Scripture: Luke 4:1-13
Key verses: (1-2) Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.
Reflection: You ain’t no saint we all are sinners, soul singer Jill Scott sings, but she clearly ain’t singing about Jesus. Numerous times in scripture we read that Jesus was without sin (2 Corinthians 5:21. Hebrews 4:15 are two references). But such proclamations don’t always bring explanations. How can Jesus be fully human if he didn’t sin? And if he didn’t sin how can we ever be like him?
In the early church there was a school of thought that taught Jesus only appeared human but wasn’t really (Docetists from the Greek word dokeo — appear). This preserved Jesus from really dying as a human and suffering from the failing of frail flesh. It’s a heresy to teach as he was fully, actually, human. But what about the no sin part? We have taken that to mean that Jesus must have been handsome and strong (remember the Hot Jesus phenomenon?), that he was never upset, impatient, unkind or unwise. We imagine that no sin means he also had no desire, no stirrings, no ambitions. I don’t think any of that is true. How could he have been tempted otherwise? There are moments in the Bible where Jesus is impatient (he cursed the fig tree), unkind (called disciples foolish), cruel (he called a woman a dog, though later accepted her rebuttal). There are moments when he’s scared, doubtful, weary. He’s rude to his mother, non conforming and disinterested in social niceties. He was human.
To be without sin doesn’t mean he always got it right and was first, correct, perfect, every time. To be without sin means he was never separated from God. He knew what it meant, despite fear and doubt, to utterly rely upon God. He knew how to trust, discern, and follow God’s leading in every way, every time, anywhere. He could love with God’s love and see with God’s sight. He could avoid vengeance and hatred and give his life rather than try to take another’s. He had a unity of heart, mind, purpose, will. He was one with God.
To be fully human is not to be perfect but rather to be in perfect union with God.
Jesus modeled it, and more importantly, invites us into it. I cannot achieve perfect union with God after reading the Gospels anymore than I can play a Beethoven symphony on the piano no matter how many times I listen to it. But I can participate in life with God, benefit from it, yearn for it, lean in to it, all because Jesus invites me into it and will go to any measure, by any means, for me to understand that.
Prayer: Grant me, most dear and loving Jesus, to rest in you above created things; above health and beauty, above all glory and honor; above all power and dignity, above all knowledge and skill; above all fame and praise, above all sweetness and consolation; above all hope and promise, above all merit and desire; above all things visible and invisible; and above everything that is not yourself, O my God. (Thomas à Kempis)
Author: Derek Macleod
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].