THE SURPRISING CHARACTERISTICS OF SINLESSNESS
by Dr. Andrew Corbett, 24th December 2020
¶ Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel
Second Timothy 2:8
As we reflect on the birth of the Saviour once again this Christmas it is easy to get distracted with the gift buying, present wrapping, Christmas lunch preparations, and summer holidays, and in doing so lose sight of who it is we are remembering. With a hint of noëlic advent in his exhortation to Timothy, Paul reminds his protégé to remember the One who was born as the offspring of David. The promised offspring of David was to be the Messianic king of Israel and Saviour of the Jews. This is why Jesus was born in the town of David and made an annual visit to His ancestral territorial region of the city of David (which was located up from lower Jerusalem on Mount Zion and a little below the site of the Temple) according to Luke 2:41-42 — “Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom.” And while we could consider how Jesus was indeed the ‘consolation of Israel’ as the elderly Simeon spent his life longing for, there is something that we might not consider too closely about the birth of Jesus. He was born sinless and lived a sinless life.
“Who among you can prove Me guilty of any sin? If I am telling you the truth, why don’t you believe Me?”
John 8:46 NET
“We’re only human!” We all say it to justify our failings. But Jesus never did. It would be too simple to retort that this was because He was God in the flesh — and in so doing, diminish the fact that He had become human “just like us” and was subsequently tempted in every way just as we are.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.
None of us can ever attain sinlessness in this lifetime. (In the Resurrection we will receive a new glorified body like Christ’s and be partakers of the divine nature which cannot sin.) Therefore, an examination of Christ’s life gives us a revealing picture of what a sinless life looks like, and therefore a glimpse of what our potential was before the Fall. Consider the following and perhaps on Christmas Day offer a prayer of thanks that Christ exhibited these characteristics and what their implications mean for each of us:
Even though Christ was sinless, He was still-
◊ learning – in Luke 2:52 it tells that Jesus grew up learning to be wise and how to get along with people. This is remarkable considering that He maintained His omniscience, yet was able to have the human learning experience of discovery.
◊ keeping customs – in Luke 2:42 it tells that Jesus kept the customs of His family and in particular their religious customs. Later on we see that He made it His custom to be in a synagogue each sabbath (Luke 4:16).
◊ developing independence – in Luke 2:46 it tells that Jesus developed independence from His parents which afforded Him the privilege of spending time with other members of His kin beyond His immediate family and yet not in defiance of His parents. We see Him in the Temple learning and asking questions of the scribes and elders which reveals that He was formulating His own independent ideas and opinions.
◊ respectful – in Luke 2:47-49 it tells that Jesus was very respectful especially of His imperfect earthly guardians.
◊ submissive – in Luke 2:51 it tells that Jesus submitted to His parents which is also a demonstration of remarkable humility.
◊ spiritual – in Luke 3:21-22 it tells that Jesus was deeply spiritual and even though He was sinless, He was prepared to be water baptised (even though He had undergone both the Jewish rite of circumcision and purification as a child) and in Luke 4:43 He was engaged in preaching the good news about God and His kingdom.
◊ tempted to sin – in Matthew 4:1 it tells that Jesus was led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit to be tempted by the Devil and yet did not yield to this very genuine temptation.
◊ compassionate – in Matthew 9:36 and Luke 7:13 it tells that Jesus had compassion on people who were sinful. He spent time with them, ate with them, taught them, and healed them of their infirmities.
◊ emotional – in John 2:14-17 it tells that Jesus was angered with what some people were doing in the Temple precinct which resulted in the poor being taken advantage of. In Matthew 23:37 and Luke 13:34 we see that Jesus was sorrowful. In John 11:5 and Mark 10:21 we see that Jesus expressed love. And in John 17:13 we see that Jesus had joy.
◊ desirous – Jesus had certain physical and aspirational desires. (This contrasts sharply with Buddhism which sees desire as the cause of all human suffering.) In John 19:28 it tells that Jesus desired a drink. In John 17:5 it was his prayerful desire that His disciples would be guarded and protected after His crucifixion, and He also prayerfully aspired that they would be united (John 17:26).
What this brief list of sinless characteristics reveals to us is that these characteristics in themselves are not sinful. This list should also reinforce to us that the Christmas Child was and grew to be the most perfect human being who was incredibly strong, but incredibly gentle. He was supremely knowledgable, yet supremely patient. He was unlimitedly powerful, yet forbearing of those who maligned Him. He was the Ruler of the Cosmos with the power to instantly summon 12 billion+ of the cosmos’s most fierce warrior beings to obliterate any who withstood or defied Him, yet He surrendered to His enemies and permitted them to humiliate and desecrate His body. And when being tried by His judge, Pontius Pilate, He had the composure to tell the one who was judging Him that he was committing sin by doing so.
Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over Me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered Me over to you has the greater sin.”
As you wake up Christmas morning, spare a thought for what a sinless life looks like and consider these characteristics that only the Lord Jesus the Christ has ever displayed. Then after some long pondering on these characteristics, consider how Christ’s sinless life gives us the gold standard for the kind of life that we too should aspire to live. Merry Christmas.
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
“Maker of the sun, He is made under the sun. In the Father He remains, from His mother He goes forth. Creator of heaven and earth, He was born on earth under heaven. Unspeakably wise, He is wisely speechless. Filling the world, He lies in a manger. Ruler of the stars, He nurses at His mother’s bosom. He is both great in the nature of God, and small in the form of a servant.”
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