Getting to Know “the Mind of Christ”
“‘Who has come to know the mind of Jehovah, that he may instruct him?’ But we do have the mind of Christ.”—1 CORINTHIANS 2:16.
1, 2. In his Word, Jehovah saw fit to reveal what about Jesus?
WHAT did Jesus look like? What color was his hair? his skin? his eyes? How tall was he? How much did he weigh? Over the centuries, artistic representations of Jesus have varied from the reasonable to the farfetched. Some have depicted him as manly and vibrant, while others have portrayed him as frail and pallid.
2 The Bible, however, does not focus attention on Jesus’ appearance. Rather, Jehovah saw fit to reveal something far more significant: the kind of person Jesus was. The Gospel accounts not only report what Jesus said and did but also reveal the depth of feeling and the pattern of thinking behind his words and actions. These four inspired accounts enable us to peer into what the apostle Paul referred to as “the mind of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 2:16) It is important that we become acquainted with the thoughts, feelings, and personality of Jesus. Why? For at least two reasons.
3. Our becoming acquainted with the mind of Christ can give us what insight?
3 First, the mind of Christ gives us a glimpse into the mind of Jehovah God. Jesus was so intimately acquainted with his Father that he could say: “Who the Son is no one knows but the Father; and who the Father is, no one knows but the Son, and he to whom the Son is willing to reveal him.” (Luke 10:22) It is as if Jesus were saying, ‘If you want to know what Jehovah is like, look to me.’ (John 14:9) Thus, when we study what the Gospels reveal about the way Jesus thought and felt, we are, in effect, learning how Jehovah thinks and feels. Such knowledge enables us to draw closer to our God.—James 4:8.
4. If we are truly to act like Christ, what must we first learn, and why?
4 Second, our knowing the mind of Christ helps us to “follow his steps closely.” (1 Peter 2:21) Following Jesus is not simply a matter of repeating his words and copying his deeds. Since speech and actions are influenced by thoughts and feelings, following Christ requires that we cultivate the same “mental attitude” that he had. (Philippians 2:5) In other words, if we are truly to act like Christ, we must first learn to think and feel like him, that is, to the best of our ability as imperfect humans. Let us, then, with the help of the Gospel writers, peer into the mind of Christ. We will first discuss factors that influenced the way Jesus thought and felt.
His Prehuman Existence
5, 6. (a) Our associates can have what effect on us? (b) What association did God’s firstborn Son have in the heavens before coming to earth, and what effect did this have on him?
5 Our close associates can have an effect on us, influencing our thoughts, feelings, and actions for good or for bad.a (Proverbs 13:20) Consider the association that Jesus had in the heavens before coming to earth. The Gospel of John calls attention to Jesus’ prehuman existence as “the Word,” or Spokesman, of God. Says John: “In the beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god. This one was in the beginning with God.” (John 1:1, 2) Since Jehovah had no beginning, the Word’s being with God from “the beginning” must refer to the start of God’s creative works. (Psalm 90:2) Jesus is “the firstborn of all creation.” Hence, he existed before other spirit creatures and the physical universe were created.—Colossians 1:15; Revelation 3:14.
6 According to some scientific estimates, the physical universe has existed for at least 12 billion years. If those estimates are anywhere near correct, God’s firstborn Son enjoyed close association with his Father for aeons before the creation of Adam. (Compare Micah 5:2.) A tender and deep bond thus developed between the two of them. As wisdom personified, this firstborn Son in his prehuman existence is represented as saying: “I came to be the one [Jehovah] was specially fond of day by day, I being glad before him all the time.” (Proverbs 8:30) Surely spending countless ages in intimate association with the Source of love had a profound effect on God’s Son! (1 John 4:8) This Son came to know and reflect his Father’s thoughts, feelings, and ways as no one else could.—Matthew 11:27.
Earthly Life and Influences
7. What is one of the reasons why it was necessary for God’s firstborn Son to come to earth?
7 God’s Son had more to learn, for Jehovah’s purpose was to equip his Son to be a compassionate High Priest, able to “sympathize with our weaknesses.” (Hebrews 4:15) To meet the requirements for this role was one of the reasons the Son came to earth as a human. Here, as a man of flesh and blood, Jesus was exposed to circumstances and influences that he previously had only observed from heaven. Now he was able to experience human feelings and emotions firsthand. At times he felt tired, thirsty, and hungry. (Matthew 4:2; John 4:6, 7) Even more, he endured all manner of hardships and suffering. He thus “learned obedience” and became completely qualified for his role as High Priest.—Hebrews 5:8-10.
8. What do we know about Jesus’ early life on earth?
8 What about Jesus’ experiences during his early life on earth? The record of his childhood is very brief. In fact, only Matthew and Luke related the events surrounding his birth. The Gospel writers knew that Jesus had lived in heaven before coming to earth. That prehuman existence, more than anything else, explained what kind of man he became. Nevertheless, Jesus was fully human. Though perfect, he still had to grow from babyhood through childhood and adolescence to adulthood, all the while learning. (Luke 2:51, 52) The Bible reveals certain things about Jesus’ early life that no doubt affected him.
9. (a) What indication is there that Jesus was born into a poor family? (b) In what type of circumstances did Jesus likely grow up?
9 Evidently, Jesus was born into a poor family. This is indicated by the offering Joseph and Mary brought to the temple about 40 days after his birth. Instead of bringing a young ram as a burnt offering and a young pigeon or a turtledove as a sin offering, they brought either “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.” (Luke 2:24) According to the Mosaic Law, this offering was a provision for the poor. (Leviticus 12:6-8) In time, this humble family grew. Joseph and Mary had at least six other children by natural means after the miraculous birth of Jesus. (Matthew 13:55, 56) So Jesus grew up in a large family, likely in modest circumstances.
10. What shows that Mary and Joseph were God-fearing individuals?
10 Jesus was raised by God-fearing parents who cared for him. His mother, Mary, was an outstanding woman. Recall that when greeting her, the angel Gabriel said: “Good day, highly favored one, Jehovah is with you.” (Luke 1:28) Joseph too was a devout man. Each year he faithfully made the 90-mile [150 km] journey to Jerusalem for the Passover. Mary also attended, even though only males were required to do so. (Exodus 23:17; Luke 2:41) On one such occasion, Joseph and Mary, after a diligent search, found 12-year-old Jesus in the temple in the midst of the teachers. To his worried parents, Jesus said: “Did you not know that I must be in the house of my Father?” (Luke 2:49) “Father”—that word must have had a warm and positive connotation to young Jesus. For one thing, he evidently had been told that Jehovah was his real Father. In addition, Joseph must have been a good adoptive father to Jesus. Surely Jehovah would not have selected a harsh or cruel man to raise His dear Son!
11. What craft did Jesus learn, and in Bible times, what did working at this trade involve?
11 During his years in Nazareth, Jesus learned the carpentry trade, likely from his adoptive father, Joseph. Jesus so mastered the craft that he himself was called “the carpenter.” (Mark 6:3) In Bible times, carpenters were employed in building houses, constructing furniture (including tables, stools, and benches), and making farming implements. In his Dialogue With Trypho, Justin Martyr, of the second century C.E., wrote of Jesus: “He was in the habit of working as a carpenter when among men, making ploughs and yokes.” Such work was not easy, for the ancient carpenter probably could not buy his wood. More likely, he went out and selected a tree, swung his ax, and carried the wood home. So Jesus may have known the challenges of earning a living, dealing with customers, and making ends meet.
12. What indicates that Joseph evidently died before Jesus, and what would this have meant for Jesus?
12 As the oldest son, Jesus probably helped to care for the family, particularly since it appears that Joseph died before Jesus.b Zion’s Watch Tower of January 1, 1900, said: “Tradition declares that Joseph died while Jesus was yet young, and that the latter took up the carpenter’s trade and became the support of the family. This finds some support in the Scriptural testimony where Jesus himself is called a carpenter, and his mother and brethren are mentioned, but Joseph is ignored. (Mark 6:3) . . . It is quite probable, then, that the long period of eighteen years of our Lord’s life, from the time of the incident [recorded at Luke 2:41-49] to the time of his baptism, was spent in the performance of the ordinary duties of life.” Mary and her children, including Jesus, likely knew the pain that results when a beloved husband and father dies.
13. When Jesus embarked on his ministry, why was it with knowledge, insight, and depth of feeling that no other man could have had?
13 Clearly, Jesus was not born into a cushioned life. Rather, he experienced firsthand the life of ordinary people. Then, in 29 C.E., the time came for Jesus to carry out the divine assignment awaiting him. In the fall of that year, he was baptized in water and was begotten as a spiritual Son of God. ‘The heavens were opened up to him,’ evidently indicating that he could now recall his prehuman life in heaven, including the thoughts and feelings that went with it. (Luke 3:21, 22) So when Jesus embarked on his ministry, it was with knowledge, insight, and depth of feeling that no other man could have had. With good reason, the Gospel writers devoted most of their writings to the events of Jesus’ ministry. Even so, they could not record everything he said and did. (John 21:25) But what they were inspired to record enables us to peer into the mind of the greatest man who ever lived.
What Jesus Was Like as a Person
14. How do the Gospels portray Jesus as a man of tender warmth and deep feelings?
14 The personality of Jesus that emerges from the Gospels is that of a man of tender warmth and deep feelings. He displayed a broad range of emotional responses: pity for a leper (Mark 1:40, 41); grief over an unresponsive people (Luke 19:41, 42); righteous indignation at greedy money changers (John 2:13-17). A man of empathy, Jesus could be moved to tears, and he did not hide his emotions. When his dear friend Lazarus had died, the sight of Mary, Lazarus’ sister, weeping touched Jesus so deeply that he gave way to tears himself, crying in full view of others.—John 11:32-36.
15. How were Jesus’ tender feelings evident in the way he viewed and treated others?
15 Jesus’ tender feelings were especially evident in the way he viewed and treated others. He reached out to the poor and oppressed, helping them to ‘find refreshment for their souls.’ (Matthew 11:4, 5, 28-30) He was not too busy to respond to the needs of the afflicted, whether a hemorrhaging woman who quietly touched his garment or a blind beggar who would not be silenced. (Matthew 9:20-22; Mark 10:46-52) Jesus looked for the good in others and commended them; yet, he was also willing to offer reproof when needed. (Matthew 16:23; John 1:47; 8:44) At a time when women enjoyed few rights, Jesus treated them with a balanced measure of dignity and respect. (John 4:9, 27) Understandably, a group of women willingly ministered to him from their own belongings.—Luke 8:3.
16. What demonstrates that Jesus had a balanced view of life and material things?
16 Jesus had a balanced view of life. Material things were not of primary importance to him. Materially, it seems, he had very little. He said that he had “nowhere to lay down his head.” (Matthew 8:20) At the same time, Jesus added to the joy of others. When he attended a wedding feast—typically an event marked by music, singing, and rejoicing—it is clear that he was not there to cast a pall over the occasion. Indeed, Jesus performed his first miracle there. When the wine ran out, he turned water into fine wine, a beverage that “makes the heart of mortal man rejoice.” (Psalm 104:15; John 2:1-11) The festivities could thus continue, and the bride and groom were no doubt spared embarrassment. His balance is further reflected in that there are far more occasions mentioned when Jesus worked long and hard in his ministry.—John 4:34.
17. Why is it not surprising that Jesus was a Master Teacher, and what did his teachings reflect?
17 Jesus was a Master Teacher. Much of his teaching reflected the realities of everyday life, with which he was well acquainted. (Matthew 13:33; Luke 15:8) His manner of teaching was matchless—ever clear, simple, and practical. Even more significant is what he taught. His teachings reflected his heartfelt desire to acquaint his listeners with the thoughts, feelings, and ways of Jehovah.—John 17:6-8.
18, 19. (a) With what vivid word pictures did Jesus describe his Father? (b) What will be discussed in the next article?
18 Often using illustrations, Jesus revealed his Father with vivid word pictures that could not be easily forgotten. It is one thing to talk in general terms about the mercy of God. It is quite another to liken Jehovah to a forgiving father who is so deeply moved at the sight of his returning son that he ‘runs and falls upon his son’s neck and tenderly kisses him.’ (Luke 15:11-24) Rejecting a rigid culture in which religious leaders looked down on common people, Jesus explained that his Father was an approachable God who preferred the pleas of a humble tax collector to the showy prayer of a boastful Pharisee. (Luke 18:9-14) Jesus portrayed Jehovah as a caring God who knows when a tiny sparrow falls to the ground. “Have no fear,” Jesus reassured his disciples, “you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:29, 31) Understandably, people were astounded at Jesus’ “way of teaching” and were drawn to him. (Matthew 7:28, 29) Why, on one occasion “a big crowd” remained near him for three days, even going without food!—Mark 8:1, 2.
19 We can be thankful that Jehovah has revealed in his Word the mind of Christ! How, though, can we cultivate and demonstrate the mind of Christ in our dealings with others? This will be discussed in the next article.
a That spirit creatures can be influenced by their association is indicated at Revelation 12:3, 4. Satan is there depicted as a “dragon” who was able to use his influence to get other “stars,” or spirit sons, to join him in a rebellious course.—Compare Job 38:7.
b The last direct mention of Joseph is when 12-year-old Jesus was found in the temple. There is no reference to Joseph’s being present at the wedding feast in Cana, at the start of Jesus’ ministry. (John 2:1-3) In 33 C.E., the impaled Jesus entrusted Mary to the care of the beloved apostle John. That is something Jesus likely would not have done had Joseph still been alive.—John 19:26, 27.
Do You Recall?
• Why is it important that we become acquainted with “the mind of Christ”?
• What association did Jesus have in his prehuman existence?
• During his earthly life, what circumstances and influences did Jesus experience firsthand?
• What do the Gospels reveal about the personality of Jesus?
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Jesus grew up in a large family, likely in modest circumstances
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The teachers were amazed at the understanding and answers of 12-year-old Jesus