Jesus asked, "Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?" Then he pointed to his disciples and said, "Look, these are my mother and brothers. Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother!"
-- Matthew 12:48-50
Maybe for you it's Easter, Christmas or some other time when your family gets together. In any event, the National Communications Association says that the holidays can be either a time of joy and togetherness--or an occasion for stress, conflict and family tension. What's more, stress expert Elizabeth Scott observes that "many a happy holiday has been found by groups of people who have decided to celebrate with friends instead of family."
It's a sad but accurate commentary about what's happening in 21st Century America. But in many ways, it's simply a reflection of human nature. Whenever families gather--for just about any reason at all--tensions can peak. Sometimes it's because of intrusions into precious personal space, like when the in-laws spend the night (or week) in a house that's already too close for comfort. There's also that outcast teenager who perceives their older relatives as judgmental, critical or demanding. And let's not forget those pleasant conversations over Christmas dinner about relationships, politics and religion.
Does this hit close to home? If so, you're in good company. Jesus himself--the Son of God--was often misunderstood by those closest to him.
"A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his relatives and his own family," the Savior once told his disciples.
Since even our own families can misinterpret our actions, have you ever wondered if God really understands all the mundane problems, annoyances and trials that we face every day? Luke's Gospel tells us that Jesus came into this world in the poorest of circumstances: with a manger--an animal's feeding trough--as His first bed. But why? As the King's son, Jesus could have lived in a marble palace while enjoying only the finest things in life. And God could have commanded everyone on earth to worship and obey him.
But something would have been missing. As a loving Father, our God refuses to force anyone to accept his free gift of forgiveness and salvation. And since he knew that men and women were without hope because of the pitiful ways they lived their lives, God decided to come to us himself in human form to live the perfect life. That meant living among us through the sin-free Jesus Christ: the only acceptable sacrifice to pay for our offenses.
Jesus--the Son of God--was born into poverty. And throughout his ministry, the religious elite despised and cursed him. They didn't recognize him or hear his voice. And even Jesus' own family sometimes thought he was crazy. Eventually, the innocent Christ would die for all of us in a most painful and humiliating way: crucifixion with two common criminals.
But that's the way it had to be. And because Jesus fulfilled the mission God had planned for him since the foundation of the world, the circle was complete and our sin-debt paid in full. He came to earth to be with his creation and suffer both among us and for us. God not only lived out the human experience, he came to understand both you and me.