Iron Nerves

In a letter on Feb 23, 1947, Lewis makes some observations about Jesus that are worth mentioning, especially during this season of Christmas as we reflect on the Incarnation. Here’s what he says:

“God could, had He pleased, have been incarnate in a man of iron nerves, the Stoic sort who lets no sigh escape Him. Of His great humility He chose to be incarnate in a man of delicate sensibilities who wept at the grave of Lazarus and sweated blood in Gethsemane. Otherwise we should have missed the great lesson that it is by his will alone that a man is good or bad, and that feelings are not, in themselves, of any importance. We should also have missed that all important help of knowing that He faced all that the weakest of us face, has shared not only the strength of our nature but every weakness of it except sin.If He had been incarnate in a man of immense natural courage, that would have been for many of us almost the same as His not being incarnate at all.”

Jesus came as a man, not a superman. Despite all our efforts to build our towers of babel, we need him. Our hunt for a work around – to be tolerant without love, to trust science void of faith, to dismiss human interaction for gadgetry, to select out disease rather than struggle and pray – are all ways we cut out the One who came to show us a more complete story. We are made in God’s image and he wants fellowship with us. Jesus showcased it. Paul reminds us of this in Philippians 2: 5-11:

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (ESV)


In Lewis’s final thoughts in the same letter, he makes two curious observations. First, he suggests that the prayers in Matthew 26:36-46 are not long enough to promote sleep from the disciples, so perhaps it’s just the first part of what they heard before closing their eyes. I like that. Second, he suggests that what we read in the Gospels was learned by heart by those who later wrote them down, “a much surer method even now than transmission by writing.”