The humanity of Jesus

This month’s First Presidency Message from President Uchtdorf highlights an experience from one of my favourite scriptures, Luke 22:43:

And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.

Ever since I discovered this scripture while I was on my mission, there’s been something about this scripture that’s stuck out to me.

There is something comforting about the idea that the suffering Jesus went through in the Garden of Gethsemane was so intense, he needed an angel to visit him and give him more strength (or perhaps assure him that he already had the necessary strength).

Consider the previous verse:

Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.

It seems that perhaps the angel’s arrival was an answer to Jesus’s cry to his father. The idea that Jesus saw his sacrifice as something unbearable is to me equally comforting as the angel’s visit itself.

These two verses remind me of two other scriptures.

Shortly after he began his ministry, Jesus was staying in Peter’s home with Peter and his family. After healing Peter’s mother-in-law, Jesus quickly became well-known throughout Capernaum for his healing ability, and the entire city came to the home.

And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.

Mark 1:35 seems to indicate that perhaps Jesus was overwhelmed by the demand on his physical, mental, and emotional strength with having to heal all those people combined with his lack of experience.

The second scripture is John 11:35. Lazarus had died, and Jesus was on his way to see Mary and Martha, Lazarus’s sisters. Martha met him partway, then returned to tell Mary, who also came out to meet him. She collapsed at his feet, weeping. Those who were with her were also weeping.

Jesus wept.

Jesus doesn’t seem to be crying at the death of Lazarus. To me, it seems that he is crying out of compassion, mourning with those who mourn.

Something all these verses have in common, to me, is that they all seem to testify to Jesus’s humanity. What sticks out to me is how these scriptures illustrate how Jesus experienced mortality: overwhelming burdens, empathetic compassion, weakness, fear.

I think we have a tendency to lean heavily on the rhetoric that Jesus is perfect, that he is divine, that he is the ultimate example for us to follow. This makes Jesus less approachable.

Jesus’s humanity is what appeals to me. Because he experienced mortality, it assures me that when he judges me, he will do so from a position of understanding.

It also makes our emulating his example something attainable. After all, if he could live the life he did despite his mortality, perhaps it gives us hope that we might be able to get there one day, too.

Why I don’t think Jesus was perfect

In elders quorum this week, someone mentioned the idea that Jesus led a perfect life. It’s a common idea I have heard expressed often in the church.

I don’t agree with it.

At the end of Matthew 5, during the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said the following:

Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

When we hear the word “perfect”, we normally interpret it to mean “without fault”. In the context Jesus used it, however, it likely means something else. In the original Greek version of Matthew 5:48, the word we translate as “perfect” was teleios.

This word means something less like having no defects or faults and more like complete in all its parts, full-grown, or mature. It is derived from the Greek telos, which means the end, completion, or product.

It seems, then, that Jesus isn’t instructing us to be spotless, without blemish, or defect free. It seems that he was telling us to be something else.

If he were telling us to be without fault, then why use only God as the one to whom we should look as the ideal? Why exclude himself? After all, Peter taught us in 1 Peter 2:22 that Jesus “did no sin”.

On that note, notice the Sermon at Bountiful (3 Ne. 12:48), where Jesus addressed the Nephite multitudes, and where he modified his counsel by including himself:

Therefore I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect.

This seems to imply that even Jesus didn’t consider himself perfect when he started his ministry.

Something must have happened between the start of Jesus’s ministry and when he visited the Nephites to prompt him to include himself.

In D&C 93, we learn from John the Beloved that even though Jesus was full (or complete) of grace and truth, he did not start out that way. In fact, verse 13 says that he “continued from grace to grace until he received a fulness.”

Also, we learn in Luke 2:52 that between the ages of 12 and 30 (when he began his ministry), Jesus increased in wisdom, in stature, and in favour with God and man. This is inline with D&C 93, strengthening the idea that he improved himself in stages.

While certainly Jesus was sinless—as I stated above—that doesn’t mean he was perfect. Perfection is something else entirely, and I believe that the scriptures are clear in saying that while Jesus was free of blemish, he was not perfect.

Medical Emergency During Sacrament Meeting

Sacrament meeting was very eventful yesterday.

With about 25 minutes left to go and half way through the third speakers talk, we had a medical emergency in the congregation.?Ǭ† This particular emergency happened smack dab in the middle of the chapel.?Ǭ† Very quickly, members close to the situation tried to assist and get control.?Ǭ† One quickly left and called 9-1-1 to summon the paramedics.

Now, if that wasn’t interesting enough, the response of the rest of the congregation was.

We had a member of the stake presidency sitting on the stand for our meeting (you know, the guy who is suppose to be presiding at the meeting).?Ǭ† He did absolutely nothing and sat there as if it was any other Sunday meeting.

Our bishop sent one of his counselors down to investigate.?Ǭ† The counselor, after assessing the situation, went out into the hallway and waited for the paramedics to arrive instead of reporting back to the bishop.

The speaker received no direction from the leadership on the stand.?Ǭ† He just stayed at the pulpit and continued to give his talk until he was done.?Ǭ† No effort was made to shorten it or look to the leadership for guidance.?Ǭ† He clearly didn’t have anybodies attention.?Ǭ† Everyone in the congregation was watching the unfolding drama happening in the pews.

After his talk, the other counselor instructed organ player to play interlude music while we all sat there.

When the paramedics arrived, the entire congregation sat and watched them work on this individual to a nice rendition of “I know that my redeemer lives”.

Nobody at any time attempted to give a blessing to the person in distress.

The themes of all the talks were… wait for it… ?Ǭ†”How to be better disciples of Christ”.

I cannot recall a time where I felt more akward in sacrament meeting.

Have you ever been in a sacrament meeting where a medical emergency has occured??Ǭ† How was the situation handled?

Love One Another, As I Have Loved You

My personal quest has been, recently, to study and understand the principle of charity better. Even more so, to understand the true nature of love, as the Saviour would have us love. So, I have been studying the scriptures, thinking about it, thinking about the nature of Jesus Christ, reading other publications, such as The Peacegiver: How Christ heals our hearts and homes and The Anatomy of Peace (which I am currently in the middle of reading).

Just yesterday I had an epiphany.

I asked myself the following question, or rather, the following question came to my mind; Why do I love Jesus Christ? (or anyone I love, for that matter). Why do I feel humble when thinking of Him, why do I get an overwhelming sense of gratitude and love when I think about Him? Is it because of anything I have done? Is it because I feel I deserve or should be loved by Him? No.

And why do I have a desire to be better and to do what He wants me to do? Why do I strive (with limited success) to be like Him? Why do I want to be like Him?

It is because He loves me. And I don’t just think this, it is something I know and feel and am aware of on a basic level. His love for me is apparent when I feel the spirit, when I think of His life, how He lived and behaved towards people He came in contact with. This is independent of His teachings to obey the commandments. His love for me is unconditional. Remember, this is independent of His teachings to be obedient and follow the commandments. Loving me does not mean He expects less of me or will let me off the hook.

So all these things I feel and want to be are inspired by His love for me. Not for anything in myself or that I have created. This is the love that He wants us to have for others. For our husbands and wives, our parents, our children, our friends, our other family members, our acquaintances, those we have conflict with, those who are not like us, those who offend us, those who hurt us, those we have no reason to like, those who do things that annoy us. Everyone. He wants us to actually have this love so that they feel this love and are saved by it.

I understand what this love is. It isn’t the doing, it is the state of heart and mind, of truly loving, so that in our demeanor, attitude and behaviour towards others, we radiate this love. This is why people flocked to Him, why children surrounded Him. They knew His love was genuine and constant, they basked in it and wanted it. When He came to the Americas, this is why the multitude didn’t want Him to leave. This is the Spirit which cannot help but be present in the face of such love. It is a love that grows and needs no effort, because it is. It is something that is possible to attain through a lifetime of learning and growth. He has this love for all. We can at least, have this love for those around us.

This is a love I can develop over time, independent of my expectations of others, that I can come to with His help. But this is the true concept of the love of Jesus Christ.