I plugged the word “God” into the search bar of a free stock image site. I came up with many offerings like these.
Apparently, for a lot of folks, 1990s-era Christian book covers come to mind when we think of God. We usually have no problem understanding God as infinite or transcendent. These stock images help make the same point. Sunlight coming down from the sky certainly has a beauty to it, and communicates the idea of God literally being above us. We see the idea particularly well-communicated in the sunbeam coming out of the clouds almost like God shines a light from just behind the atmospheric veil down to earth.
None of these images indicate the closeness of God to us, do they?
Yet, we must understand one of the truly unique assertions made by Christianity is God as both infinite and personal. How personal might God reveal himself to be? The second member of the Trinity, the Son of God himself became a man. We understand the Father, Son, and Spirit existing in eternity past, needing nothing, and delighting in one another. Man did not result from an unconscious or unintentional emanation from God or a lack or loneliness felt within the persons of the Trinity. The Father existed before time. The Son existed before time. The Spirit existed before time. The Son, however, in order to bring Man back into fellowship with the Creator, entered space and time as a man. He had a mission in his sending from the Father, and it reached completion. The Father perfected him not in the sense of shoring up a defect, but in sending the Son to complete his course. He did not work out his plan via decree only—he sent the Son to live a human life, accomplishing the fulfillment of the Law with perfection. In so doing, the Son also experienced the suffering of human beings.
Because God made his people of flesh and blood, the Son took on these and suffered death to take the power of death away from the devil. He conquered the devil, neutralizing his power.
As a man, the Son, Jesus, had the ability to serve as the atoning sacrifice, the receiver of the wrath of God (via the cross) to turn God’s anger toward Man to favor.
Who read the Epistle to the Hebrews first? People suffering. People dealing with emotional, spiritual, and physical pain. These people became rejected by family, friends, and colleagues because they aligned themselves with a crucified Galilean peasant who claimed himself both God and Messiah. Their own people felt ashamed in their associations with these early Christians.
What does the third member of the Trinity have to say about their ostracism?
Jesus feels no shame to call them “brother.” The eternal Son of God, who suffered as they did, who felt the pains and difficulties of life and rose above every temptation does not scowl at them in struggles. Instead, he gave them a sure word about their status after death. Our own Western culture draws from the Christian and biblical understanding of death far more that it realizes. Many in Europe and North America understand death as a gateway to some sort of afterlife, often people express a knowledge of heaven and hell. However, these concepts come from Scripture, not universal human consciousness. Pagan peoples often had a murky concept of death, not knowing what would come after at all. Christians have no such fear of an unknown life after death. Even the man crucified next to Jesus received the promise of paradise.
Furthermore, Jesus became the legitimate high priest of humanity by being a man who walked, talked, ate, slept, and breathed. He felt the struggles of a harsh life on earth. In accomplishing his mission perfectly, he does not view life as simple and say to his people, “Come ON. It’s not that hard, y’all.” No, he stands ready to aid those who suffer temptation.
Reader, what is your struggle today? You may feel like God scrunches his nose in disgust when you come to him with your same temptations and sins as yesterday. Hebrews says the opposite. Jesus gets your temptation; he understands it. He has the ability to help. God’s just wrath awaits the unrepentant, but for now, in his patience, Jesus stands ready to help the tempted. He stands ready to receive the sinner who desires him. You may lack patience, but your Creator does not. You have not breathed your last, and the Lord has not yet descended on the clouds with his angels. Time remains.
Will you take your temptations and sins to him that he will give you life?
Francis A. Schaeffer, The God Who Is There, in A Christian View of Philosophy and Culture, vol. 1 of The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer: A Christian Worldview (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1968), 168–169.