Somebody does know the trouble I’ve seen. Jesus knows it because he knows it (like he knows everything), and he knows it because he has experienced it. That is why it matters that his name is Immanuel. He is with us that much.
Ten years ago I had a headache specialist who had all the empathy skills of a frozen tuna. Even worse, he rebuked me for my long-term condition. It’s no fun telling an alleged medical healer you’ve had a nonstop, two-decade-long headache (now three), been to many doctors, been tested, scanned, MRI-ed, medicated, dieted, exercised, vitamined, nutritioned, acupunctured, and adjusted up and down and all around, only to have him scold you because you are not trying hard enough.
I appreciate that he tried to fix me. As a patient, that’s mostly what I cared about. But as a flesh-and-blood human being with pulsating pain, I very much wished for something more.
Our Savior Has Been There
God is something more. God the Son, “Immanuel,” is not just a specialist; he is a sympathizer. He never just diagnoses and prescribes; he comes, draws near, feels, and cares. Not a truth merely for those perceived to be especially weak or victimized, this is gospel truth for every single one of us.
For the author of Hebrews the incarnation was profoundly comforting for all believers, precisely for this reason:
Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things…[H]e had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God…For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted…For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Heb. 2:14–18; 4:15–16)
According to Hebrews, our ability to go boldly to the throne of grace is enabled by Jesus’s prior willingness to journey humbly into our valley of grief. The incarnation—which will continue on into eternity—means we have a Savior who’s been there, and has the scars to prove it.