As I was reading in Matthew this morning, as is so often the case, something new jumped out at me. In Chapter 14 we read the story of John the Baptist being beheaded. I’ve read it countless times but never really named the emotion for Jesus’ reaction in verse 13 even though I had the verse underlined—“Now when Jesus heard it, He withdrew from there in a boat to a lonely place by Himself. . .” Thinking of the “Big Six” negative emotions from which babies should learn to return to joy between 12 and 18 months—I realized that Jesus felt sad (something important to me is lost).
Handling the Six Negative Emotions
When we know how to handle the Big Six emotions, emotions that come from the right side of our brains, we can stay relational and act like ourselves while feeling them. Verse 13 and the next show us how Jesus acted like Himself while He was sad—He went away to talk to His Father and when He returned He “felt compassion for the multitudes and healed their sick.” Jesus stayed relational and suffered well.
Seeing that I could name the emotion as one of the Big Six, I continued to think about the other Five—anger ( I’m about to lose something important; I need to protect myself), fear (Something bad is about to happen, I have to get away), shame (Someone is not glad to be with me right now), hopeless (I don’t have the resources I need to get back to joy) and disgust (Something is not giving life here, something is out of place). It was easy to think of incidences where Jesus felt these whether the text named them or not.
Mark 3:1- 5 gives us one place Jesus felt anger. I’ve used this one in two of my books—Handbook to Joy-Filled Parenting, page 120 and Joy-Filled Relationships, page 129 . Verse 5 in Mark 1 says, “And after looking around at them with anger, grieved at the hardness of heart, He said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ And he stretched it out and his hand was restored.” While angry, (the Greek says, “in a rage”) Jesus acted like Himself and healed the man.
For disgust, I thought of Jesus healing the leper in Mark 1:40-41. In the past when reading or thinking of these kinds of incidences I haven’t thought of Jesus feeling anything except compassion. Did I think Jesus wasn’t going to feel disgust because it was bad to feel or some kind of sin? Maybe so. But for these musings on Jesus feeling the Big Six, it seemed that in His humanity He would feel what we would feel upon seeing a leper. The difference is that He didn’t act any differently—He touched the man and healed Him.
This helps me realize that He can know what I do or think or say that is not pleasing to Him, but He is still there to hold me, to touch me to love me regardless of the feeling that something is out of place and not life-bringing.
Handling Fear, Shame and Hopeless
Even though I never named the emotion, it would seem very likely that Jesus felt fear in the Garden of Gethsemane. Again, do we slough off that Jesus felt these emotions because we think they are bad somehow? He felt them, but He knew what to do with them—turn to the Father, suffer well, and keep acting like Himself.
Shame and hopeless, along with all the others, had to be strong during Jesus’ trial and crucifixion. We might question that Jesus felt hopeless on the Cross, but if we look at the definition that goes with a baby 12-18 months we can see that in and of Himself, without the Father, Jesus would feel hopeless. Jesus needed the Father just as we need others to help us through overwhelming emotions.
A New Way to Look at Our Feelings
Realizing that Jesus felt all these feelings that we feel, without sin, can change how we look at our feelings. Many of us have been taught that feelings are bad or even sinful. Maybe we need to consider that they are a normal part of life and we can learn to return to joy from them, stay relational and act like ourselves in spite of them. We will never go through the extremes that Jesus did, but we can take heart knowing that . . . “we have a high priest who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.”