This is the great season when we celebrate the Savior’s incarnation. Which also means it’s that time of the year when strange things are afoot—fruitcake, tensile, and questions about whether Jesus suffered from bed head, used the restroom, or vomited because he had a case of the flu.
Given the striking humanity of the Savior, it is easy to just assume that Jesus must have experienced the stomach virus and vomiting, just like we have experienced. However the question is a bit more complex.
This is one question addressed a long time ago in the book On the Incarnation by Athanasius (c. 293–373). It’s a section worth a more careful look.
Did Jesus get the flu?
Athanasius says no.
Here’s his argument (pages 50–51).
First, he argues that all men who die of ‘natural causes,’ die from some form of illness.
The death of men under ordinary circumstances is the result of their natural weakness. They are essentially impermanent, so after a time they fall ill and when worn out they die.
Yet, in contrast, Jesus died in full strength.
But the Lord is not like that. He is not weak, He is the Power of God and Word of God and Very Life Itself. If He had died quietly in His bed like other men it would have looked as if He did so in accordance with His nature, and as though He was indeed no more than other men. But because He was Himself Word and Life and Power His body was made strong, and because the death had to be accomplished, He took the occasion of perfecting His sacrifice not from Himself, but from others.
Here’s the logic: If Jesus was prone to sickness then he was also prone to natural death. So why not let his 80 years play out and then Jesus could just die quietly in a bed as the Savior? Seems more appealing than the crucifixion. But,
How could He fall sick, Who had healed others? Or how could that body weaken and fail by means of which others are made strong? Here, again, you may say, “Why did He not prevent death, as He did sickness?” Because it was precisely in order to be able to die that He had taken a body, and to prevent the death would have been to impede the resurrection.
Ah, but didn’t Jesus feed the hungry and himself become hungry? Yes, but …
And as to the unsuitability of sickness for His body, as arguing weakness, you may say, “Did He then not hunger?” Yes, He hungered, because that was the property of His body, but He did not die of hunger, because He Whose body hungered was the Lord. Similarly, though He died to ransom all, He did not see corruption. His body rose in perfect soundness, for it was the body of none other than the Life Himself.
Hunger is not a result of the fall—but sickness is. Hunger was born in the stomach of Adam and a garden of delightful food. However, sickness is the birth pang of death. Sickness is an enemy we battle until at some point we become too weak to fight any longer and we succumb to physical death.
In all this, it seems to me that Athanasius was really attempting to preserve the crucifixion. Jesus did not incarnate to waste away by sickness. Instead, Christ maintained his health and strength. To Athanasius, this is what makes the cross so amazing. His strength sets the stage for his crucifixion. It was in the vigor of his remaining strength that allowed him to yell that Jesus gave up his own life (Matthew 27:46, 50). Jesus did not waste away.
So if I understand correctly, here’s his point: The Incarnate Savior was not a dying man, who at some point in his descent towards natural death, determined to die for sinners. Rather, in fullness of human strength, Jesus freely gave his life as a ransom. This is what’s at stake for Athanasius. Jesus never would have died from old age because he did not get sick. Thus, the atonement could never be accomplished through a “natural” death. The question over whether Christ ever got the flu was inseparable from a discussion about the Savior’s cause of death.
Did Jesus ever vomit because he had the flu? Athanasius says no; the crucifixion prevents it. Some say yes; the incarnation assumes it. But of course the simple fact is that Scripture doesn’t tell us, and that is the strongest evidence that should really settle the whole matter in the end.
5 thoughts on “Did Jesus Get The Flu?”
I love Athanasius and the study of the Incarnation. There is much that I agree with in this post, but in the end, I would have differ with the view that says Jesus was not susceptible to sickness because sickness is a result of sin.
I would have to ask the question, Did Christ experience the consequence of sin without actually being guilty of sin prior to the cross or is the cross the only atoning suffering that Christ endured because of our sin? My reading of the issues see that Christ was “constituted” sin that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor. 5:21). This suggests the relationship between Christ’s vicarious life and death are inextricably tied to our experience of the fall and redemption, which means, Christ could and did experience things through out his life that were not related to his personal sin (which did not exist), but rather, he experienced them and endured them on my behalf because of my sin that I may be redeem by a “sympathetic High priest.”
For me, it all boils down to how comprehensive our view and understanding of Christ’s vicarious life truly is…. I tend to see not only the cross-work of Christ but also the passive obedience of suffering that Christ experienced as he “learned obedience” as part of his atoning work that was consummated in the cross.
So in one sense, I totally agree with Athanasius, yet in another sense, I think that we must be careful not to over-emphasize one nature over the other, lest we renew the heretical views that were condemned at Chalcedon.
But in summary, I really appreciated your post because I love to be stirred to consider our glorious Christ. Please feel free to correct me where I have erred and please receive my comments as a brother to another brother for the sake of growing in our understanding of our dear Savior.
[…] Interesting question. Some theologians say “yes”. Some say “no”. […]
I agree with Athanasius’ view, The incarnate Jesus won’t get sick. My point is if Jesus won’t sin though susceptible to the attack of sin, then he won’t get sick though he may be susceptible to the attack of sickness. He is blameless sacrifice for our sin, there is no defect, any results of sin such as sickness would not affect Him. The Holy Spirit in Him is unlimited or without measure (John 3:34). Though he will be tired after long jouney and hard working; and feel hunger and thirsty because he is a perfect man as well in addition to he is divinity. Hunger, thirsty and tiresome are nature of flesh not sin that is why Jesus sleeps and eat amd drink.
Tony: Check out George Smeaton on this. I don’t have the book with me here but his volume on Christ’s doctrine of the Atonement has a wonderful section on “He carried our sicknesses…” If I remember rightly he differentiates between sinful infirmities and sinless infirmities.
I don’t believe that Jesus ever got sick. He couldn’t have. Three reasons:
We know that the wages of Sin is Death. Keeping this in mind:
1) His birth was not ordinary. He was born of the Holy Spirit and thus bypassed man’s sinful nature and did not inherit original sin as a human being.
2) According to the Old Testament, God required a perfect, spotless Lamb to atone for the sins of the people. Christ was the ultimate perfect sacrifice. As such, He did not have a blemish, any sin within Him.
3) Acts 13:37 – God did not allow His anionted to see corruption.
Sin never entered the world until after the Fall of man. It was then that Adam and Eve began to die. Jesus never sinned. He laid down His life willingly.