What if I told you . . . that Jesus was deceived? How would that be make you feel? Surprised? Aghast? Maybe confused or even outraged? Inquisitive? How would you respond? Would you tell me that I’m the one that’s deceived? Would you call me a false teacher or maybe a heretic. Quite frankly, I wouldn’t be taken aback by any of those reactions. It’s definitely not something you hear every day—not by a professing Christian, at least.
Many will be put off by this idea because “deception” has negative connotations. Linguistically, it is a negative term in that it is usually associated or contrasted with its positive counterpart. It is better to avoid deception than it is to fall into it. The verb “fall” is even a negative term that furthermore adds to its negativity.
By the end of this article, I don’t think much will have changed regarding its negative connotations. Deception that engulfs any man is a negative ordeal—no less so when it happens to the divine . . . not that it happened more than once.
Rather than throwing stones, the respectable response is to ask questions in an effort to understand. The first question one should ask is, “How was Jesus, theoretically, deceived or mistaken?” Before I answer that question, let’s explore the concept a bit further.
According to scripture, the first person in the history of the human race to experience deception was Eve, in the Garden of Eden. Most people, whether they are Christians or not, are familiar with this story. Before the Fall of Genesis, humanity lived in paradise. They lived in a world without stain or corruption. Neither she nor her husband was at a spiritual disadvantage. They were blameless before God; that is, until Satan made an appearance through the guise of a serpent. The rest is history.
Since Christians understand deception, in light of the first instance in which someone was deceived, I can understand a response similar to one of the many that I described earlier. Christians usually associate deception with sin. Since Jesus knew no sin, he couldn’t possibly have been deceived; right? Well, that would be true if a person sins when they are deceived, but sin doesn’t always follow deceit.
Eve was deceived when she saw that the forbidden fruit was “good for food”, and that it was “a delight to the eyes”, and that the tree was “to be desired to make one wise.” In that moment, she was deceived. However, she did not sin until she actually disobeyed God by partaking of the forbidden fruit.
Deception, in biblical terms, is believing in something contrary to the promises and simple statements of God. Deception is believing that God’s underlying purposes are less than holy. Eve did not sin by believing something contrary to the character and nature of God. Deception is not sinful unless it is acted upon. She had a choice. She could have brought her doubts before her Father and he would have lovingly corrected her misconceptions. Her deception was not a “bad” thing, per say. She remained blameless before God until she partook of the the forbidden fruit and shared it with her husband.
It is important to realize that Adam was not deceived. He was the one to whom God had originally given the command, which he, most likely, passed along to his helpmeet. Seeing how Eve told the serpent that she was forbidden from even touching the tree, we can infer that Adam was the one who actually forbade her from touching the tree, which likely led to her over questioning such a simple rule/command.
Temptation leads to deception. Deception can possibly lead to sin, but that is not guaranteed. Christians are deceived every day, but they don’t always act on it. God has promised to always provide a way out of temptation, which ensures that we will never be tempted more than we can endure.
Now that we have explored this concept a bit further, how do you feel about the title of this article? You may still disagree, but can you say that it’s impossible; seeing that it doesn’t necessarily lead to sin?
Jesus lived a holy life and therefore remained blameless in the eyes of the Father. He lived as Adam could have lived if he had persevered—if he had followed his Father’s instructions. Jesus lived his entire life as the unblemished Lamb of God; that is, until he took on the sins of the [entire] world. Throughout His life, all the way to the cross, he remained in perfect union with the Father; that is, until he who knew no sin became sin for us . . . we’ll get back to that in a moment.
Since the fall, we have experienced temptation and deception to an extent far beyond the scope of the original temptation, which became the original deception, which became the original sin. Eve was first tempted. Then, she was deceived. Yet, Eve did not become sinful when she was tempted or deceived. Could Jesus not have also been tempted and deceived while remaining sinless? Christians unanimously agree that Jesus was tempted, but most wouldn’t dare to claim that he was deceived for reasons stated above.
Jesus walked in our shoes. He was tempted in every way that we are, but did not succumb. I don’t know if he was deceived in every war that is common to man because scripture doesn’t explicitly say that he was decor bed to the extent that he was tempted. However, it doesn’t say that he was never deceived. Yet, if Jesus was deceived every day of his life, he would have remained sinless. I see no need to take such a leap, but I there seems to be at least one reason to claim that he was deceived on one specific occasion.
So, when was Jesus supposedly deceived? How exactly did it supposedly happen? Why would it happen?
There seems to be one instance, in the Bible, in which Jesus could have possibly been deceived. If it ever occurred, it would have to had happened when he was suffering on his cross. Likewise, there is one instance, on the cross, in which Jesus could have possibly been deceived. Most Christians refuse to consider such a thing because of a hyper-literalistic hermeneutic or maybe because of their understanding of the means by which salvation has been established.
For the longest time, my understanding of this concept was similar. I believed that the Father turned his back to the Son. I believed that the Father actually forsook the Son—that God forsook God—that God denied himself! When Jesus cried out to the Father: “My God! My God! Why have You forsaken Me?!” I “took him at his word.” I believed what the Bible “clearly” taught. As deity, as the second person of the trinity, as God- the Son, he wouldn’t have uttered anything that was untrue, would he?
Well, if we want to be responsible interpreters of scripture, the context should determine our understanding of any passage. Jesus didn’t explicitly state that the Father had forsaken him, although many believe that it is implied. Was Jesus forsaken? Could he have been? If one member of the triune God is disattached from the triunity of the Godhead, can we rightfully say that God does not change— that he is immutable?
If any of the New Testament writers had penned anything that supported the claim that Jesus was forsaken by God, I would not suggest otherwise. Yet, they do not opine. Some will ask, “Is Jesus’ words not good enough?” Well, if he explicitly stated that he would be forsaken or if He told anyone afterward that he was forsaken, then there would be no dispute. When Jesus cried out to the Father, he certainly seemed to have been forsaken. He undoubtedly felt forsaken, but the question isn’t about what he felt. If he was tempted in every way that is common to mankind, mustn’t he have perceived things in a way that enabled him to be tempted. Feelings are not always reliable.
Many presume that since Jesus was fully God, then he could not have been deceived—forgetting that Jesus was also fully man. There is a fine line to tow here. If Jesus could not have been deceived, he could not have been tempted either. As God, Jesus was omniscient. Yet, as man, he was not omniscient. Jesus told his followers that he only knew what the Father revealed to him, which implied that his knowledge was dependent on revelation from the Father. It also implied that he did not have a present knowledge of everything. The human mind was not designed for such a thing. It was designed to develope, to learn, to gain insight in one way or another. I’m sure Jesus learned how to do everyday tasks like anyone else. His relationship with the Father is an important aspect of his deity.
There is much more substance to my claims than mere speculation. Theologians are well aware of the fact that Jesus’ outcry on the cross was not articulated out of thin air. When Jesus was brought to the lowest point in his life, and ironically the highest, he was singing a song. I know, he wasn’t literally singing a song along to the tune of stringed instruments. Nevertheless, as he hung on the cross, he referenced a song/psalm by naming its first line—which served as the Psalm’s working title, since scripture was not divided into chapters and verses at that moment in time.
By crying out, no doubt with sincerity and a broken heart- “My God! My God! Why have You forsaken me?!”, Jesus was essentially “singing”, if you will, the twenty-second chapter of the Psalms.
Like I said earlier, most Christians assume that Jesus was forsaken simply because his cry seems to suggest just that in the ears of twenty-first century Christians. We, for the most part, don’t have a working knowledge of the Jewish culture or its customs. Many who are aware of the twenty-second chapter of Psalms, and it connection with Jesus and his crucifixion, have not allowed the entire psalm to determine the context of Jesus’ outcry.
Let’s read the Psalm in its entirety to gain perspective.
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? Oh my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest. Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame. But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they make mouths at Me; they wag their heads; “He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!” Yet you are he who took me from the womb; you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts. On you was I cast from my birth, and from my mother’s womb you have been my God. Be not far from me, for trouble is near, and there is none to help. Many bulls encompass me; strong bulls of Bashan surround me; they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death. For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet—I can count all my bones—they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots. But you, O Lord, do not be far off! Oh you my help, come quickly to my aid! Deliver my soul from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dog! Save me from the mouth of the lion! You have rescued mr from the horns of the wild oxen! I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you: you who fear the Lord, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him, and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel! For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him. From You comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will perform before those who fear him. The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the Lord! May your hearts live forever! All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you. For kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations. All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, even the one who could not keep himself alive. Posterity shall serve him; it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation; they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn, that he has done it.”
Jesus unmistakably felt like the Father had forsaken him. I this moment, the sins of the world, in their fullness, were on his shoulders. According to scripture, Jesus “became sin for us.” If Jesus became sin for us, why shouldn’t we expect that it had some effect on him? As the dark veil of sin was lowered over the eyes of the Lamb, could it be that he lost sight of his relationship with the Father? It is important to note here that losing sight of something does not necessarily signify that it has been lost. Isa 59:2 reinforces this idea: “[Y]our iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.”
If Jesus has promised to never leave us nor forsake us, how can we possibly expect the Father to have forsaken him? If the Father actually forsook the Son, we can have no assurance that he wouldn’t do the same to us. Technically, it is impossible for God to deny himself. The only predictable reason anyone would entertain such a thought would be because of their respect for the authority of the scripture—without realizing that such an interpretation is neither necessary nor metaphysically possible.
So, I believe that it can be credibly asserted that Jesus was deceived when the weight of the world was placed on his shoulders. We often try to imagine what Jesus was going through at Calvary, but try to imagine how it affected the Father. If there is such a thing as holy anger, which seems self-evident ; if anything can arouse holy anger . . . this would be it.
Imagine the bond that the Godhead had shared throughout eternity. We can somewhat empathize because of a similar type of love we have for our children. Yet we cannot fathom the depths of their love because their bond is divine/infinite. Imagine Jesus crying out to the Father- “Father! Father! Where are you?! Why did you leave?! Please . . . Please come back! Why, oh why have you abandoned me?! Where are You?! You said you would never leave me!” All the while, the Father is emphatically calling out, “I’m right here! I’m right here, Son! Can’t you hear me?! I haven’t left you! I told you I’d never leave you, and I never will!”
We can’t adequately describe such an experience or do it any justice. I’m sure the Father was just as sorrowful as the Son, not because he had to turn from him—he didn’t—but because something stood between their relationship. It was still there, but veiled. This is a large part of what scripture means when it says that Jesus walked in our shoes. He’s experienced temptation, but, more importantly, he experienced the effect that sin has in our lives by taking on the sins of the world.
The Father’s holy anger raged at this moment more than it had at the Fall, or during the Flood, or at any other point in the history of Creation; not toward sinners, but toward the disease with which we are afflicted—with which Jesus then bore. His anger enveloped the land in a blanket of darkness and caused the creation to tremble. In the midst of his anger, yet in light of the victory Jesus was to have over sin, the veil that sheltered the Holy of Holies was ripped in two. This symbolic act foreshadowed Jesus’ upcoming triumph over death, as he would soon lead captivity captive.
The day is approaching when he will raise the dead in its totality and his decree in Isaiah 45:23 (ESV) will come to fruition.
“By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: ‘To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.”
As Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, patiently waiting for the Father to tell him that the time has come to unite all things in him, I can imagine him calling to memory his triumphant obedience on the cross. I can almost hear him repeating those three famous words, in prophetic perspective- Indeed, “It is, Finished!” He has done it.