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 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 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, cases of flu, 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.

  • http://brotherdougsmith.wordpress.com Doug Smith

    “Christ, as the Holy One, did not and could not contract these illnesses and diseases.” Thanks for this meditation on the wonders of our holy Savior. This makes so much sense biblically, especially when we read of Him touching those with diseases such as leprosy.

    • Edmond Chirwa

      Jesus was not a man but God, is just that he transformed to be in almost in a same level with human beings so that people can engaged him but that does not mean he was human. He came to earth to fulfill his purpose i.e. to die for and redeem all. Getting sick was not part of the to do list but dying was.

  • David Chin

    Thanks for the article. I often have difficulty maintaining balance in understanding and conceiving the theanthropos, perhaps emphasising one nature at the expense of the other. Yes, Christ could never have succumbed to illnesses, yet being man, though perfect, he would have harboured the usual skin and gut flora (commensal and mutualistic) common to man. If he had been irritated by dust and sneezed, could he have passed these germs to others?
    Would it not be preferable to term the sinless weaknesses like hunger, tiredness and pain as normal physiological responses and ‘strenghts’? If Adam had not these responses, he would not know when to eat, rest or withdraw from painful stimuli.

    • https://disqus.com Joseph Carilus


  • Sam Beaulieu

    I don’t deny Christ’ perfection but in dialogue with this post, Jesus got tired and weary no? Getting tired and weary, is that not a result of the fall? Were we created with the need for sleep before the fall? Will we get tired and weary in the new heavens and earth to come?

    • Cassia Payoute

      Before the fall, the only sleep recorded in the Bible was when God put Adam in a deep sleep and created Eve. That sleep was for “surgery” so to speak but it doesn’t say if sleep was necessary before the fall. We do know however, that man was created to work (“to till the earth”) and it was too much for him to do alone. Hence the reason Eve was made and they were told to be fruitful and multiply. So though scripture doesn’t say he “needed” sleep, it can be implied that he did become weary with the work being “too much and needing help”

      So I can only guess at best (I don’t know if there is other scripture to answer this or not) that sleep was necessary before the fall.

  • Cornell Ngare

    If Jesus bore the curse, and even died (out of no sin of his own), why do we draw the line at sickness? Why couldn’t a body that gave in to death not give in to illness?

    I am still prone to believe that Jesus most likely fell sick. The passages about a lamb without blemish might as well just be speaking about conscious sin and not necessarily bodily blemishes such as illness. To make the correlation so direct seems like stretching the analogy to the point of almost making the lamb and Jesus physically equivalent rather than just analogous.

    Is there room for me as a believer to be convinced that Jesus got sick, knowing fully well that sin is a consequence of the fall (and a product of forces beyond just the human body, think germs etc) but taking this as part of the curse that Jesus had to bear and ultimately his physical death?

    In other words, why should it be possible for an unfallen body to die but not to fall sick when both death and sickness are consequences of a fall Jesus never experienced?

    • Cassia Payoute

      Sin was the fall and the fall was sin. Sin was not a consequence of the fall. Sin having power or rule over us was “a” consequence among many others. I came here (and read other articles) wondering if Jesus knew what it felt like to be sick. I know He empathizes with us on many levels and knows what it feels like (having gone through it Himself in His human body) to feel many of the things we feel and go through in this life.

      But after reading I am inclined to believe that He did not subject Himself unto sickness. Yes, He very well could have, but for what purpose? He knew enough about, and had power over death without experiencing it, when he raised the dead. So He didn’t have to be dead to desire to and to accomplish raising the dead. Therefore, He didn’t have to be sick to desire to and to accomplish healing sicknesses and diseases. What would have been the purpose for Him to allow sickness in His body? (Not a hypothetical question by the way)

      We know for what purpose He subjected Himself to die. But it was only possible because He allowed it to be. He LAYED down His life willingly.

      Also the curse of sin or the curse of the fall was not on Him until the Father LAYED our sins upon Him. So until He allowed the curse of sin to be put on Him (which only happened on the cross), He could not have died, or much less have been sick until then.