Tuesday, June 22, 2010

“Social Support: The Tie That Binds”

The first line of the book Desire of Ages is taken from Matthew 1:23 “His name shall be called Immanuel….God with us.” This is fitting for One who would be the Desire of all nations, for in those words, we find the greatest of all social support. It has its basis in self-sacrificing love – agape. But before we look at God’s interaction with us, we will briefly consider the relationship between God and Jesus in Heaven before Jesus became Immanuel, God with us.

Proverbs 8:22-31 describes the relationship between God and the preincarnate Jesus. Verse 30 is particularly insightful. Beholding His Father, Jesus says, “Then I was beside Him as a master craftsman; and I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him.” God and Jesus did not have a sterile, robotic co-existence in Heaven, each in some divine trance looking out into space.
No, they were relating to each other with delight and rejoicing. They were friends. This we see clearly in Zechariah 13:17 when, on the cusp of Their ultimate sacrifice for you and me, God says of Jesus “Awake, O sword against My Shepherd, against the man who is My Companion.” 
Other translations render the last phrase variously; “against the Man who is close to Me” (NIV), “that is My fellow” (KJV), “that is My partner” (NLT). In actuality, “My fellow” is “the Man of My fellowship.” God and Jesus were great friends with an incredible bond of love between them. However, they agreed to share that love with us (Zech 6:13) and so He became Immanuel, God with us. In coming to dwell with us, Jesus came to reveal what true social support looked like.

“Through Christ, the circuit of beneficence is complete, representing the character of the great Giver, the law of life” (Ellen White, Desire of Ages page 21). An example of this beneficence is seen in the Old Testament when God said to Moses, “Let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them” (Exodus 25:8). In John 1:14, we read “The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us…” He who became one of us was not ashamed to call us brethren. “Since Jesus came to dwell with us, we know that God is acquainted with our trials, and sympathizes with our griefs. Every son and daughter of Adam may understand that our Creator is the friend of sinners…” (Ellen White, Desire of Ages page 24). In every aspect of the Saviour’s life on Earth, we see “God with us.” We have a High Priest who can sympathize with our weakness. Our greatest social support is the One who became one of us in all points.

In Christ’s healing ministry, we see the power of social support. The book of Luke tells of a woman with an issue of blood for twelve long years. She came to Jesus for healing (Luke 8:43-
48). This woman “had spent all her livelihood on physicians and could not be healed by any.”
This was a huge problem because according to the Levitical laws (Leviticus 15:19-33). She was considered unclean, and thus banned from any social interaction.

This sick woman heard about Jesus, but she was so beaten down that she could not even face Him to ask for healing. She touched the hem of His garment and immediately her flow of blood stopped. Jesus asked, “Who touched Me?” The disciples thought this was a foolish question for there was a multitude around Christ. He insisted that someone touched Him, for He perceived power going out from Him. The poor, insecure, frightened woman fell at His feet and admitted that it was she who touched Him. Jesus says to her in verse 48, “Daughter, be of good cheer…”
Daughter! Wow! She was family! She was back in society; back in fellowship. One of the reasons that Jesus insisted on asking who touched Him was to make sure that everyone knew that she was wholly healed so that she could be accepted back into society.

Jesus Himself had friends on Earth. He who had a powerful friendship with His Father needed friends, as well. Mary, Martha and Lazarus were some of His very close friends. One day,
Lazarus died. Jesus did not go to them immediately but waited four days. When he arrived, He saw Mary and the others weeping, “He groaned in spirit and was troubled” (John 11:33). Then, when He saw where Lazarus was laid, He wept (verse 35). These were obviously friends who meant a great deal to Him and so He wept with those who wept.

Jesus in His hour of greatest need, facing that supreme sacrifice for you and me, needed the support of His friends, the disciples. Particularly He needed His closest friends, Peter, James, and John. Knowing that His trial would be great, He took His friends to a place named Gethsemane to “sit” while He prayed (Mk 14:32). That’s all – just “sit here while I pray.” He then went off with His three closest friends, Peter, James, and John. As He was walking deeper into the garden, He confided in them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch” (Mk 14:34). Even the Son of Man needed support because, the text says, “He was troubled and deeply distressed” (Mk 14:33). His need was so great that He returned to them three times to see if they were, in fact, watching and praying for Him.

We cannot conclude our discussion of God’s system of social support without considering a story recorded in John’s gospel. Jesus, hanging on the cross, looked down and saw His beloved John, standing with Mary, Jesus’ mother, and two other Marys. Instead of being concerned for
Himself, He thought of his mother being left all alone. He said to her, “Behold your son.” To
John He said, “Behold your mother.” “And,” the scripture says, “from that hour that disciple took her to his own home” (John 19:25-27). Even in His hour of total darkness as He faces the second death, Jesus forgets Himself and ministers to the heart broken pair. Agape does not seek its own comfort. John takes his cue from his Master and selflessly takes her as his own mother.
What can we learn from the relationships between God and Jesus, and that of God/Jesus with us?
First, all social interaction and support is other-centered, self-sacrificing – agape. Second, we were made in the image of God and as such we were made with a deep capacity for love – love which must be shared. This is why He was called Immanuel, God with us. Third, we do not have to face our trials alone; Jesus, our example, had friends and called upon them in His trials.  Last and most important, we have a friend in God/Jesus who has welcomed us into His family.  “Son, daughter, be of good cheer.”

--Andi Hunsaker

The Desire of Ages