Jesus, God who became Man (The God-men part 3)

Jesus, God Who became Man. (Part 3)    vlag

By Gerard Feller

We would like to publish some articles about the person and characteristics of Jesus as man. He is fully God and fully man. It can be a support in pastoral care, when confidents explore the perfect life of Jesus as Man and Lord, for God does not remain abstract but is also recognizable in the soul, the personality of Jesus. In this study, for example, the difference with Buddha and Confucius is also shown. Of course Jesus can only be known by the Holy Spirit and through the spiritual laws and ordinances, as they are also expressed in the Bible. 

He is the God Who became a man, the image of God the invisible One. Or as the letter to the Hebrews (1:1-3a) tells us: “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature” 

Jesus’ relationship with God

For many of us, God is a distant God, especially if we all try to know Him from our thinking. Jesus has never drawn the conclusion that God exists through contemplation of natural phenomena. He has never looked for the cosmological evidence, or found God by searching for the truth. No, He stood with God in a life community and "experienced" Him, and that was enough. He felt that His soul was guided by mysterious, profound forces. His knowledge of God stemmed from His relationship with God. 

When He spoke of God, He spoke in full awareness of God's presence. He never knew the "and yet" of faith. It is not true that He had to practice a heroic faith, despite all the opposition He had to endure. No, for Jesus, God was not something doubtful. He was constantly aware of the presence of God. The simple clarity with which Jesus always saw and experienced the heavenly Father, His being, His will, is sky high above everything that resembles Him in history. Jesus' characteristic was the spiritual perception of things. Jesus did not see nature and God as two completely separate things. His teaching was that God in His creation of nature is in charge. The 'natural' blessings and suffering do not make nature come upon us, but God. 

God is the center of nature. No sparrow dies without His will (Matt. 10:29). No sparrow will fall to the ground without the Father (Matt. 10:30). Rain and sunshine are governed by none other than Him (Matt. 5:45). Jesus met God strongly and powerfully everywhere. "My Father is working until now," and Jesus was able to see things through in such a way that He saw the Father through these things. He saw God the Father when people handcuffed him: "The Son of man is delivered into the hands of sinners". Through all that He experienced in nature, in His surroundings and in Himself, He "saw" God. 

He never had to investigate the will of God. It was His calling to do so at every moment when He was aware of God's will. Jesus was not one of the many people who were looking for God, He did not know any 'experience of God' through mystical ecstasy and/or asceticism. He did not know the beginning of divine revelation. He never had to leave His earlier ways of conception, never had to struggle through all kinds of difficulties, objections and obstacles in order to enter into fellowship with God. It was much more a part of His being to be in such a relationship with God. He alone knows the Father (Mat. 11:27).

 Everything has been entrusted to Me by My Father, and no one but the Father knows who the Son is and who the Father is; only the Son knows this, and everyone to whom the Son wants to reveal it. Through His original unity with the Father and through the uninterrupted communion of life with Him, the knowledge of the Father has developed naturally in Jesus. And as the one who revealed God, He met mankind by saying to everyone: "Learn from me"(Mat. 11:29), for with Him it was not a question of thoughts and images that He had made, but a matter of ‘knowing for sure’ (Jn. 12:49 ff. Mat. 11:27), a matter of ‘having seen’ (Jn. 8:38). Undoubtedly, with this knowledge of God, He was the only one of all people. 

Only He possessed it, others can only receive it from Him. That is why He also spoke of "My Father" and"Your Father".He had a very different relationship with God than other people. "No one knows the Father except the Son,and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.(Matt. 11:27). But what is it that He brought from God to the world as "news"? Jesus possessed a strong awareness of originality and majesty of God. Heaven is His throne and the earth the footstool of His feet (Matthew 5:34; 23:22). God is the Lord of heaven and earth (Matt. 11:25). His omnipotence is unlimited (Matt. 19:26). He can destroy body and soul, reason enough that the whole world should fear Him (Matt. 10:28). These are all statements from the Lord Jesus. 

But what is it of all this that Israel had not known before that time? That is without doubt the knowledge of God, that He is the One who loves as a Father. His being is being a Father. Certainly, also in the Psalms God is considered to be a father (Ps. 68:6; 103:13). But that aspect of the essence of God had not yet penetrated deeply. The fatherhood of God is the foundation, the essence of God. In Judaism, God had become alienated from the world and unapproachable: the author of the law, who in the hereafter weighs up debit and credit in a painfully accurate manner. The kindness of God is more than human justice. In this sense, religious affiliation was pervaded with fear in Jesus' day, both among Jews and Gentiles (Romans 8:15)."For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” What the natural man knows of God, is His law. 

If he does not dissociate himself from God, he is in a relationship of fear to God. Now Jesus comes with an unprecedented new message: The most inner being of God is that God loves as a father. Like a father, He cares about the individual needs of each creature. Yes, even in the smallest details (Matt. 6:26 ff; 7:11; 10:29 ff). Forgiving love is as self-evident to Him as it is to an earthly father. 

He loves especially those who are estranged from Him (Luke 15:6,9,24) and He gives all the same wages, because it is good (Matthew 20:15). That doesn't mean that the Father is a powerless greybeard. No, there was no way that Jesus met with any kind of weakness of God. He knew no Father without holiness and seriousness. In the Old Testament, the religious relationship between God and man (People of Israel) existed as an agreement. At that time, the covenant for Israel and the keeping of God's commandments was characterized by the "payment of wages. Now everything is dominated by grace and few great demands of God remain. Jesus has revealed that the essence of God is an essence of fatherly love. Only He understood this.

Jesus’ godliness

If we compare Jesus with other prominent believers, there are some interesting differences. First of all, Jesus lacked the thankful feeling of a gifted sinner.

Jesus did not know what it means to be reconciled with God. The greatest gift that faith brings is forgiveness of sins, and He didn't need that forgiveness. He never had to think about the salvation of His own soul. What’s often the case with us to be the final goal of our devoutness, the unity of the will with the Father, was with Jesus at the beginning of the road. He has never sought the Father's love, but has always possessed it. That is why Jesus, in the deepest sense of the word, lacked submissiveness, the humble mind towards God. 

The feeling of dependence was not the most fundamental character for this devoutness, as the philosopher Schleiermacher claims, that it must be with us, nor the deep and joyful knowledge that God alone is the Mighty and Living One. Much of what Jesus has said in this respect has been spoken to educate others. It was not a symptom of His own life when He said, "But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell(Matt. 10:28) or when He taught that they must fear God as Judge (Matt. 12:36). There was no fear in Jesus' faith in God. Nor did He know the fear of Judaism at the time to sin against the third commandment (Matt. 6:24, 30). 

With Jesus there was no fear of God in the raging storm on the sea (Matt. 8:24), this in contrast to for example the godly people in the Psalms. Jesus was, when God's hand was at work, much more full of peace and security. For the first and only time in history, the scripture 'You will love Me with all your heart' came true with Him. His being as Man was evident from the fact that He knew all emotions, including fear! Matt. 26:37: The fear of God-forsakenness, death (agony), cf. Heb. 2:15; 5:7, 8.

Jesus’ joy

The core of His godliness was His loving joy in God. Jesus' godliness did not desire anything from God, as is so often the case with our godliness. In that sense there was no development in the life of Jesus. He always rejoiced in God being His God. In this God He rejoiced, when He lost His soul to God and merged into Him. He was happy with God when He worked with Him. Jesus' lust was the reign of His Father in the world. The joy of Jesus was closely related to the trust in God. 

He never defied God to help Him, never claimed God's protection in pride or rage. Such an attitude, which He saw as tempting God, was rejected simply and with dignity by Him already in the wilderness (Matt. 4:7). In accordance with this, He did not shy away from avoiding danger and bringing Himself to safety (Matthew 4:12; 12:15), even in secret (John 7:10), until the very end. He had the certainty that He would die nowhere but in Jerusalem (Luke 13:33) and that His hour had not yet come (John 11:9). 

All these things never caused Him to have a boastful or reckless attitude. He was sure of His Father's protection. "I am not alone, the Father is with Me.” That awareness never left Him. To His awareness, everything, man and nature, including even the sparrow on the roof, are in God's hand (Matt. 10:29). He was convinced that even the hairs on our head were all numbered by God (Matt. 10:30). In this confidence in God a strong and courageous character, and a great rest was growing. For Jesus there was work and rest, in the alternation decreed by God. Just as the farmer who gets up by day and goes to bed at night, and allows the seed by itself to sprout and to grow (Mark 4:27), so He Himself has also acted in calm confidence, that God Himself takes care of the harvest. 

He had never been shocked by His confidence in faith. He gave the last evidence on the cross. For a person it is not easy to look up to God from a suffering. Jesus cried out in the ultimate suffering: "Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit"(Luke 23:46). And even when God seemed to leave him, Jesus wouldn't let go of Him. Eli, Eli, My God, My God. It was with these words that He clung to the Father with strong confidence, even in the darkest hour of His life (Matt. 27:46). 

Jesus said to His disciples: "Trust in God and trust in Me"(John 14:1) and to Martha: "If you believe it you will see the glory of God" (John 11:40 ff). 

He equated the confidence in His person with seeing divine glory. He also told His disciples not to be worried if they were to be led before the human judge, because He promised that He Himself would open their mouths and make them speak, and thus reminded them of the confidence in Him (Luke 21:14 ff.).

Jesus is so totally different from other humans. With Him, one gets the feeling that everything He says about trusting in God is said for the sake of others. 

In Himself, this trust is mixed with a considerable amount of self-confidence. All you have to do is read the history of the storm on the lake where He feels strong and secure on God's side. That is why it is not strange when He says in John 10:18: "No one has taken My life away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.”With Jesus, the relationship with God is much more a 'side by side' and yet 'one with each other', a great mystery.

Jesus’ prayer life

Just as our existence depends on the air that we breathe, so the soul of Jesus could only 'breathe' in fellowship with God. Even in the midst of the busiest commotion of his life, His "spiritual ear" constantly heard what the Father told Him, and his "spiritual eyes" constantly saw what the Father was showing Him. He never went beyond that unity with God in his actions, for His works were also done together with God. Jesus always had an alert mind, and like no other he had "sudden thoughts". 

The fig tree, not far from the road, which with its rich foliage "deceived" the hungry ones, was immediately the subject of a moving parable for His observant soul (Mark 11:12 ff.). Luther spent much of his life in contemplation, in consideration of spiritual things, and finally came to the conclusion that working was also a way to serve God. Jesus didn't need that time. We have to work as long as it is day; in the night that comes, no one can work (John 9:4). Never has He elevated contemplation as the only purpose in life. Work sometimes prevented him from eating (Mark 3: 20). 

Work sometimes caused Him to fall asleep from exhaustion on the ship (Mark 4:38). To Him, the works He did meant serving God. So, in the midst of the emotion of life, He remained fully in unity with the Father; an alert spirit full of inner mercy in the midst of all outward appearances. Doing God's works is something else than resting in the Father. Jesus' whole life was a life with God, but praying is much more than that. In praying one has to be completely with God, because praying is speaking with God. When praying, man first enters the sanctuary of fellowship with God. Pray and work, that was always the case for Jesus, but first the praying. So He was in a certain city where one needed His help, but He first took time for prayer (Luke 5:15 ff.). 

The greatest compassion burned like a fire in His soul (Matthew 9:36) and He knew that His works would soon come to an end (John 9:4) but He never took anything away from that time that was meant for prayer. No one has ever lived such a balanced life in terms of the spiritual balance of giving and taking, a regular "breathing" between self-surrender and self-enforcement. When the world insisted on Him by seductive temptation (Matt. 4; John 6:15) or by its pressure (Luke 9:29, 22) or even by the many works of its turmoil (Mark 1:35, 34 Luke 5:16, 15), each time we get the impression that His prayer life became even more intense. It was time and time again the confirmation of the contact with the Father which the world tried to disconnect. At that time, the modesty of Jesus' prayer life was not common. 

People preferred to pray where others could see them praying, for example on the corners of the streets or in the synagogue (Matt. 6:5). Jesus told the praying people to pray in their ‘inner room’. He rarely prayed in public. Often He sent the people and His disciples away (Matt. 6:45; 14:32), sometimes He climbed up to a mountain top (Mark. 6:46) or went to a solitary place (Mark. 1:35), often in the night (Luke. 6:12) or when others were asleep (Mark. 1:35; Luke. 4:42); From Jesus we can learn that a man does not need spectators when he prays (Matt. 6:6). Nowadays there are many believers who look down on the formal prayer and prefer only the "free" prayer. 

Luther knew prayers by heart, which he could always recite in a conscious, sincere way. Jesus even prayed on the cross from the collection of Psalms (Ps. 22:2). Jesus prayed out loud (Matt. 26:39). From the heart, spoken through the mouth. Sometimes Jesus prayed out loud so that others could hear it (John 11:42; 17:13). We always read about Jesus that He raised His eyes while praying (John 11:41); 17:1) or how He looked up to heaven (Mark 6:41; 7:34). When breaking the bread, He prayed the prayer of thanksgiving with His eyes on heaven (Matt. 14:9). Jesus did not hate a fixed external form of prayer. 

It was certainly not the first time that He was laying on the ground praying when He did so in Gethsemane (Matt. 26:39). Thanksgiving for the bread was such a fixed habit for Him that the people of Emmaus recognized Him by it (Luke 24:35). However, never is the outside so important that He prescribes it to His disciples. He liked to climb a mountain to pray but knew that God's worship was not bound to a mountain (John 4:21). Although He looked up to heaven in prayer, He never imposed any gesture to prayer, as it was with Muhammad or with the Jews. He knelt down three times in the night of the betrayal, but never even recommended anything about the measure of prayer. 

In this way He even wanted to avoid the appearance that external matters are important when praying. His daily work was carried by prayer. Early in the morning and in the evening he knelt before the Father. At the table He folded His hands and at some healings He looked up to the Almighty. Sometimes the shortest prayers were the most fervent. But let's try to get a little deeper into the spirit of His prayers. For Jesus, praying first of all means to love.. How many intercessory prayers were there in His prayers? Just read the High Priestly Prayer in John 17. 

How little prayer for Himself and how many fervent intercessory prayers? Think also of His prayers for the people who insulted and persecuted Him! (Matt. 5:44). Yes, He even prayed for those who crucified Him (Luke 23:34). But certainly He also showed His love for the Father out loud. His prayer also spoke of a praying need, but above all of praying love. Not an 'Uti Deo', the use of God, was the most important thing, but much more the 'Frui Deo', the delight in God. He wanted to rejoice in His God. And the darker the world became for Him, the brighter the love for the Father revealed itself: "Hallowed be Your Name, Your kingdom come"(Matt. 6:9); it was first and foremost about the glory of God.

 He could pray praiseful prayers of thanksgiving for everything, including praying for the children (Matt. 11:25). Praising God is, after all, the overflowing of a heart filled with love and admiration. According to the teachings of the rabbis', Hezekiah did not become Messiah, because after he was rescued from Sennacherib's hand he did not pray prayers of praise. Jesus began His journey to the cross with a praise (Matt. 26:30). Pascal makes God say to people somewhere: "You would not seek Me if you had not found Me". Jesus lived in close fellowship with the Father in such a way that He heard Him everywhere. That alone was important in His prayer as a necessary answer to love out loud in a consistent manner. And all this in such a tone of closest intimacy as has never existed in the world before. People had described God as Israel's Father and an ‘Our Father' prayer had also been prayed (Isa. 63:16), but Father in the sense of myFather (ABBA, Father), no one would have dared to say that …

Praying and receiving

With Jesus, praying also meant receiving. Jesus had the firm conviction that by praying with God one could receive much from Him (Luke 18:3 ff.). Jesus sometimes prayed for certain circumstances and people, for example that their flight would not be in winter or on the Sabbath (Matt. 24:20). He knew that God, Who had planted the ear, would hear (Ps. 94:9). Likewise, a prayer was also a cry for help that was heard and an allowing to be comforted with a love that goes beyond all understanding. 

And yet He never prayed for Himself in this way, except in Gethsemane, but also with reservation. “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.”(Matt. 26:39). 

Besides, some verses further He assured those who were with Him that everything was possible for Him. “Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels?He could do it, but did not.With Him, receiving in prayer was much more about the internal needs of His soul. He did not seek the gifts in the first place, but the Giver. Jesus has always given Himself by the offerings of God. In such prayers God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit. In that way He grew up spiritually from childhood (Luke 2:40, 52), united with the Father. It was the prayer that strengthened God's Son in the hours when He felt the unity with the Father becoming stronger and stronger. Here lies the actual source of His spiritual power. His praying was an action, a spiritual work. Through this contact with the Father, He knew at decisive moments which way He had to go. His spirit was willing at all times. In prayer He also became lord of His otherwise sinless weakness of the flesh. In the hours of temptation He prayed all the more urgently and persistently to preserve His undamaged soul (Matt. 27: 46; John 6: 15). The most active of all men is he who is the greatest in praying.

Prayer as a sacrifice

Besides loving and receiving, praying for Jesus also meant offering a sacrifice. In prayer Jesus sacrificed His own will. Yes, in prayer He declared Himself willing to be a sacrifice Himself. For example, the first proclamation of suffering was preceded by a prayer in solitude (Luke 9:18). After the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus thought that at that moment that His work did not bear much fruit and he thought of the coming crucifixion. In these circumstances He withdrew and sacrificed Himself again (John 6:15). In the most important part of the High Priestly Prayer 

He prayed: "Father, the hour has come, glorify Your Son" (John 17:1, 5), in other words: “Father, here I am” (Joh. 12:27 ff). Here, praying for Jesus was nothing more than sacrificing Himself. Until then, Jesus had known about this sacrifice, but now it is also a matter of bringing it to fulfilment. Under Gethsemane's olive trees He 'died' the first time. You could also say: When Jesus knelt in the water for the first time (to be baptized) and put Himself next to sinners (Luke 3:21), He prayed to make Himself available to the bearing of sin (John 1:29). Jesus already knew who would betray Him (John 6:64, 70), but He Himself did nothing to stop Judas. For Jesus, in this sense, praying was the hardest work for a man. 

And then we also understand that after these prayers, up to three times, a glorification of Jesus by God was the result: namely at the Baptism, at the Transfiguration on the Mountain, and in the day of His Entry into Jerusalem (Luke 3:21 ff.; 9:29 ff. and John 12:28). Who doesn't realize that Jesus has been a model for real prayer in all respects? How much can He teach us about self-denial? And yet we would not do justice to Him if we only saw Him as an example. He was completely different, and we can't justwalk in His footsteps. One might wonder why He never prayed with the disciples. He prayed a lot of intercessory prayers. As Lord of the house He also prayed for bread, and at the end of the Passover He prayed the prescribed hymns (Ps. 113-118) together with His disciples (Matt. 26:30). But we do not know of any prayer of Jesus in which His lonely Self is transformed into the intimate ‘we’. Nor is it the case that Jesus involves us in the sanctuary of His prayer life in the "Lord’s Prayer". 

On the contrary, it was with the ‘Lord’s Prayer’ that He said: "Pray, then, in this way" (Matt. 6:9). He prayed differently, there alone in the opening words. But He did not distance Himself from His disciples.

However, there were some differences in the prayer. The tax collector had to pray: "O God, be merciful to me, the sinner!" (Luke 18:13). Jesus did not need that prayer.Even at the time of his death, He did not need that prayer and was fully aware that He was not equal to other men. And just as He never uttered a prayer of penance and repentance, He did not pray for His sanctification either, or that His faith would not cease. 

The prayer at the ‘Lord's Prayer’ is an acknowledgement of having a need. This need is even found in the man who knew "that all things are given to Him from the Father" (Matt. 11:27). That's why He sometimes prayed differently from us. Thanks, praise and worship filled His prayer. And when He prayed 'differently', He prayed for others and knew that He was one with the Father (John 11:42). There was some royal power of authority in His word, when He assured Peter, in order to calm him down, "But I have prayed for you … (Luke 22:32), and now, Peter, it is enough". Jesus has interceded for many in the last hour. He was, after all, the High Priest, Intercessor and Mediator.Truly He Himselfhad the power to lay down or keep His life. However, he who has the power himself is not as we are in powerlessness, dependent on the help of others.

Gerard Feller

(Excerpts from: ‘De Christus der Schriften, de Here der Heerlijkheid’ (‘The Christ of the Scriptures, the Lord of Glory’) by Otto Borchert, 1924)

Translated by Ursula Moestapa


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