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Several weeks ago Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle preached a message in his series on Acts during which he raised the question, “Did Jesus ever make a mistake?” Continue reading . . .

Several weeks ago Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle preached a message in his series on Acts during which he raised the question, “Did Jesus ever make a mistake?” Driscoll was careful to draw an important distinction from the start. He isn’t asking, “Did Jesus ever commit a sin?” The answer he gave to that question was an energetic No. Jesus was altogether sinless. He never violated the will of God. He never broke a law. He never lied. He was never guilty of sexual immorality. He never gossiped. At no time did he fail to trust God. At no time did he steal. Jesus was altogether pure in motive, thought, word, and deed. He at all times obeyed the Scriptures and perfectly fulfilled the purpose for which his Father sent him into this world.

But did he ever make a “mistake”? For example, let’s suppose that Mary sent the teen-aged Jesus to the grocery store (!) to pick up several items for dinner that night. If Jesus were to inadvertently and unintentionally forget to purchase a loaf of bread, as many of us do when our spouses send us on a similar errand, he would not be guilty of a moral transgression. He did not consciously and willfully violate a moral law of God. On the other hand, if when Mary made this request he defiantly refused to go, or once at the store deliberately chose not to purchase the bread in order to annoy his mother for asking that he carry out this errand in the first place, that would be a sin.

Let’s consider a few other examples. When his mother was teaching him the multiplication tables (whether or not she ever did isn’t relevant), did Jesus ever “mistakenly” think that 5x5=30? When asked to write down from memory some OT text, did he ever misspell a word or make a grammatical error? While working in Joseph’s carpentry business (assuming Joseph was that kind of carpenter), might he ever have missed a nail and smashed his thumb? Might he have received something less than straight “A’s” on his report card or scored less than a perfect 36 on his ACT exam? When, as a young boy, he looked up at the sky, did he ever wonder whether the sun might orbit the earth?

Driscoll’s answer to such questions was: Probably. My answer is: Certainly! So, in case you hadn’t figured it out, my “response” to Mark Driscoll on this point is whole-hearted and unapologetic agreement. What shocked me about Driscoll’s message isn’t what he affirmed concerning Jesus but how the broader evangelical world reacted. So let’s explore this a bit.

Now, the fact is that we know very little about the early life of Jesus. We learn from Matthew 13:55-56 that he grew up with at least four half-brothers and at least two half-sisters in his family. We also know from Luke 2:21-40 that he would have been raised and educated as was any average Jewish child. His mother would have taken on this responsibility, focusing on the history of Israel and the tribe of Judah, as well as extensive Scriptural memorization.

Contrary to what some may imagine, I don’t believe that Jesus sat quietly with a feigned look of curiosity and inquisitive pretense all the while thinking to himself: “Mom, you’re so naïve. Do you actually think I don’t know Israel’s history in exhaustive detail? Hey, I’m God! I know every jot and tittle of the Old Testament text! But go on with your teaching and I’ll make it appear that I’m learning what I’ve known for eternity” No!

Jesus did not pretend to learn. He learned! His mind functioned just as yours would have. His senses engaged with the surrounding space-time world in which he lived. He gained knowledge by reading and remembering information from whatever manuscripts his parents provided. He reasoned from fact to inference. He deduced. He employed the fundamental principles of logic to draw conclusions about what he experienced. He grew in knowledge as we all do: by trial and error and repetition and study.

Luke 2:40 says that he was increasingly “filled with wisdom.” I take this to mean that he got smarter and wiser and more insightful as his exposure to life and the world expanded. And it wasn’t a charade, for fear that he might freak out his family and friends with his omniscience.

But if he was God, wasn’t he all-knowing? How could someone who has exhaustive and infinite knowledge from all eternity “learn” or increase in the storehouse of facts in his brain? Yes, he was God, always and forever. And in becoming man he never ceased to be eternally divine. But when he “emptied himself by taking the form of a servant” and “being found in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:7-8) he voluntarily suspended the use or exercise of those divine attributes that would have made it impossible for him to live a genuinely human life. He didn’t forsake such attributes as omniscience and omnipotence, but for the time of his earthly sojourn chose not to avail himself of their power or to conduct himself on the basis of their conscious operation in his life.

Thus, in becoming a man, notes Gerald Hawthorne, “the Son of God willed to renounce the exercise of his divine powers, attributes, prerogatives, so that he might live fully within those limitations which inhere in being truly human” (The Presence & the Power: The significance of the Holy Spirit in the life and ministry of Jesus [Dallas: Word Publishing, 1991], 208). That which he had (namely, all the divine attributes), by virtue of what he was (God), he willingly chose not to use. Thus we see a human being doing super-human things and ask “How?” The answer is: Not from the power of his own divine nature, but through the power of the Holy Spirit who indwelt him (see, among other texts, John 3:34-35; Luke 2:40; 3:22 [cf. Acts 10:38]; 4:1, 14, 16-19; 5:17; 10:21; Matt. 12:28; Acts 1:1-2; Hebrews 9:14).

In other words, the Son chose to experience the world through the limitations imposed by human consciousness and an authentic human nature. The attributes of omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience were not lost or laid aside, but became latent and potential within the confines of his human nature. They are “present in Jesus in all their fullness, but no longer in exercise” (208). The incarnation thus means that Jesus “actually thought and acted, viewed the world, and experienced time and space events strictly within the confines of a normally developing human person” (210).

Now, let’s return briefly to what we might conjecture concerning his years of growth and maturity into manhood. Beginning at age six and extending for five years, Jesus would have studied the Pentateuch, beginning with Leviticus. At the age of twelve he was taken, according to Jewish custom, to Jerusalem (probably at the time of Passover; see Luke 2:41-52). His recognition that it was his Father's work in his Father's house is significant. The discussions with the Rabbis probably centered in the Passover and its meaning.

In all likelihood, Jesus had to grow up fast. Most believe that Joseph died early, thus forcing Jesus into the role of principal bread-winner and the responsible head of the family. Whereas we read often of Mary during the ministry of Jesus, Joseph is nowhere to be found. The reference to Jesus as “the son of Mary” in Mark 6:3 is difficult to understand if Joseph was still alive. The most we can say, therefore, is that Joseph probably died sometime between the incident of the twelve-year-old Jesus in the temple and the inauguration of his public ministry.

Here is where things get sticky, largely due to the fact that evangelicals have often struggled with the reality of Christ’s human nature. They have often conceded the reality of it but without thinking through its implications. Bible-believing Christians are typically far more comfortable defending the deity of Jesus against liberal denials than they are at embracing what it means when John says, “The Word became flesh” (John 1:14).

So let’s not forget that Jesus had a true physical body. The NT tells us that he hungered (Matt. 4:2; his stomach would have growled and he would have felt profound discomfort when he fasted); he thirsted (John 19:28); he grew weary (John 4:6; often needing to stop and catch his breath and wipe sweat from his face); he wept and cried aloud (John 11:35; Luke 19:41; Hebrews 5:7-8); he sighed (Mark 7:34; at times, probably from frustration with others), sighed deeply (or “groaned” as some translations render it; Mark 8:12), glared or looked angrily at the crowd (Mark 3:5; yes, he got angry, but was always justified in doing so), and was indignant (Mark 10:14).

This raises the question: Did Jesus ever get sick? When he hit his thumb with a hammer while working in his father's carpenter shop (assuming he did!), would he have been susceptible to getting an infection? Did Jesus ever get headaches from prolonged exposure to the hot Palestinian sun? Could Jesus have caught the flu from one of his family members? Could Jesus have suffered from a 24-hour stomach virus (with all its unpleasant symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diahhrea) caused by drinking dirty water from the Jordan River? My answer to each of these questions is, “Yes, most likely.”

We also know that Jesus had a true immaterial soul. His soul was "overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death" (Matt. 26:38); it was to the divine purpose that he subjected his will (Luke 22:42), and it was into the Father's hands that he committed his spirit (Luke 23:46).

Jesus also experienced the full range of human emotions and affections: he felt compassion (Matt. 9:36; 20:34; Mark 1:41; 6:34; 8:2; Luke 7:13); love (John 11:3; 15:8-12; Mark 10:21); anger (Mark 3:5; John 2:13-17); joy (Luke 7:34; 10:21; John 15:11; 17:13); and gratitude (Matt. 11:25).

During his teen-aged years Jesus probably had pimples and body odor and bad breath. The God-man went through puberty! His voice changed; he had to shave; girls probably had a crush on him and boys probably teased him. There were probably some foods he didn't like (Squash!). Could he sing? Maybe he couldn't carry a tune in a bucket?

Some think it irreverent to speak of Jesus this way. As Max Lucado has said,

"it's not something we like to do; it's uncomfortable. It is much easier to keep the humanity out of the incarnation. Clean the manure from around the manger. Wipe the sweat out of his eyes. Pretend he never snored or blew his nose or hit his thumb with a hammer. He's easier to stomach that way. There is something about keeping him divine that keeps him distant, packaged, predictable. But don't do it. For heaven's sake, don't. Let him be as human as he intended to be. Let him into the mire and muck of our world. For only if we let him in can he pull us out" (26-7).

Yet, through all his growth and learning and trial and error and the many physical and mental mistakes he made along the way, he remained sinless and altogether righteous. He was truly God yet truly man, the God-man, and thus was fully qualified to serve as our Great High Priest (Heb. 4:14-5:10) and to obtain for us “eternal salvation” (Heb. 5:9).

So, did Jesus make mistakes? Yes, I believe he did. And yet without sin!


Gary, I completely understand what you're saying, but it isn't going out on much of a limb to say that when someone grows in wisdom like Luke 2:52 tells us Jesus did, that one of the ways we grow in wisdom, not the only way but certainly a way, is by learning from and correcting our mistakes.

When Hebrews 4 tells us that Jesus can sympathize with our weaknesses, our weaknesses aren't relegated to sin, they also include our shortcomings and our inborn disposition to make mistakes.

I don't believe it is adding to Scripture to assume that Jesus, who became flesh, just as we are, was every bit as prone to make mistakes as we are. There is a laundry list of things we could say Jesus didn't do simply because the Bible is silent on them. Other than His baptism, the Bible doesn't tell us if Jesus ever bathed(at least I don't recall that He did, but you get the picture), but we can assume He did. Likewise, if one truly believes He became flesh, it is perfectly fine to assume He made or may have made mistakes.

By stating that Jesus made mistakes or may have made mistakes, in no way denigrates His sinlessness or His deity.

Neither Sam nor Driscoll were adding to or detracting from the commands of God. If that were the case, a multitude of us would have chimed in by now. I haven't heard Driscoll's sermon, so I can't speak to his intention of bringing up the subject. I trust and hope that his intention was to give us hope so that we can confidently "approach the throne of grace to help us in our time of need."

I don't know Driscoll, but I do know Sam; and I know that if he brought this subject up in a sermon it would be to give his audience hope. I know it gives me hope to know Jesus can sympathize with me in regards to my mistakes.

I'm pretty sure any historical/textual critic, or NT theologian, would agree that the illiteracy rate of 1st century Palestine was in the upper 90%. Painting a picture to reflect and agree w/ modern day societies is biased, in and of itself. Who cares if Jesus made mistakes. I'm sure the other 20 something messiah's, that just so happened to be crucified for the same reason, made similar mistakes on their way to the cross...

Gary- I think understanding Jesus' full humanity (warts and all) gives us a very relevant grid by which we can relate to Him as a fellow man and to know that He sympathizes with us in our weaknesses. This includes understanding that he made mistakes.

Now the primary issue I think you are taking is that you consider "mistakes" in a general sense to be either equivalent to or a slippery slope toward a moral failure. That would be crossing the line, and is definitely not Sam's point. He could have been a terrible carpenter and it wouldn't make a lick of difference, I agree, but knowing that He struggled like we do in a normal human sense is incredibly relevant.

Matt, I respect and agree with your reply to my comment but you yourself make my point(better than I did!). And that is that Scripture fully describes our Savior's humanity AND sinlessness, and that us ALL it teaches, and no more, AND it is ALL that is relevant. Mistakes and/or mistakelessness in Jesus is NOT taught, nor more importantly, not relevant. If Scripture does not deal with this the Holy Spirit Himself thought it not worthy of our attention nor relevant to anything regarding our worship and adoration of Jesus, as God Incarnate!

Pray for mark, the leadership of MH and the hundred and thousands of families who are confused and hurting right now..... It does no good to defend or reject this ONE point, there is a bigger issue.... I only wish these well known pastor/teacher/speakers, would stop commenting in the blogosphere and start doing something to help Mark.... If not for him, than for the thousands who have called MH their church... But have been left wounded, jaded and confused...

I would like to add to Matt's wonderful explanation to our friend Gary. I have the awesome opportunity to minister in circles of academic and professional intellectuals and the argument often goes something like this: If God is all-powerful, and all-knowing, then why not "save" humanity without the person and work of Jesus? Doesn't the idea of Jesus diminish God's all-surpassing power and greatness? So a study and reflection upon Jesus' humanity, which includes the likelihood of making mistakes, is precisely what all other religions of the world (except Christianity) miss and consequently how they forfeit salvation. For a Muslim, it's blasphemous to even consider that God would become a human. For God to do that would mean that He would cease to be God. Yet for Christians it's the ultimate exaltation that God would look down upon me, and you, and Matt, and David, and Sam, and on and on and say there's no way they can "save" themselves unless I do it for them, and to do so I must become the God-man. Pointing out the fact that Jesus likely made mistakes and yet didn't sin only serves to emphasize the degree to which He would go to redeem us.

I do know this. Jesus, unlike me, would not want to scream and punch my computer screen when reading the comments people write in the "comment section" of a blog like this. Frustrating!

One place where I would want to make a distinction is between Jesus' mind and all other human minds. Our minds are subject to the noetic effects of sin and thus don't function correctly all the time. In a sinless mind, I would guess that memory, reason, login, etc. functioned at a much higher capacity.

Gary Mitchell, I think you completely missed the point that Sam is making here. I've not listened to Driscoll's sermon (so I won't speculate on his intentions), but I doubt Sam's intention was to crumb (?) anyone. Following the trajectory of Sam's blog, he lands us squarely on an incredible devotional truth when he references Hebrews 4:14–5:10. The indicative presented in 4:15, that Jesus is fully able to sympathize with our weakness, having been tempted in every respect that we are, is immediately followed by the glorious exhortation in verse 16. "Therefore" (ESV "then"), "Let us with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." According to this passage Jesus' humanity, having been tempted yet remaining sinless, is the foundation by which we can approach the throne of grace with confidence. I am a man who is tempted and, unlike Christ, I sin. But, my tendency is to run from the throne of grace, rather than to it. Holding on to the truth of a Savior, fully man, who was tempted yet sinless, willingly enduring the punishment due me, is a soothing balm to my weary soul. Holding on to the truth of Christ's humanity, seeing Him as sympathetic High Priest, sympathetic Intercessor, gives me confidence to approach the throne of grace and receive the mercy and help that I desperately need. Brother, perhaps Sam's article was not beneficial for you, but it was anything but an exercise in irrelevance or futility.

Ditto Matt's comment. How encouraging to remember that in the awkwardness of adolescence, my Savior/King may have dropped a few tater tots just like I did! Yet He lived that sinless life due the requirement of the Law, and paid the sacrifice for my sins! There sits One on that throne of grace, who relates to my greatest weakness and insecurities.

If ever there seemed like an exercise in irrelevance and/or futility, this may be it. What is driscoll's and your point? You rightfully cite the Scripture showing His FULL humanity, so why dwell on speculations that he made mistakes, all unproven AND irrelevant? You and driscoll (I'm speculating here) want to crumb the Church at large because they may not believe fully in Jesus humanity BECAUSE they may not believe he made mistakes? Many people make mistakes due to carelessness, which borders on sin. What a waste of pulpit time as well as reading time.

Thanks, Sam. This is such a helpful reminder. What a grace it is to reflect on our Savior who endured temptation in every respect, and is now sitting at the Father's right hand, interceding on our behalf.

"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." Heb. 4:15–16

"Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us." Rom. 8:34

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