Jesus' Disability That Came With His Incarnation

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Several years ago, an article I wrote about disability and Christ's incarnation was published in The Banner. Here's an excerpt from the start of that article.

Recently our daughter Nicole, who is 21, spent a few days in the hospital. Because she has several impairments that resulted from her extremely premature birth, she cannot speak for herself. So my wife or I remained with her nearly every hour of her stay.

Even with excellent staff, hospitals can leave you feeling powerless and frustrated. As the days dragged by, I wondered, “If I feel frustrated, what must this feel like for Nicole?”

Besides all the strangers rambling in and out of her room at all hours to pull off and replace sticky bandages and check vitals, Nicole could not control even the most basic things: whether she wanted the curtains open or closed, what she wanted for her meals, whether she would prefer to look at a book or watch a video, whether she wanted the blankets on or off. As parents the best we could do was guess what she would like.

Through the frustration I wondered, Can God understand me in this situation? Even more, can he understand Nicole in her severe limitation?

The author of Hebrews tells us that Jesus was “made like his brothers and sisters in every way” (2:17, TNIV). But can almighty God truly understand human limitations, even long-term limitations we call disabilities?

Yes, in fact, God can, because the second person of the Trinity—Jesus the Son of God—became disabled in several ways.

To understand how Jesus became disabled, we need to understand what we mean by disability. A person with a disability has a long-term impairment compared to his or her peers. There is, of course, much more to say about disability, but this is the first part. A disability is not just an impairment, but an impairment compared to your peers.

For example, one of my impairments is that I cannot leap tall buildings in a single bound. But since my peers cannot do this either, then this “impairment” is not considered a disability. However, if I could not walk and had no prospect of ever walking again, then my inability to walk would be considered a disability because most of my peers can walk.

About 20 percent of the people in North America live with long-term limitations of sight, hearing, intellect, mobility, or emotion, which we call disabilities. About 30 percent of families have an immediate family member with a disability. Most people who are blessed to live into their senior years develop one or more disabilities.

God understands the frustrations that come with limitations, even severe limitations. Everyone lives with a variety of limitations. Using this understanding of disability, we see that the second person of the Trinity took disability upon himself in three ways: in his incarnation (taking on human form), in his taking on the sin of believers, and in his crucifixion.

Read the rest of the article on The Banner website.

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Yes, but if Jesus was God then he didn't need to become incarnate to know or learn anything, did he? 

What does this comment have to do with this excellent article?

Guide

Like you, I believe that God is omniscient. However, one of the great mysteries of the incarnation is that God was able to empathize with us in a new way through the incarnation according to Hebrews 4: "14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." The word "tempted" can also be translated "tested." I find great comfort in the fact that not only does God have knowledge about us, but also God walks the path with us in the good times and the painful times. In Jesus he is Immanuel, God with us.

It is no easy task to hold your disabled ill child, wondering what the next right thing is to do, how to alleviate her pain and discomfort – the plea to God ever present to see this child struggling to make sense out of what is happening, and to please, please do something. The medical people rush in and out with vials and tubes, phoning doctors, talking in medical terminology. And all you can do is pray.

The LORD’s omnipotence is without question – Revelation 22:13: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.” His omnipotence existed even before creation – John 17:5: “And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.”

Jesus, the Son, became human so that He “… might taste death for everyone” (Hebrews 2:9) – He fulfilled the promise made after the fall of man: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John1:14).  And He was obedient to the Father unto death.

In His omnipotence He did not have to do it – He does not have anything to learn. He did it out of love for mankind – Isaiah 53:5: “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.” (John 3:16 as well).   

Does the LORD see the suffering of the weak and the disabled? Hebrews 4:15 says “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin”. Zephaniah 3:19 says “Behold, at that time I will deal with all who afflict you; I will save the lame, and gather those who were driven out; I will appoint them for praise and fame in every land where they were put to shame” (emphasis mine).

And this gives comfort to a parent with a disabled child – to know that the LORD does not value human life in financial terms and measurable achievements as the world does, but as His plan for redemption of mankind falls in place, you child will be there – with Him!

Soli Deo Gloria!

Willi & Anje