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Jesus, God who become man.( part 1)

 

Jesus, the God-man (1) vlag  click for part 2 

by Gerard Feller

This is the first of several articles about the person and character of Jesus as a human being. He is fully God and fully man. It can be helpful for people in counseling to study the perfect life of Jesus as man and Lord. It makes God less abstract when we see Him in the soul, that is, the personality of Jesus. This study also underlines the differences between Jesus and Buddha or Confucius. Of course, the only way to know Jesus is through the Holy Spirit and the spiritual laws and principles expressed in the Bible. He is the God who became man, the image of the invisible God. Or, as the letter to the Hebrews puts it: "In the past God spoke to our forefathers through he prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being" (Heb 1:1-3).

Jesus is courageous and strong

Jesus was and is a strong man. He was a courageous man. His enemies attested to this: "We know. . . you aren't swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are" (Matt 22:16). He is the king of truth (John 18:37). He has such a strong sense of truth and reality that he was able at any moment to stand up for what was right. Although he knows that breaking the Sabbath carries the death penalty (Ex 31:15), he provokes the powerful Pharisees by healing on the Sabbath (Luke 14:1-4). He even tells the man with the shriveled hand to "get up and stand in front of everyone" and then asks: "which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil?" (Mark 3:3,4 and Luke 6:8,9). The teachers of the law and the Pharisees were beside themselves with fury and discussed how they could kill him. In a different passage, some insincere Pharisees and Sadducees tell him they will believe in him if he shows them a sign from heaven (Mark 8:11-13). Without fear, Jesus walks away from the very people who, humanly speaking, have his fate in their hands. When they pretend to ask his advice about whether it is right to pay taxes to Ceasar, he calls them hypocrites in front of all the people and he fearlessly denies their right to revolt, even though this crushes the people's hopes and could lead to serious consequences for himself (Matt 22:18-21). The strongest, almost incredible evidence of his courage can be found in Matt 21:31 where he confronts the hight priest and the elders about their unrepentent hearts and tells them that the tax collectors and the prostitutes will enter the kingdom of heaven before them. At no point in his life and ministry was Jesus led by fear. He did not manipulate people. What you see is what you get. He risked his popularity by entering the house of Zacchaeus (Luke 19:5), and calling a tax collector to be his apostle was a heroic act (Matt 9:9). Whenever Jesus is invited by a Pharisee for dinner, he knows they will watch him closely, but he stil doesn't participate in the ceremonial hand washing which was considered an important religious ritual (Luke 11:38). He is always himself, even at the risk of being called a drunk or a glutton (Matt 11:9).

He speaks his mind. He utters the harshest words, the strongest reproaches, the most serious accusations without any reserve or fear for his own safety. He does not mince words, not even in front of king Herod (Luke 13:32). Some people might call him easily angered, but what he said was simply heartfelt. Jesus, unlike Buddha, had no fear of suffering. Jesus was willing to die. He proved his courage on the cross, up to his very last cry: "It is finished!" (John 19:30). There are people who appear courageous, but who in reality are simply not fully aware of the danger. Jesus knew every danger and took it into account, but it never preoccupied him. It is remarkable how Mark describes the triumphant entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Jesus marches ahead, bravely and publicly, knowing the terrible suffering that awaits him. The disciples follow him hesitantly. Jesus very deliberately takes the next step (Mark 10:32). Jesus' whole ministry was characterized by manly, brave, and courageous attacks on the forces of evil. He never acted aggressively, however, and he wasn't out to simply save his own skin. He said: "He who is not with me is against me is against me, and he who does not gather with me, scatters" (Matt 12:30). He confroted Pilate with teh same choice (John 18:37). Jesus had a perfect nature, and he was prepared to do battle to destroy the works of the devil (Matt 10:34). He was kind and loving, but he could also be tough and uncompromising; he is the only person in the world who lived out what it means to fear God and God alone. He was prepared to die. He was able to unmask Judas courageously and then burn his bridges by telling Judas to go and do what he was about to do (John 13:26). He spoke up where others remained silent (John 18:20), and he was silent when silence was called for (John 19:9). He proved, while enduring the most terrible suffering that any human being has ever undergone, that he was in control of himself. At the very moment when it looked like his life had turned into one big failure, he cried triumphantly: "It is finished!" There was never a moment when he was discouraged or depressed, like Moses or Elijah (1 Kings 19:4). When was he ever thrown off-balance?

 

Radical statements

Jesus' manly character and his strong will also had consequences for his disciples. A few examples:

"If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters--yes, even his own life--he cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14:26,27).

"If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. . . and if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away." (Matt 5:29,30)

"Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matt 10:28)

There should be no hesitation in joining him, even if it means missing your own father's funeral (Luke 9:59). We should be willing to be hated on account of his name, even when it breaks up our family. (Matt 10:35). These are the words of a courageous man. People today are looking for genuineness and transparancy. Well, Jesus is nothing if not genuine and transparent! Paul also exhorts believers to live like Jesus: "Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong." (1 Cor 16:13) In his letter to the Ephesians we are exhorted to strive for ”unity in the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ" (Eph 4:13).

Jesus' willpower was one of the pillars of his personality. When he got angry, he did not sin. It is not hard to imagine how he how he chased the merchants out of the temple with a loud voice and fire in his eyes! Jesus was often deeply moved, but his feelings always stemmed from love. Our feeling are usually at least partly based on selfish motives, but Jesus' emotions were consumed by zeal for God. Our anger is about issues; Jesus' anger is about his Father. The only thing that sets him off is sin, like hypocrisy and hardness of heart. Sometimes his anger burns (Isa 30:27) because he loves righteousness (Psalm 11:7). A true biblical portret of his strong, manly, flawless personality is called for to counteract the many false, weak, and sentimental images of Jesus presented throughout the history of art and theology.

Jesus, sensitive soul

This forceful personality is also a very sensitive person, however. He has a delicate sensibility. When Lazarus died, he saw how Mary and the Jews who were with her mourned. He was deeply moved. . . and he also began to weep (John 11:35). When he sees a widow walk behind the coffin of her only son (Luke 7:13), he has deep compassion for her, just as he did when he realized that the people who had followed him into the desert had nothing to eat. In the middle of a hard-hitting sermon about the last days and terrible threats, he is filled with sadness when he thinks about the women who will be pregnant or nursing their babies when they have to flee Jersulalem during those fearful days (Matt 24:19,20). We can only wonder what he felt when children he didn't even know wanted a hug from him (Mark 10:16). He was moved not only by other people, but also by his own fate: "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head" (Matt 8:20). In the garden of Gethsemane he asks his disciples to "stay here and keep watch with me" (Matt 26:38). Jesus never suppressed his feelings or exhibited stoic indifference. He knew that he would rise again after three days, but that didn't prevent him from wrestling with deep pain and bitterness in his human soul.

Jesus' kindness

Jesus' kindness, which came from deep within, characterized his whole life and added depth and color to his ministry. The first occasion where Jesus showed that he is the great giver of blessings and joy in good times is at a wedding (John 2:11). Even when times are rough, he retains his sunny disposition, which flows from a deep, quiet joy, and people responded to that: one women in the crowd calls out to him: Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you" (Luke 11:27). It's not very likely that a grouch would attract such a crowd of followers. The same goes for Jesus' preaching: it is just as serious as the preaching of John the Baptist, but he presents it in more appealing terms: a wedding feast, a sumptuous dinner, a treasure in a field, a pearl of great worth. Jesus and John both die martyrs' deaths, but the difference is that Jesus knew about it beforehand. Jesus never talked nonsense or made jokes at the expense of others, and his kindness was never tainted by sin. He was extremely sensitive and open to all kinds of impressions. When was he ever indifferent when others showed compassion? Jesus sometimes sighed deeply when he encountered hypocrisy, stubbornness and malice (Mark 8:12), and at other times he became very angry (Matt 12:34; 23:13). Jesus had nothing in common with the unperturbed calm of Buddha, who desired nothing and was free forn anger--and the ability to love. The way Jesus acts always has something refreshing about it. The depth of his heart and the richness of his emotions are limitless. He shouted for joy (Luke 10:21) and cried in anguish (Mark 15:34) as no one ever has. Another aspect of his personality is that he was always receptive to people, unhurrried, and free from anxiety. He was always himself, even when he knew that the harvest is plentiful (Matt (9:37) and that the night is coming (John 9:4). Again, he was moved with compassion (Matt 9:36), but never stressed or traumatized; he was always completely genuine.

Harmonious contrasts

One of the striking things about Jesus is the contrasting nature of his personality. Jesus is open, talkative, he expresses his needs, he shows concern and is transparent in his joy. There is nothing reticent about his character. At other times he is lonely and solitary as he stays up and prays through the night. Jesus exudes thoughtfulness and peace. He is gentle yet serious, a man of courage and gentleness.

His vision is for the reconciliation of the world, yet he speaks into the life of an ordinary woman as if his purpose in life is to save this one soul (John 4:17). He keeps the big picture in mind while he pays attention to the small things, as well. The way he appeared on the outside reflected exactly who he was on the inside. He worked almost ceaselessly, yet he was always at peace. He is both an optimist and a pessimist. The world lies in darkness, but he has overcome the world. His vision is large, yet he primarily concerns himself with his disciples. He is far above the prejudices of the people, yet he limits himself to the boundaries of his nation (Matt 15:24). Nationalists claim Jesus as a kindred spirit, but so do groups with an international focus.He retains his dignity even when being ministered to by a sinful woman (Luke 7:37). He is in every way a man of the people, accessable to all, to the shouts of a leper (Luke 17:12) and the cry of a beggar (Matt 20:29). He chats with a woman drawing water (John 4:9), yet he is so reserved at times that he will not answer a king (Luke 23:9).

He spoke in simple terms, yet possessed deep wisdom. Sometimes he is down to earth, sometimes full of enthusiasm. He is a fighter at heart, yet he spends much time ministering to the sick. Most people acknowledge him as one of the greatest thinkers in history, yet he was a man of action. He never married, but he was one of the first to stand up for the rights of women. Sometimes he uses a whip to vent his anger, and at other times he voluntarily puts up with disgrace. He makes demands that cause even his disciples to pale, then speaks tenderly to a woman condemned by everyone else (John 8:10). He confidently states in John 4:21 that "a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jersulem", while also making it clear in Matt 5:18 that "until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not he least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished." Unlike Buddha, he is able to act and work, and also to suffer and accept.

He makes the most unheared-of statements (Matt 10:37), yet he is not rude. He is innocent as a dove and shrewd as a snake. He wants to draw the world to himself, yet he sometimes poured contempt on the world. Jesus gives himself to people, but not at the cost of his holy character. Sometimes he seems willing to respond to someone's emotions, while at other times he seems to withdraw into himself. Both individualists and socialists can quote him. The man Jesus rests in God and can work for him at he same time.

He is superior to others in every way, but he never stands on his dignity. His life was beyond reproach, but he spent time with "drunks" and "gluttons" (Matt 11:19). There is nothing he hates more than sin, but he is not repulsed by sinners. He enjoys the good things in life, but he is not addicted to them. He feels as comfortable at a rich wedding feats as he does in the desert with sober penitents (Matt 4:1). He offers his love to the least in society and to the ones in the highest positions (Mark 10:21). He radiates nobility and authority, but draws people to him with his diffidence. On the one hand he has a way of attracting people, while on the other hands even his disciples sometimes feel alienated from him.

His thinking has a depth not found in even the greatest mystics, yet he is fully alive to the world around him, like children playing in the market place (Matt 11:16). He overflows with love, but he stays far away from manipulation and spiritual exhibitionism. Jesus' activity and his receptiveness beautifully complement each other, just as his modesty. He is convinced that his life and his work will bring about the fulfillment of the ages, while remaing humble in heart (Matt 11:29). He is noble as a king and unpretentious as a farmhand.

He does not differentiate between races. He is a Jew; the Samaritan woman recognizes him as such (John 4:9), but he also relates to non-Jews. He is "oriental" in his imagery, but also "western" in his logical thinking. Oriental peace combined with western business. In his calm wisdom he is an example for Germanic peoples, and in his passionate fight for what is right he is a good example for Latin peoples. All these aspects form a harmonious whole. He is the ideal human being in diversity and unity. Jesus sometimes had a fiery temperament, but he also calmed down quickly (synchronization). His personality exemplifies the harmonious contrasts within a variegated whole. His perfect inner peace never faltered. Even at the end of his life he did not become gloomy, bitter, or hardened.In our next installment, part two, we will focus on Jesus' talents, and in part three on his joy and trust in God.

© Gerard Feller October 2007

Transated by Mariette Brotnov

Fragments from "De Christus der Schriften, de Here der Heerlijkheid" (The Christ of the Scriptures, the Lord of Glory) written by Otto Borchert, 1924

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