June 4, 2020 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Luke 2:6-7 (NRSV)
While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
In Jesus, the Son of God, God entered human life as a baby. He was defenseless and vulnerable, utterly dependent on his parents for everything. How amazing to think that God chose to come among us in this way. This means, among other things, that God understands. To put it simply, God gets you. So, when you feel vulnerable and weak, when you turn to the Lord for help, you can count on his empathy as well as his grace. God is there for you!
In Monday’s Life for Leaders devotion, we focused on the humility of Jesus’s birth and its implications for our lives. Today, as we continue on in the series Following Jesus Today, I want to reflect on another striking aspect of the birth of Jesus. I’m talking about vulnerability. (Note: I had intended for this devotion to go before the one that ran yesterday. Sorry about the order confusion.)
The vulnerability of the infant Jesus really didn’t dawn on me until the birth of Linda’s and my first child, Nathan, in 1992. While we were in the hospital, with lots of fine medical assistance, I recognized just how much Nathan depended on others for his very life. I felt daunted by the fact that in a couple of days Linda and I would assume full responsibility for making sure Nathan was okay. There was no way he could manage on his own. (He does just fine now, let me add—27 years later.)
We brought Nathan home from the hospital on Christmas Eve. As he slept, I finally had a few moments to prepare my sermon for our church’s Christmas Eve services. Reflecting on the biblical text and my three-day long experience of parenting, I was struck by the fact that, like my son, Jesus began life as a vulnerable infant. He, of course, didn’t even have doctors and nurses to ease his welcome into the world. He was completely dependent on his parents and, perhaps, their relatives in Bethlehem.
The vulnerability of Jesus is especially striking when you consider who he was. He wasn’t just a newborn infant, the son of Mary and Joseph. He was also the Son of God, the Word of God in human flesh. This means that God chose to enter human life by becoming utterly vulnerable. Jesus could have shown up as a fully-grown man, or as some kind of invincible demigod (picture Thor or Wonder Woman, with awesome super-powers). But, instead, the all-powerful God chose the way of weakness, dependence, and vulnerability.
One implication of the vulnerability of Jesus is that he understands what it’s like to be human. He gets you and me in a deeply personal way. As it says in Hebrews 2:17, Jesus became “like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest.” Hebrews 4:15 adds, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin.” When you feel vulnerable, Jesus understands. When you feel weak, Jesus gets it. This truth can be especially reassuring in a world infected by a life-threatening, economy-disrupting, relationship-limiting virus. When you talk with Jesus about how you’re doing, his heart is right there with you.
As you reflect on the vulnerability of the infant Jesus, what thoughts and feelings come to mind?
Does your relationship with Jesus reflect the fact that he is “like you in every respect” and is “able to sympathize with your weaknesses”? If so, how and why? If not, why not?
Read Hebrews 4:14-16. As you reflect on the “sympathy” and “weakness” of Jesus, take seriously the exhortation of verse 16.
Gracious God, thank you for becoming fully human in Jesus. Thank you for entering this life as a weak, needy, vulnerable baby. Thank you for understanding what it means to experience life as we do. Thank you for the freedom this gives us to approach you in prayer.
Help me, Lord, to take seriously the vulnerability of Jesus. Help me to believe that, through him, you understand what it’s like to be human. When I feel weak and exposed, when I feel dependent and needy, you know what this is like. Your understanding gives me such freedom as I open my heart to you in prayer. Thank you! Amen.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Sabbath Rest in Christ: Needed for Life’s Journey (Hebrews 3:7–4:16)
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.