Torrance’s Incarnation 4.3: The Life and Faithfulness of the Son Toward Man

The cover of Torrance's IncarnationJesus’ relationship toward man is identical to the Father’s relationship toward man. Here we’ll explore how Jesus’ human life served his mission of “revelation and reconciliation,” (129) as shepherd and king.

a) Jesus the shepherd of the sheep

Many texts in the gospels refer to Jesus as a Shepherd. This is primarily seen when he had compassion on the shepherdless people (Mark 6:34) and fed them. Jesus’ actions as shepherd echo Yahweh’s role as shepherd (e.g. Ezekiel 34). Jesus found the lost and outcast and returned them to the house of Israel.

Jesus’ shepherding role is seen clearly in his deep profound compassion for the shepherdless. In Hebrews, the metaphor of shepherd is replaced with high priest, but the compassion (Hebrews 4:15) is the same. It cost Jesus “infinite anguish” (134) to become one body with us, taking our sins and diseases. He took this with “strong crying and tears” (Hebrews 5:7 KJV).

We must remember that the Spirit is involved with and echoes the compassionate ministry of Jesus. In Romans 8:34, similar words are used of the Spirit that are used also of Jesus. “The Spirit is said to bear our weakness or infirmity …, taking it upon himself, and to intercede or intervene … with unspeakable groans …, in language that reminds us of Mark [7:34]” (136).

b) Jesus the king of the kingdom

Wherever Jesus went, the kingdom of God was present. His lordship was not demonstrated in extravagant power, but in perfect freedom and authority to do his Father’s will.

This authority and freedom frightened people. The true king had arrived, which thereby challenged every other authority. No one could escape. The chaos of his birth—prophetic words about bringing swords and Herod’s infanticidic onslaught—were just the beginning of what would culminate in the cross. Mary prophesied the divine upending, and Jesus taught it (many that are first will be last, and the last first).

Simeon prophesied that Jesus would be “spoken against.” This verb is in the continuous present tense, which demonstrates the unending attack of sin on Jesus. This attack came because Jesus’ light penetrated everyone’s hearts. Remember how Jesus disbursed the crowd who caught the woman in adultery! This revealing light is explained in Romans 1:16-3:20. It shines on both Jew and Gentile, either leading to repentance or further darkness.

Hebrews 4:12-16 reminds us of this in another way. God’s Word is sharp enough to divide soul and spirit, before whom no one can hide. In Jesus’ ministry you saw people responding to this searching light, this piercing sword, by throwing themselves on his mercy. Some were desperate just to touch the fringe of his robe.

Jesus’ lordly freedom and authority led straight to his death. He directed his life and, when the time was right, endured the cross. The kingdom of God suffered violence (Matthew 121:12), the violence of the cross. In the cross, Jesus showed that his weakness is stronger than man’s strength. He defeated violence not by attacking it violently, but by entering it and suffering. This, of course, was supremely a painful thing for Love Himself to suffer.

Jesus operated in kindness and humility so he would not crush the weak, but as he resolutely approached the cross he challenged people to make a decision. Jesus “deliberately forced” (155) the cross, yet he refused to die until the moment was perfect. He died only after the motives of people’s hearts were laid bare.

Before he died, Jesus created a messianic community of disciples and followers who, through the ceremony of the Lord’s Supper and the power of the Spirit, continued to follow their Messiah.

Some Reflections

He has made himself one body with sinners and feels for them as a mother toward her unborn baby, and he pours himself out in love for them; his whole inner self is poured out for men and women in their weakness and need and sin. (132)

Here Torrance reflects on how the Hebrew word for mercy/compassion is rahamim, the plural of “womb.” This is a powerful reminder of how much Jesus loves us, and what that love cost him. We often recognize the pain of Golgotha, but neglect the emotional pain of his lost sheep.

The critical word … who pierces into us like an incredible sharp sword is none other than the one ‘touched with the feeling of our infirmities’, who is full of compassion and sympathy – therefore we may come boldly to the throne of grace, even to be exposed, to be turned inside out, because it is his grace and mercy which does it, and that is his healing revelation and reconciliation. (146)

This sentence reminds me of George MacDonald’s sermon, “The Consuming Fire,” where his posits that the fires of hell and heaven are one in the same. They are the same fire of God, which burns anything that is not love. In Torrance’s words, God’s sharp piercing sword (which is the sort of thing you would usually fear) is the sword that brings healing and enables us to approach our Father. Beautiful.

God does not execute his judgment on evil simply by smiting it violently away by a stroke of his hand, but by entering into it from within, into the very heart of the blackest evil, and making its sorrow and guilt and suffering his own. (150)

This point needs to be brought to bear on our world today. God didn’t resort to violence to destroy violence—neither can his children.

← 4.2: The Life and Faithfulness of the Son Towards the Father
5: The Mystery of Christ →

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2 Responses to Torrance’s Incarnation 4.3: The Life and Faithfulness of the Son Toward Man

  1. Robin December 24, 2014 at 6:54 am #

    Regarding the sword:

    “Oh, well for him who breaks his dream
    With the blow that ends the strife
    And, waking, knows the peace that flows
    Around the pain of life!”

    Another George MacDonald quote from “Phantastes” chapter 21 🙂

  2. Robin December 24, 2014 at 8:18 am #

    So sorry to hog your “Reply” section, but I just finished “Phantastes” and the second last line seemed to fit so well with your last quote:

    “What we call evil is the only and best shape which, for the person and his condition
    at the time, could be assumed by the best good.”

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