Christians talk a lot about Jesus' death. That is good and right. Jesus' death and resurrection are the climax of history. Every other event pales in comparison to these. However, it may not be often enough that we stop to consider the importance of Jesus living a whole human life prior to his death. Why was Jesus born? Why did he live as an infant? A toddler? A child? A teenager? A young man? The Christmas season is an appropriate time to pause to consider the importance of Jesus' whole life, birth to death and resurrection.
Jesus' life was marked by suffering and temptation. Not only was he tempted by the evil one to abandon the way of suffering and gain power through disloyalty to the one he knew as Father (Matt. 4:10); he was tempted by friends and family that wanted to keep him from doing what God had called him to do (Mark 3:21). He was tempted by his own disciples with their own conflicting agendas (Mark 8:32). On top of all this was the regular lot of suffering and trial that comes with being human. Despite all of this Jesus remained faithful and paved the way of salvation demonstrating with his whole life what it looks like to be fully human and fully given over to God.
Even more, in living a whole human life Jesus became for us a sympathetic high priest. This involves two important points. First, a perfect high priest must be sympathetic to those he represents. He cannot be sympathetic if he has not entered into their experiences of both joy and pain. Second, a perfect high priest must be fully obedient and faithful to God. If he were disobedient, he himself would be in need of a priest to represent him before God. So, the writer of Hebrews can say that Jesus, "the pioneer of [our] salvation," was made, "perfect through sufferings" (2:10). That is not to say that Jesus lacked sinless perfection. As "the reflection of God's glory and the exact imprint of God's very being" he was already perfectly sinless (Heb. 1:3). No, the eternal Son of God was only lacking in his human experience. So, he entered into human life being born of a woman and lived a full human life in order that he might become a perfect high priest able to both sympathetically represent suffering humanity before God and to stand before God himself sinless and pure.
Jesus' life was important because he needed to share in our experiences in every respect so that he could atone for our sins with his blood. So, you see, the work accomplished by Jesus' death could not be complete without his whole life. Jesus lived and died and was raised so that we could be restored and reconciled to God and so that we could see what it looks like, and ourselves be enabled, to live a life of holiness unto God. And because he was tempted and suffered like us, he is able to help us when we are being tested (Heb. 2:18). Having reconciled us to God by his blood, our pathfinder is able to lead us down the path of authentic holiness of heart and life to God! Thanks be to God for the fully human pioneering life of Jesus!
Grace and peace,