Krista Horning, on behalf of the Horning family, wrote me earlier this week with a strong recommendation for Joni Eareckson Tada’s newest book, A Place of Healing. She included this long quotation from the book:
Sometimes when the day (or night!) seems long, and life in the wheelchair seems like a heavy weight to bear, I remind myself that my Lord Jesus Himself was handicapped.
Does that concept startle you just a little?
You know me: I’m always looking to see what God’s Word has to say about physical limitations. And when you study the life of Jesus, you have to stop and consider that although our Savior did not have a physical disability per se, He did handicap Himself when He came to earth.
Boy, did He ever.
How can I say that for sure? Well, the dictionary defines “handicap” as any difficulty that is imposed on a superior person so as to hamper or disadvantage him, making that person more equal with others.
Certainly, if we use that definition, then Jesus was handicapped.
Think of it!
On one hand, the fullness of God dwelt in Christ, yet on the other hand He “made Himself nothing”. He emptied Himself, taking the very nature of a servant. Talk about handicaps! Can you imagine a greater one? To be God on one hand, and yet to make Himself nothing! That is one severe limitation which, you would think, would have hampered our Lord or put Him at a disadvantage.
Jesus, the Master Architect of the entire universe, designed suns and stars, galaxies and planets. When he handicapped Himself, He made Himself a carpenter on earth, limiting Himself to designing common wooden chairs, stools, tables, and yokes for necks of oxen.
Jesus was also the one who spoke the Word, creating everything around us. But this same Jesus who spoke time and space into being handicapped Himself on earth, choosing instead to speak to prostitutes, lepers, and sinners.
Jesus, the one who since Satan’s fall had despised pain and suffering as one of the awful results of man’s sin, handicapped Himself on earth when His back ached and His muscles cramped and when He sweat real sweat and cried real tears and bled real blood.
When I think of all this, it strikes me that these limitations didn’t just “happen” to Jesus in the same way that circumstances “happen” to you and me. The amazing thing is that Christ chose to be handicapped. I can’t think of too many people who would chose to be disabled. Believe me, I know I wouldn’t! There is nothing easy, nothing fun, nothing casual about living with a disability. From the very get-go, it’s hard.
But Jesus chose to handicap Himself so that you and I might share eternity with Him in bodies that will never stoop, limp, falter, or fail. Jesus chose to experience pain and suffering beyond our imagination in order that you and I would one day walk the streets of Heaven whole, happy, and pain free. Jesus chose to die-though that was a daunting task in itself. As C.S. Lewis wrote, Jesus “was so full of life that when he wished to die He had to ‘borrow death from others.’”
But borrow it He did, taking it unto Himself, yielding up His life, so that you and I might pass through death’s shadow and live forever. Yes, while I’m alive here on earth, I am called to endure a handicap. But how could I be other than grateful and content? I’m in the best company of all.
Joni Eareckson Tada, A Place of Healing, 204-205.
I wrote to the Hornings and asked why this quote was so special to them. Bob replied on behalf of the family:
The thing that was striking in these paragraphs was one of those little additions to our way of thinking that made a world of difference.
We’ve always known that Jesus had to give up much. He had to empty himself to come here to live and die. It’s one of those things that we “know,” but perhaps it’s so incomprehensible that we just gloss over it or take it for granted, even if that is unintentional. We don’t know it as well as we think we do.
But when Joni says that Jesus emptying of himself was like becoming disabled, it made us sit up and take notice. That’s something we can relate to. We know the difficulty. We know all the things we’ve had to give up or let go of. We know the rejection and loneliness. So now we can grasp just a tiny bit of what Jesus went through. And it is just a tiny bit because we know his was an infinitely greater loss than anything we ever experienced.
And the good news is that he did it so that he could solve a problem for us (our sin) that we had absolutely no ability to solve on our own. Despite his “disability” he was still far beyond anything we could imagine. And he still is. What a great God!
Thank you, Horning family, for this book recommendation (which is in my stack) and for helping me see the greatness of Jesus in a fresh way. Yes, what a great God!