To become like Jesus we need to befriend his emotions. It’s important to appreciate that Jesus is a feeler who experiences and expresses deep and vivid emotions about many things in life.
Jesus is a feeler? You may disagree with us. Most Christian leaders today seem to. Early in my (Bill) life and ministry, I discounted my emotions and stayed in my thinking.
But the truth is that Jesus felt all the struggles that we do, including temptations to sin, so he empathizes with us to help us grow in emotional wholeness and holiness (Hebrews 4:15).
If we admire and bond with Jesus the Feeler then it will help us put more value on the emotions that we and other people have. It will encourage us to convey more emotion in our relating, praying, leading, preaching, and teaching. It will help us to clothe ourselves with the compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience of Christ (Colossians 3:12).
Social psychology research backs this way of thinking about feelings by showing that emotional intelligence is the key to success in relationships and work and it starts with self-awareness.
In the Bible, Jesus demonstrates the full range of human emotions and expresses them in perfect love. In my Bible study, I found texts identifying 39 different emotions that Jesus experienced. That’s a lot of emotions! We may not be able to even name 39 different emotions, much less feel and verbalize them all!
I’ve grouped these feelings into eleven core emotions: anxiety, anger, shame, sadness, pain, surprise, hope, faith, love, joy, and peace. To clarify, these eleven emotion words are not just emotions — they’re conditions of a whole person that include emotions, as well as intentions, attitudes, physical states, and relational postures.
As you consider Jesus’ 39 emotional states let them serve as a mirror to you. Our Lord is reflecting to us the language of feelings:
Preparing to go to the cross, Jesus prayed with such great anxiety that he sweat drops of blood (Luke 22:44). He also felt afraid (Hebrews 5:7), pressured (Luke 12:50), troubled (John 11:33; 12:27), and terrified (Mark 14:33).
Jesus was angry with the Pharisees who opposed him healing the man with a deformed hand on the Sabbath (Mark 3:5). He also felt boiling passion (John 2:17), indignant (Mark 10:14), furious (Revelation 19:15), and stern displeasure (John 11:33, 38).
By choice, Jesus experienced a shameful death on the cross for our sins (Hebrews 12:2). He also felt depressed (Mark 14:33) and forsaken (Mark 15:34).
From the Mount of Olives Jesus looked down on Jerusalem and wept with sadness because they rejected God’s offer of peace (Luke 19:41). He also felt grief (Mark 3:5), deep sighs (Mark 8:12), deep distress (Matthew 26:37), crushing grief (Mark 14:34), and tearful (John 11:35, 43).
Jesus suffered terrible pain when he was flogged (Mark 15:15). He also felt suffering (Luke 24:26, Hebrews 2:18, 1 Peter 2:21), hungry (Matthew 4:2, 21:18), thirsty (John 19:28), and weary (John 4:6).
Jesus felt amazed by the faith of the Roman officer (Luke 7:9). He also felt astonished as he prayed to his Abba about his cross (Mark 14:33).
Jesus’ love for God and us comes from his hope (1 Corinthians 13:7, Colossians 1:5).
Jesus lived by faith in God, showing us how to do it. (Paul says, “I live by the faith of Christ” in Galatians 2:21. See also John 15:12.)
Jesus felt genuine love for people like the Rich Young Ruler (Mark 10:21), Martha, Mary, and Lazarus (John 11:5), his disciples as he washed their feet (John 13:1). He also felt friendship love (John 11:3; 20:2), compassion (Matthew 9:36; 14:14; 15:32; 20:34), and sympathy (Hebrews 4:15).
Jesus was exceedingly joyful when he saw that 72 ordinary disciples were able minister the power of God’s kingdom to people (Luke 10:21). He also felt rejoicing (John 11:15), glad (John 15:11; 17:13), and thankful (Matthew 11:25).
Jesus felt peace from heaven’s world and shared this with his disciples before he died (John 14:27). He also felt rest (Matthew 11:28) and refreshment (Mark 6:31).
Thank you Lord Jesus for giving us empathy and grace in all of our emotional difficulties in order to help us love God, ourselves, and the people around us!
(Most of Jesus’ emotions in this list were identified by my graduate psychology professor, Dick Mohline, in his book, Emotional Wholeness: Connecting With the Emotions of Jesus.)
Bill and Kristi continue to unpack how Jesus as a feeler helps us experience greater intimacy with him in Come: Jesus Feels Your Emotions.