Much has been touted in the value of being vulnerable in the reformed evangelical world especially in the West, following, for example, Jesus being vulnerable before the cross and on the cross, on his way to achieve the biggest and most significant victory in the entire humanity history. That’s a divine act that changed the entire destiny of the world for good. Powerful!
The character of Yahweh in the Old testament (OT) is seen as the awesome fearsome God who divided the Red Sea and drowned thousands of Egyptian army, killed all the first born of Egypt, brought 3 million Jews to walk through the Red Sea in the most powerful Exodus in history, opened the land to swallow alive all the decedents, family of that rebel who rebelled against Moses in Exodus, thundered at Mt Sinai & caused smoke to rise that all Jewish people feared God so much, and asked Moses to speak to them instead of God. On & on….
And the character of Jesus in the Gospels, New testament (NT), has shown might and power in a very different way, seemed to be a controlled way. He cast out demons with a sentence numerous times, opened the eyes of the blind by a word or a touch, cleansed the leprous by a word, raised the dead a few times by commanding the dead to rise, walked on waters twice, fed 5,000 men with 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread, Jesus was just incredible, and definitely beyond human, and we call him as divine human, God-Man. But what strikes us all, is the humility that he was born in, a manger, he commanded no army, he went to Jerusalem on a donkey on the last days of his earthly life, lived a humble life as a carpenter till 33 years old, then launched his ministry, by performing miracles, signs and winders and then his Kingdom of God teachings. Most striking is the whole saga of his arrest, he yielded to the Romans and the Pharisees, with quiet posture, completely yielded himself to do the will of the Father, to die for the world in order to redeem the world, or the elect.
What I want to capture here is how He, being the Son of God, didn’t fight back with mighty thunder and lightning, or with angels surrounded him. He could have called upon his Father and sent thousands of angels ready to annulate all the Roman soldiers and Pharisees put together in a minute. But he didn’t. He surrendered to be beaten so badly that he was marred, mocked, and spit at, and the cruelty done to him, it took him a lot of inner strength and divine conviction and love, I mean inner strength, to absorb, and not react. He was a truly phenomenal man. The inner strength shown by Jesus in his last days is simply breath taking. His love and commitment, as the bible says, he has set his face a like a flint towards Jerusalem and the cross. Nothing is going to change that.
It is that resolute inner strength and power that’s taken the world by storm. God appeared to be a completely different God in NT from the OT. How could the creator of the universe have stood there being flogged, spit at, punched, whipped, and finally crucified bleeding to death on the cross? How could God die? The answer is Jesus showed to the world he was willing to be vulnerable to be with the weak and the vulnerable. He had this complete identification with the broken people of this world, on his way, carrying the cross to the Golgotha where he was finally crucified. He showed such majestic strength and inner glory, that he told John, looking at Mary, “John, here is your mother.” He even took care of his loved ones, on his dying minutes. He rose above the occasion, and demolished the enemy, Satan’s temptation to crush the Romans, which would have meant the redemption of the mankind be blown away! But he absolutely kept his cool and endured for a joy before him. Hebrews 12: “ 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” That’s the real man.
Tim Keller has always preached on the counter culture, counter intuitive way of life of Jesus that we are to copy. Jesus overcame the strong with the weak. Jesus didn’t established the Kingdom of God on earth, by the powerful heavenly angelic angels, which He could have done, but by being weak and vulnerable to overcome the strong in the world. He won the world by dying on the cross, not on a chariot of horses. Jesus demonstrated the most beautiful grace of God to crush the evil powers of death and sin, and reconciled mankind/elect back to God. That’s how it works with Jesus.
So, a lot of reformed preachers, churches, talk about the vulnerability of modern man and woman, in the midst of brokenness, stress, anxiety, rat race lifestyle, to grow in the Lord. While the Pentecostals never talk about being vulnerable, but stressed the victory in Christ, claim this, and claim that! Speak into being the victories of Christ (this is not biblical). Nevertheless, there is a sharp contrast. As a matter of fact, the former way, the Reformed way, will come up on top, because that’s what Jesus did.
I have concluded in my mind, coming from a charismatic background myself, and now being immersed in the reformed world, I can tell you that being vulnerable is not part of the Pentecostal lingo. That would have been lack of faith. There is a real conundrum right here talking about faith. For charismatics, this came from what Jesus said to the woman with the bleeding problem, “woman, your faith has healed you”. Mark 5: 33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. 34 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” It is verses like this caused Pentecostals to think; it’s actually the woman’s faith that has healed her according to Jesus! Jesus surprisingly accredited totally to the woman’s faith that healed her. That actually spurred Pentecostals to preach on such as a doctrine, and hence the faith movement. But if you look at this case, it’s the woman’s tenacity and desperation to find Jesus, that brought her overcame hordes of men crowding around Jesus, and touched him, because she thought to herself, 28 For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” 29 And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. The healing is immediate! Hallelujah! That’s incredible! In the context of this woman pressing in against all odds, as women do not mingle and definitely not touching men in those middle eastern culture at that time, she persevered and pushed in to touch Jesus. Her faith was strong, and Jesus saw that and acknowledged that. But really power comes from Jesus, not her faith, it’s only her faith in Jesus touched Jesus who then released his power to heal her. Faith alone won’t do the job, it’s the persistent faith against all odds, moved the heart of God. So this kind of verses fired up the Pentecostals to “claim” healing, which is, in my mind, unbiblical. You can’t claim healing, but you can ask God for healing. You don’t have it, and there is nothing for you to claim.
Mark 10: 46 Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus was sitting by the roadside begging. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”48 Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49 Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” 50 Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.51 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” 52 “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.
Did you see how earnest is the blind man in seeking out Jesus as he shouted out to Jesus for mercy and he was rebuked by many to be quiet? But he shouted all the more. Then Jesus stopped and called him, and as soon as he hears what the blind man wants, Jesus said, “Your faith has healed you”, immediately he saw! What’s the deal here? Is it his faith that healed him again? Same story, same principle, Jesus saw the earnestness of his heart, and hence his faith, Jesus healed him. Firstly Jesus saw his faith, and then Jesus healed him. Pentecostals have always used these kind of verses to conclude, it’s our faith. But our faith in the last two contexts is really the hearts earnestness and perseverance, going against all odds. That’s the deal.
I would conclude that we should be even vulnerable to walk in Jesus shoes, to learn the humility to minister to the world, but continue to develop our hearts longing for God and releasing such faith to see wonders and oracles.
This captures the NT God beautifully:
Matt 12 “Here is my servant whom I have chosen,
the one I love, in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,
and he will proclaim justice to the nations.
19 He will not quarrel or cry out;
no one will hear his voice in the streets.
20 A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out,
till he has brought justice through to victory.
21 In his name the nations will put their hope.”