For its Bible study, my church is going through The Easter Experience: What If What Happened Then Changes Everything Now? Last night, we did Lesson 3, “My Pain Is Understood.” The point of the lesson was that Jesus understands whatever pain we are going through, since Jesus himself went through pain: emotional, physical, and relational.
There were three theological issues that came to my mind, two of which were in response to the group’s discussion.
1. I was wondering what exactly the Book of Hebrews’ Christology
is. In Hebrews 1:2, the author of Hebrews affirms that God made the
universe through God’s son. Yet, vv 3b-4 say (in the NIV): “After he
had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the
Majesty in heaven. So he became as much superior to the angels as the
name he has inherited is superior to theirs.” But was not the Son of
God superior to the angels before his incarnation and ascension
back to heaven, according to Hebrews, since he played a role in
creation? Did Jesus gain some status or superiority after his
resurrection that was not his before? I guess that the best I can come
up with in response to this question is that Hebrews 2:9 says that Jesus
was made lower than the angels, so the author of Hebrews may have
believed that the Son of God resumed his superiority to the angels after
his death, resurrection, and ascension. I wonder if there is a deeper
2. The pastor read to us from the teacher’s version of our booklet,
and it was saying that God prior to Jesus’ incarnation did not suffer.
Now, since Jesus came and suffered, there is a part of the Godhead that
understands human suffering. I was not convinced that God prior to the
incarnation did not suffer. It seems to me, from reading the Hebrew
Bible, that God in the Hebrew Bible suffered emotionally and
relationally, for God was grieved at what human beings did. I see no
reason to take that as less than literal. But, from a Christian
point-of-view, I agree that Jesus’ incarnation was the first time that
God suffered physically.
3. One of the questions in our booklet asked us if we truly believe
that Jesus suffered the same sorts of sufferings that we do, and thus we
can trust that he understands our suffering. The pastor read from the
teacher’s version, and it said that Jesus did not suffer every single
kind of suffering that is out there—-for example, he never experienced
the pains of childbirth. But the booklet said that Jesus experienced
every category of suffering: physical, emotional, and relational.
Then someone, whom I will call Joy, asked an excellent question: Did
Jesus ever experience the internal suffering that comes through guilt,
since Jesus was perfect and had nothing to feel guilty about? Some in
the group replied that Jesus may have felt guilt at times, as when he
left his parents as a child to go to the Temple. The more evangelical
attendant of our group did not say anything, but I wondered what went
through his mind when he heard that, since he has said in the group that
Jesus was perfect and sinless, and thus Jesus could be a suitable
sacrifice to God on our behalf.
Joy’s question was kind of like a revelation to me. Sure, in the
course of my life, I heard and parroted over and over again the idea
that God understands our suffering because Jesus suffered. But, perhaps
unconsciously, I had a hard time believing that because I thought that
God the Father and Jesus were perfect. I saw God and Jesus as beings
who imposed on humanity their perfectionistic and unrealistic demands. I
didn’t think that Jesus could, say, understand my struggles with a
grudge, since I saw Jesus as so perfect that he was above having petty
grudges. Recently, I’ve been struggling with Jesus’ statement that God
won’t forgive us if we don’t forgive others: If that is the case, I
thought, then God does not forgive a lot of people, including a
number of Christians, who may hold grudges or be very reluctant to get
back into a relationship with someone who hurt them, or who has a habit
of hurting them. I doubted that God truly understood or sympathized
with humans in their weaknesses.
4 hours ago