When Jesus is Weak (Part One)

Jesus.colorTen evidences of Jesus’ weakness

The other night, I struggled to sleep.  I went to bed praying about several situations. As I prayed, my heart was full of pain and my stomach was churning. Current losses and past fears were swirling together into a mishmash of emotion.

Finally, at 4 am, I pulled myself from under the warm covers, threw on a sweatshirt and came to my computer.  I typed these words as if Jesus was sending me a middle of the night Facebook message…

When I am weak, you are strong.

You might be thinking, “Hey, I think you heard that backwards.  Surely Jesus was saying, ‘When you are weak, I am strong.’”

But, in my long walk with pain, I’ve learned to be curious.  So, instead of dismissing the words, I decided to open my heart to what Jesus wanted to teach me.

Robin, when I am weak, you are strong.

To be sure, the word “weak” is one I have wrestled with long and hard.  Many of my most human fears are buried in the very definition (dictionary.com) of weakness:

Weak:  the state or quality of being weak; lack of strength, firmness, vigor or the like; feebleness. 2. An inadequate or defective quality, as in a person’s character; slight fault or defect.

Synonyms: 1. fragility. 2. Flawed. See fault. 3. Penchant, passion, hunger, appetite.

Feeble?  No thank you.

Inadequate?  Yuck.

Fragile?  Shhhh. I don’t want anyone else to know!

Defective?  My greatest fear.

Flawed?  Uh, I don’t want to talk about it.

Yet, in all my unspiritual way of processing weakness, Jesus seems determined (to the point of hoisting me out of bed in the wee hours of the morning) to help me know…

When I am weak, you are strong.

Why those words?  Is it possible that within Jesus’ weakness, I can find hope of the redemption of my own flesh, my own weakness…and even the weaknesses and deep falls of others?

So I decided to start with the first part of what I sensed Jesus was saying, “When I am weak….”  What does the word weak connote Biblically?

In Biblical Greek, the word Astheneo denotes to be weak, feeble, to be without strength, powerless.

“For though He was crucified in weakness, yet He goes on living by the power of God. And though we too are weak in Him [as He was humanly weak], yet in dealing with you [we shall show ourselves] alive and strong in [fellowship with] Him by the power of God.” 2 Corinthians 13:4 (Amplified)

What does this mean? As the Amplified version says in Romans 8:3, Jesus took on the guise of sinful flesh, without ever being sinful.

“For God has done what the Law could not do, [its power] being weakened by the flesh the entire nature of man without the Holy Spirit]. Sending His own Son in the guise of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, [God] condemned sin in the flesh [subdued, overcame, deprived it of its power over all who accept that sacrifice].”

In other words, Jesus chose weakness, purposely abstaining from the use of his strength to keep others from taking advantage of him (Judas), hurting him (Peter), or crucifying him (Roman soldiers, the Jews, you and me by our sin).

And perhaps the biggest miracle is that by choosing this type of weakness, he simultaneously overcame sin and deprived it of its power.

How did this human weakness, a weakness that Christ chose for our behalf, show itself in his life?

As I’ve looked up scripture after scripture, my vision of Jesus began to shift.  In his human weakness, I see the possibility of knowing him better and ministering to others from a different perspective.

Ten evidences of Jesus’ weakness

  1. Satan’s pursuit of him — Jesus was tempted in the same ways as you and me. (Hebrews 4:15) Would Satan have bothered to tempt Jesus if there was no chance he could give in? (Matthew 4).  Remember Satan couldn’t attack Job until God took away the hedge that was around him (Job 1:10). From Jesus’ birth, Satan saw his human weakness and was determined to use it to bring him down.
  2. His prayer life — Jesus needed strength from outside of himself, so he prayed (Hebrews 5:7). In the gospels we see him praying often, overnight, early in the morning (Mark 1:35).  He was so obviously devoted to prayer that his disciples asked him to teach them to pray (Luke 11:1).  Why did he fall asleep in a boat in the middle of a storm?  Perhaps that was due (at least in part) because he was exhausted from all-night prayer sessions (Luke 6:12-13).
  3. His tears — It took loud cries and tears for him to be obedient (Hebrews 5:7).  Taking on human flesh meant that obedience wasn’t always easy.  And being real with himself allowed him an amazing empathy with the weakness of others.  He wept when his friend Lazarus died (John 11:35). Lamented the backsliding of Jerusalem (Matthew 23:37). Wept when facing his own death…to the point of rupturing blood vessels in his face, mixing his sweat and tears with blood (Luke 22:44).
  4. His ministry — Jesus said that he didn’t come to call the healthy, but rather those tossed and turned by their own sickness, weakness, and falls (Mark 2:17). Jesus didn’t disdain the weak. He came for the weak. In fact, he astounded Simon, the Pharissee when he announced that the woman bathing his feet with her tears of sorrow over her sin loved him most (Luke 7:36-50).
  5. His high priest status — Being able to emphasize with our weakness is one of the qualifications of being a high priest (Hebrews 4:15).  In fact, one of the main goals of the Hebrew writer seems to be to convince us that understanding Jesus as a man, a human, our brother in the flesh, is the only way to understand the freedom and confidence of the New Covenant (Hebrews 2:10-11).
  6. His affinity with weak, needy people —Tax collectors, prostitutes and other wayward sorts were attracted to Jesus and loved to spend long hours with him (Matthew 9:10).  In fact, the Pharisees saw that as conclusive evidence that he wasn’t from God!  And, Jesus extends this same affinity towards you and me! (Matthew 11:19). As the Hebrew writer says, “He deals gently with the ignorant and wayward” (Hebrews 5:2).  I can testify personally to this (and I’m guessing you can to).
  7. His losses — He shed real blood, cried real tears. His body was able to be battered, ripped; his heart was able to be crushed.  After his death, he was resurrected with the evidence of his weakness still intact—the scars on his hands where the nails went in (John 20:27).
  8. His strong will — Jesus’ will wasn’t always in line with God’s will…he had to go to war in prayer to lay down his will, like in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Since the Bible says he was tempted in every way as us, we can deduce that he was tempted to bury inward and put up walls. This helps explain his illustration of a seed that must shed it’s hard exterior in order to bear much fruit, referring to his own death (John 12:1-2).
  9. His emotions — His heart broke when his disciples betrayed, distrusted and deserted him (Mark 14:27 AMP).  He was hurt when his mother and brothers thought he was crazy (Matthew 12:48). Jesus knew what it meant to be wounded emotionally. In fact, I’m guessing (from a wealth of scriptures that show the emotional pain of God) that emotional wounds might have been the source of Jesus’ greatest pain.
  10. His relationship with us — Hebrews 7:25 tells us that Jesus always lives to intercede for us (we are his object of special desire, his weakness).  Loving us compelled Jesus to express his love in ways that don’t make sense in human wisdom—the pinnacle being when Jesus stretched out his arms on a cross, completely vulnerable to a crowd that sought to abuse his vulnerability.  (More about this coming soon.)

Since the scriptures are clear about Jesus’ weakness, what are we really saying if we don’t quite accept it.  That he pretended to be weak?  I’m sure the sin-tossed, weakness-plagued band of people who followed him would have seen straight through that (Matthew 9:10).

And that brings us to what I see as the greatest evidence of Jesus’ weakness, the evidence that trumphs all the others….Jesus loves. (And he doesn’t just love the strong, he loves the weak.  And to that, I say, hallelujah!)

But loving the weak is costly. When you love, you make yourself vulnerable. And the Latin root is vulnus, meaning, “able to be wounded.”

Love makes us weak enough to be rejected. Weak enough to long to be chosen, but unable and even unwilling to force someone to choose otherwise.  Weak enough to lie in bed late at night praying, weeping, burdened with the losses of others and how they mingle with your own losses.

What does all this tell us about our own weakness?  Being weak is not a sin. We humans are the ones who have made weakness something to be despised, not God.  God is not ashamed of weakness.  As the Amplified Version says so beautifully…

“But to those who are called, whether Jew or Greek (Gentile) Christ [is] the Power of God and the Wisdom of God. [This is] because the foolish thing [that has its source in] God is wiser than men, and the weak thing [that springs] from God is stronger than men.”  1 Corinthians 1:25 (Amplified)

When I am weak, you are strong

How does this apply to you and me? And how can the weakness of Jesus translate into our strength?  Please share your thoughts.  (And watch for Part 2 coming soon.)

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18 thoughts on “When Jesus is Weak (Part One)

  1. This has helped me feel & see Jesus more tangible& accessible to relate with my struggles. The way you described his struggle with weakness & vulnerability, makes me feel like I am not alone. I now see him closer & by my side, helping me out. I feel enlightened & strengthened. It melted my heart to have more compassion for him & myself. Knowing that my Lord struggled in such a way makes me want to fight more with my own struggles. Thank you, so much for such insight! I prayed for God to make himself more real to me. And he did through your sharing. Thank you again!! Janette Ramon, Central Jersey Church of Christ.

  2. Robyn, thank you so much for this. I have been struggling with this concept and I know God led me to this post today. One big take away for me is to accept my weakness and see God as my only real strength the way Jesus did and to pray as Jesus did. I also love what you wrote about Jesus being tempted to put up walls and how those hard walls to need to be broken down. Thanks again. Love You.

  3. Last night I was filled with fear and anxiety. I prayed for a lengthy time. The feelings did not go away. I started questioning my faith. Thought that if I were this “weak” then I must not have as much faith that I thought I had. My friend Darcy shared this teaching with me just a bit ago. Thank God. Helped me to see things in a much different light. Thank you for sharing this information. I feel relieved and even closer to The Lord.

  4. Robin, Your insights never cease to pleasantly amaze. I am looking forward to part 2. You format your thoughts and provide scripture in such a way in all you write that it creates a clear mental as well as spiritual path to easily follow. That is a blessing for me because our God is a God of order and you can clearly teach thoughts that only come to me fragmented and without order. I hope that someday I will be able to say that I am weak like Jesus. I want to be that vulnerable in my relationships. No greater love has any man than that he lay down his life for his friends. Thank you for always going back to the cross and the source. Love you. <3

  5. On my way to work today I decided to pray for God the Father – in His times of suffering! Where did that come from? It dawned on me that it pains him when men sin and when I sin. EVERY DAY he suffers again and again… every day He and Jesus have to relive the cross because of our choices to not follow that day! I want him to be comforted in those times! I believe it will help encourage me to live a life that gives Them more joy than sorrow – by my choices… And the more I can and help others to and feel Their sorrow and pray for Them to be comforted – like we need when we see our kids/friends making bad choices… Then I read your blog and see the HS blowing similarly!!! Thanks for sharing…

    • It seems to me that love and suffering go hand in hand. God suffers with us because he is love. In my humanity, I have trouble getting the fear out of my love. God’s love is perfect, meaning it isn’t anxiety or fear driven. (Some of my suffering over other people’s sin comes from my fear.) As an accused type of personality, I struggle more with letting go of my sin. God’s secure love allows me to go to the cross, knowing I’ll find mercy and grace to help me in my time of weakness.

  6. Robin,
    Spot on as always, thank you for the depths of your heart on paper for the world to read and relate with. Being an Disciple of Christ who has struggled with addiction most of my life, how freeing it is to have the strength that we gain through Christ. Even standing at my weakiest moments I still stand. I am so grateful you started this blog, my God bless it to speak to the hearts of those who need it and for those who think they don’t.

    • Thanks for your encouraging words! I feel much the same way…that by the grace of God I stand, and that’s enough.

  7. Dear Robin,
    Thank you so much for this reflection about Jesus and his weakness. Your honesty and vulnerability in your books and in much of yr writing is greatly appreciated! There are so many gems one could extract from this. One insight I gained was remembering how differently God views our weaknesses. The example of how God used Jesus’ weakness and how Jesus CHOSE to be weak by allowing himself to weep and cry out to God as he faced people who hated, betrayed, and eventually killed him is enlightening. He didn’t use his divine strength, but God used his weakness. All my life I’ve been plagued by feelings of worthlessness and self- hatred because of my emotional challenges or because I just never quite measured up in parent’s eyes. Due to recent health issues, I’ve been confronted with my own neediness and weaknesses more so than ever . It’s such a profound reminder that God sees our weaknesses so differently than we do,and how in our weakness, like Jesus, we can cling to God more intimately than we would when we are strong . Thx for the reminder!

  8. Thanks so much Robin, Im so grateful for the way God is using you to help so many of us who struggle with insecurity and fears. This came at just the right time! I’ve been battling with much anxiety and fear and feelings of inadequacy. This has helped me to see how God wants me to embrace my weaknesses and not be ashamed of them. When I can do that, God’s power is revealed in my life!! I ‘m slowly beginning to get it and understanding that and surrender it all to him through prayer and studying his word.

  9. Pingback: When Jesus is Weak (Part One) - restorationROCK

  10. Thank you sister for this message,its really inspiring,Jesus not only strong also weak, but he faced his weakness with prayer. Thank you so much

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