Could Christ Be Sick?
This is a reader’s response to my last article: “Jesus would have had to have sinned in order to become ill and to know sickness by experience, because the weakness of the body is through sin.
First, Matthew 26:38 and Romans 8:10 make clear that sin makes the body weak, in fact, dead. But Christ’s body was neither dead nor weak.
Second, Jesus did not defeat, and did not know illness; He only commanded illness in others to depart. What sense would it make for Him to be sick, if He needed only say a word in order to be healed?
Third, the lamb for the sacrifices in Israel had to be without blemish. This pointed to Jesus (I Pet. 1:19). If He had His own weaknesses and sickness, then it would have been good for Him to take care of His own blemishes.
Roman 8:3 states, “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh.” The body of Jesus was not weak, and that was true until God left Him and burdened Him with our sins. He was even then able to bear the punishment and say, “It is finished.” Then He gave up His soul.
I understand that the article’s point was that Christ was tempted in all things but did not sin, yet I find the approach rather objectionable. He was sick so that He could heal! With the same logic, was it true that He was possessed so that He could exorcise demons? In addition, He must have first sinned, if He could be sick, yet He was not sinful!
The article is not based on God’s glory but on a human approach.
Finally, Jesus bore our weaknesses and our sicknesses. If He had His own, He could have bore only His own weaknesses and sicknesses.”
I have provided the lengthy question above because its author was kind enough to give the reasons for his disagreement with what I wrote in a recent article, namely, that, although we do not read in Scripture that the Lord was ever sick, He could have been sick because He was like us in all things, except sin.
The questioner is from Hungary and I have summarized his arguments. I have also improved the English translation to make it clearer for readers of the News. I hope that I have accurately represented his ideas. If I have not, he can let me know.
I appreciate the fact that the questioner took the time to argue his case in some detail and, therefore, it will take a few issues to answer the brother adequately. This is worth our time and effort, for we are dealing with the great “mystery” of Scripture: “God was manifest in the flesh” (I Tim. 3:16). The brother’s arguments concerning this great truth must be answered.
I take issue with the questioner, however, when he charges me with using human logic instead of Scripture. It would be terrible if I did this, for I would be slandering our only Lord and Saviour if I used only logic to explain the mystery of His incarnation. The charge is doubly serious given that I have been preaching and teaching for over 60 years, and have always preached and maintained that our Saviour was like us in all things, sin excepted. That includes our sicknesses and diseases.
I will limit my answer in this issue of the News to underscoring and developing parts of two statements in our Reformed confessions. Belgic Confession 18, entitled “The Incarnation of Jesus Christ,” declares that God’s “only-begotten and eternal Son ... took upon Him the form of a servant, and became like unto man, really assuming the true human nature, with all its infirmities, sin excepted.” Notice the word “all,” in the phrase “all [our] infirmities.” That must include sicknesses for it is one of our infirmities.
The texts referred to in Belgic Confession 18 include Hebrews 2:14-15: “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.”
Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 14, in explaining part of the Apostles’ Creed, says, “That God’s eternal Son, who is and continueth true and eternal God, took upon Him the very nature of man, of the flesh and blood of the Virgin Mary, by the operation of the Holy Ghost; that He might also be the true seed of David, like unto His brethren in all things, sin excepted.” One verse quoted is Philippians 2:7: “But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.” The next text Lord’s Day 14 cites is Hebrews 4:15: “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”
What I have explained in the News has been the teaching of the churches of the Reformation for the last 500 years. It is not my idea, but part of the heritage of the truth.
The truth of Christ’s federal headship and organic headship brings up the question of how our Lord could be like us in all things, except sin, but remain free from the guilt of sin and the pollution of sin. An explanation of this would take up more space than is available in this issue of the News, so I intend to deal with this next time, God willing. Prof. Hanko