Christianity 201

April 2, 2019

Did Jesus Get Sick?

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:06 pm
Tags: , , ,

I’ve been feeling ill all day. Just now, I realized I neglected to schedule a devotional here. Proving that I still have a vestige of my sense of humor, about 30 minutes ago, I asked myself, “Did Jesus ever get sick?”

When we say Jesus, just to be 100% clear, we’re referring to Christ incarnate.

A possible go-to verse on this would be Hebrews 4:15

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin.  (NIV)

Some will want to argue that this verse is to be interpreted solely with respect to temptation. So let’s keep going. Philippians 2: 7-8 reads,

Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. (7 NLT)

And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (8, ESV)

So far we’re making the argument that in his earthly body, he would have known what it meant to experience illness.

But then, about 40 years ago, an elder in our church proposed that Jesus had leprosy. He based this on Isaiah 53: 2b-4

He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. (NIV)

At this one, I draw the line and say, “No!”

The reason is that in the scripture leprosy is a type of sin. (See this article for an explanation of Biblical typing.) Jesus was without sin. End of discussion. Jesus identified fully with the human condition when he “took on flesh,” and leprosy was common in that time and place, but where something has another layer of meaning, I think it goes too far to suggest something with such a strong sin-identification.

So, back to the question which forms today’s title…

A ‘yes’ at Culture Watch:

Second, as already mentioned, we are arguing from silence here. Very little is actually known about the earthly life of Jesus. As has been rightly stated, the gospels are basically extended introductions to the passion narratives. The last week of Jesus on earth receives most of the attention in the gospels, while his first thirty or so years of earthly life are largely passed over. Indeed, Paul seems to glory in not knowing Christ “after the flesh” (2 Cor. 5:16 KJV).

But even so, can we in fact know that Jesus never experienced illness? One way to approach this issue is to simply ask a number of questions about the life of Jesus on earth. Did Jesus ever:

Have nappy rash?
Have croup?
Cry as a baby?
Have a runny nose?
Have a headache?
Lose a tooth?
Have indigestion?
Throw up?
Have insomnia?
Have mosquito bites?
Get sunburn?
Suffer physical exhaustion?

True, not all of these conditions have to do with actual illness as such, but they help make my point. Just how exempt was Jesus from the common ailments and ordinary frailties of life? We do know of some human frailties experienced by Jesus: he was tired (John 4:6); he was thirsty (John 19:28); and he was hungry (Matt. 4:2).

We can tease all this out even further: Did Jesus ever fall as a boy and scrape his knee? If so, did that scrape get infected? Or did it heal instantly? These kinds of questions have to do with just how we are to understand Jesus and his full humanity.

A ‘no’ at this Protestant Reformed site:

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.

A “third way” answer at New Life Church:

“Did Jesus ever get sick?” The Bible never recorded he did. In fact, whenever Jesus touched the sick, instead of them contaminating him, he “infected” them, if you will, with his own cleanness. He actually touched lepers whose terrible skin disease was considered unclean (Luke 5:12-15; 17:11-19). He himself was touched by a woman who had been hemorrhaging blood for twelve years (Matt 9:20-22; Luke 8:43-48). No doctor could heal her. No medicine could help her. Jesus was declared unclean by the laws of Leviticus, yet this woman was healed when she touched the fringe of his garments.

When Jesus felt a cold coming on (or the nasty flu that was going around) did he zap himself with healing power? Great Physician, heal thyself (Luke 4:23). Was he the only little boy who never had to wash his hands because of germs? Many scholars say, “No! Jesus never got sick.”[1] They claim he had a perfect human body like Adam and Eve before the Fall. In fact, Jesus would not have even suffered and died unless he submitted himself to death. His genetics were uncorrupted since he never sinned and did not have a human father to tie him back to Adam’s sin. Surely, he suffered human weakness like hunger and thirst and tiredness, but he did not need to suffer illness. Yet although did not need to suffer, I like to think that Jesus chose to suffer illness. After all, he had a human body and he was “one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb 4:15b).

Jesus eventually suffered the final human weakness by his death on our behalf. And if he submitted his perfect body to a human death, then certainly he could submit his body to sickness, yet without sin.

There are other views as well, but at the end of the day, the Bible doesn’t really answer this question.

 

 

 

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