Romans 15:5 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

Now may the God who gives endurance and comfort grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus,

There are over 41,000 Christian denominations around the world, all claiming to be “the truth” and “the way” (John 8:31-32; 14:6; Ac 9:1-2), making them the true disciples of Jesus Christ. How can this be? In the first century C.E.,[1] there was one Christian denomination. By the end of the second century, there were twenty varieties of Christianity; at the close of the fourth century, there were about eighty varieties of Christianity. Since the fourth century, there has continued to be splits within the denominations of Christianity, usually over doctrinal differences. What does this mean? Well, the upside is that they believe in Jesus Christ, and claim to be his disciples. (Matt 10:24-25) Is this enough, if we are following Jesus’ example? (1 Pet. 2:21) Are all of these denominations just different roads leading to the same place? We need to ask ourselves, do we truly know Jesus, the man who walked this earth for thirty-three and a half years? Do we know the divine Jesus who came down to earth, died for our sins and ascended back to the Father? Do we truly have “the mind of Christ”?–1 Corinthians 2:16; Ephesians 4:13

Jesus Christ lived some 2,000 years ago, having only had a three and a half year ministry, so how can ‘we get to know the mind of Christ’? Well, fortunately, for us, we have the four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, which give their readers the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. By carefully studying through these gospels, we can get a mental picture of Jesus’ actions, how he thought and felt. Jesus himself said, “This is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and the One You have sent, Jesus Christ.” (John 17:3, HCSB) The apostle Peter informed his readers that they needed to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”–2 Peter 3:18

Therefore, it is paramount that true Christians should have an accurate understanding of the Father and the Son, which includes the Old and New Testament, but our focus herein is, the life and teachings of Jesus Christ while he was here on earth. If we are to have the mind of Christ, it seems logical that we must have an accurate understanding of Jesus life and ministry. Jesus was right there with the religious leaders, yet he had to scold them, saying, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” (5:39-40) On these verses, New Testament scholar Kenneth O. Gangel wrote,

Jesus essentially told these combatants, “You are serious Bible students and study the Old Testament carefully in order to gain eternal life. Yet you have been unable to see how your Scriptures prophesied my coming and, therefore, refuse the life that I bring.” An open heart and open eyes will produce an open mind, but we begin with an open Bible. (Gangel 2000, p. 106)

While the Jewish religious leaders were unable to identify the Messiah that they were actually waiting on, who was the way, the truth and the life (john 14:6), because they did not have an accurate understanding of those Scriptures, they missed the greatest opportunity in the history of humanity that will never be repeated again. We do not want to repeat their mistake. We want to have an open Bible, and we want to have a correct understanding of Jesus Christ, his life, and ministry so that we can have the mind of Christ. This means that we need to have a regular personal study of the Scriptures, cautiously using the Bible study tools that are available to us, to clarify meaning and context. Why did I say cautious? I did so because not all Bible study tools are created equal. Sadly, authors who are pseudo-Christians produce some of today’s Bible study tools, whose effect has been to weaken people’s trust in the Bible. We also need to know that our denomination is, in fact, on the path to salvation, as all of those 41,000 denominations are not different roads leading to the same place. (John 5:39-47)

We will offer just one example; many Christian denominations have taken a supportive stance on homosexuality. For example, the United Church of Christ welcomes same-sex couples into its congregations. The Presbyterian Church (USA) blesses same-sex unions. The US Episcopal Church has split over the issue, with one side having a practicing homosexual bishop. An openly gay Atlanta pastor of Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (Bradley Schmeling) was voted in by a vast majority as the senior pastor at the biggest Lutheran church in Saint Paul, Minn. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is now allowing openly gay men and women in same-sex relationships to be ordained as clergy. In short, the Bible’s view is that same-sex sexual activity is sinful; nevertheless, people struggle with same-sex attraction, including members of the Christian church. Church members are to obtain from same-sex sexual relations, which is a serious sin within Scripture. Nevertheless, we are not to hate the person struggling with same-sex attraction, just the homosexual activity. Christian should never have ill will, nor should they ridicule, or harass homosexuals. All humans are to be treated with dignity and respect. The Bible is very clear that a marriage is between one man and one woman. For a more look at this subject matter, see HOMOSEXUALITY – The BIBLE and the CHRISTIAN: Basic Bible Doctrines of the Christian Faith by Edward D. Andrews on the Christian Publishing House website.[2]

The Human Side of Jesus

Matthew 1:16, 18 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

16 and Jacob became the father of Joseph, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ[3] was in this way: When his mother Mary had been betrothed[4] to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit.

Luke 1:30-31 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.

 

Luke 1:34-35 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

34 But Mary said to the angel, “How is this to be, since I know no man?”[5]

35 And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the one who is born will be called holy, the Son of God.

Luke 3:23 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

23 Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli,

 

Jesus was born of a human mother, Mary, meaning that he was fully human. However, she was with child from the Holy Spirit, meaning that the power of the Most High overshadowed her. This kept the baby in her womb from taking in any of her human imperfection but allowed her to have a human child. Scientifically speaking, God, the Father caused a female reproductive cell (ovum), to become fertile in Mary’s womb, transferring the life of Jesus from heaven to earth. Therefore, Jesus was fully human and fully divine. We will be focusing on his human side.

At the age of thirty, this perfect human man began his three and half year ministry. Do the Scriptures help us to appreciate what kind of man Jesus was? Was he detached and unsociable, unfriendly? From the culture alone, Middle Eastern Jews of the time were known to be very frank and honest, communicative, and even dramatic. He was not withdrawn, reserved, or self-conscious. He freely displayed a wide range of human feelings going from sadness and compassion to righteous indignation and anger. (Mark 6:34; Matthew 23:13-36)

Jesus’s reaction was very human to the loss of his friend Lazarus, as he found Martha and Mary weeping over their brother. The account says, “He was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled.” However, the paraphrase, The New Testament by William Barclay says, “He was deeply and visibly moved, and distressed in spirit,” and he “burst into tears.” Jesus was no stoic, as he was willing to let his feelings flow when with his close friends. Yes, Jesus was “the Son of God,” but he bore very human feelings. (John 1:34, NASB) Certainly, this must have given some comfort to Martha and Mary!–John 11:33-36; Luke 19:41-44

Some Bible scholars have wrongly concluded that Jesus was weak because he wept in front of his friends. For example, Charles Spurgeon said, “I would remind you that ‘Jesus wept,’ because … He was not ashamed of His human weakness.”[6] Well, Spurgeon needs to recognize that human feelings are not a sign of weakness or unmanliness. Stephen Sideroff, Ph.D., told WebMD in plain language: Crying is “still viewed by many, particularly men, as a sign of weakness.”[7] WebMD writes, “Crying may have a biochemical purpose. It’s believed to release stress hormones or toxins from the body, says Lauren Bylsma, a PhD student at the University of South Florida in Tampa, who has focused on crying in her research.”[8]

Jesus’ reactions to experiences that are painful or distressing were truly human, kind and compassionate. When we look at demigods, i.e., divine or supernatural being in classical mythology, they were heartless and lustful, enjoying the pain and suffering of mere imperfect humans. This is not what Jesus was; he was truly human and truly divine, the perfect example, sent to us by God the Father. Simon Peter said to Jesus, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16; See also John 3:16-17; 6:68-69) Jesus is the perfect example of one who gave comfort and showed empathy, i.e., what we need to strive after, as we acquire the mind and heart of Christ Jesus.–1 Thessalonians 2:7-8

A man of Courage

Jesus also revealed himself a man of courage when it came to his beliefs. For example, Jesus cleansed the temple by driving out the moneychangers on two separate occasions. (Mark 11:15-17; John 2:13-17) In addition, Jesus did not shy away from publicly exposing the Jewish religious leaders (Scribes and Pharisees), over their abuses of the common people. In part, he courageously condemned them, ““Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” There was no sign of weakness in this encounter with the very powerful religious leaders, who were seeking to have him killed.–Matthew 23:27, 28; Luke 13:14-17

Now, some may look at these accounts, and suggest ‘this shows Jesus’ imperfection as he lost control of himself.’ The apostle Peter said of Jesus, he “did not commit sin.” (1 Pet. 2:22) The apostle Paul said, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Heb. 4:15) In Jesus, we find a controlled righteous indignation, as opposed to uncontrolled anger. (See Pro. 14:17) The apostle Paul even says of imperfect humans, “Be angry and do not sin.” (Eph. 4:26) Max Anders writes, “Sometimes a Christian may legitimately become angry. Jesus became angry at times. In those times, we must be extra careful how we act, for anger gives no excuse to sin. Sinning in anger would include things such as saying unkind things or acting in harmful ways toward others.”[9]

Those in positions of Christian authority, be it a parent, the father, a pastor or elder of the congregation, they would not want to be prone to uncontrolled anger. They need to have the spiritual maturity to us the Scriptures for ‘teaching, reproof, correction, for training in righteousness, in order that the person of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.’ (2 Tim. 3:16-17) If a parent or a pastor becomes aware of a threat to the congregation or family member, they may be incited into righteous anger. The pastor could become aware of someone or something that threatens the unity of his congregation. The apostle Paul wrote, “For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. 11 They must be silenced since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach.” (Titus 1:10-11) He also warned Timothy, “Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion.” (1 Tim. 1:16) Then again, it may relate to spirituality or moral cleanness.–Revelation 2:20-23; 3:19

Jesus travels throughout his three and half-year ministry took him through Galilee, Samaria, and Judea. His ministry brought him into contact with men, women, and children, those who suffered from poverty and sicknesses, as well as enemies, who sought to take his life. Was Jesus relatable to those he met in his travels? Was he arrogant and unfriendly, or welcoming, available and friendly? Was he able to relate to people’s pain, suffering, and temptations?

Romans 15:5 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

Now may the God who gives endurance and comfort grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus,

Philippians 2:5 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

Have this mind[10] in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,

Let the Children Come to Me

Mark 10:13-16 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

13 And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. 14 But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 15 Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.” 16 And he took them in his arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them.

What do we learn from the above account in Mark 10:13-16? First, we note that Jesus took a firm stand with his disciples, as he rebuked them, because they erred in their perception of Jesus. Second, Jesus had a caring attitude toward these little ones. He could understand why the parents were seeking him out for their children. They were bringing their children to him that he might touch and bless them, a completely selfless act. This teaches us further that Jesus was approachable, and he did not intimidate the people. This holds true of the adults and the child, both saw Jesus, not in awe, but as one of them.–Mark 1:40-42; Matthew 20:29-34

When we think of imitating Jesus, walking in his footsteps, we need to understand his character (affectionate and kind), his thoughts (of others), his action (being among the people), and his feelings (compassion and empathy). (Mark 9:36, 37) If one were describing us, would they say we are approachable or that we are rigid and inflexible? Do others feel at ease in our presence?–Proverbs 12:18; Ecclesiastes 7:8

Jesus’ Dealings with Women

The custom and culture of first-century Jewish Judaism certainly favored the man over the woman, treating the latter very harsh at times. Therefore, Jesus treatment of women would have stood out as an unusual teacher. Jewish men would not talk with women in public, and wives were even required to walk behind. The Jewish religious leaders did not believe women were capable of learning. Rabbi Elezzer wrote, “There is no wisdom in woman.” Elezzer further said, “Talk not much with womankind … He that talks much with womankind brings evil upon himself and neglects the study of the Law and at last will inherit Gehenna.”[11] (Brown, Driver and Briggs 2000, p. 55) Now, Jesus, on the other hand, was willing to talk to Jewish women and non-Jewish women in public, and even teach them. (John 4:7-30) For example, Jesus was traveling through the Gentile area of Tyre and Sidon, when a Greek woman approached him, asking him to expel the demon from her daughter. If this had been a Jewish religious leader, he would have dismissed her, maybe even verbally embarrassing her for even daring to approach him. Jews of the day referred to Gentiles as dogs, i.e., unclean person. They had nothing but disdain for Gentiles, let alone a Gentile woman, who dare come to them in public. How did Jesus treat this Gentile woman?

Jesus, on the other hand, listened to her, but tested her faith before helping her, saying, “Let the [Jewish] children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the [Gentile] dogs.” (Mark 7:27) The Greek word that Jesus used, kynariois, means “little dog”[12] or “puppies.” Jesus was likely trying to soften the words, but still test her faith, to see if she would just walk away. The woman is well aware of Jewish prejudices, and likely noticed that Jesus had softened the comment, so she continued by saying, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” (Mark 7:28) Jesus was moved by her faith, and he said to her, “For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.”–Mark 7:29

The disciples give us an insight into Jesus view of people, including women, when they said to him, ““Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances.” (Matt. 22:16) In another dealing with women, Jesus was offered to dine at the house of a Pharisee. During the meal, he allowed a known sinner, who might have even been a prostitute, to touch him,

Luke 7:37-38 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

37 And behold, a woman in the town who was a sinner,[13] when she learned that he was reclining at a meal in the house of the Pharisee, and she brought an alabaster jar of perfumed oil, 38 and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing his feet and anointing them with the perfume oil.

Her actions were that of a humble, repentant person. Jesus did not move away in revolt because she had led an immoral life.  (See also John 4:7-30) Rather, Jesus forgave her,

Luke 7:44-48 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

44 Turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she anointed my feet with perfumed oil. 47 For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 Then he said to her: “Your sins are forgiven.”

Jesus’ Relationship with his Disciples

Imperfect humans tend to feel threatened by those who they have authority over because they see them as competitors. They do not have a humble spirit and allow their pride to control them. When they observe their subordinate’s work, they are quick to find fault with it and hardly ever commend them for a job well done. Their words of contempt and condescension miss the mark of respecting the personal self-esteem of others. This is a mark of human imperfection. How did Jesus treat his disciples? Were they made to feel substandard, useless, or lacking intelligence, perception, or common sense? Alternatively, was it that they felt Jesus made them feel comfortable? (Compare Matthew 11:28-30; 25:14-23)

To see how Jesus used the authority that the Father entrust to him, we can start with John chapter 13. In verses 1-17, we find Jesus washing the disciple’s feet. The roads of first century Palestine was very dust, and they wore open sandals, resulting in dirty feet after much travel. Therefore, the least of any group would customarily take it upon themselves to wash the feet of the others. Alternatively, if there were a servant, they would have had this task. Nevertheless, while no disciple saw fit to take this upon themselves because they were always busy arguing over who was greater, Jesus took it upon himself. He was the Son of God, the highest-ranking person on the planet at that time, and yet he gave his disciples a lesson in humility. His words help us to appreciate his mind, “Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” (John 13:16-17)

We must ask ourselves; do we have the mind of Christ when it comes to serving others? Do we look for opportunities to help the Christian congregation, the people in the congregation, our neighbor, even if it is menial tasks? Alternatively, are we looking to do the things that stand out, things that others will take notice of, praising us? Are we looking to be important or special in the sight of others? Do we feel that the evangelism work is for others? Do we look for excuses not to carry out the one assignment that Jesus gave every disciple, i.e., proclaiming the Word of God, teaching, and making disciples? (Matt. 24:14; 28:19-20; Ac 1:8) The apostle Paul offers timeless advice,

Romans 12:3 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have a sound mind, each one as God has apportioned to him a measure of faith.

Jesus was a perfect human being, and while he looked like everyone else, and did not stand out, to be seen for this fact, he had a perfect mind and body. There is little doubt that he grew tired and hungry after a long preaching campaign because he was fully human. Nevertheless, there is little doubt that he could go far longer than any of his disciples, where were likely in good shape themselves. However, he did not expect perfection from them, so he considered their need to rest, eat and recuperate. Jesus had told them after one long campaign, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” (Mark 6:31) However, the rest was postponed, because the persistent crowds found them. Jesus did not get angry with the crowds; instead, he said, “His heart went out to them.” (Mark 6:30-34, NEB)

Jesus set the example for his apostles, first century Christianity, and us today. This is one reason the apostles would have given their lives for Jesus, and some did. The apostle Peter was the source for Mark’s gospel, sharing the closeness that he had had with Jesus. Peter never withheld how Jesus counseled him, even when it was stern at times. Peter was deeply embedded with the first-century Jewish mindset, so it took him some time to acquire the mind of Christ. (Matthew 16:15-17, 21-23)

Review Questions

  • What questions should true Christians be asking themselves?
  • How can “we have the mind of Christ”?
  • What was the human side of Jesus like?
  • What was Jesus’ reaction to the death of his friend Lazarus?
  • Was Jesus’ crying a sign of weakness?
  • How can our understanding the human side of Jesus help us today?
  • How was Jesus a man of courage?
  • Was Jesus anger a sign of his losing control of himself, i.e., sin?
  • What questions come to mind as we ponder Jesus’ travels throughout his three and a half year ministry?
  • How were Jesus’ dealings with children?
  • How did Jesus differ in his treatment of women, compared to the Jewish religious leaders and the common Jewish man of his day?
  • What do we learn about Jesus from his dealings with a Gentile woman?
  • What do we learn about Jesus from his dealings with a known sinner?
  • Why and how do many imperfect humans abuse their power of authority?
  • How did Jesus use the authority that the Father had entrusted to him?
  • What do we learn from John 13:1-17?
  • Why is it important that we look at ourselves in the mirror, asking ourselves the tough questions?
  • Even though Jesus was perfect, what empathy did he have for his apostles?

[1] B.C.E. means “before the Common Era,” which is more accurate than B.C. (“before Christ”). C.E. denotes “Common Era,” which is often called A.D., for anno Domini, meaning “in the year of our Lord.”

[2] http://www.christianpublishers.org/apps/webstore/products/show/6833468

[3] Or Messiah

[4] In the Jewish culture of the time, engaged couples were viewed more legally committed, as though they were already married if you will.

[5] Meaning, I am not having sexual relations with a man

[6] Sermon by Charles Spurgeon, “Jesus Wept,” given on June 23, 1889, at The Metropolitan Tabernacles Newington

[7] Crying Is Not A Sign Of Weakness By Annamarya Scaccia April 8, 2013

[8] http://www.webmd.com/balance/features/why-we-cry-the-truth-about-tearing-up?page=2

[9] (Anders, Holman New Testament Commentary: vol. 8, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians 1999, p. 155)

[10] Lit be thinking, mental attitude

[11] Gehenna (“Valley of Hinnom”) was a garbage dump outside of Jerusalem, an incinerator. Gehenna was specifically to the South and South-West of ancient Jerusalem and is the modern-day Wadi er-RababiIt. It was where trash and dead bodies were destroyed.

[12] William Arndt, Frederick W. Danker, and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 575.

[13] I.e., Immoral woman