[The following blogpost was originally published on 12/13/2010. I re-published it here on the tenth of this month, but since that time I added a couple of points, so I'm re-posting it now.]
"Did Jesus ever get sick? When he hit his thumb with a hammer while working in his father's carpenter shop (assuming he did!), would he have been susceptible to getting an infection? ... Could Jesus have caught the flu from one of his family members? Could Jesus have suffered from a 24-hour stomach virus (with all its unpleasant symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diahhrea) caused by drinking dirty water from the Jordan River?"
Storms concludes: “Yes, most likely.”
While I do NOT think that differences on this issue have such immediate negative consequences as the assertion that Jesus made errors or mistakes, I DO think that we should consider that Christ was not subject to disease. Reflect, dear reader, upon the following:
Sickness is not a necessary element of humanity; Adam, before the Fall, would not have gotten sick. Illness was not was not a necessary experience for Christ, as He is the new and better Adam (Rom 5:14
; 1 Cor 15:45
Human weaknesses of Jesus are specifically mentioned in the Gospel accounts; He hungered after fasting (Matt 4:2
), He grew tired after physical exertion (John 4:6
), etc. These experiences ARE necessary to humanity, due to our physicality
, and mutability
. The inspired Gospel writers seem keen to record the truly human experiences of Christ. But the Gospels never mention Jesus being sick, which-if He had
gotten sick-would have been similarly notable.
On the other hand, the Gospels DO record that Jesus faced situations in which we who are affected by sin
would normally contract disease
, yet in the accounts of these situations there is no hint that He contracted a disease. For example, Matthew 8:1-4
records that Jesus healed a leper by touching him. Jesus certainly did not cease to be human when He touched the leper. Yet, unlike any of us, Jesus did not contract leprosy. His true humanity did not necessitate that He catch the disease.
4. Matthew 8:16-17 is (I believe) key in this consideration: "When evening came, they brought to [Jesus] many who were demon-possessed, and He cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were ill. This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: 'He Himself took our infirmities and carried away our diseases'" (NASB). IF we only had the textual information from the prophecy in Isaiah WITH the theological information concerning Christ's true humanity, THEN it may be reasonable to assume that "He Himself took our infirmities" should be understood in terms of Jesus Himself-like us-becoming sick. But this is NOT the only information that we have been given. Matthew 8:17 records the Holy Spirit-inspired interpretation of Isaiah's prophecy: "[Jesus] healed all who were ill to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet," etc. ["This was" is not in the original text, but only supplied by translators.] HOW did Jesus take our infirmities and carry away our diseases? FIRST through His healing ministry, which provides a preview of the kingdom of God that (when fully manifested) will include no disease. THEN-as the function of Isaiah 52:13-53:12 in the New Testament is considered as a whole-we understand that Jesus bore sin, sickness, and death on the Cross in our place and rose again to conquer these enemies of Man, as He is the first-fruit of resurrection. NOTICE: the idea of Jesus personally becoming sick never enters into this account. The idea that Jesus must have become sick is an inference, which-due to the reasons presented here-seems both textually unnecessary and theologically problematic (at best).
The primary reason that the inference
concerning Jesus becoming sick
(prior to His passion) is theologically problematic is that sin, sickness, and death appear to be related in the Bible (for example: Isaiah 53:4
; Matthew 8:17
). Just as Jesus, being sinless
, would not have "naturally" died as we "naturally" die-rather, He laid down His life on His own accord (John 10:18
)-Jesus wouldn't have "naturally" fallen ill.
In so emphasizing the Incarnation, I fear we run the risk of under-estimating the uniqueness of the Cross. We may miss the idea that Jesus, at a specific point in His ministry, began to bear the sins of His people upon His own body and endure divine wrath on our behalf. Jesus did not experience the wrath of God against sin throughout His entire life; He would not have cried out, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me
?" (Matt 27:46
) at His baptism.