Being exposed to the Christian religion and Jesus for my entire life, there is one thing that has not escaped me and that is the message of Jesus’ perfection. Jesus never sinned or did anything remotely wrong according to the bible which only chronicles his 3 years of ministry. As an adult, I also realized that the traditional view of Jesus’ perfection is a little different from mine these days.
The traditional view of Jesus is like a lily white flower that was never in any risk of being tempted; therefore, He had no reason to really fight off sin for himself because he was always protected by his divinity. There is also the view that because of His divinity, then there is NO way that Jesus would have been able to sin no matter what was shoved in front of Him. However, after hearing a sermon a few years ago, my view of Jesus’ perfection made me see Him as more relatable in my moments of difficulty. The sermon had emphasized that despite Jesus’ divine connection, He was also fully, completely and unequivocably human ie. in every way-just like the rest of us, hurt, pain-human. Why does that make a difference for me?
If we think of Greek mythology and various religions that have outer worldly deities, the one complaint is that these gods cannot identify with the daily experiences of a man or woman. Therefore, these deities always impose these almost impossible guidelines to getting into their inner circle. Call me a heretic but some of the old testament chronicles of God also seemed to follow the same trend. The new testament view of Jesus and religion really identified with our outer and inner demons and attests to the fact that we fail even when we do not want to fail.
I am an exponential thinker. I am not always satisfied with the status quo and I ask question and think outside the box when there is a gap. I was raised to not ask certain questions or think too much outside of what the pastor tells you about Jesus and all things Christian. If you have read enough of my blog, then you will recognize that I have traditional and nontraditional views on all things God and Christian and I have never apologized for my curiosity or views because from it I stumble, fall, learn and grow. If I can’t question then I won’t believe. For most of us who choose to believe in God, you know how difficult of a task this can be. From the moment I was introduced to the Christian religion as a baby until this day, the bible has remained the same but the understanding, when applied in context to the human experience, has changed. If each person should put themselves in the place of each bible character or have experienced similar issues as those we read about, I can guarantee that your responses would not be the same as Ruth, David, Judas or Peter.
I believe that most people read the bible in abstract, something that I was taught to do for many years. However, when we are faced with a true Christian conundrum, the abstract does not quite fit. That, my fellow Christians, is why we struggle over the simplest of problems in our lives. Despite that, most Christians are quick to judge others (been there and done that). In comes the philosophy of removing the log from your eye before condemning someone who has a spec or even the same size log their eye. If you know the perfect way to deal with the ups and downs of daily life and being the best-est Christian, then feel free to share it because there are many who could benefit.
Back to the topic, reinterpretation of Jesus’ perfection. I imagine Jesus as a child (unfortunately that is not something many do). I see him like any other human child who cried, fussed, pooped, giggled, and peed on his mother (maybe missing her face because she was not quick enough) while she is changing his cloth nappy. He was NOT locked away in the synagogue for hours on end learning from the priest but learning from his father and the men who are close friends and relatives of the family just like the other boys of his age and time. He participated in the traditional Jewish festivals like everyone else. I see him playing with other kids and getting into things and perhaps skinning his knees like all the other boys in the town. I see him growing up and having the same challenges that prepubescent and pubescent boys have (I realize that most Christians will not agree with this). Keep in mind, if he is fully human, then these are natural social experiences and body development he faced just like his peers. I see his parents expecting him to get married to a nice Jewish girl who was a part of the lineage of King David, they expected him to have a trade etc. (keep in mind that there were a few times Jesus had to point out to his mother that he was here for a different purpose than what is traditionally expected of a Jewish male born of his stature). I see Jesus experiencing the normal human life in order to prepare for his job as the one and only human-divine representative.
Jesus’ vulnerable humanity came into play so clearly in two places in the bible: His 40 days and nights of meditation in the wilderness and at the Garden of Gethsemane. If we think about the story of Jesus being tempted in the context of him being fully human, then those 3 enticements by Satan will make better sense. If we are only able to see Jesus as fully divine, then that story would seem quite stupid-sort of similar to someone with a hundred dollars trying to bribe a millionaire. So, what exactly do I mean? Satan knew that the fully human side of Jesus would be starving and weak (physically and mentally) after going over a month with no nourishment. Think of us in that situation (rich or poor) that if someone offered us a simple morsel of bread (not a feast) we would be so ready to grab at it. Some of us can’t even resist a special treat when we are feeling absolutely full! Satan was not tempting Jesus’ divinity he was going after his humanity in the same way he comes after us.
The 2nd temptation was for the fully human Jesus to try to test God’s loyalty to protect him. Now, if we should bring this scenario to our reality, I am positive that we have tried to test God many times in many ways. “God if you are really there then … for me.” It might seem silly for Satan to tell Jesus, look if you jump you are totally protected so why not do it. However, the point was to see if the humanity of Jesus would question if God would really do such a miracle for Him. Imagine if someone should ask such a request of you, what would your first thought be of God’s power? Would He save me or would He let me fall to my death? A divine Jesus is capable of anything which is humanly impossible; therefore such a temptation for a God would be lunacy.
The 3rd attempt was about association with power. Satan was offering the physical world in exchange for Jesus’ association to him. As humans we know that we are fragile because it does not take much to change our lives significantly or to lose everything including our lives in the blink of an eye. Therefore, many people like to be associated with power, authority and dominance as a delusional way to feel invincible. We see these behaviors throughout with inequality in race, religion, ethnicity, gender, jobs and even in our homes. Why do you think celebrities and the wealthy have so many ‘friends’? It’s all about association. A divine Jesus would have no need of such foolishness because the world belongs to the Father and therefore to Him. Take note that Jesus had an old testament scripted response for all 3 temptations. He could have easily said Satan don’t be stupid, I am God but instead He resorted to the same things we mere mortals do today when we memorize and recite scripture.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, this was the most human of response. This fully human man knew that he was going to be betrayed by friends (do you know what that feels likes?), who probably were more like His on-the-road family. He was beaten, mocked, shamed, humiliated, degraded, flogged, stripped in public, having large sharp thorns pierced his head, people hitting and spitting on him, sharp sword in His side, large nails in your hands and ankles and hung for your mother, earthly father, brothers, sisters, people He healed and rebuked, friends and strangers to see (There is an interesting documentary called Who was Jesus? on Discovery Channel that talks about his torture). I don’t know about you but I would have peed and pooed in my pants and ran away in hiding if I suspected I will be brutally tortured. Instead, the fully human part, prayed so darn hard because of some heavy-duty anxiety and stress which caused blood to pour from his sweat glands. He then said the human thing and
asked maybe begged that God would pass ‘the cup’ from him and find some other easier way. I wonder at times why He had the audacity to even ask the Father for such a thing knowing that this was His destiny. I believe that He asked perhaps because this was the fully human side of him recognizing how tremendous His cross will be. The rest is Christian history.
I appreciate the fully divine side of Jesus. Afterall, we need a divine intercessor. However, I appreciate the fully human side of Him even more because it gives me the feeling that at least one person in the heavenly body gets me and my never-ending struggles. No, not the me that should be a perfect Christian, say, think, and do the right thing all the time but the part that will get it right and get it wrong until the day I die. If Jesus were married, I would expect him to have marital struggles. If he had children, I would expect that he would have parental issues like the next person. If he was a senior citizen, then the same curses and blessings of aging. I like to think of Jesus as perfect in the sense that He was tempted and faced day-to-day issues of life in the same ways we do; however, he made the better choices that we do not always make.