Peter Comont is the Senior Pastor of Trinity Church Oxford, a new church plant in heart of the city of Oxford. He is involved with several initiatives to teach, train and nurture the next generation of leaders including Living Leadership, the Porterbrook Seminary, and the South Central Ministry Training Course. Peter and I met at a conference in Asia several years ago and I thoroughly enjoyed our conversations during those days. In today’s Incarnation Series guest post, Peter offers us a really helpful reflection on the subject of the incarnation, God and what constitutes an authentic Christian life:
“During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears (Hebrews 5:7)
Jesus wept (John 11:35)
For the writer to the Hebrews the tears of Jesus are important. His incarnation was not just bodily, whilst somehow his mind and heart remained serenely immune to suffering. Rather he identified with our human condition in all its dimensions, including the emotions.
That full identification was important for our justification as the writer to the Hebrews makes plain. Jesus became fully human to stand in our place as both a priest and a sacrifice for our sins (e.g. Heb 7:26-27). But in Hebrews 5:7 the mention of Jesus’ tears emphasises that his priestly role also involves a profoundly emotional connection with us. In Jesus, God comes alongside us in all the rich complexity life. Because of his tears he is able to ‘deal gently with us’ (Heb 5:2). Because of his tears others knew he loved his friend Lazarus (John 11:35-36). The tears of Jesus are witnesses to a deep emotional connection between God and man.
Some theologians like to talk about God’s impassibility, suggesting that he does not suffer or feel pain. Though this may have some truth to it in a limited technical sense, the Bible’s picture of Jesus, – who is the ‘exact representation of [God’s] being’ (Heb 1:3) – points in a different direction. Christians believe in a God who is deeply and emotionally engaged with all the joys and trials of our world.
The Bible also describes the Christian life in deeply emotional terms. There is joy (e.g. John 16:24), but there is groaning too (Romans 8:18-27). To be adopted as sons of God means to be united with Jesus, as we cry out Abba father (Romans 8:15 cf Mark 14:36) experiencing the same range of emotions that Jesus displayed on earth. Both the joy and pain of our life now can be true manifestations of being united with Jesus.
Jesus shows us that an authentic Christian life is not shorn of emotion, nor is does it need to fear painful emotions, because they are both part and parcel of our present life as adopted sons of God. Thank God that the Son of God wept.