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.
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
- 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.
- 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).
- 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).
- 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).
- 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).
- 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).
- 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).
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.)Share on Facebook