  Matthew stresses the messiahship of Christ, Mark His servanthood, but Luke (a physician committed to alleviating human suffering), chooses to stress the humanity of Jesus.  He is concerned that suffering humanity know we have a God who understands.

        Luke's name appears only three times in the New Testament, and not one of these are in either book he wrote--Colossians 4:14 where he is called the "beloved Physician," in Philemon 24 where he is called Paul's "fellow-worker," and in II Timothy 4:11 where he stands by Paul during the dark hours of his approaching martyrdom.  In all three passages, Luke's life bears evidence that he had come to know in Christ "A God Who Understands."

        Regardless of who we are, where we live, or what we have done, Luke's message to us is that in Jesus Christ we have a God who understands.  In an effort to see what Luke says about this subject in all twenty-four chapters of his book, I have endeavored to reduce his statements to three.


        "And behold, you will conceive in your womb, and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus"  (Luke 1:31).

        Apart from being conceived by the Holy Spirit, Christ's birth was as human as anyone else's.  He was conceived in the womb of a woman, as any other.  The physical aspects of His birth were identical to any other human's birth.

        He did not drop down from the sky as a full-grown Messiah.  His was a natural birth, a natural growth, a natural development.  O yes, He was divine, but He was very much human.

        "Son of Man"--This title is used in Luke's account twenty-three times to stress the humanity of Jesus.  It is Christ's favorite designation for Himself.  Whatever else this title may mean, it means that Christ is human--that He is one with mankind--that He understands us.

        "The Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head" (Luke 9:58).

        "The Son of Man has authority on earth" (Luke 5:24).

        "The Son of Man has come eating and drinking" (Luke 7:34).

        "The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath" (Luke 6:5).

        "The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men" (Luke 9:44).

        "The Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect" (Luke 12:40).

        These plus seventeen other such references to "the Son of Man" assure us that ours is a God who understands what it is to be human--for He was human.

        W. T. Conner states that it seems strange that a person would question the humanity of Jesus.  Theoretically, very few have ever done so.  The Docetics believed that the body of Jesus was not real.  They held that Christ was only God appearing in human form.  Many theologians have so emphasized the deity of Christ, and assumed such a chasm between God and man, that they have practically nullified the human life of Jesus.  This is wrong.  We should begin with the facts of the life of Jesus as recorded in the New Testament.  Nobody who takes the New Testament seriously will ever question the humanity of Jesus.

        As a man, Jesus was subject to the law of growth and development.  Luke tells us that he grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and men (Luke 2:52).  Here seems to be a normal human growth.


        When Jesus said to His disciples on the night He was betrayed, "Pray that you may not enter into temptation" (Luke 22:40), He knew what He was talking about!

        His ministry was launched in the midst of a barrage of temptations (Luke 4:1-13).  And His temptations never let up.  They hounded Him until His last breath on the cross.

        His temptations and battles were real.  His struggle with sin and evil were no sham battles.  We sometimes make the mistake of thinking that there can be no temptation unless there is something base and ignoble in our lives to which temptation can appeal.  But this is wrong.

        The temptation to satisfy His physical appetite was real!  (Bread.)

        The temptation to turn from the Father's will for His life and gain the world through compromise was real!  (Worship Satan.)

        The temptation to win the world through sensationalism was real!  (Leap from the temple.)

        This is why we can go to Christ unashamed of our temptations.  For Hebrews 4:15 (LB) assures us that, "This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, since he had the same temptations we do, though he never once gave way to them and sinned."

        And His "understanding" does not mean that He condones our giving in to temptations.  But it does mean that when we go to Him in time of temptation, we don't need to explain what it is all about.  He understands what it is to be human and to be tempted--for He was human too.

        B.     HIS COMPASSION WAS HUMAN (Luke 7:11-15).

        There is no stronger word than "compassion" for pity and sympathy and feeling, and it is a word which, again and again in the gospel story, is used of Jesus.  At that time this must have been a staggering thought.  The Stoics held that the primary characteristic of God was apathy, or the incapability of feeling.  Here we were presented with the amazing conception of one who was the Son of God and yet was human enough to be moved with compassion.


        He was disappointed in His own home town (at Nazareth).  "No prophet is accepted in his own home town!" (Luke 4:24).

        He was disappointed in those whom He healed. "Didn't I heal ten men? Where are the nine?" (Luke 17:17).

        He was disappointed in one whom He had chosen.  "But behold, the hand of the one betraying Me is with Me on the table" (Luke 22:21).


        "But He Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray" (Luke 5:16).

        "And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground" (Luke 22:44).

        Jesus was not stage-playing.  He prayed because he needed to pray!  He had human temptations.


        When the cat-of-nine-tails lashed across the back of Jesus, tearing flesh, it hurt just as it would hurt any other human's back.  When the nails were driven into His hands, He felt pain as any other person would.  When the spear was thrust into His side, and when He said, "I thirst," it was all for real.

        This is why He understands human suffering, for He suffered.  Luke is saying, "Come down from the ledge, don't leap.  There is someone who understands and His name is Jesus."


        A.     SIMON WAS HAVING A DIFFICULT TIME IN FORGIVING THIS WOMAN.  Her sin was known everywhere.  He was having even a more difficult time understanding how Christ could forgive her.

        The woman was a notoriously bad woman--a prostitute!  No doubt she had heard Jesus speak.  Around her neck she wore, like all Jewish women, a little vial of concentrated perfume.  These vials were called alabasters and they were very costly.  She wanted to pour it on His feet, for it was all she had.  But as she saw Him, the tears came and fell upon His feet.  Barclay reminds us that for a Jewish woman to appear with her hair down was an act of the gravest immodesty.  On her wedding day a girl bound her hair and never would she appear with it unbound.  The fact that this woman loosed her long hair in public showed how she had forgotten all others except Jesus.

        The whole story reveals a contrast between two attitudes of mind and heart.

                1.     Simon was aware of no need and felt no love; therefore he offered no forgiveness.

                2.     Christ hated sin but loved the sinner.  To Him there was no problem in forgiving so repentant a sinner.

        B.     ON THE OTHER HAND, HE FORGAVE THOSE WHO WERE NOT REPENTANT.  For those who nailed Him to the cross and taunted Him by saying "He saved others; let Him save Himself if this is the Christ of God, His Chosen One," He prayed, "Father forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34).

        This was not easy, but He did it anyway.  And so He understands the difficulty of forgiveness--for He forgave.

        When you, like Simon Peter, would ask, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him?  Up to seven times?" remember the words of Christ, underscored again by His prayer on the cross, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven" (Matthew 18:21).

        He understands the difficulty of forgiveness--for He forgave.


        After Christ had incurred the wrath of the Pharisees for healing the man with the withered hand on the Sabbath, Luke records, "But they themselves were filled with rage, and discussed together what they might do to Jesus.  And it was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God.  And when day came, He called His disciples to Him; and chose twelve of them, whom He also named as apostles" (Luke 6:11-13).

        Christ understands what it means to need assurance.  Undoubtedly shaken by the threats and schemes of His enemies, He needed assurance that only His Father could give Him.  And so He prayed.  In fact, Luke says He prayed all night long.

        The next day, assured by His Father that He would live to see His mission accomplished, He chose His twelve apostles.  Christ understands the need of assurance--for He was assured.

        A.     HE OFFERS ASSURANCE IN THE PRESENT (Luke 12:22-23, 31-32). And He said to His disciples, "For this reason I say to you, do not be anxious for your life, as to what you shall eat; nor for your body, as to what you shall put on.  "For life is more than food, and the body than clothing… "But seek for His kingdom, and these things shall be added to you.  "Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom."

        B.     HE OFFERS ASSURANCE IN THE FUTURE  (Luke 21:25-28). "And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.  "And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.  "But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."


        Katheran Brusard, who had decided to end her life, changed her mind for one reason.  Someone understood!

        And in the words of that patrolman who called her back from the ledge, I say to you, "I don't know who you are, or where you live, or what you have done.  But I do know there is someone who understands, and His name is Jesus.


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