A Celebration of the Humanity of Christ


I wrote this seven years ago, December 26th, 2004. I am reposting it with some minor changes.

When the Word became flesh, he emptied himself by adding to himself. Jesus undressed himself by dressing himself. He “made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2:7) Jesus humbled and emptied and undressed himself completely, not by subtracting his divine nature from himself, but by adding human nature to himself. His human nature did not take away from the fullness of his deity, nor did his deity bleed over into his humanity, making him a sort of superman. He is forevermore 100% God and 100% man. Nothing less than full, eternal deity, and nothing more than a created, dependent human being with flesh and bones. He is not merely a man (he is a God-man), but his humanity is just that: mere humanity.

This is a hard thing to know, because the persons we interact with daily have essentially one nature: human. The person of Jesus Christ has two natures, and both are worth celebrating. Listen to what John says about the natures of Christ:

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.” (1 John 1:1)

When John wanted to increase fellowship with others and complete their joy, he wrote a letter about theology, which included the humanity of Jesus. I hope I can read this for the same effect. Here are 7 aspects of the humanity of Christ I want to glory over.

Jesus had to grow and learn.

He did not automatically know the Word of God, he did not immediately and comprehensively know what he was going to do, and he did not know our name on the cross. He had to learn through the same resources for learning that we have. He studied the Torah and memorized and meditated and asked questions and prayed for wisdom and prayed for the Holy Spirit and put everything into practice. “The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom.” (Luke 2:40) “Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” (Luke 2:52)

Jesus needed fellowship, angels, and the Holy Spirit.

When Jesus was baptized, the Spirit of God descended like a dove and came to rest on him (Matthew 3:16). Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil (Matthew 4:1). After the great temptations, angels came and ministered to him (Matthew 4:11). When he went to Gethsemane to pray, he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee  (Matthew 26:37). He said to them, “Remain here, and watch [or ‘keep awake’] with me.”  An angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him (Luke 22:43). Jesus needed this all, just as we would need it.

Jesus did his supernatural miracles by faith with the power and authority of the Holy Spirit.

When Jesus walked on water and healed the sick and demon-possessed, Jesus wasn’t borrowing from the power of his own deity. He wasn’t switching back and forth from one nature to the other. He was living as a human being, empowered by the Holy Spirit to do the same types of works that his disciples would do. When he walked on water, he was doing what Peter failed to do. He rebuked him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31) Jesus said himself, “If you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20) “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12)

Jesus’ miracles were proof of his human righteousness.

His miracles were not a direct proof of his deity. If that were so, the apostles would be gods. The miracles testified to the fact that he had been given the authority from God. Do you remember when the Pharisees chided the man Jesus had given sight, scoffing that they didn’t know where Jesus was from? The blind man responded:

“Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him… If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” (John 9;30)

Jesus claimed himself to be the great “I AM”, existing before Abraham and having the very glory of the Father. If he were lying, God would not have endowed him with such authority. The whole panorama of his miracles testified to the fact that God did give such authority to Jesus, so he must not have been a liar. The miracles do end up pointing to his deity, but in an intermediate way. First and foremost, his miracles showed that God listened to and gave authority to Jesus, a non-sinner.

Jesus lived perfectly and never sinned.

This means that Jesus was the most human human that ever lived. Humans were never designed to sin. God created us to bear his image. Jesus did this perfectly, making him the most authentic, most fully human person in the universe. Jesus embraced the God-given directive to be human, not by giving into sin, but by reflecting the glory of God (Hebrews 4:15).

“The key to understanding the duality of Christ’s human nature and His sinlessness is understanding that sin, as part of the human condition, is not the normal condition. God did not create us as sinners, but as a result of the fall, sin has marred our lives. Christ’s sinlessness is made clear in Scripture, from His 40 days in the desert, where Satan tempted Christ but failed to entice him in to sin, to the time of the beginning of His ministry where”the favor of God was upon Him” (Luke 2:40).” (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, ch. 26)

Jesus suffered the increasing pressure of temptation.

God kept the same promise to him as he keeps to us: “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13) God provided Jesus the same resources that he gives us to escape sin.

When we give into temptation, we make it easier by releasing the pressure of it, but harder to resist because we form sinful habits. When we resist it, it becomes harder because the pressure increases, and easier because we form character through endurance.

The same went for Jesus. “He learned obedience through what he suffered.” (Hebrews 5:8) We certainly “do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15) For Christians, it is best to find sympathy with Jesus, the great temptation-resister who knows the pressure, rather than an unbelieving sinner, who surrenders himself to all the pressures of temptation.

“No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good. A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. After all, you find out the strength of the German army by fighting against it, not by giving in. You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because he was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means—the only complete realist.” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 142)

Jesus was an emotional man.

Jesus had all the right feelings in his heart—all the ones we were meant to have. He cried over the death of Lazarus (Hebrews 11:35) and over the rebellion of Israel (Luke 13:34). He was happy and overjoyed and even startled over the faith of others. In a good way, Jesus was the most sorrowful human that even lived, because he saw the pangs and tragedies of sin and death and evil for what they were. He trembled at the thought of dying for the sins of his people. “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death… My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will… My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” (Matthew 26:38,39, 42) But his joy abounded. He was also the happiest human being that ever lived, because he was rooted in the love and delight of his Father and the fulfillment of his ministry and the coming resurrection when all things would be made right. “For the joy that was set before him he endured the cross, despising the shame.” (Hebrews 12:2) Just as our emotions aren’t simple, neither were his. When Jesus asked the Pharisees, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” they wouldn’t answer. He looked around at them with anger, and was at the same time grieved at their hardness of heart (Mark 3:4-5).

Let us not fall into the same errors of the first-century Gnostics. The Jesus Christ we worship and love is, at the same time, nothing less than full, eternal deity, and nothing more than a created, dependent human being with flesh and bones. He learned, he grew, he needed the Holy Spirit, he suffered the pressures of temptation, he never sinned, he utilized the same resources God gave us, he cried, and he was overjoyed. He was human!

“It is by far the most amazing miracle of the entire Bible-far more amazing than the resurrection and more amazing even than the creation of the universe. The fact that the infinite, omnipotent, eternal Son of God could become man and join himself to a human nature forever, so that infinite God became one person with finite man, will remain for eternity the most profound miracle and the most profound mystery in all the universe.” (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology; thanks to Ken Rice for providing this quote)

“By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God.” (1 John 4:2)

Amen!

See also: Chalcedonian Creed

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