Part A: Humanity and Emotions of Jesus


BibleIn the previous two lessons we studied the Infancy Narratives on the Incarnation. In Part A of this lesson we will study passages showing the implications of this, namely Jesus’ humanity and emotions. In Part B we will look in the Gospels for insights into Jesus’ spirituality and prayer. We will read many extracts from throughout the Gospels. Read as many as possible to become familiar with the humanity, emotions and spirituality of Jesus.


I wonder do we take the humanity of Jesus seriously? If we do not take his humanity seriously are we allowing a barrier to exist between Jesus and us? From our reading of Luke we see that Jesus wanted to break down barriers. If not taking the humanity of Jesus seriously has become a barrier, can we allow the following thoughts on Jesus’ humanity to break down that barrier, and allow us draw closer to him? Many people tell me they find it easier to pray after studying this lesson.

Jesus Loved and was Lovable

When discussing love we need to be clear on what we mean by love since we hear so much about love in pop songs, movies etc. In Greek the following are the words for love:-

Storge (pronounced stor-geh) love between parents and children
Philia is friendship
Eros loving somebody to get something from them, selfish love
Agape (pronounced a-gah peh) unselfish love, loving the other for their sake.

The word the evangelists use when they say Jesus loved someone is agape. We are told that Jesus loved the following people: the rich young man (Mark 10:21); Martha, Mary and Lazarus (John 11:5); Lazarus (John 11:3,36); one of the disciples (John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7,20). Paul, in the Letter to the Ephesians, talks of Jesus’ love for us: Christ loved us and gave himself up for us (Eph 5:2); the love of Christ surpasses knowledge (Eph 3:18-19); Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her (Eph 5:25). We see Jesus’ great love for his mother as he was dying on the cross when he asked his close friend and disciple John to look after her (John 19:25-27).

I think it would be fair to say that we can see Jesus’ love for people when he was healing them by touching them. Some examples are Mark 1:31; 1:41; 5:41; 8:22-26. Furthermore Jesus allowed himself to be touched (Mark 6:56) and kissed (Luke 7:38,45). The disciple leaned close to his chest during the Last Supper (John 13:25).

Jesus Cried

We see Jesus’ love for the city of Jerusalem and the Jewish people which it symbolizes when he cried before entering the city for the last time because he knew they would not accept him as the Messiah and that the city would be destroyed (Luke 19:41-44). Jesus also wept at the death of his friend Lazarus (John 11:35-36). There were times when Jesus was joyful and could pray aloud but there were times when life was tough and he prayed alone and shed tears alone (Heb 5:7).

Jesus Was Joyful and Happy and Enjoyed Celebrations

Jesus was joyful (John 15:11) and certainly knew how to enjoy himself. Look at all the dinners he attended: the one given him by Matthew/Levi after he called him (Matt 9:9-10; see Mark 2:13-15; Luke 5:27-29); at Zacchaeus’ house (implied in Luke 19:7). Pharisees invited Jesus to dinner (Luke 7:36; 11:37; 14:1) and there was dinner at Lazarus’ house (John 12:2). Apart from enjoying himself on social occasions, we see that Jesus was joyful on other occasions, e.g. when the 70/72 came back after a successful mission (Luke 10:21). At Cana (John 2) Jesus changed between 120 and 180 gallons of water into wine so that the wedding guests could continue to enjoy themselves, and it was wine of the best vintage. (At that time the wedding celebration lasted a week which explains why so much wine was needed). Jesus did not expect his disciples to fast while he was still with them, but after he had departed would be the time for them to fast (Matt 9:15). So that people would be joyful Jesus provided food for them; for the disciples after a night fishing (John 21), and he multiplied bread and fish (Mark 6:30-44; 8:1-10 and parallels in Matt and Luke). Jesus wanted people to enjoy community celebrations because they were a foretaste of the banquet of heaven. Obviously Jesus enjoyed such occasions himself because of the description of him,

a glutton and a drunkard,
a friend of tax collectors and sinners (Luke 7:34)

I believe this rhymes in Aramaic, the language of that time. The cross has become a symbol of Christianity, but that does not mean that we have to be sad. Why can’t we allow Jesus to laugh?

Jesus Was Angry

Anger is one emotion with which we feel uncomfortable. But anger, as an emotion, is not wrong or sinful. CCC 1767 says, “In themselves passions are neither good nor evil. They are morally qualified only to the extent that they effectively engage reason and will.” It is what we do with anger that could be sinful; CCC 1768 says “Passions are morally good when they contribute to a good action, evil in the opposite case.” In fact there would be occasions when it would be sinful not to be angry. For example, it could be sinful not to be angry when there is injustice. Perhaps we feel uncomfortable with Jesus becoming angry. Jesus did not become angry over small matters and did not express his anger in unbalanced or disproportionate ways. Matthew portrays Jesus as being angry in a number of passages. When Jesus got angry he did not bottle it up but released it in sharp rebukes. He called Peter “Satan” (Mark 8:33) for attempting to deflect him from his mission. Sometimes we can take our frustration with one person out on a different person who is not at fault, but when Jesus vented his anger, he never directed it at the wrong person, always at the appropriate person. Jesus never did anything violent against any person. Anger is good when it arises from a suitable cause, when it is properly directed and correctly expressed. Anger has to be expressed in some way and let go, otherwise it eats into the person. Jesus did not hold onto anger; he expressed it and let it go. That was a healthy way to live. See Matt 11:20-24; 21:12-13; 23:13-36; Mark 3:5. Summarizing, we can say about Jesus’ anger,

1 Jesus got angry when he met a situation of injustice.
2 He directed his anger at the appropriate person, not others.
3 He never treated any person violently.

Jesus Got Exasperated When Misunderstood

In these passages we see that Jesus got exasperated: Luke 7:31-35; Mark 8:11-13, 14-21; in Mark 10:14 Jesus was indignant with the disciples when they prevented the children coming to him. Jesus’ response to exasperation was, “How many times must I explain it to you?” and then he continued to teach and explain. He responded to exasperation by teaching those willing to learn.

Jesus Felt Pity And Helped

Jesus saw, he took pity, and then he helped. We too see and we too take pity. Are we able to help? See Matt 14:13-14; 15,32-39; 20:29-34; Mark 6:34; Luke 7:11-17. Jesus gave encouragement when people needed (“Take comfort” Matt 9:2; “Courage, my daughter”; Matt 9:22). He was concerned that the disciples would take a rest (Mark 6:31).

Jesus Felt Fear

Fear is a natural reaction to something frightening. Looking at Jesus’ agony in Gethsemane, we can say that Jesus overcame the fear in this way

1 He admitted the fear
2 He put the matter in God’s hands
3 He replaced the fear with courage

Heroes are not people without fear but people who learn to manage their fear by identifying the cause of it and confronting it. Shakespeare said a coward dies a thousand times while a brave person dies but once. By this he meant that people who allow fear to run their lives die a death every day. See Matthew 26:36-46. There is no agony in Gethsemane in John, but John 12:27-28 is very similar, Jesus feared, prayed and overcame his fear. Notice that when Jesus prayed he was uplifted. If we meet God in prayer we too should be uplifted. Read Matthew 6:25-34 for Jesus’ teaching on worry. Some overcoming a fear is doing something practical. Jesus was afraid of being crushed (Mark 3:9) so he decided to preach from a boat.

Jesus Needed Companionship

Only Mark tells us that the Twelve were to be Jesus’ companions as well as to preach and heal (Mark 3:14). On special occasions Jesus asked three of the disciples to be with him. When he went up the mountain for his Transfiguration, he took Peter, James and John (Matt 17:1; Mark 9:2; Luke 9:28). For the raising of the girl from the dead, Jesus allowed no one except Peter, James and John with him (Mark 5:37; Luke 8:51), and he kept Peter, James and John near him in Gethsemane (Matt 26:37; Mark 14:33). We remember Jesus’ close friendship with one of the Twelve, John (John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7,20). Jesus longed to eat the Passover with his disciples (Luke 22,15).

Jesus Was Tired

Jesus too was tired like we are at the end of the day. Journeying from Judea to Galilee tired Jesus (John 4:6). During the storm which was at the end of the day, Jesus was asleep in the boat (Mark 4:38, from 4:35 we know it is evening; see Matt 8:24).

Jesus Was Close to Nature

Just think of all the times that Jesus used nature in his teaching. Firstly let us look at animals and birds in Jesus’ teaching. See Matt 6:26; 23:37; Luke 13:34; Matt 8:20; Luke 9:58; Matt 19:24; Mark 10:25; Luke 18:25; Matt 23:33; Luke 11:11-12; Matt 10:16;23:24; 25:33). It must have happened sometime that a hired shepherd ran away and left the sheep scatter when he saw a wolf coming (John 10:12), but Jesus is not that kind of shepherd since he lays down his life for his sheep (John 10:11). Jesus did not use a car to get around but used a donkey entering Jerusalem for the last time. He said if your donkey fell into the well on the Sabbath would you not pull it out (Luke 13:15; 14:5). According to Job 38:36 it was believed that the cock was endowed with special wisdom. This referred to foreknowledge of the coming of day and rain. Jesus predicted that the crowing of the cock would indicate Peter’s denials (Matt 26:75; Mark 14:72; Luke 22:62). Needless to say, since some of the disciples were fishermen, fish are mentioned many times and are the subject of multiplication miracles and miraculous catches (Luke 5:5; John 21:6).

As well as referring to many animals, Jesus also mentioned many different kinds of plants when he was talking. (Matt 6:28-30; Luke 6:44; Matt 13:31-32; Mark 4:30-32; Luke 13:18-19). The growth of seeds provided Jesus with much material for teaching especially in Mark 4 and Matt 13. Weeds appearing in a wheat field are best left grow because when trying to uproot them one might also pull up some wheat (Matt 13:24-30). Herbs grown in gardens were mint, dill and cumin (Matt 23:23). In Matt 21:18-22 and Mark 11:12-14.20 Jesus cursed the barren fig tree but in Luke 13:6-9 he gave it another chance. Jesus probably saw many boys planting vineyards before they got married and such planting gave rise to a parable (Matt 21:33-43; Mark 12:1-12). The vineyard was seen as a symbol of Israel in Isa 4:7 but Jesus is the true vine in John 15:1. When pruning vines, one prunes not only the dead branches but also the green branches (John 15:2).

Jesus’ Education

Luke 3:23 tells us that Jesus was about 30 years of age when he began to teach. We know nothing about the years after the finding in the temple before the start of his public ministry. The education of the Jews consisted in learning the Torah (Jewish law in the OT). They were taught this by their fathers and by the attendant in the synagogue. At the age of five, boys began their education in the Scriptures in the synagogue. The synagogue attendant was employed to look after the scrolls of Scripture, to announce the beginning and ending of the Sabbath by blowing the trumpet, and to teach children to write and know the Torah. It was the attendant in the synagogue in Nazareth who handed Jesus the scroll when he read there (Luke 4:17,20). So far as we know, Jesus did not have a formal education beyond this. Apart from home and synagogue, seemingly Jesus was self-educated but obviously he was impressive because he was allowed to teach in the synagogues of Galilee (Mark 1:21.39; Luke 4:16).

The Languages Jesus Spoke

What language did Jesus speak? Jesus’ native tongue was Aramaic. We see it sometimes in Mark, e.g. Boanerges in 3:17; Ephphatha in 7:34; Abba in 14:36; Eloi, eloi, lama sabachthani in 15:34. Jesus would have had a Galilean accent; Peter certainly had (Matt 26:73). The Old Testament was written in Hebrew and read in Hebrew. In the synagogue in Nazareth when Jesus read the Scriptures he would have read from the Hebrew manuscript. All boys learned Hebrew in order to read the Scriptures. Aramaic was the language of Palestine, but what about communication with those outside of Palestine or visitors from abroad? Greek was the language used throughout the Mediterranean at the time of Jesus, so probably Jesus spoke in Greek with Pilate during his trial and with the centurion whose servant he healed (Luke 7:1-7)

Where Did Jesus Live During His Public Ministry?

Many believe Jesus lived in Peter’s house in Capernaum while conducting his Galilean public ministry. It is obvious from Mark 1:21,29; Matt 8:5,14 and Luke 4:31,38 that Peter was living in Capernaum at that time. (Peter and Andrew had grown up in Bethsaida as we learn in John 1:44). The reference in Matt 9:1 to Jesus’ own town is to Capernaum where Jesus had settled after leaving Nazareth (Matt 4:13). The collectors of the half-shekel in Capernaum wanting to collect it from Jesus suggests Capernaum was his base (Matt 17:24-25). The Greek of Mark 2:1 possibly suggests that his home was there. Likewise the reference to his house in Mark 3:20 is considered to refer to Peter’s house. Jesus performed a number of miracles in Capernaum (Matt 8:14-17; Mark 1:29-43; Luke 4:38-41). In the synagogue Jesus cured the man with the withered hand (Mark 1:23-28; Luke 4:33-37). Levi’s tolls’ office was there. Capernaum was on a major trade route, a good place for a tolls office. Matt 8:20 indicates Capernaum was not Jesus’ permanent residence.

Jesus Like Us In Every Way Except Sin

The forty days in the desert was not the only time Jesus was tempted. Luke 4:13 suggests this by referring to devil returning at the appointed time (which refers to the Passion of Jesus). Jesus was familiar with trials during his ministry (Luke 22:28). Satan was particularly active during the time of Jesus’ Passion (Luke 22:3,31,39-46,53). Through Peter, Satan tempted Jesus (Matt 16:21-23 and Mark 8:31-33). Heb 4:15 says that Jesus was tempted in every way that we are. See Heb 2:16-18. There was no freedom from temptation for Jesus just as there is not for us. Let us not fool ourselves into thinking that because Jesus was God’s Son he did not really suffer. We must take the humanity of Jesus seriously. He overcame temptation. In this he is an example to us. According to Peter if we are to share Christ’s glory, we must also share his suffering (1 Peter 5:8-10).

Final Words on the Humanity and Emotions of Jesus

A document of Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes #22, says Jesus

"labored with human hands, thought with a human mind, acted with a human will, and loved with a human heart. Born of Mary the Virgin he truly became one of us and, sin apart, was like us in every way."

God looked at everything he had made and he found it good (Gen 1:31). We separate the sacred and the secular too much. We have a tendency to send God back to heaven. God became human so that we might become more like God .For more on the humanity of Jesus see The Word was Made Flesh

Part B: Jesus' Prayer and Spirituality

There is a great deal that could be said about the prayer of Jesus so what I am giving you here is only very brief. As you read the Gospels you will learn much more about the prayer and spirituality of Jesus. We believe that Jesus reached the highest perfection of prayer because he was both divine and human. Naturally Jesus is our model in prayer.

Jesus and the Father Are One

Jesus and the Father are one (John 10:30,38; 12:49; 14:9-10; 16:32; 17:22). There was an intimate communion between Jesus and his Father. William of Saint Thierry said that where Jesus was staying in John 1:38 was with his Father. As a result of this communion between Jesus and his Father the Kingdom of God was realized in his own person. See Mark 9:1; Matt 12:28; Luke 10:19; 17:20-21. It was Jesus’ burning desire to spread this Kingdom (Luke 12:49). It is out of this desire that his prayers of petition arose (see Matt 6:33).

Jesus’ Life Revolves Around Doing His Father’s Will

Jesus’ life revolves around doing his Father's will. See John 4:34; 5:30; 6:38; 8:29; 8:55; 9:4 (19:28 fulfilling Scripture). That is why at the end of his life Jesus could say, "It is fulfilled/finished." (John 19:30) In the desert Jesus rejected Satan’s temptations in order to continue to fulfill his Father’s will. Another dramatic example of this is overcoming temptation in Gethsemane, Luke 22:42 and parallels. Jesus’ prayer in Luke 23:46 is a most beautiful prayer of abandonment in trust to his Father. Because Jesus never disobeyed his Father’s will he never prayed asking for forgiveness (see John 8:46).

Jesus Contrasted Praying Verbally and Praying Silently with the Heart

Jesus contrasted praying verbally (Matt 6:5,7) and praying silently with the heart (Matt 6:6). What is important is the interior quality of one’s prayer, to worship in spirit and truth (John 4:23-24). We see this contrast in the way the evangelists depict Jesus at prayer. Although Jesus frequented the Temple in Jerusalem and the synagogues, the evangelists never specifically mentioned that Jesus prayed there (however see John 4:20) whereas several times they tell us that Jesus went away to a lonely place to pray by himself e.g. Mark 1:35; 6:46. This latter example of Jesus praying took place after the multiplication of the loaves. No doubt it had been a tiring day and Jesus needed to replenish himself spiritually so he spent most of the night in prayer and did not appear down again until the fourth watch, i.e. 3am-6am (Mark 6:48). Other examples of Jesus praying in lonely places are Luke 4:42 (implicit), 5:15; 6:12; 9:18; 11:1. Reading the above examples you will have noticed that Jesus liked to pray on mountains. In fact he seems to have liked mountains. His sermon in Matt 5-7 was delivered from a mountain (5:1). His transfiguration took place on a mountain and he ascended from a mountain.

Jesus Included Prayers of Petition

Jesus’ prayers included prayers of petition as well as prayers of praise and thanksgiving, e.g. Luke 22:31; John 14:15-16. John 17 is the so-called priestly prayer of Jesus. Much of it is petitionary: vv1-5 Jesus prays for his glorification; vv6-19 Jesus prays for his disciples; vv20-26 Jesus prays for all who believe.

Before the time Jesus there are texts urging kindness to those who harm us, but Jesus asking his Father to forgive his crucifiers is something completely new in history (Luke 23:34).

Luke Highlights Jesus Praying at all the Significant Moments of His Life

Obviously prayer was important in Luke’s life. The following instances of Jesus at prayer are found only in Luke. Jesus was praying after his baptism when the heavens opened (3:21). After the cure of the leper Jesus withdrew to the wilderness and prayed (5:16). The parallel in Mark has Jesus praying only once but the Greek in Luke 5:16 makes it clear it was Jesus’ custom. Jesus spent all night on the hills in prayer before he chose the Twelve (6:12-16). Jesus was praying alone when he asked the disciples “Who do the people say I am?” (9:18-22). Eight days later he took Peter, James and John and went up on the mountain to pray (9:28) and while praying he was transfigured (9:29). Jesus prayed for Simon that his faith might not fail (22:32). Only Luke tells us that Jesus prayed for his crucifiers (23:34) and committed his spirit into the hands of Father (23:46).

Furthermore, only in Luke do we find Jesus teaching the Parables of the Importunate Friend at Midnight (11:5-8) and the Unjust Judge (18:1-8) on the importance of petitionary prayer and praying always (18:1), and the Parable of the Pharisee and Tax collector on humble prayer (18:9-14). Luke does not regard prayer as magic, that whatever we pray for will be granted, thus the story of the withered fig tree is omitted (Matt 21:20-22; Mark 11:20-26). Also the promise in Matt 7:11 that the Father will give good things to those who ask, in Luke reads as the Father giving the Holy Spirit to those who ask.

In addition to prayer material only in his Gospel, Luke also included material common to the other Synoptics. Like Matthew (6:9-13), Luke tells of Jesus teaching his disciples how to pray the Our Father (11:2-4), but only Luke tells us that it was one of the disciples who asked Jesus to teach (11:1), a sign that Jesus’ communion with his Father impressed the disciples. All three synoptics mention Jesus praying in Gethsemane to overcome temptation (Matt 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46), an example to Christians that prayer overcomes temptation. All three synoptics mention Jesus praying as he died on the cross; Matt 27:46; Mark 15:34 both quoting Ps 22:2(1); Luke 23:46 quoting Ps 31:6(5).

When Jesus Prayed Verbally What Prayers Did He Say?

The Shema was prayed morning and evening by Jews at the time of Jesus. It was a scriptural prayer, beginning with Deut 6:4-9; then 11:13-21, then Num 15:37-41 and ending with a lengthy blessing. It is called the ‘Shema’ because the first word of the prayer in Hebrew in Deut 6:4 is shema. The Psalms were Jesus’ prayer book for other times.

The Lord's Prayer

see homilies on the Lord's Prayer


Praying HandsWe will use some thoughts from this lesson for prayer.


Become aware of the presence of Jesus with you…Jesus we thank you for your humanity which we see in the Gospels. Thank you for truly becoming one of us in every way except sin. Sometimes we find it difficult to accept ourselves as we are or to accept others as they are. Help us to accept ourselves as we are and others as they are because we know this is the only way to find you in us and in them….Lord Jesus we read many times that you loved other people. Your love was agape, unselfish, wanting what is best for the other person. Often our love falls short of this and is tinged with selfishness, loving the other because that satisfies us. Help us to love without seeking a return so that we may be more like you….You cried when in pain and this gives us comfort. When we are in pain come to us and give us comfort….Lord we ask you to give comfort to those who are in pain now….We see Lord that you became angry at injustice and directed it appropriately. Sometimes unfortunately our anger controls us. Help us Lord, to control our anger, to channel it in healthy ways so that we will not cause hurt or harm. Forgive us for the hurt we have caused….Jesus you were joyful. Help us to get to know you so that we will be filled with complete joy….Lord Jesus, you overcome your fears by trusting in your Father. We fear sometimes. Help us to overcome our fears by trusting also.