In many cultures, there are legends of kings or gods dressing up as common folk and traveling the countryside for a while incognito. The hidden royalty would then reward the subject that treated them with hospitality and punish the public servants they found mistreating their subjects. In the book of Hebrews, we are told to show hospitality towards strangers because we might be entertaining angels and unaware of it. Even the top god of Olympus, does a little mortal crossdressing on several occasions. This allows Zeus to meet the wise and kind old couple Baucus and Philemon and reward them for their hospitality while destroying the rest of the village. It would be easy to think Jesus became human for the same reason. Did God send Jesus to test us?
One evening, Jesus was explaining to Nicodemus how one goes about healing one’s soul. (John 3:1-17). Jesus wanted Nicodemus to know that he did not come to test us. There would come a time when Nicodemus would see Jesus being rejected by everyone and hung on a cross to die between two common criminals. I guess you can imagine that Nicodemus – who believed Jesus was from God – would be afraid that we humans had really failed the test. Jesus assures him that this is not the case. God did not send Jesus into the world to test or condemn the world (17). This is not a pop quiz.
Instead, Jesus came to heal the world. In order to explain this to Nicodemus, he reminds him about how Moses took a serpent and put it up on a cross-shaped stick. (Numbers 21:4-9) The purpose of God having Jesus hung on the cross was in order for us to be healed of our sins. Jesus was not God, incognito. He didn’t come simply to observe us. God fully understands us. But God could not be compassionate and bring about a full healing of our sins without becoming fully human. As a human being, Jesus experience that connection between physical healing and spiritual wholeness.
This is a good time to speak about our need for healing and the compassionate love of Jesus. The current global pandemic could make us wonder if God is testing us. Did the coronavirus come into our world to test our faith? In the HIV-AIDs crisis of the 1980s, many Christians falsely believed that this disease was a punishment from God. Anxiety about illness rarely leads people to do the right thing. God would never cause people to be sick to punish them. Instead, Jesus continues to be in our world today as our source of healing.