Sympathetic Savior… His Humanity

God became flesh? How is it possible? What does it mean? What did it take?

Sympathetic Savior is a four-part series. The following are links to the other chapters in the series:
Part 2: Christ’s Temptation, Part 3: Christ’s Relationships, Part 4: Christ’s Sacrifice

by Steven Gledhill for FREEdom from MEdom Project

At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! 2 Corinthians 5:16

Is it “new-age” heresy to actually take the apostle Paul at his word when he wrote that Jesus emptied himself of his divinity—divine nature, divine standing, divine privilege, divine reputation—to be born of a virgin on planet earth? Is it necessary to find some proper context to believe something so boldly put down on parchment for our reading pleasure?

I have asked pastor-friends to guide me to Scripture that clearly describes Jesus as fully man and fully God, while walking in our shoes—sandals—in order to truly sympathize with the human condition (Hebrews 4:14-16). Each time, I was told they would need to further study the matter. Further study the matter? After years of formal education and seminary study?

Of course, they would point to the authority Jesus had to do miracles, heal the sick and restore sight to the blind, cast out demons, forgive sin, and resurrect the dead. True indeed. Jesus, while fully human, was full of the Holy Spirit. As were the apostles, namely Peter, when people were healed that stood in his shadow. Peter was given authority to forgive sin, as the extension of his ascended Lord’s mercy (then fully man and entirely God… again) for the repentant heart. Not only did Peter resurrect the dead, but there were actually a couple of folks who dropped dead in Peter’s presence when prosecuted for cheating the church of their resources and lying about it.

While it might not come easy to reference specific Scripture concerning Christ’s deity while fully human, there is specific Scripture on the tip of my tongue that at the very least suggests that, while he was equal with God, Jesus Christ emptied himself of his divine standing and privilege to take on the likeness of sinful flesh.

Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. Philippians 2:6-7 (NKJV)     

“Coming in the likeness of men” means what, exactly? Is “likeness” a word that can be played with? Synonyms for the word “likeness” include “replica” and “reproduction.” If that is the case, then according to Apostle Paul, Jesus was human in the same way you and I are human, and was as much divine as you and I are divine, while a person of human flesh on earth.

Christ Jesus, who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. Philippians 2:6-7 (NIV)

The NIV translation goes even further to say that Jesus emptied himself of his divine nature and took on the nature of a servant, made into human likeness—a reproduction into human flesh. Nature! Our nature is at the core and the very fiber of who we are. Our nature is the very essence of who we are.

Paul takes it even deeper, the lengths God went when he writes,

God did so by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh. Romans 8:3 (NKJV)

What feels like heresy concerning my take on this, is that it somehow lessens and reduces the man, Jesus, if he was not fully God while being made—begotten—into the likeness of sinful flesh. In fact, the opposite is true. It makes Jesus more! If possible, it adds to the substance and gravity of what he experienced and sacrificed.  It means that Jesus, the man, did not have a “get out of human struggle free card.” So when Jesus was tempted, he wasn’t just sort of tempted. He was tempted to sin. Jesus experienced vulnerability to temptation and so for him to resist temptation was legit… it was real. When Jesus experienced physical and emotional pain, he actually felt it fully in the flesh.

There’s that word ‘flesh’ again. That is where the seminary scholars want to go to contest that Jesus was simultaneously God while in the appearance of human flesh. Many will insist that human flesh is literally the physical appearance of human flesh—the human body. It was certainly that; but so much more. I will be taking that on as you read further what the word ‘flesh’ means in the original Greek language these texts were written in.

While preparing and studying to write this, I asked my pastor, “Could Jesus, while a man on earth, sin? His response? “Yes.” My pastor agreed that Jesus could not really be tempted to sin if he could not in actuality sin. This is a problem if Jesus was fully God at the time he walked among us. I get deep into that here as well.

When all is said and done, you will find that the point of all of this is to more fully appreciate the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ, who bore it all at the cross and beyond, truly paying the entire debt of sin. Not only is it not heretical to point this out, I believe it lends itself to depicting the full glory of what the three persons of God were willing to do to enjoy the best of relationship with you and me.

A Savior was born unto us, broken for us, to breathe life into us

The miracle that was the birth of Jesus—itself the initial act of mercy—set it all in motion; that being the reconciliation of all people into right relationship with God. What Jesus did out of love at the cross and for three days in the belly of the earth was pay the ransom for our sin. The debt being paid was for our redemption from slavery unto sin into freedom by the life-giving power of the Spirit of God. As Christ was resurrected from condemnation for sin, so were we raised from our fallen condition having been restored into the full inheritance of our salvation in communion with God and into fellowship with the saints; the children of the Father as one family, living in genuine harmony for all of eternity.

Such compassion is what Christmas is all about.

How is it possible? When you really take a moment to consider what’s involved and what’s at stake, Jesus lowering himself from his divine nature to having a flawed flesh nature is something to behold on a massive scale and can never be understated. Yeshua—Jesus—is God! So it had to be, dare I say, uncomfortable for the triune relationship that is Father, Son, and Spirit, fully understanding what is at stake as Jesus becomes a seed in the womb of a human being. And so it begins. Even at his birth, the end is in sight; the end of separation between God and His children because of sin… the end of slavery to sin and its power.

Why is only Jesus the remedy for our problem of lingering and deepening dissatisfaction? Besides being the plan of God, why is Jesus uniquely “qualified” as the acceptable sacrifice for our selfish sin? Why is Jesus our sole advocate before the Father? How can it be said that Jesus can honestly and completely sympathize with your plight and mine in this life?

You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich. 2 Corinthians 8:9 (NLT)

What does it mean, by his poverty?

The Sympathetic Savior series will dig deep into the poverty of our Lord Jesus. To leave the fullness of deity that was His as God, Jesus humbled Himself to the point that the Apostle Paul wrote that He emptied Himself of His deity:

“Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” Philippians 2:6-7 (NIV)

The New Living Translations says that… “he gave up his divine privileges.” Some of what is written here will challenge you doctrinally, or you may think it theologically flawed—outright wrong. All I ask is that you read it through and withhold judgement until having read it in its entirety.

It will do your heart good to discover that Jesus shares in your humanity. He was, as the creeds insist, fully human. (Yes, yes – more than that to be sure. But never ever less than that.) When it was funny, he laughed. Imagine Jesus holding his side from laughing so hard. When it was unjust, he was angry. He was at times furious with haughty religious leaders lording over “their subjects.” Jesus felt joy, weakness, sorrow. The more we can grasp his humanity, the more we will find him someone we can approach, know, love, trust, and adore.

“Jesus never did anything halfheartedly. When he embraced our humanity, he didn’t pull a fast one by making a show of it. He embraced it so fully and totally that he was able to die. God can’t die. But Jesus did.” —John Eldredge, Beautiful Outlaw

The purpose here is to recognize and appreciate the immeasurable, unimaginable sacrifice of God in the fully human person of Jesus Christ; who left the divine union that is God (had to as I’ll explain) for a period of some thirty three years to fully experience life as a human being with real human experiences and issues. Apostle Paul wrote that Jesus surrendered completely His divine privileges so as to not use his “God-ness” to his advantage, which would minimize His human experience, particularly when it came to authentic temptation, pain, struggle, and suffering. It is necessary to comprehend that Jesus took on the full blow… all of the impact of suffering from birth to death to three days of condemnation in the belly of the earth… hell (Romans 8:3). This is prayerfully supported by Scripture sensitive to being contextually accurate in the interpretation of it.

“I can do nothing on my own. I judge as God tells me. Therefore, my judgment is just, because I carry out the will of the one who sent me, not my own will.” John 5:30 (NLT)

Paraphrasing in context to what Jesus was responding to, it might go something like this:
“As a man, I admit that I would not have the power or the authority to heal, cast out demons, and raise the dead, unless that power and authority was given by God. As I hear from my Father, I believe it. I act according to his authority, which means my actions are fair, right, and best. Since this is the case, why would I seek my own desires and intentions when they on their own are insufficient? It makes sense that, in dependence and submission to the will and plan of my Father, I commit to going where he tells me to go, and doing what he tells me to do.”

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten (created, bred, made, produced) Son…” John 3:16

Ask yourself this question: Why is it so hard to believe that the three-person union that is God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) could by choice beget the visible manifestation of the son to be of a fully human nature, void of his divine nature, with a need to depend on the divine nature and authority of the Father and Spirit that is God? Is it because it would be too great a shock to our religious traditions and customs of what we claim to be sound (and untouchable) doctrine tying our theology in a nice bow, even if it appears to be inconsistent with Scripture? Many will not even ask the questions or have a discussion about it; perhaps since such a discussion would lead to ‘quarreling about doctrine’ as I’ve been told it does by people close to me. How dare I open such a thing for discussion? Does it not at least make for interesting and perhaps thought-provoking conversation?

Trust me. I cannot believe that God would be offended or find it insulting that his children are curious and interested in going deeper into all that God is, and all that God spent to ransom his people from the debt of falling short of his glory. Therefore, I am asking that you be open to asking the question guided by Scriptural truth, particularly that spoken of by Jesus himself about himself while flesh as a human being. It was Jesus who admitted he was powerless without the presence of God (the Father) filling him with the Spirit of God throughout his time as a human being on earth.

So then, since we have a great High Priest (advocate) who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. Hebrews 4:14-16 (NLT)

In order to better understand and appreciate the sacrifice of the person of God who we call Jesus, we need to examine Him humbling Himself to the point that His initial sacrifice was laying down His function and authority as God; to become entirely man He can sympathize with your weakness and mine. To begin, let’s define the word ‘sympathy’.

Sympathy—from Latin sympathia, from Greek sympatheia, having common feelings, sympathetic, feelings, emotion, experience—pathos means an element in experience or in artistic representation evoking pity or compassion

Sympathy—1 a: an affinity, association, or relationship between persons or things wherein whatever affects one similarly affects the other b: mutual or parallel susceptibility or a condition brought about by it c: unity or harmony in action or effect 2 a: inclination to think or feel alike: emotional or intellectual accord b: feeling of loyalty: tendency to favor or support 3 a: the act or capacity of entering into or sharing the feelings or interests of another b: the feeling or mental state brought about by such sensitivity

Savior—1: one that saves from danger or destruction, 2: one who brings salvation
As defined by Merriam-Webster, Inc.

The objective here is to really get to know Jesus Christ as the person who knows you intimately, and has experienced personally—physically, emotionally and spiritually—all that you and I have experienced in our lifetime. He knows the emotional spectrum from human triumph and elation to deep sorrow, paranoia, fear and devastation until finally the experience of death.

The Humility of God

From the beginning Jesus was the sacrifice intended to restore mankind into relationship with God. Because we are not and never were God, we were by our nature prone to choose independently from the perfect will of God. God, knowing this, had already prepared a way for mercy for our imperfect choices and behavior.

The Bible says that God gave us His only begotten Son. But, the word ‘begotten’ used to describe how God gave us Jesus means, ‘brought forth’, ‘produced’, or ‘created’. Jesus has always been, from the beginning, God, as the Bible tells us he has. So perhaps He was identified by God as His Son for the first time when He was conceived inside the womb of his earthly mother Mary. While the person of Jesus always existed as God, His humanity was “created” or made for Jesus, becoming the begotten Son of God as conceived by a human being to be born human.

What killed the body, mind, and human heart of our Lord Jesus was the sin of mankind that, not only killed Jesus on the cross, but also was responsible for Jesus being exhausted, hungry, thirsty; and able to experience pain, sickness, fear, discouragement, and even despair at Gethsemane.

This is important to better comprehend and appreciate the degree to which Jesus was actually human as He demonstrated His dependence on God the Father to live out His life of humanity—what the Bible refers to as “flesh”—without sin. Jesus modeled for us the perfect example of recovery from flesh as he would admit powerlessness, believe that His Father, God, would empower Him with authority over his mortal body and mind of flesh, and commit to depend on God the Father for everything. The approach of Jesus to His own recovery from the human plight was as though his life depended on it. Jesus understood that His very breath was dependent on God to survive His life as a human being.

We may not be able to understand how Jesus, as God, made himself to become this “creation” of human flesh by the reproductive processes created by God, but the Bible explains why Jesus became flesh.

That being said, God somehow caused a virgin to conceive and the human experience of Jesus began. The human life of Jesus began when the egg of the virgin Mary became fertile and formed into an embryo, which grew into a fetus with the exchange of human blood and DNA from his mother.

He had His Heavenly Father’s Spirit, but the Bible tells us He was fully human. Jesus had the full deity of who He was as God but somehow laid it down in order to fully experience humanity in order to better relate with you and me.

“Jesus did not come to do what he did and say what he said to fulfill prophecy. Jesus came and did what he did, and said what he said, and prophecy was fulfilled.” —said by a convicted felon from prison

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 (NASB)

What does it really mean that “The Word became flesh”?

Does it merely mean that Jesus was God manifest in human form by means of flesh and bones, or was Jesus born of and in the flesh as it speaks to the whole person – body, heart, mind, and soul (the character, or spirit of a person)?

Was Jesus fully God and fully man? That is what most of us have been taught but is it an accurate interpretation of Scripture? Does it make sense even in a Biblical context?

God is never tempted to do wrong… Temptation comes from our own desires…  James 1:13-14 (NLT)

Start with these questions:

  • Can God sin?
  • Can God be tempted to sin?
  • Can God die?
  • Can God forsake (abandon) God?

“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (NLT: “…abandoned me?”) Matthew 27:46

God rejects—disowns—sin!

Can God reject—disown—God?

If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself. 2 Timothy 2:13 (NIV)

If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself. 2 Timothy 2:13 (NKJV)

Could Jesus be tempted to sin in all aspects as we are if He was fully God in his “human” experience? It is important to understand the human condition of Jesus to appreciate the scope of His sacrifice in order for us to have a restored relationship with God. Jesus, was “made” to live the full human experience, the Bible says. I’ll ask it again, Can God die… really? He must have miraculously made Himself fully human, empty of His divine nature as God. I won’t speak for you, but I believe it is the only thing that makes real sense; magnifying all the more the sacrifice of the triune union that is God.

Being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Philippians 2:6-8 (NIV)

This is a revelation given to us by the Apostle Paul, to describe for us the nature of the man, Jesus. Observe the pattern of submission within this verse. While being in “very nature” God, meaning before becoming human, Jesus, fully God, decided within the the three-person union that is God to place Himself under the authority of God the Father. Jesus never ceased to be God. So, in being God, He would not consider it robbery to be equal with God. Paul wrote that Jesus, fully God, made Himself “nothing”. Nothing in relation to what? Who He was as God, that’s what. Somehow He made Himself fully human—not fully God anymore until He was resurrected and exalted to the throne as King of kings and Lord of lords. I don’t have to understand it… because I don’t… but I do accept it.

The Bible in this passage tells us that in His humanity Jesus gave up the function of being God by the laying down of His divine nature so as to have no advantage in His human experience. He humbled himself absolutely to be a man of no reputation to the point that, in his humanity, He was subject to the law of sin that leads to the decay and death of his human flesh—body, mind, heart and soul. He also did not consider Himself to be equal with God, in terms of function (power and authority) while in human flesh. This fact came from the lips of Jesus Himself, delineating between God’s perfect goodness and His own humanness.

Now a certain ruler asked Him, saying, “Good teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” So Jesus said to him, why do you call me good? No one is good but one, that is, God.” Luke 18:18-19 (NKJV)

“Consider how our Lord regards His own Sonship, surrendering His will wholly to the paternal will and not even allowing Himself to be called ‘good’ because Good is the name of the Father. Love between father and son, in this symbol, means essentially authoritative love on the one side, and obedient love on the other. The father uses his authority to make the son into the sort of human being he, rightly, and in his superior wisdom, wants him to be.” —C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain   

The relationship of God the Father and God the Son had been established. Exactly when this relationship between God the Father and Jesus, the Son of God, was established is hard to say. The prophets were given revelation of the father-son relationship between God and Jesus way back in the Old Testament (Psalm 2:16). The prophet Isaiah referred to Jesus as God’s beloved Servant (Isaiah 42:1, 53:10). Revelation tells us that Jesus was slain from the foundation of the world. As stated previously, I believe that Jesus became God’s begotten  Son at the point He became flesh in Mary’s womb even though it was planned from the beginning (remember that ‘begotten’ means ‘made’ and ‘created’ while also being uniquely God’s son since as God He humbled Himself to be made human in the flesh).

What is remarkable, in close examination of this relationship, is that it appears that Jesus, as God, humbled Himself out of necessity to fulfill His purpose of becoming a submissive servant. While still being God, according to these verses in Philippians, Jesus chose to lay down His divine nature and authority. Then, after Jesus lowers himself, as if to initiate a divine hierarchy, He offers Himself in submission to God as His servant, as a son under the authority of His Father, and reduces Himself from who He is as God to the form of a human being. Paul writes in Philippians that Jesus emptied himself of being God for it to be even possible to become authentically human.

John wrote, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us… the only begotten of the Father.” What does scripture say about the flesh? The flesh is imperfect. It is by nature unclean because of sin, and it is decaying to death because of the law of sin. Remember that the law of sin dictates that what is made alive on this earth must die. The Bible tells us that Jesus humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, meaning He was subject to the law of sin. His body would eventually get worn out, grow old and die.

What is so interesting in determining to what extent that Jesus the Son became flesh is that the original Greek word for flesh in the Bible is the word ‘Sarx’.

The meaning for ‘Sarx’ is as follows:

  • the soft substance of the living body covering the bones and permeated with blood
  • the sensuous nature of man
  • the physical man subject to suffering
  • human nature apart from divine influence, and therefore prone to sin

A root word for ‘Sarx’ is ‘Sarkinos’, which means:

  • consisting and composed of perishable flesh
  • wholly given up to the flesh, or rooted in the flesh

God cannot be tempted to sin… Jesus was tempted

God is never tempted to do wrong. James 1:13 (NLT)

Another problem with Jesus being fully man and fully God simultaneously lies in the fact that God absolutely cannot sin. How could Jesus the man be tempted to sin if He was at the same time divine and not capable of sin? It does not make sense to me that God would become flesh in the form of man, but still be all God. It does not make sense to me that Jesus could be tempted to sin if it was impossible to sin if he was in fact divine as a human being.

Do me a favor. Go out and lift your automobile over your head with your own two hands. You can start by lifting up the front end so you can get under the vehicle until you are able to get enough leverage, and with a little more effort, lift with everything you’ve got to get your car over your head. Aren’t you going to step out and at least try to lift your vehicle over your head?

Someone might say that my challenge tempted you to lift your car over your head just because I said it to you. But, at any point were you actually tempted to lift your automobile over your head? Of course not, it’s ridiculous. It is impossible. You are not tempted to do something that is impossible. I can offer you the world and the moon and you still would not be tempted to lift your car over your head because it is impossible. Therefore, you will not even try. It should also be said that a person is not really tempted unless there is at least desire for the object of temptation. If Jesus was fully human then he would have desired what human beings desire.

If it was not possible for Jesus to commit sin, how and why would he be tempted to sin? Do the math. It doesn’t add up that Jesus could be tempted to sin if in His deity it was not possible for Him to do so. But, if Jesus laid down his deity, denying His divine power and authority, He could then give in to temptation, and yes, actually be tempted in weakness as a human being to sin. Central to His position as a spotless lamb to be sacrificed, Jesus did not yield to temptation. Jesus did not sin. While flawed by his flesh, He remained innocent of sin.

Was Jesus subject to the law of sin in his soul? I believe that we learn that Jesus, a man of flesh, was vulnerable, and even “obedient” to the reality of sin in the world as a person of human flesh. I will not pretend to comprehend this; however, this point needs to be made for Jesus to be authentically human, having the will of the flesh, meaning the full measure of human desire. It is important, then, that we accept that God the Son essentially emptied Himself of being God in order to become flesh.

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. Philippians 2:6-7 (NIV)

We observed in Genesis that our sin is predicated on our desire for control in order to minimize our discomfort. This would suggest that Jesus the man experienced human dissatisfaction. This is astounding to me; and here lies the irony. We strive to be more our own god in our pursuit for control, which we eventually learn by experience is impossible to attain (even though we may resist admitting that), and Jesus who is God, completely lets go of the control and authority that is His, to become flesh as Jesus the Son, and must totally trust in the control and power of God.

God cannot die… Jesus died

For what the law could not do in what was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh. Romans 8:3 (NKJV)

Being made in the likeness of sinful flesh is not about flesh and bone but is about the flesh between the ears of a person; brain matter. The flesh then involves the mind, the body, the behavior that emanates from the heart, and most importantly, the soul of a person. Jesus would tell His disciples that His death would place His soul in the heart of the earth for three days and nights. Jesus took in His soul of flesh, the sin of your flesh and mine to experience condemnation for it for three days and nights. He suffered fully human before the cross, on the cross, and for three days and nights until the resurrection.

Jesus said, “For as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights.” Matthew 12:40

In my sin and yours, Jesus experienced the full impact of falling out of divine favor—even though he prayed three times in the garden for grace instead of the suffering… and three times was denied grace since He had to die… drinking from the cup of God’s wrath for man’s sin (according to most scholars)—and therefore by His sacrifice became grace for you and for me.

Then Jesus left them a second time and prayed, “My Father! If this cup cannot be taken away unless I drink it, your will be done… So he went to pray a third time, saying the same things again.” Matthew 26:42-44

How often do you hear about Christ’s human experience for the three days between the crucifixion and the resurrection? It’s rarely examined. It wasn’t some romantic dive into the pit of hell (or even Hades) to wrestle the devil and rescue lost souls. It was however, absolutely heroic what He did for us. Fully man, having emptied Himself of the advantage of being God, the suffering of our Lord was at the very least unimaginable. Here’s the thing: Jesus even sympathizes with the suffering of the human souls condemned to the worst places in hell—condemned only because they chose to remain in relationship with their selfish sin rather than surrender into relationship with their Sympathetic Savior. Please keep this in mind as this discussion continues.

In laying down His God nature, to by experience know the nature of man, Jesus became human. The nature of human flesh was created intentionally by God to be independent from His will. God already had the universe and everything in it as a means to express and receive glory. But nothing else in the universe was independent and able to choose on its own. God gave us free will—the independent spirit to make up our own mind. God desires that we choose to love Him, to worship Him, and to serve Him. We know by our experience that independence from God means that we are prone to make mistakes by choice since we are not God. Jesus left heaven and the glory that was His as God, and was made in our likeness with the independence from God to choose. As a human man of flesh, even Jesus was prone to make mistakes by choice. Therefore, He had to choose daily, moment by moment, to turn away from what might appear to make sense according to human reasoning, capturing every independent thought and obediently depend on His Father God, according to what made sense in relationship with God (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).

Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest (advocate) who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:14-16 (NKJV)

Please allow me to paraphrase so that Paul’s double negative in his original translation is in the singular positive translation: “Seeing then that we have an advocate in Jesus Christ in His heavenly position as God, let us be free to come to Him as we are with our confession. For in Christ we have an advocate who understands us; even sympathizes with our weakness since He was in His human experience vulnerable to weakness and susceptible to the draw of temptation in every way we are. The difference is that He did not sin. Now let us with full confidence come to His throne where grace abounds so that we may obtain mercy and experience His grace in our time of need.”

Central to Christ-centered recovery that works is centering on recovery the way Christ himself modeled recovery for us. Jesus surrendered his life into the care and plan of God. He depended on God absolutely every day of his life as a human being. If that was the recovery model for Jesus, who vacated his authority as God so that he could get to know us intimately (as a person of flesh), who are we to think we can realize authentic recovery into freedom any other way? Now fully God, Jesus Christ invites us into the fullness of our new life experience. We must, however, be willing to lay down the former life that is in one way or another killing us. In other words, we must be willing to die to the life that is death to us in the end. How much more sensible can it be?

So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 2 Corinthians 5:16-17 (NLT)

Jesus Christ understands the human experience but make no mistake; He is no longer limited and hindered by the flesh. He is all God with full authority. He loves you like crazy. Jesus is your Sympathetic Savior.

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every; tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:9-11 (NLT)

“Light of the world, You stepped down into darkness, opened my eyes, let me see. Beauty that made this heart adore You; hope of a life spent with You. King of all days, oh so highly exalted glorious in Heaven above. Humbly You came to the earth You created, all for love’s sake became poor. I’ll never know how much it cost to see my sin upon that cross.” —Tim Hughes

When Jesus heard what had happened (to a blind man he had healed), he found the man and asked, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” The man answered, “Who is he, sir? I want to believe in him.” “You have seen him,” Jesus said, “and he is speaking to you!” “Yes, Lord, I believe!” the man said. And he worshiped Jesus. John 9:35-38 (NLT)

“The Father loves me because I sacrifice my life so I may take it back again. No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded.” John 10:17-18 (NLT)

These two passages are from the same message from Jesus to the blind man, to the Pharisees, and to the worshipers. This is the key passage of Scripture speaking to the authority of God in the flesh. It’s not that there were those who believed and worshiped that speaks to His deity as a man. There have been icons throughout history who were treated like deity and worshiped. At issue are the words of Jesus as He speaks of authority regarding life itself. Please look at this very carefully. Notice that Jesus attributed His authority as coming from the Father through Him. He continued to be fully dependent on God the Father until He ascended to heaven and retained His place on the throne of God as fully God in position and function.

Then Jesus told him, “I entered this world to render judgment—to give sight to the blind and to show those who think they see that they are blind.” John 5:39 (NLT)

Wow, it seems that I am working awfully hard to “discredit” Jesus in some way by setting out to prove that He was not fully God during His time as a human being in the flesh. Might I be wrong? Certainly. I admit that this is my opinion. Please understand that I love Jesus. Fully God He became poor as he lived in poverty in that He laid down His divine nature as God to be entirely human. Since ascending to the throne of grace, He is exalted to His rightful position as God, King of kings and Lord of lords.

What about scriptures that read, “I and the Father are one” and “When you have seen Me you have seen the Father”? It must be said that Jesus was filled with the Spirit of God. We today are to be filled with the Spirit of God and to be doing greater works than even Jesus, according to Jesus. Scripture says that you and I in relationship with Christ are clothed in righteousness and when God sees us He sees Jesus. We are not God, yet the Bible says that in Christ, God sees Himself in us. This is amazing truth!

I suppose the only discrepancy between what I have written in the Sympathetic Savior series and the teachings of popular doctrine is that I contend that Jesus was fully man while somehow making Himself less than God while in the flesh. I don’t comprehend how the Son becoming less than God is possible any more than I could comprehend that somehow God can be tempted to sin and that somehow God can die; that is if the Son while fully human is also fully God. Both precepts seem just as ridiculous to my human finite mind, but I guess something’s got to give here. Should I get that check in my spirit by His Spirit of conviction, however it comes, I will respond accordingly. For now, I believe from the bottom of my heart that this word is from God through me to you. I can live with that.

In the fellowship of His suffering

The purpose is to better understand His suffering while on earth to better know Him. I want to more fully appreciate His human experience. I believe Apostle Paul did as well when he spoke of wanting to share the fellowship of His suffering. Paul didn’t want to take on Christ’s suffering. That would demean His suffering since He suffered on our behalf so that we would never experience the consequence of eternal suffering for our sin. Paul did, though, want to fellowship with Jesus in the truth of His human suffering. He wanted to know that Jesus; the Jesus that I believe I am talking about here; the Jesus that paid an unbelievable price so that you and I can live forever, beginning today in recovery and throughout eternity.

Look again at the Magi in the image above staring into the face of baby Jesus; and then notice Mary Magdalene, John, and Mother Mary looking into the face of Jesus having died for their sin and ours.

Look again at the Magi in the image above staring into the face of baby Jesus; and then notice Mary Magdalene, John, and Mother Mary looking into the face of Jesus having died for their sin and ours.

I believe it is so important to appreciate the enormity of Christ’s sacrifice by understanding that it happened to Him as fully man without the advantage of being fully God, having deliberately laid that down. While nailed to the cross at the most critical moment of His human life, alone and blinded by our sin, Jesus cried out, “Why?!” If fully God in that moment, He would not have been alone, and would not be asking “Why?!” He cried out in His tragically human misery, “Why have you abandoned me?” “Why now when I need most to depend on You have you left me to suffer alone?” “Where are you?” I believe there was crisis in the Father-Son-Spirit relationship at that moment. Not a “What do We do now?” crisis but rather the crisis of immense pain shared by the Father and Spirit experiencing Jesus, the “fallen” one of the persons of God, die. Then they would share in the experience of the soul of Jesus condemned in the belly of the earth for three days and nights. What a miracle! When we more fully comprehend the dreadfully painful experience of human sacrifice of our Savior and friend, Jesus, the more we are compelled to worship Him resurrected, today and forever fully God.

Finally, if I am a heretic for bringing this revelation to you, then so be it. I had so much affirmation in my spirit while processing and writing this, I was often moved to tears, dwelling in God’s presence, considering the physical pain, psychological torture, and spiritual torment, that my Savior experienced at the cross and beyond; while entirely human. Jesus was called a lot worse than a heretic when delivering the message of his Father’s truth. My name may be attacked in the court of public opinion from time to time. Jesus was crucified while fully human for the compassion and mercy he delivered. And he felt and experienced every bit of it.

Continue reading by clicking Sympathetic Savior – Christ’s Temptation.

Lesson: Understanding the Sympathetic Savior (TWIRL 031)

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One Response to Sympathetic Savior… His Humanity

  1. Max says:

    The local church is the hope of the world. We are so incredibly blessed to have forgiveness of our sins through Christ’s sacrifice. Today’s texts reminds me however this is only the beginning as he came to give life and life to the full. What a tragedy it would be to get to the end of one’s life and recognize there was so much more which could have been done here on earth. In the light of eternity, priorities change. My Lord and God, may your spirit fill me afresh each day so I am able to follow your will and serve you well each day. May my life count far more for you and others than myself and may I live a life of NO regrets.

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