I seriously doubt that. I also doubt that Jesus understands what being a female is like, possessing female personality traits, nursing a desire to bear offspring. I doubt Jesus knows the darker side of our nature -- what being an adulterer feels like, or being an embezzler, a money-grubber, or a womanizer. In other words, He does not know what being a sinner, a fallen human being, is like. The author of the above passage of Scripture insists that Jesus is able to sympathize with our various weaknesses, because He also experienced human frailty, yet experienced that frailty without sinning. But the phrase "in every respect," πάντα, references "in all or every or each aspect" -- i.e., whatever pertains to the frailty of human weakness, that Jesus has experienced.
So, Jesus was not obligated to experience my particular grief or pain or struggles or weaknesses in order to be "a high priest ... who in every respect has been tested as we are." Because God the Son wrapped Himself in human flesh, and was well acquainted with the human experience, Jesus understands what being human is like. In essence, then, God our Father, through Jesus, understands you and me and every other human being who wrestles with the complexities of life and the confinements and frustrations of human existence.
On this subject Henri Nouwen writes:
I said at the beginning of this letter that I wanted to write to you about the love of God become visible in Jesus. How is that love made visible through Jesus? It is made visible in the descending way. That is the great mystery of the Incarnation. God has descended to us human beings to become a human being with us; and once among us, he descended to the total dereliction of one condemned to death.
It isn't easy really to feel and understand from the inside this descending way of Jesus. Every fiber of our being rebels against it. We don't mind paying attention to poor people from time to time, but descending to a state of poverty and becoming poor with the poor -- that we don't want to do. And yet that is the way Jesus chose as the way to know God. 1
Why, though? Why would God deign to become human? Think for a moment about the eternality and perfection of God; and then contemplate not only how but why this God would humble God's self and place God's spiritual self in a human condition. But God did not do this for the sake of God. This act of incarnating was done on our behalf -- on your behalf -- on my behalf.
The incarnation aids our thinking with regard to our being and worth. When we become depressed, or are wallowing in self-pity or feelings of self-loathing or worthlessness, we quickly recall the incarnation of God and we remind ourselves that the "gospel of Jesus is a gospel of peace and joy, not of self-disdain and self-torment. The descending [or incarnating, enfleshing] way of Jesus is the way to a new fellowship in which we human beings can reach new life and celebrate it happily together." 2
In Christ's gospel, or good news, the Jewish people, whom God chose as His own people in order to deliver to the world the Savior of humanity, are reconciled back to God. (2 Cor. 5:19) The Gentiles are included in this offer of total reconciliation. But in order to reconcile us all back unto Himself, God needed to become one of us, and thus showed us the way to redemption.
God created a new community in and through the incarnation, the enfleshing, of Jesus Christ. This communion consists of all types of people -- whoever by grace desires to be included in this communion is invited and welcomed with arms wide open. God is well acquainted with the (fallen) human condition. He understands how deep is the pit of our pitiful state. He sees the oppression, the greed, the selfishness, the thievery, the adultery, the fornication, the drug-use, the incest and rape and assaults and hatred and murder and betrayal and lying -- not only His understanding of our fallen condition but also His compassion and love for us in this state moved Him to action.
In order to redeem us, and because He understands us, He lowered Himself to become a human being. What other god of any myth self-sacrificially gives of Himself so recklessly? This God who descends from the immensities of heaven transcends His own reality to be humbled and born in the lowliest of places to experience our frame of reference and reconcile us back to God.
Nouwen writes: "When, finally, Jesus is hanging on the cross and cries out with a loud voice, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?' only then do we know how far God has gone to show us his love. For it is then that Jesus has not only reached his utmost poverty, but also has shown God's utmost love." 3
Suddenly, our question of whether God really understands us seems rather trite.
Speaking in a human manner, I wonder if God has ever thought, "Do these people really understand Me?" Not that God would ever pose such a question. But we do have to admit that God understands us far better than we understand God. "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." (Isa. 55:8, 9)
Contemplating this verse, we all the more wonder at the incarnation, stunned to silence that God could become a mortal and experience hunger and thirst and weariness and grief and want of companionship:
Here we're confronted with a mystery which we can apprehend only [by a deep and abiding faith] in silent prayer. If you try to speak about it, you fall into absurdities that can only sound ridiculous. Who is going to condemn himself to torture and death if he can prevent it? At the moment of his arrest, Jesus said, "Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, who would promptly send more than twelve legions of angels to my defense?" But he does no such thing, for God's way of making love visible is not our way. 4
Does God really know you, understand you, and care about you? God moved heaven and earth in order not only to understand you, and what you are going through at this very moment, but also to reconcile you unto Himself. God's desire is for your entire peace and well-being, wholeness of experience or being, and for your salvation, meaning, the rescuing of your entire being: mind, soul, and body. God understands you better than you understand yourself. God settled in eternity His love and actions toward you for the good. Trust and rest in God, through Christ, and wait for Him.
1 Henri J.M. Nouwen, Letters to Marc about Jesus: Living a Spiritual Life in a Material World (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 1998), 41-42.
2 Ibid., 42.
3 Ibid., 45.
This post was written by William Birch