Consider Jesus: He lived his whole life on Earth misunderstood. His family mocked him; the leaders of the Jewish nation he had come to save reviled him and ultimately plotted his murder; and his own followers betrayed and deserted him. He alone persisted, to his final tortured breath, in the certain belief that he was God’s “suffering servant”, the Christ, the one sent to redeem fallen mankind.
This is faith; Jesus’ entire life was a test of his faith. While everyone around him operated on assumptions derived from the witness of their senses, thinking as man thinks, Jesus relied on faith. His faith was unshakable because it was rooted in his trust in God, not in anything or anyone else. It was a deeply personal one-on-one relationship which alone endured to the end. Had Jesus hearkened to his family or his religious leaders or his followers or to outward appearances or even to John the Baptist when he expressed his doubts about Jesus being the Messiah, he would not have made it. Who would have thought that God would send such a humble man of questionable birth and little material means as his Messiah? And his disciples – such a rag-tag motley group of “sinners”! From the outside looking in, no-one, unless granted by God, could possibly grasp that Jesus was who he said he was, yet from the inside looking out, through the eyes of faith, Jesus was the perfect fit.
Then, as now, there is so much misrepresentation of who and what Jesus was and is, so much nonsense masquerading as knowledge and teachings. Jesus is the one and only Messiah, the one who was to come, God’s Christ. While on Earth, he was fully human, though increasingly suffused with God’s spirit. His faith was greater than any human’s either before or after him, which is why he was the chosen one of God. Being all-powerful, God can work in whatever way he wants, but he chooses faith as his means. Faith engenders an ever-growing desire to submit one’s will entirely to God, to do only the Father’s will, as Jesus did. The greater the faith grows, the greater the desire to submit to God; the greater the submission, the greater the faith, and so on.
Jesus was a human being; he wasn’t God. Fully human, he was also the fullest expression of the manifestation of God’s spirit in a human being, and so God’s spirit worked through him more powerfully than through anyone else either before or after him.
But Jesus wasn’t God.
Jesus often spoke as God in the first person, as did many if not all “sons of man” – that is, prophets – before him. So although Jesus was not God, he could still speak with the authority of God, as it was indeed God speaking through him. Jesus was sinless not because God prevented him from sinning but because he chose not to sin. His did this of his own free will. Any one of us could also have become the Messiah, had we also always chosen to do the will of the Father, but only Jesus consistently chose God’s way. That’s what made him worthy to be the Christ. He wasn’t born the Christ, he became the Christ through his own free will.
This distinction – that Jesus was not God and that he became the Christ of his own free will – is incredibly important in shaping our relationships with God and Jesus. We are not to worship Jesus, but to follow him. We are to worship God as our Father, as Jesus did and also advised us to do. We are to strive to have the same relationship with God as Jesus had, where God’s spirit united them as “one” through an aligning of their wills. Jesus prayed for his followers to have this same relationship with God as he had, and Jesus always got what he prayed for.
Jesus was sinless because he always chose to do God’s will. In other words, he always chose life. He made mistakes, but he didn’t sin. There’s a huge difference between making mistakes and sinning. Jesus relied as much as humanly possible on faith, not on himself or other people or institutions or ideologies. Relying on faith means putting yourself as much as humanly possible into God’s hands and letting God’s spirit work through you. The more you put yourself into God’s hands by living by faith, the greater your faith grows and the more God’s spirit can work through you. That Jesus managed to make it all the way through his life, to his last breath, without sinning once, is by far the greatest human achievement of all time.