The Emotions of Jesus
There were no desk jobs in Bible times. That may seem incidental, unless you were the man with the withered hand in Mark 3:1-6. He needed both hands in order to make a living; rather, he needed both hands in order to live. Unless you were royalty, every job available required complete physical fitness. So when Jesus asked the Pharisees, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” he spoke honestly about the predicament of this man. To heal or not to heal his withered hand was a matter of life or death.
Too bad the Pharisees were too caught up in their religion to care. They’d been following Jesus, waiting to accuse him of breaking the law, which, as we saw last time, was ironic, for they were working on the Sabbath as well, working at following, spying, accusing, and condemning Jesus. Here’s a good sign your religion is useless: if you use it to justify hurting another person, or—even subtler—if you use it as the reason not to help someone in need.
Take note of Jesus’s emotions: “And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand’” (Mark 3:5). Jesus was angry and Jesus grieved.
I don’t know about you, but I struggle with my emotions. It’s hard for me to name them, experience them without shame, process them, and accept them. So whenever I read about the emotions of Jesus, I sit up and take note, for he experienced his emotions perfectly, every time.
That’s the right choice of words, too, by the way. Jesus “experienced” his emotions, just like everybody else. In other words, emotions happen to us. We don’t choose them, but we are passive participants. It’s kind of like the chemicals in your body. Your body is constantly producing all sorts of chemicals in response to the environment around you and the needs within you. You can’t stop your body from doing what it does. It’d be ridiculous to think you should be ashamed of producing insulin, for instance, or urine! In the same way, your body and soul produce various emotions; and you shouldn’t be ashamed of them, either. You can’t control your emotions, not even Jesus could.
However, emotions are a great gift from God, which, when used the right way, can make the world a better place. We must learn to listen to our emotions, just as Jesus did to his.
When Jesus saw the Pharisees were unwilling to allow him to heal on the Sabbath, he became angry. Is it a sin to be angry? Of course not. When Jesus realized the extent of their hardness of heart, he was filled with grief, which is another emotion. Is it a sin to be sad? Of course not.
Think about the word “emotion.” Notice it contains the word “motion” in it. That’s a good clue on what we’re to do when we feel various emotions: we are to get moving! Jesus didn’t reject or bury his anger and grief; rather, he let these emotions put him in motion toward those around him who were in need, in this case, the man with the withered hand. His emotions told him he’d better get moving, following his gut and his God on what to do next, despite the fact that the Pharisees might kill him for it! You see, sometimes in life, we need a little extra help from our emotions to get us to do what we know we need to do. Think of your emotions as lighter fluid, helping you kindle the next action into flame.
If you don’t sense any emotion in yourself, then chances are you’re living a stagnant, stuck life. If you have fear or anxiety, on the other hand, then most likely you’re challenging yourself to push beyond what’s comfortable or normal. Having emotions is an indication you’re trying to change the world, are in a place to grow, and are pushing yourself out of your comfort zone.
The trouble is when we bury, deny, or reject our emotions, because someone once communicated to us they were bad. Plenty of men will not accept their sensitive emotions, for instance, so they reject that part of themselves. Or they reject their anger, just because they’ve seen it get out of control in others. But without tears and ire, how will you move out into the situations around you to genuinely help?
Jesus ended up healing the man. His emotions played a role in this astounding miracle. That’s how I want you to think about your emotions, as you seek to process them in a healthy way. Yes, there are many ways of processing emotions in an unhealthy way, as mentioned above. Your emotions will play a vital role in bringing help and healing to life around you. Your emotions, just like those of Jesus, play a role in miracles happening.
In other words, good things will happen in your life less and less if you keep your emotions to yourself, for they are a gift to the suffering, needy, hopeless world around us.
To be clear, I’m not saying emotions were the cause of the miracle, but they played their necessary role.
Here’s one more observation. Just because you process your emotions the right way, doesn’t mean life will turn out to be all sunshine and rainbows. In contrast, and this is partly why some are so afraid of their emotions, sometimes your emotions get you into trouble. Afterward, the Pharisees began to come up with a serious plan on how to “destroy” Jesus—not just kill, but destroy. Emotion begets emotion.
You could play it safe, hide your thoughts and feelings from the world, not risk taking a stand for what you know to be true. Or, you could embrace the full wonder of your humanity, just like Jesus, and help to free people from their suffering.
Too many of us live lives of total adaption; we adapt to the hardness of heart of those around us, who are not touched by the suffering around them. I want to be more like Jesus, who didn’t constantly have to seek permission to be himself. Instead of relinquishing in adaption, Jesus chose action. His life was that of motion—rather, emotion.