Could Jesus have done it on his own?
I would like you, if you will, to join me in taking a step back to gain a view of the big picture of God’s plan for the world, the incarnation of Christ, and the different human characters involved. And it begins with a conundrum.
What if one of us human beings could live, and for the entirety of our lives, never once put ourselves first — our own needs and wants — before God, others, or the world around us? For most of us, we cannot even go even a single day or hour without putting ourselves first, therefore, to achieve this for a lifetime would surely be impossible? But, just imagine! What if someone did manage it? What would happen? What would be the outcome of achieving something that had never before been achieved? If the sayings were true, that death and pain and suffering were the consequences of this ‘sin’ in our lives, well, if someone never sinned, then they could not suffer the consequences. It would have the potential to change the very order of the natural world and turn it on its head. Yet, this is exactly what God intended to do through the incarnation of his Son, Jesus Christ. God would become a human and, against all the odds, overcome the world. So what would it take for this to happen?
This leads us to an interesting debate. Was it easy for Jesus to be born and live a perfect life? On the one hand, we can argue that if Jesus was God, then it was easy to achieve, because surely, even scripture asserts that ‘everything is possible with God’. Yet, on the other hand, this would deny Christ’s humanity. He would be superhuman and the achievement would not qualify. It would be akin to someone entering the hundred metres final at the Olympics with a rocket strapped to their back. No, despite being the incarnate Christ, Jesus would have to achieve this all on his own, as a human being, and scriptures testify to this. We read that Jesus felt pain, hurt, anguish, sorrow, anxiety, frustration, anger, and the whole breadth of human emotion and mental thought. Therefore, it begs the question, how did he do it? How did he manage to achieve something to which no other human had ever come close?
I think the answer is multifaceted. Firstly, Jesus must have had incredible strength of character and an inordinate sense of security in who he was and what he hoped to complete. Secondly, Jesus did not do this on his own. He was championed.
In human history, there is not one example of people doing life and achieving greatness in their own strength, and if there is someone, then I have yet to discover them! We are all the products of those who champion us — our parents or carers, our friends and family, our colleagues and acquaintances, our fans and support base, and, of course, God.
My daughter, Rowena, recently completed her Paramedic Science Degree. The amount of work was phenomenal. Over the three years, there were many times when she was beyond tired and crying, with nothing left in the tank. After days of 12-hour ambulance shifts with only days left before she had to hand in an academic essay, my words to her were, “You can do this! I believe in you! You got this!” Then, somehow she would dig deeper and get the work done. She said, on the day she handed in her final essay, “Dad, I couldn’t have done it without you,” and I suppose, this is true, but she did all the hard work and it is entirely her achievement to be congratulated and celebrated.
In the same way, I wonder if Jesus needed those around him to champion him, to believe in him, and to say, “You can do this! I believe in you! You got this.” Certainly, Mary and Joseph championed him. Mary’s song, forever recorded for us to read, is not only a great prayer of praise, but also an endorsement for all her child was to become. I wonder if she read it to him often? And Jesus’ own extended family championed him. Liz and Zechariah also both honoured God and all Jesus would become, and their son, John became a special envoy for Jesus — a curious mix of prophet, equerry, agent, and promoter. Then there were Jesus’ disciples and his followers and supporters from all walks of life. It was not only that Jesus taught them, but they also empowered and financed his ministry. And finally, there was God the Father who endorsed his son saying, “This is my Son, whom I love — with him I am well pleased.”
Jesus needed this support because he faced every kind of opposition. He faced the Roman overlords, the Herodian puppets, the Zealots who wanted him to act a certain way, the pharisees who wanted to undermine his calling by insisting the whole nation needed to be perfect, the crowds who wanted to crown him by force, and, of course, evil itself who wanted him defeated and destroyed. Yes, Jesus needed championing, and he did it. He overcame the world. He did all the hard work and it was entirely his achievement to be congratulated and celebrated. In the words of the football or soccer pundits, “Get in!”
As we look at Jesus, we can see that he has gone ahead of us, that the door to life has for us been opened, he is now the doorkeeper, and we are permitted entry. And here is the thing. Like Jesus, we cannot do it on our own. We need championing. We need others standing alongside us and cheering us on. We need the love, encouragement, and support of one another telling us we can do this! We need people to believe in us and who will come alongside us when we are tired, crying, and the tank is empty. This is the kind of church of which I want to be a part, and this, my friends, is one of the best things about St. Mark’s.
This week, each day, I urge you to congratulate and celebrate one another. If there is something you love about someone, tell them. Do not wait and do not delay. If someone pops into your mind, please reach out to them. Call them, text them, or message them. Do not wait and do not delay. If you have the opportunity to build someone up with a word of encouragement, please do. Do not wait and do not delay. We need each other, and I believe that each one of us, though the power of God, will achieve greatness.