Section 4: Jesus
Week 1: Jesus Is Fully Human
Day 2: Jesus Has Human Emotions
In yesterday’s reading, we noted that Jesus is fully human, and therefore has a human body just like you and me. Because he is fully human, Jesus also experiences human emotions.
Nowhere is that truth more obvious than at Gethsemane. Knowing he would soon be crucified, Jesus went there to pray. The prospect of dying for our sins was so painful that Jesus said his soul was overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death (Matt. 26:38). Luke adds that Jesus’ anguish was so great his sweat was like drops of blood (Luke 22:44).
Based on his experience at Gethsemane, we can see Jesus is no robot. Because he is fully human, Jesus is capable of experiencing the same emotions you and I experience on a daily basis. But why did Jesus have to go through such excruciating emotional pain? While we’re at it, why did he have to go through any suffering at all in his life? He had to endure the loss of friends (John 11:1-37). He had to endure the rejection of the people he came to save (John 10:22-39). He had to endure his disciples’ repeated failures (Mark 4:35-41, 8:14-21, 33). Jesus undoubtedly also suffered in many other ways, just as you and I do. Why?
Jesus’ Faith Grew Because of His Suffering
Obviously, given that his mission was to come and die on the cross, he was going to have to suffer at some point. But couldn’t the Father have arranged things so he didn’t have to suffer until then? Take a look at Hebrews 5:7-9:
During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him…
Jesus learned obedience? At first, it’s surprising to read that. When you think about it, though, it makes perfect sense. Because Jesus was fully human, his faith had to mature just like yours and mine. And his suffering (emotional or otherwise) played a significant role in that maturity. Even though those experiences were painful, Jesus needed to go through them in order to have his faith strengthened.
And he needed a strong faith to accomplish his mission. If Jesus somehow had been able to avoid any and all suffering before the cross, he may not have gone to the cross. As Bruce Ware says, “Jesus’ obedience was not automatic, as though his divine nature simply eliminated any real struggle to believe or effort to obey. No, in his human nature, Jesus fought for faith and struggled to obey… Could Jesus have obeyed the Father and gone to the cross to die for our sins when he was twelve years old? Could he have done so at the outset of his ministry? Or did the Father know just when his Son’s faith would be strengthened sufficiently?…”[i]
Suffering Plays the Same Role in Our Lives
We learn something important from this passage in Hebrews–not just about Jesus, but also about ourselves. If Jesus had to grow in obedience and faith, then we most certainly do as well. We weren’t designed to have a mature faith automatically. We need to grow spiritually, just like we need to grow physically.
All of our experiences play a role in that process. But suffering plays a unique role because of the way it forces us to rely on God. When we suffer, we have to flex our faith muscles, so to speak, by putting them into practice. We have to trust that God knows what he’s doing, that he cares for us, and that he will provide for us in the midst of our trials. As we put our faith to work in those ways, it grows.
The growth process can be painful, but it’s necessary. And we can take comfort knowing that Jesus himself went through the same training. As a result, we know our suffering—far from being a weakness—is a sign of our growing strength. It means we are becoming more like Christ.
List one or two recent struggles.
Did those struggles force you to rely on God more? If so, what did you learn about God (and yourself) through that time? How did those struggles affect your faith? If you didn’t rely on God more through that time, could you have? If so, do you think that would have strengthened your faith?
[i] Bruce Ware, The Man Christ Jesus: Theological Reflections on the Humanity of Christ (Wheaton: Crossway, 2013) Ch. 4 Kindle eBook.