Was Jesus Ever Ill?

Did Jesus ever have a cold or the flu? Was it possible for him to contract cancer or diabetes?

The answer to that question begins by identifying the four possible states of human nature:

1. Unfallen human nature: The perfect humanity that Adam and Eve enjoyed before the fall.

2. Fallen human nature: The cursed humanity that Adam and Eve experienced post-fall and passed down to all their descendants.

3. Saved human nature: Still a fallen humanity but it’s now in the process of being redeemed.

4. Glorified human nature: Not just restored to the perfection of unfallen human nature but something even more exalted and wonderful.

So which kind of human nature did Jesus have? He didn’t have a saved human nature because he did not need to be saved. He has a glorified human nature now in heaven, but he did not have that on earth. So we’re left with two options – unfallen human nature or fallen human nature. Which was it?

Luke 1:35 supplies the answer. There, an angel told Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.”

Perfect Genetics
Christ had a holy and unfallen human nature. The intervention of the Holy Spirit in his conception ensured that his humanity was without sin and, therefore, without corruption. Jesus did not inherit any mental, physical, genetic, chemical, electrical, or biological infirmity from Mary and and none developed in him. He was never infected with germs, viruses, or disease and he did not transmit them either.

In Christ’s Doctrine of the Atonement, one of the greatest books ever written on the atonement, George Smeaton wrote:

He saw no corruption, either living or dead – for sickness or disease could not, as a personal quality attach to the sinless One…Disease could not touch Him, because He did not come within the power of sin in the world; and hence we never read of His contracting any distemper or disease like other men.

His body did not see corruption in the grave and it did not see corruption in life either. He was a lamb without blemish (1 Peter 1:19) and a priest without defect (Lev. 21:17). In a sermon on Matthew 8:16-17, Charles Spurgeon put it like this:

Do not think that our Lord Jesus was actually diseased: he suffered greatly, but I read not was upon him. Probably there was no man in whom there was less tendency to natural disease than in him. His pure and blessed body was not subject to the diseases which are brought upon men through sin being in them.

This being so, we can say that Christ would actually never have died unless he had consciously chosen to voluntarily give up his life to death—which, of course, is what he did (John 10:17-18). He would have aged in the sense of growing stronger from infancy to manhood, but he would not have aged in the sense of then growing weaker in his body as the decades passed.

An Alien Christ?
Does this not distance Christ from our experience? Does this not make him an “alien” to us when we need someone to identify with us in our human weakness?

There are two answers to this? The first is to distinguish between sinless infirmities (or weaknesses) and sinful (or sin-caused) infirmities. The second is to understand how Christ can perfectly sympathize with us even without actually experiencing everything that we go through. We’ll explore that further tomorrow but let’s first clarify the distinction between sinless weaknesses and sinful weaknesses.

Sinless Weaknesses

Sinless weaknesses are things like hunger, thirst, and tiredness. These were not caused by sin but were part of the experience of unfallen Adam too (though not to the painful degree we experience them now). They are part of the essence of being limited creatures.

It’s these sinless weaknesses that the Westminster Confession speaks of when it says that Christ “took upon Him man’s nature, with all the essential properties, and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin” (WCF 8.2).

Sinful weaknesses
On the other hand, there are sinful weaknesses such as colds, flus, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, dermatitis, and so on. These weaknesses are sinful in the sense that sin caused them to enter into human nature via the divine curse upon humanity for sin. They are an essential and large part of what it is to have a fallen human nature.

As such, Christ, as the Holy One, did not and could not contract these illnesses and diseases. He experienced sinless weaknesses to the maximum (especially because his perfect human nature was more tender and sensitive than fallen human nature) but he did not experience sinful weaknesses that are part of fallen human nature. He experienced weakness but not all weaknesses, and he did not need to in order to sympathize with all our weaknesses (Heb. 4:15).

Bearing Sin Parallel
In The Heart of Christ in Heaven Towards Sinners on EarthThomas Goodwin helps us understand this by paralleling the way in which Christ could bear our sins without being personally tainted and the way he bore our sickness without ever being ill.

It may be said of Christ while he was here below that in the same sense or manner wherein he “bore our sickness,” Matthew 8:17, who yet was never personally tainted with any disease, in the same sense or manner he may be said to have borne our sins.

Tomorrow we’ll look at how Christ’s perfect pity also draws him near to us and us to him.


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Whose Body? Yours or His?

Here is the foreword I wrote to Pastor Al Martin’s new book Glorify God in your Body. You can buy it at Amazon for $8.95 or at Trinity Book Services for $6.95.


I count it an enormous privilege and honor to write this foreword for a man who has pastored me from the day after I became a Christian. Although I was never a member of Pastor Martin’s church in New Jersey, and only visited it twice in twenty-five years, I have devoured hundreds of Pastor Martin’s sermon tapes over the years after being introduced to them by a friend just after I was converted. His messages gripped my soul from the first moment of hearing them, with his passionate presentation of the Bible’s doctrines and duties leaving an unforgettable and indelible impression upon me.

When I was called to my first congregation, the first thing I did in my new study was start listening to Pastor Martin’s pastoral theology lectures. I took careful notes throughout the next few weeks and still consult them to this day. They set a direction for my life and ministry that I will forever be thankful for.

All of this was happening, of course, without Pastor Martin’s knowledge. I was just one of the thousands who were being transformed in hundreds of countries by Pastor Martin’s worldwide tape ministry. Little did I think that I would ever get to meet the man that I owed such a debt to on both the personal and pastoral level.

So how do I find myself now writing a foreword to my distant mentor’s latest book? Well, it’s a long story, and one neither of us could ever have written. But God’s story involved both Pastor Martin and I moving to Michigan, meeting at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, worshipping in the same church now for a few years, and, in God’s mysterious providence, becoming firm friends.

You can therefore imagine something of the joy with which I pen this foreword for a man that God has used (and still is using) so mightily in my life and that I owe so much to. As I read through this book with a view to writing this foreword, and heard Pastor Martin’s “voice” in its pages, it brought back memories of many precious hours I spent with my tape-recorder and Trinity Pulpit cassettes. It reminded me of so many of the characteristics of Pastor Martin’s ministry that had impacted me through the years: God-centered, biblical, practical, relevant, passionate, memorable, balanced and Gospel–centered.

This is a God-centered book. Unlike secular books on care for the body which are entirely focused on selfish motives and aims, Pastor Martin helps us do all that we do for the glory of God and he ultimately leads us to the worship of God.

The is a biblical book. You’ll probably be surprised at how many texts there are in the Bible relevant to this topic. Pastor Martin rounds up these scattered Scriptures and organizes them into a comprehensive theology of the body.

This is a practical book, offering numerous down-to-earth instructions to help readers in everyday life. These are not couched in vague generalities that might leave us wondering what Pastor Martin really means. No, the instructions are detailed, specific, and challenging, leaving us in no uncertainty as to what God requires.

This is a relevant book, dealing with the twin modern problems of body-neglect and body-worship. Indifference towards the body or idolatry of the body have characterized many cultures through the years, but our own seems to have taken these vices to new heights and depths.

This is a passionate book, one born out of Pastor Martin’s painful pastoral experience of seeing Christians choose unhealthy patterns of life, and experiencing premature death through failure to care for their bodies in a biblical way. You will feel him grabbing your heart in his appeals to consider the impact of your choices on spouses and children.

This is a memorable book, based as it is on an illustration of string of pierced pearls, a beautiful way of showing the connection between doctrine (the string) and practice (the pearls). As he writes, “Doing needs doctrine and doctrine is for doing.” You’ll never look at a necklace in the same way again.

This is a balanced book, as can be seen in Pastor Martin’s use of both biblical instruction and scientific research, his concern that Christians don’t run from one extreme to the other, and his careful combination of both law and Gospel.

On the latter point, this is a Gospel-centered book. Pastor Martin does not want to promote proud Pharisaical behavior modification, but rather wants to see Gospel-motivated, Spirit-wrought change.

“Your body—whose is it—yours or his?” asks the subtitle. It’s a question that will be burned into your heart and mind when you finish this book, and will influence every decision about how you use your body from now until eternity. I hope and pray that you will be as blessed through Pastor Martin’s written words as I have been by his spoken words.

Glorify God in your Body at Amazon for $8.95 or at Trinity Book Services for $6.95.


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“The Best and Worst Moment in my Life”

Just over a week ago, Matthew Bryce decided to go surfing off the Scottish coast. Within a few hours the tide and wind had blown him thirteen miles out to sea. He watched the sun set, knowing he would not survive the night.

During the night he saw some distant ships and fishing boats, and tried calling out to them and paddling his board towards them. To no avail.

Sunrise came and he was still alive but the morning turned to afternoon, then evening, and another sunset was looming. This time, he knew for sure it was over. “I was pretty certain I was going to die.”

Then, the sound of a helicopter overhead. He jumped off his board and waved it around to draw attention, but they flew past him. His last hope turned to despair…and then hope again, as the chopper banked and started flying towards him.

“But then they turned round and when I saw them turn it was indescribable,” he said. ”It was a combination of the worst and greatest moment of my life…it was surreal.”

“I can’t describe it at all. These guys were the most beautiful sight I had ever seen. I owe them my life.”

Watch the video below or a longer deeply moving interview here to feel the full emotional impact.

But do so while thinking about the parallels between this and your salvation. Ponder where you were drifting towards. Remember your hopelessness and despair. Recall the fear of death. Think about the sound of the Gospel hope and your attempts to get God’s attention. And, Oh, the moment when he turned towards you and came to rescue you. Was that not the most beautiful sight in the world? Kindle gratitude and worship as you re-trace his work of grace in your dying soul.

It was the worst of times. But it became the best of times.