Jesus the powerful man

Posted: June 21, 2012 by J in Bible, Theology

One of the NT themes that easily gets underplayed in our account of human weakness vs God’s power, is the humanity of Jesus.

Immediately after Jesus is declared ‘son of God’ at his baptism, Luke supplies us with a backwards genealogy, culminating with Adam, ‘the son of God’. Having given us this hint that Jesus will replay the history of mankind, as a kind of new Adam, Luke shows him led into the wilderness 40 days. It is Israel’s story in particular that he is rewriting. For Luke, ‘son of God’ is a very human title.

And it is as new Adam, empowered by the Spirit, that Jesus faces the Tempter. And defies him. It is what the first Adam should have done: now the second Adam finally puts the story of humanity right. He confronts his adversary, as God’s image on the earth, and conquers. Jesus is strong where Adam and Eve were weak.

Tempted in the wilderness, where Israel gave way to unbelief, Jesus remains faithful. He lives out the nation’s calling to be priests to God. Jesus is strong where Israel was weak.

Where is this strength from? Should we see this as the sign that this is God in human flesh (which he is!), strong by his very nature, easily triumphing?

That would be to miss the point the writers take such pains to make clear: Jesus’ strength is not his own. The temptations are very real, and he really struggles. But as a struggling man, Jesus is empowered and led by the Spirit (Luke 4:1-14).

Jesus is strong because he is being made strong by the continued presence of the Spirit with him: that’s Luke’s point. And in this way Jesus is able to play the part of a true man, and conquer. Far from being a threat to God, this human power is fully responsive and submitted to the Spirit’s guiding. Jesus is God’s man.

Again and again throughout his ministry Jesus confronts and conquers God’s enemies by this same power. ‘But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you’ (Mat 12:28). Jesus is God’s powerful man.

In fact the whole synoptic-Gospel story can be summarised as “how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.” (Acts 10:38)

And of course this culminates in his resurrection. The Cross is not only an expression of human weakness, but of human strength renewed. Jesus is raised up by the Spirit to become Lord of creation. At which point the same power begins to fall on others also. For we are ultimately to ‘reign with him’ (2 Tim 2:12, etc).

The message is not, ‘only God can do that!’ but rather: “by the power of the Spirit, mankind is being renewed in Jesus to be the powerful, faithful, obedient sons of God, rulers in the world.”

Empowerment. That’s what we see happening to humanity in Jesus, the way synoptics tell it. Not God’s power vs our strength, but God’s power revealed through us. Jesus becomes the powerful man.

When the crowds saw it… they glorified God, who was giving such power to human beings. (Matt. 9:8)

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