16 November 2021
Series: Recharge
Book: Mark

Overcoming Sin: A Lesson from Christ’s Two Natures

Bible Passage: Mark 14:26-52

Jesus was fully God, but also fully man. What lessons can we learn from his dual nature in overcoming sin in our lives? #Recharge

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Overcoming Sin: A Lesson from Christ’s Two Natures

Discussion Question: What Bible verse helps you battle the temptations of the flesh?

Bible Study

This past Sunday we saw the subtle and passive spiritual failures of Peter and the rest of the disciples as well as the outright intentional and aggressive failure of Judas. In our focus of that aspect of the story, we didn’t have time to really get into the details of the struggle Jesus Himself was having overcoming sin.

When we think of Jesus, we should rightly never think of Him apart from being the eternal Son of God, the perfect and holy eternal Logos of God! However, in that thought we often overlook the fact that He was also a man, perfect and holy, but nonetheless fully man just as much as He is fully God!

Christ’s humanness is seen no more clearly than in the Garden of Gethsemane. Let’s look back at some of our passages and see if you catch it.

32 And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. 34 And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” 35And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” 

If Jesus is God, and as such perfect, then how is that He felt all this way?

“33 And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. 34 And he said to them, ’My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.’”

If Jesus is God, and as such perfect; if in His perfection He came with a mission to die for our sins; then how is that He asked the Father for a way NOT to go to the cross?

“36And he said, ’Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.’”

So what we see in Gethsemane is the perfect eternal Son of God fully and simultaneously man. Not sinful man, but nonetheless man! There is a very real and human struggle between flesh and spirit, between His divine nature and His human nature, between the desire to do the will of God and the weight and emotion of what that will means.

When the first man, Adam encountered this struggle, he sinned. But when Jesus, the second Adam, encounters this struggle, HE WINS!

But how does this struggle occur and why?

R.C. Sproul dealt heavily with this subject in his commentary on Mark 14. His notes combined with a few others help us get our bearings on how the humanness of Jesus and the Deity of Jesus were simultaneously at work. They point us to a tremendous lesson about having two natures ourselves!

Christ’s Human Experience

“In Gethsemane Jesus must make the first payment of that ransom, to will to become the sin-bearer for humanity. Jesus stands before the final consequence of being the Servant of God, “pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities” (Isa 53:4–5). It is one thing, fearful as it will be, to answer for our own sins before a holy and almighty God; who can imagine what it would be like to stand before God to answer for every sin and crime and act of malice and injury and cowardice and evil in the world?”1

“The worst prospect of becoming the sin-bearer for humanity is that it spells complete alienation from God, an alienation that will shortly echo above the desolate landscape of Calvary, “ ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ ” (15:34). Not his own mortality, but the specter of identifying with sinners so fully as to become the object of God’s wrath against sin—it is this that overwhelms Jesus’ soul “ ‘to the point of death’ ” (v. 34).”2

“Luke tells us His sweat became great drops of blood which flowed so profusely that it fell to the ground (v. 44). Medical science has attested a very few isolated cases of people sweating blood (a phenomenon called hemato hydrosis) and in every instance the person was in extreme mental and emotional anguish; in each case the individual died in a matter of hours. It seems that Christ also suffered this extreme mental and emotional agony, but He alone survived it. While we cannot imagine this mental and spiritual anguish, we can imagine how physically draining it must have been.”3

“Jesus Christ faced the utterly loathsome and formidable horror to His sinless soul of becoming all sin. We can imagine the torture to our blemished souls were we to be held responsible for some horrendous crime we did not commit—but how can we sinners imagine the trauma to His sinless soul when His impeccable purity became besmirched with every last loathsome act of His sinful creation? He who came only to save became the embodiment of every murder from Cain on; He, the very personification of truth, became the embodiment of every lie that has ever been told and will ever be told; He whose moral conduct was absolutely pure, became the embodiment of every fornication, adultery, and homosexual act. Shakespeare movingly portrays the guilt that drowned Macbeth as he contemplated his single foul deed, but even Shakespeare is totally inadequate to describe the flood of horror, remorse, and loathing that rolled in mammoth waves over our Savior’s soul as He contemplated what He was about to become. This, surely, was enough to wring out His anguished cry; but even it does not meet the specification of Heb 5:7, for He did become sin on the cross—He was not spared this anguish of soul.”4

“Only in Mark does Jesus call God “Abba,” a term of intimacy, trust, and affection. The other three Gospels simply record the Greek address patēr, “Father.” “Abba” recollects Jesus’ original Aramaic (Rom 8:15; Gal 4:6), displaying an intimacy, boldness, and simplicity in address to God that was not characteristic of Jewish prayers. Seldom, if ever, did rabbis presume such intimacy with God. “Abba” provides crystal clarity into Jesus’ consciousness of being God’s Son, and of his willingness to drink the bitter cup of suffering as an ineluctable consequence of his complete trust in the Father and obedience to his will. His exousia, the divine power and authority that have characterized his life, is now returned to the Father, in trust that the purpose of his life will be consummated in the selfsurrender of his death.”5

Christ’s Deity

“How are we to understand the union of a human nature and a divine nature? The Bible says that in the incarnation, the second person of the Trinity took on Himself a human nature. However, when He took flesh, a human nature, He did not deify that human nature. That human nature remained human.”6

“The Council of Chalcedon, in dealing with the mystery of the incarnation and affirming Jesus’ two natures, said that His two natures are perfectly united in such a way that they are not confused or mixed, divided or separated. We cannot mix them together as the Monophysites did, deifying the flesh or humanizing the spirit. At the same time, we must never separate them. They are always and everywhere united. Those four negatives of Chalcedon are further qualified by this phrase, “each nature retaining its own attributes.” That is, in the incarnation, the Son did not surrender any of His attributes. The divine nature is still eternal, infinite, omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent. It manifests all the attributes that belong to deity. God did not stop being God when He took on a human nature in Jesus. At the same time, the human nature retained its own attributes, being finite, contained, unable to be at more than one place at the same time, limited in knowledge, and limited in power. All of those attributes of humanity remained attributes of Jesus’ humanity.”7

“However, the communication of knowledge from the divine nature to the human nature is one thing. It is something else to say God communicates a divine attribute. If Jesus knew tomorrow because the attribute of omniscience was communicated to His human nature, we would expect His human nature to know everything. But He Himself indicated there were limits to what He knew. So if we understand that the divine nature communicates information without communicating omniscience, we will not stumble over these passages.”8

“Chalcedon also declared that Jesus’ divine and human natures must not be divided or separated. We do this when we deny the perfect unity of the two natures. However, while we must not question the unity of the two natures, it is perfectly acceptable to distinguish them.”9

“When we distinguish between the human and the divine natures, it is obvious that Jesus’ human nature experienced the agony at Gethsemane. It was the human Jesus praying to the divine Father for relief from His agony, yet at the same time indicating His perfect commitment to obey the Father’s will. The two natures, without confusion, mixture, division, or separation, remained intact, but there were certain things that manifested the divine nature and other things that manifested the human nature. His divine nature did not plead with the Father to change His mind. We know that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, the three persons of the Trinity, were in total agreement from all eternity as to how our redemption was going to be accomplished. Rather, His human nature pleaded that the cup might pass from Him.”10

“Of course, we do not know all there is to know about the mystery of the incarnation. The Council of Chalcedon drew boundaries. The men who met there set the limits of our speculation. They said, in effect: “If you go over this boundary, you will end up in the Monophysite heresy. If you go over this boundary, you will end up separating the two natures.” They wanted to be careful to stay within the boundaries of legitimate reflection. They basically admitted that they did not understand how the divine nature and the human nature are co-joined, but they knew how they are not. There is no confusion, mixture, division, or separation. They knew that no matter how the divine nature and the human nature are united, each nature retains its own attributes in that perfect union. The divine nature does not stop being divine. The human nature does not stop being human.”11

Our Similar Battle to Overcome Sin

As Christians, the battle in our own lives is very similar except that we are handicapped with a sinful human nature! We have the Holy Spirit within us, but we are still sinful and in need of glorification.

So what can we do to win the battle?

Don’t be surprised when you are tempted. Being tempted is the norm! Even Jesus was tempted! Satan tempted Him in the garden.

His humanness in essence “called the question” of obedience. This is exactly what we see in Adam. Adam didn’t sin until he answered the call of his humanness until he decided to give way to his human will as opposed to God’s will. It is not a sin to face a choice and feel the burden of the choice. It is a sin to choose the wrong will!

Don’t GO TO SLEEP! 

37 And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? 38 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 39And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. 40 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they did not know what to answer him. 41 And he came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.” (Mark 14:37-42)

When given the chance to prepare themselves for the temptation to abandon Christ the disciples had no sense of urgency and missed the opportunity to prepare, and as such missed the opportunity to stay faithful to Jesus!

On the other hand, Jesus was ready to roll!

“What profound irony Gethsemane conceals, for when Jesus feels most excluded from God’s presence he is in fact closest to God’s will! Gethsemane is the prelude to Calvary, for in a valley beneath the city Jesus allows his soul to be crucified; on a hill above the city he relinquishes his body.”12

If you go back to Peter’s response to Jesus telling him that he would deny him, then you will see why they failed – they didn’t think they could!

Illustration

When you think about the biggest upsets in sports history, many would mention the 1980 USA Hockey Team beating The USSR. For us, it was a huge win. We were certainly not supposed to win it. But, the USA had to win their way to the Gold Medal game, so the Soviets should have known these guys are for real. 

However, in 2018 the greatest upset in US Sports history actually occurred. I’m pretty sure there is no way this can be topped. 

When UMBC (24 – 10) beat UVA (31-2) in the first round of the NCAA tournament, the #63 team beat the #1 Team. That had never been done in the history of the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament! And here’s the deal, it wasn’t even close! The 

USA had at least earned its way to the gold medal match so the Soviets should have taken notice of that. But UMBC only got there because the NCAA puts so many teams in. They were 24-10 and UVA was #1 in the nation. 

UVA was a 20 point favorite but they ended up getting beat by 20 points (74-54). It was EPIC! It had NEVER happened! A #1 seed had never lost to the #16 seed in the NCAA Tournament. To make it worse UMBC lost in the very next round!!! 

What’s my point in telling you this? Well, everybody can lose. And everybody will lose eventually! 

Peter thought he won a battle that hadn’t even occurred yet. As such he didn’t even prepare himself for it. In Peter’s mind, it was ludicrous to consider the idea that he would betray Christ. But he did. The passage tells us that when they took Jesus away Peter ran away in fear like the rest of them! The disciples slept their way through the prayer time in the garden as they had done for three years; mentally sleeping on what Jesus had been telling them!

For us, we need to know that the battle between flesh and spirit will always be present. Therefore we need to stay awake and fight! You and I need to do the things that keep our hearts passionate for Jesus, our minds sharpened, and our hearts convicted by the truth. These are fundamental to winning the battle! 

Our preparation for the battle has everything to do with how we will engage and win the battle. Our view of our opponent (our own sinful hearts, a sinful world, Satan, and his forces) will shape how we prepare and respond. 

The opportunity we have to grab hold of victory and avoid the death we experience in sin should motivate us to be ready, awake, and prepared!

Bible Verses About Overcoming Sin

Here are some great verses to keep in mind as you try to stay ready for the battle!

7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” (Genesis 4:7)

Understand sin is always there ready to devour us like a lion waiting to pounce, I must therefore stay diligent and refuse to let it rule me! Likewise …

10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. (John 10:10)

Again, it reminds us of what sin and Satan are trying to do us so WHY serve them! ON the other side, Jesus is trying to walk us into life so why not serve HIM! Don’t let sin and Satan lie to you that what they offer is anything but death!

3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. (2 Peter 1:3-10)

I’ve been equipped for the battle! Now I need to focus on what I’ve been equipped with (divine nature!). Therefore, capitalize on the divinity He has placed within me and focus on growing (not opposing or ignoring or lessoning) those attributes and characteristics!

4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. (John 15:4)

At the end of the day, it’s all about abiding in Him which is walking in the Spirit (Galatians 5)! Focus on knowing and loving and being consumed with Him and you will have the power to overcome sin!

Footnotes

  1. Edwards, J. R. (2002). The Gospel according to Mark (p. 433). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos.
  2. Edwards, J. R. (2002). The Gospel according to Mark (p. 433). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos.
  3. Mills, M. S. (1999). The Life of Christ: A Study Guide to the Gospel Record (Mt 26:36–Lk 22:46). Dallas, TX: 3E Ministries.
  4. Mills, M. S. (1999). The Life of Christ: A Study Guide to the Gospel Record (Mt 26:36–Lk 22:46). Dallas, TX: 3E Ministries.
  5. Edwards, J. R. (2002). The Gospel according to Mark (pp. 433–434). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos.
  6. Sproul, R. C. (2011). Mark (First Edition, p. 371). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.
  7. Sproul, R. C. (2011). Mark (First Edition, pp. 371–372). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.
  8. Sproul, R. C. (2011). Mark (First Edition, p. 373). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.
  9. Sproul, R. C. (2011). Mark (First Edition, p. 373). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.
  10. Sproul, R. C. (2011). Mark (First Edition, p. 373). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.
  11. Sproul, R. C. (2011). Mark (First Edition, p. 374). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.
  12. Edwards, J. R. (2002). The Gospel according to Mark (p. 436). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos