A recent Church of England report allegedly leaves open the idea that Jesus Christ may have been mentally ill. I say “leaves open” because it is not clear from the Daily Express report whether the Church of England actually thinks that Jesus Christ may have been mentally ill. The headline says, “Jesus Christ 'May Have Suffered from Mental Health Problems', Claims Church of England'”. But when you read the article, the quote from Rev Eva McIntyre says, "Even Jesus was not immune to accusations about his mental health: there is a story in the gospel that tells of his mother and siblings attempting to take him home because they are afraid that he has lost his mind”. She is clearly not saying the family was right!
So most likely the CofE has been misrepresented, but given its track record I would not be surprised if elements within it now openly think the Lord of Glory was mentally unbalanced. But the question does raise a wider question worth pondering - did Jesus ever fall sick? Most importantly, would it matter if he did? I think that is actually a genuine theological question. The question of mental illness becomes relevant here only as a subset of a larger question. We have no evidence of Jesus falling sick. The question is whether it would matter to His divinity? Would it matter if he didn't fall sick? Do we lose or gain anything?
I believe it would matter if Jesus was sick because the physical perfection of Christ is part of God's salvation plan! The physical perfection of Christ saves us! My only surprise is that it is rarely discussed in many theological works - well the books that I have don't comment on it! I believe Christ was not just morally perfect but he was also physically perfect. The physical perfection of relevance here is that Jesus could not fall ill or suffer disease (but it also means that Christ operated at the apex of human capacity, His divinity aside). There are many reasons for this but four comes readily to mind.
First, Jesus is the second Adam. Jesus was conceived of the Holy Spirit. He enters our world as God incarnate in every way as the pre-fall Adam but in every way superior to Adam due to His divinity. He is both the son of God and the Son of God, if you catch my drift. When we say Jesus added onto his humanity. The humanity in question is the pre-fall Adam nature, untainted by sin. He has two perfect natures united in one. A perfect human being (mentally and physically) and the perfect Son of God. He was God in the flesh. Just as Adam was not ill before the fall, Jesus was not ill here on earth. There are clearly many mysteries here.
Second, Jesus is our perfect peace offering. Looking at Leviticus clinched it for me beyond logical deductions. Christ would have to have been physically perfect to meet the requirements of a perfect sacrifice as laid out in the Old Testament :
And when anyone offers a sacrifice of peace offerings to the Lord to fulfil a vow or as a freewill offering from the herd or from the flock, to be accepted it must be perfect; there shall be no blemish in it. Animals blind or disabled or mutilated or having a discharge or an itch or scabs you shall not offer to the Lord or give them to the Lord as a food offering on the altar. (Leviticus 22:21, 22 ESV).
Christ our peace offering in the New Testament could not have lame or indeed sick with any disease. Yes he was mutilated and beaten on the Cross, but that only shows us that the beatings of Christ saves! It is an error of many Christians to ignore that Gethsmane saves you, just as his life in Galilee saves you because without His sinless perfection there's no salvation. Similarly, without his brutal suffering in pain at the hands of Pilate there's no sacrifice for your afflictions.
Which brings us to the third point. Jesus died not just for sin, but also for our diseases. Critical here is that disease enters the world as a result of sin (I do not believe the same is true of pain - pain multiplies as a result of the fall). When Christ enters the world, St Mark reminds us he comes to demonstrate not only that he has power of sin and death, but also over diseases and demons. Isaiah similarly points out that the healing aspect is a vital part of the Messiah. Jesus does come to deliver from us spiritual and physical diseases. In His death he conquers both and therefore guarantees that in the new Kingdom there will be no diseases. If Jesus was under the power of disease he not be able heal us in this life and makes us permanently whole in the next.
Finally, God values the body of Christ even on the Cross. It is important to note that God took special care of Jesus. Not even a bone was broken! St Athanasius conveys this point powerfully :
A marvelous and mighty paradox has thus occurred, for the death which they thought to inflict on Him as dishonor and disgrace has become the glorious monument to death's defeat. Therefore it is also, that He neither endured the death of John, who was beheaded, nor was He sawn asunder, like Isaiah: even in death He preserved His body whole and undivided, so that there should be no excuse hereafter for those who would divide the Church.
What we can see therefore is that the physical condition of Christ has moral and spiritual relevance, even in his death! Not only in terms of His divinity but the very substance of His salvation plan.
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