I almost always hate it when someone says, “I know how you feel.”
The reason… they usually have no clue how I feel. “Oh, you lost your arm in a horrific kitchen blender accident. I know exactly how you feel. Last year I got this nasty paper cut that…”
Give me a break. Honestly, even if someone has a similar experience there are usually so many personal factors that truly associating seems cheap and distant (maybe that has less to do with others and more to do with the ego-centric way most people see the universe revolve around them. I’ve heard many other people have that problem).
The struggle is between empathy and sympathy. Anyone can sympathize and we do it well everyday. I feel sorry for lots of people, but I don’t mind that because sympathy can be done at a distance as a long-range sport. Empathy is down in the dirt, face to face, mono-ee-mono (how’s that for phonetically correct Spanish) that’s relationally gutsy.
That’s why Linda K.’s question is such a good one to:
Here’s one I’ve been pondering since Christmas Eve: I always hear about how God (Jesus) came to live amongst us as one of us….to experience life as a human. But could He really get the full affect of being human when He had “super powers?” Therefore, it’s hard for me to look at Jesus’ earthbound experience as a true human experience and not think “You don’t know what it’s REALLY like.”
Great question Linda! It’s the same reason I don’t like skinny people telling me how to diet. They obviously don’t even know what good food tastes like, so, they’ll never understand me. Ironcially you can’t listen to the hefty people either because… well, their hefty.
So, how could we ever really think that Jesus can empathize with us since He had those ‘super powers’? Well, this debate is much, much older than this blog. Throughout Christian history there have been debates about what Jesus was really made of:
Arianism– Jesus less than God — more than human–
Docetism– Jesus wholly divine — his humanity and suffering only seemed to be real—
Ebionite– Jesus regarded as prophet rather than divine Word of God–
Eutychianism– Christ has but one nature, divine–
Monarchianism–Undivided unity and sovereignty (monarchia) of God–
Dynamic Monarchianism — Jesus a human who became a God–
Modalistic Monarchianism –Argued that the Trinity is one God with different modes of divine action rather than distinct persons —
Monophysitism–Jesus was a God with human attributes; he had one (mono) dominant nature: divine–
Monothelitism– Jesus’s acts expressed one divine-human energia instead of two cooperating wills—
(Feel free to ignore all these terms as theological mumbo jumbo, but if you are a nerd, then let me refer you to a website where much of these terms are explained: Theological Nerd Terms Explained …by the way, that’s my name for their high-brow website. Good luck fellow nerdies and may the force be with you.)
Truth is that we need to go back to our golden rule of Bible study: Let the Bible interpret the Bible. All the arguing and philosophizing we do on our own won’t get us any further than daytime talk show TV; now there’s a potent warehouse of cultural change…NOT!
By the way, 90’s references from an 80’s man are not lame. In fact, they are quite progressive, thank you.
So, what should the Biblical centerpoint be for answering Linda’s questions, how can Jesus with God’s super powers actually understand what it is to be like us.
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
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.
The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (Php 2:5-7). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
This passage (one of the first Christian Hymns, by the way) says that Jesus had both the ‘nature’ of God and the ‘nature’ of man/servant. He was a 200% individual, but the key to understanding Jesus’ ability to empathize with us is sandwiched between those two claims: made Himself nothing.
The Greek here literally means that He poured Himself out and/or removed the content of Himself.
Jesus was fully God and fully human, but willingly emptied Himself while here on earth (incarnate). This did not make Him less than God, or more than human. He simply shackled Himself so that He could experience His humanity as any other human.
I think we see this pretty clearly in Mark 9. The disciple’s try to cast out a demon, but can’t git r’ done. Jesus seems to have no trouble, and shreds that bad boy like 8 year old tax returns.
When they asked what their problem was, Jesus didn’t say:
Well, the trick is being God
If you hold you left hand like this, press your tongue against your right check and with a pinch of magic…
He said, “This kind can come out only by prayer.” While being God Himself, He was living a life like you and I with a complete dependence on His Heavenly Father.
He allowed Himself to be limited (by Himself), so that this God-Man could experience life like feeble and frail humans. The difference was, He did it without sin and flawless perfection in His devotion to the Father.
That’s why we can believe Hebrews when it says:
Jesus the Great High Priest
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (Heb 4:14-16). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
Much love to ya’ll and keep the questions/comments coming. Let’s grow this e-community thing; please share this site with a couple of friends today.
If you want some more reading on this material, I have pulled a section on the divinity of Jesus from a pretty good resource of mine. Here it is, but I warn you, you have to be seriously bored to enjoy this kind of reading: The Deity of Jesus