Jesus’ Deception

What if I told you . . . that Jesus was deceived? How would that be make you feel? Surprised? Aghast? Maybe confused or even outraged? Inquisitive? How would you respond? Would you tell me that I’m the one that’s deceived? Would you call me a false teacher or maybe a heretic. Quite frankly, I wouldn’t be taken aback by any of those reactions. It’s definitely not something you hear every day—not by a professing Christian, at least.

Many will be put off by this idea because “deception” has negative connotations. Linguistically, it is a negative term in that it is usually associated or contrasted with its positive counterpart. It is better to avoid deception than it is to fall into it. The verb “fall” is even a negative term that furthermore adds to its negativity.

By the end of this article, I don’t think much will have changed regarding its negative connotations. Deception that engulfs any man is a negative ordeal—no less so when it happens to the divine . . . not that it happened more than once.

Rather than throwing stones, the respectable response is to ask questions in an effort to understand. The first question one should ask is, “How was Jesus, theoretically, deceived or mistaken?” Before I answer that question, let’s explore the concept a bit further. 

According to scripture, the first person in the history of the human race to experience deception was Eve, in the Garden of Eden. Most people, whether they are Christians or not, are familiar with this story. Before the Fall of Genesis, humanity lived in paradise. They lived in a world without stain or corruption. Neither she nor her husband was at a spiritual disadvantage. They were blameless before God; that is, until Satan made an appearance through the guise of a serpent. The rest is history.

Since Christians understand deception, in light of the first instance in which someone was deceived, I can understand a response similar to one of the many that I described earlier. Christians usually associate deception with sin. Since Jesus knew no sin, he couldn’t possibly have been deceived; right? Well, that would be true if a person sins when they are deceived, but sin doesn’t always follow deceit.

Eve was deceived when she saw that the forbidden fruit was “good for food”, and that it was “a delight to the eyes”, and that the tree was “to be desired to make one wise.” In that moment, she was deceived. However, she did not sin until she actually disobeyed God by partaking of the forbidden fruit.

Deception, in biblical terms, is believing in something contrary to the promises and simple statements of God. Deception is believing that God’s underlying purposes are less than holy. Eve did not sin by believing something contrary to the character and nature of God. Deception is not sinful unless it is acted upon. She had a choice. She could have brought her doubts before her Father and he would have lovingly corrected her misconceptions. Her deception was not a “bad” thing, per say. She remained blameless before God until she partook of the the forbidden fruit and shared it with her husband.

It is important to realize that Adam was not deceived. He was the one to whom God had originally given the command, which he, most likely, passed along to his helpmeet. Seeing how Eve told the serpent that she was forbidden from even touching the tree, we can infer that Adam was the one who actually forbade her from touching the tree, which likely led to her over questioning such a simple rule/command. 

Temptation leads to deception. Deception can possibly lead to sin, but that is not guaranteed. Christians are deceived every day, but they don’t always act on it. God has promised to always provide a way out of temptation, which ensures that we will never be tempted more than we can endure.

Now that we have explored this concept a bit further, how do you feel about the title of this article? You may still disagree, but can you say that it’s impossible; seeing that it doesn’t necessarily lead to sin?

Jesus lived a holy life and therefore remained blameless in the eyes of the Father. He lived as Adam could have lived if he had persevered—if he had followed his Father’s instructions. Jesus lived his entire life as the unblemished Lamb of God; that is, until he took on the sins of the [entire] world. Throughout His life, all the way to the cross, he remained in perfect union with the Father; that is, until he who knew no sin became sin for us . . . we’ll get back to that in a moment.

Since the fall, we have experienced temptation and deception to an extent far beyond the scope of the original temptation, which became the original deception, which became the original sin. Eve was first tempted. Then, she was deceived. Yet, Eve did not become sinful when she was tempted or deceived. Could Jesus not have also been tempted and deceived while remaining sinless? Christians unanimously agree that Jesus was tempted, but most wouldn’t dare to claim that he was deceived for reasons stated above.

Jesus walked in our shoes. He was tempted in every way that we are, but did not succumb. I don’t know if he was deceived in every war that is common to man because scripture doesn’t explicitly say that he was decor bed to the extent that he was tempted. However, it doesn’t say that he was never deceived. Yet, if Jesus was deceived every day of his life, he would have remained sinless. I see no need to take such a leap, but I there seems to be at least one reason to claim that he was deceived on one specific occasion.

So, when was Jesus supposedly deceived? How exactly did it supposedly happen? Why would it happen? 

There seems to be one instance, in the Bible, in which Jesus could have possibly been deceived. If it ever occurred, it would have to had happened when he was suffering on his cross. Likewise, there is one instance, on the cross, in which Jesus could have possibly been deceived. Most Christians refuse to consider such a thing because of a hyper-literalistic hermeneutic or maybe because of their understanding of the means by which salvation has been established.

For the longest time, my understanding of this concept was similar. I believed that the Father turned his back to the Son. I believed that the Father actually forsook the Son—that God forsook God—that God denied himself! When Jesus cried out to the Father: “My God! My God! Why have You forsaken Me?!” I “took him at his word.” I believed what the Bible “clearly” taught. As deity, as the second person of the trinity, as God- the Son, he wouldn’t have uttered anything that was untrue, would he?

Well, if we want to be responsible interpreters of scripture, the context should determine our understanding of any passage. Jesus didn’t explicitly state that the Father had forsaken him, although many believe that it is implied. Was Jesus forsaken? Could he have been? If one member of the triune God is disattached from the triunity of the Godhead, can we rightfully say that God does not change— that he is immutable?

If any of the New Testament writers had penned anything that supported the claim that Jesus was forsaken by God, I would not suggest otherwise. Yet, they do not opine. Some will ask, “Is Jesus’ words not good enough?” Well, if he explicitly stated that he would be forsaken or if He told anyone afterward that he was forsaken, then there would be no dispute. When Jesus cried out to the Father, he certainly seemed to have been forsaken. He undoubtedly felt forsaken, but the question isn’t about what he felt. If he was tempted in every way that is common to mankind, mustn’t he have perceived things in a way that enabled him to be tempted. Feelings are not always reliable.

Many presume that since Jesus was fully God, then he could not have been deceived—forgetting that Jesus was also fully man. There is a fine line to tow here. If Jesus could not have been deceived, he could not have been tempted either. As God, Jesus was omniscient. Yet, as man, he was not omniscient. Jesus told his followers that he only knew what the Father revealed to him, which implied that his knowledge was dependent on revelation from the Father. It also implied that he did not have a present knowledge of everything. The human mind was not designed for such a thing. It was designed to develope, to learn, to gain insight in one way or another. I’m sure Jesus learned how to do everyday tasks like anyone else. His relationship with the Father is an important aspect of his deity.

There is much more substance to my claims than mere speculation. Theologians are well aware of the fact that Jesus’ outcry on the cross was not articulated out of thin air. When Jesus was brought to the lowest point in his life, and ironically the highest, he was singing a song. I know, he wasn’t literally singing a song along to the tune of stringed instruments. Nevertheless, as he hung on the cross, he referenced a song/psalm by naming its first line—which served as the Psalm’s working title, since scripture was not divided into chapters and verses at that moment in time.

By crying out, no doubt with sincerity and a broken heart- “My God! My God! Why have You forsaken me?!”, Jesus was essentially “singing”, if you will, the twenty-second chapter of the Psalms.

Like I said earlier, most Christians assume that Jesus was forsaken simply because his cry seems to suggest just that in the ears of twenty-first century Christians. We, for the most part, don’t have a working knowledge of the Jewish culture or its customs. Many who are aware of the twenty-second chapter of Psalms, and it connection with Jesus and his crucifixion, have not allowed the entire psalm to determine the context of Jesus’ outcry.

Let’s read the Psalm in its entirety to gain perspective.

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? Oh my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest. Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame. But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they make mouths at Me; they wag their heads; “He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!” Yet you are he who took me from the womb; you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts. On you was I cast from my birth, and from my mother’s womb you have been my God. Be not far from me, for trouble is near, and there is none to help. Many bulls encompass me; strong bulls of Bashan surround me; they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death. For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet—I can count all my bones—they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots. But you, O Lord, do not be far off! Oh you my help, come quickly to my aid! Deliver my soul from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dog! Save me from the mouth of the lion! You have rescued mr from the horns of the wild oxen! I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you: you who fear the Lord, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him, and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel! For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him. From You comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will perform before those who fear him. The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the Lord! May your hearts live forever! All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you. For kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations. All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, even the one who could not keep himself alive. Posterity shall serve him; it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation; they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn, that he has done it.”

Jesus unmistakably felt like the Father had forsaken him. I this moment, the sins of the world, in their fullness, were on his shoulders. According to scripture, Jesus “became sin for us.” If Jesus became sin for us, why shouldn’t we expect that it had some effect on him? As the dark veil of sin was lowered over the eyes of the Lamb, could it be that he lost sight of his relationship with the Father? It is important to note here that losing sight of something does not necessarily signify that it has been lost. Isa 59:2 reinforces this idea: “[Y]our iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.” 

If Jesus has promised to never leave us nor forsake us, how can we possibly expect the Father to have forsaken him? If the Father actually forsook the Son, we can have no assurance that he wouldn’t do the same to us. Technically, it is impossible for God to deny himself. The only predictable reason anyone would entertain such a thought would be because of their respect for the authority of the scripture—without realizing that such an interpretation is neither necessary nor metaphysically possible.

So, I believe that it can be credibly asserted that Jesus was deceived when the weight of the world was placed on his shoulders. We often try to imagine what Jesus was going through at Calvary, but try to imagine how it affected the Father. If there is such a thing as holy anger, which seems self-evident ; if anything can arouse holy anger . . . this would be it.

Imagine the bond that the Godhead had shared throughout eternity. We can somewhat empathize because of a similar type of love we have for our children. Yet we cannot fathom the depths of their love because their bond is divine/infinite. Imagine Jesus crying out to the Father- “Father! Father! Where are you?! Why did you leave?! Please . . . Please come back! Why, oh why have you abandoned me?! Where are You?! You said you would never leave me!” All the while, the Father is emphatically calling out, “I’m right here! I’m right here, Son! Can’t you hear me?! I haven’t left you! I told you I’d never leave you, and I never will!”

We can’t adequately describe such an experience or do it any justice. I’m sure the Father was just as sorrowful as the Son, not because he had to turn from him—he didn’t—but because something stood between their relationship. It was still there, but veiled. This is a large part of what scripture means when it says that Jesus walked in our shoes. He’s experienced temptation, but, more importantly, he experienced the effect that sin has in our lives by taking on the sins of the world.

The Father’s holy anger raged at this moment more than it had at the Fall, or during the Flood, or at any other point in the history of Creation; not toward sinners, but toward the disease with which we are afflicted—with which Jesus then bore. His anger enveloped the land in a blanket of darkness and caused  the  creation to tremble. In the midst of his anger, yet in light of the victory Jesus was to have over sin, the veil that sheltered the Holy of Holies was ripped in two. This symbolic act foreshadowed Jesus’ upcoming triumph over death, as he would soon lead captivity captive. 

The day is approaching when he will raise the dead in its totality and his decree in Isaiah 45:23 (ESV) will come to fruition. 

“By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: ‘To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.”

As Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, patiently waiting for the Father to tell him that the time has come to unite all things in him, I can imagine him calling to memory his triumphant obedience on the cross. I can almost hear him repeating those three famous words, in prophetic perspective- Indeed, “It is, Finished!” He has done it.

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15 thoughts on “Jesus’ Deception

  1. Interesting, but I’m not sure you’ve fully thought through the implications of this idea. If you have, you haven’t shown how you keep these implications from running away on you.

    First, if Jesus was deceived when He said God had forsaken Him, why couldn’t He have been deceived when He said other things recorded for us in Scripture? I don’t see any way to avoid this pitfall, as, in your article, you’ve explicitly said that, while you don’t believe Jesus was deceived every day of his life, it is a possibility within this framework you’ve set up. If deception does not necessarily lead to sin and sin is not a prerequisite for being deceived, then there is no reason to say that Jesus was not deceived on other occasions. And if He can be deceived and say something in error on the Cross which we take for doctrine, then it is certainly possible that He could have been deceived and uttered in error something else which we take as doctrine somewhere else. And why limit it to just a few doctrines? When it comes down to it, do we really have anyone’s word but His (and people who believed His word and miracles) that He had a special relationship with the Father in the first place? If Christ cannot be relied upon to testify about His relationship with the Father in Matthew 27:46, why should we believe what He says about the same relationship in John 8:54? While I don’t believe that Jesus was wrong on any of these points and I don’t think you do either, you also don’t seem to have a logical reason to say that He wasn’t deceived in other areas.

    Second, there is the fact, well established in scripture, that sin and the punishment thereof explicitly involve separation from God (Isaiah 59:1-2; 2 Thessalonians 1:9; Matthew 25:41, etc). In order for the gospel to be true, Christ must bear our sins and the punishment for our sins on the Cross. This, in itself is a strong logical argument for believing Christ was not deceived which you have ignored in the article above. After all, if sin and sin’s punishment separates from God and Christ bore both our sins and their punishment then it follows that Christ was separated from God (if A=B and C=B, then A=C). But if A is not equal to C, then either A=B is untrue or C=B is untrue. In this case, if Christ was never separated from the Father, then either sin and its punishment do not actually involve separation from God at all (and sin is therefore much less severe than the Bible leads us to believe) or else Christ did not actually bear our sins or their punishments on the cross (going back to the first implication, we must remember that the main argument for saying He did complete this process is His own words, uttered just after the words you have argued to be said in error…so who’s to say He wasn’t also in error when He said, “It is finished”?). Again, I’m not saying that you believe either of these things to be true, but you also don’t seem to have any reason for not believing them either. Your argument leaves them as open possibilities.

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      • True. However, you did imply that this was not a prerequisite for deception to take place, even to Christ. Eve, after all, wasn’t deceived by a weight of sin, but by Satan, who we also know tempted Christ. So why couldn’t Satan or some other thing (such as, say, the contemporary Jew’s fervent expectation that the next major miracle worker would be the Messiah) have deceived Christ on some other doctinal point?

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      • If he wasn’t shielded from temptation, why would he be shielded from deceit? He only knew what the Father told him. When he became sin for us, he bore the infirmities of us all. Sin distorts our perception of reality. He was not deceived prior to him becoming sin for us. The Father revealed all truth to Christ until his connection was distorted by sin.

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      • “If he wasn’t shielded from temptation, why would he be shielded from deceit?”

        Exactly my point. If Christ could truly be tempted by Satan way back at the beginning of His ministry, three years before He came to bear the sins of the whole world and before He said anything that was recorded with real doctrinal import, then why couldn’t He have also been deceived at this point? Why not at any time after this point? It seems doubtful that these three were the only times when Christ was ever tempted, and if, according to your own words, He could be tempted at any point, it follows that He could also be misled at any point.

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      • Okay, well first you’re simply wrong about temptation being a prerequisite for deception. If a worker of mine tells me she’s completed the task I gave her when she actually didn’t and I believe her, I have, by definition, been deceived even though I was never tempted by her to do anything wrong nor committed any sin associated with that deception.

        Second, assuming that you are right and His union with God protected Jesus from deception (the second step in this hypothetical sin process), why wouldn’t this same union also have protected Him from temptation (the first step)? Did you not just argue that Jesus’ vulnerability to temptation demonstrated His vulnerability to deception? Either you were in error when you made that argument, or the argument still holds true, even when it is less than convenient for your position.

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      • That’s not spiritual deception. That’s deception by someone enslaved to sin. Also, your flesh is enslaved to sin, which makes you susceptible to temptation and deception. The sinful condition directly distorts reality-deception. Jesus’ lenses were not distorted. He could be tempted because he had natural desires, but never used to excessively. He saw through deceptive tactics, which are used to tempt, due to his relationship with the Father. I don’t see a problem here.

        He was tempted. Never deceived by temptation. Sin distorted his perception of reality on the cross. His perception was undistorted before the cross.

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  2. Ok, interesting argument, but I must disagee. Can deception co-exist with truth? Jesus felt the forsakeness of the Father fully in an emotional sense because He took the sin of His redeemed upon Himself and drank the Father’s wrath that was meant for us. As we would surely feel abandoned He experienced the hellish wrath in our laxe propitiatng our very sin. In His humanity he experienced fully this state. On the issue of deception, we only know Eve was deceived because of her action. Had she acted differently the deception would “not” have taken place. I guess we defne deception differently. I acknowledge that deceptive thoughts do not always lead to sinful actions but in the case of the first humans it sure appears that way. For the second Adam not so. Jesus knew beforehand he would experience the abandonment He willingly chose. The Garden where He sweat blood seems to point to this conclusion. The apriori knowledge of the fact in my mind would also rule out deception on His part. I do have to agree with you that it was possible for Him to be competely human, however as the bearer of all truth, as the way, the truth and the life He as not decieved postpriori. Interesting argument.

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