Last week I began the very interesting conversation about who Jesus is. I looked at the divinity of Jesus and concluded that He is God. I want to flip the question over and look at the other side – is Jesus human. I want to look at His humanity. As Evangelicals we have done a good job of asserting His divinity but haven’t done as well with His humanity. So, lets dive in.
The Bible claims that Jesus is fully and completely human. He came into the world in the same way all of us did – He was born. We spent the first nine months of our lives as embryos within our mothers’ wombs. So did Jesus. Listen to a couple words of testimony from the scripture. Philippians 2:6-8 (NLT) “Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.” Did you notice that He also did something very non-divine, but very human – He died. If He was indeed human, He also participated in some of the very human, but rather embarrassing bits of life. He got sick. He may have had a cold and had to blow His nose. He may have vomited. As a baby, His mother Mary had to change His diaper. As an older child and then an adult, He had a fully functioning digestive system. Please don’t make me be more specific about what that entailed.
Here’s another scriptural testimony. John 1:14 (NIV) “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
He experienced all the human emotions. He grieved. We see it after John the Baptist died. The scripture tells us that He went off by Himself to grieve the death of His friend and kinsman. In the shortest verse in the Bible, we are told that Jesus wept. Why did He weep? His friend Lazarus had died. He felt abandoned by God. Sounds just a bit like depression to me. As He hung from the cross, He quoted the opening words of Psalm 22 – “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?” From the cross, Jesus said that He was thirsty – another sign of His humanity. While the Bible says that God neither slumbers nor sleeps, Jesus got tired and fell asleep in a fishing boat with His disciples.
An early heresy the church had to deal with was called Docetism, which comes from the Greek word meaning to seem. This line of thought contended that Jesus only seemed to be human. Some in this camp taught that Jesus didn’t cast a shadow nor did His feet make an impression on the soil as He walked. In fact, some contended that His feet never actually touched the ground. He was a divine actor who put on the mask of humanity to make it appear that He was human. That, by the way, is a classical definition of the word hypocrisy – to act as though you are something that you are not.
I think it is important to ask the question – why is this important or is just another esoteric question like can God create a weight so heavy that He can’t lift it, or how many angels can dance on the head of a pin? It is extremely important, because without His humanity He could never fully identify with us. He couldn’t say “I know just how you feel” if He wasn’t human and only learned about us from observation. Hebrews 4:15 (NIV) “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin.”
The Nicene Creed encapsulates what our belief is about the humanity of Jesus. I quote it, not as proof of His humanity, but as a summary of what the church has believed. “He came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the virgin Mary and became man. He was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered, died, and was buried.” Jesus was human. Another interesting question that I’m not going to deal with is how could Jesus be both human and divine at the same time. If you are interested in further exploring this, I would recommend that you read the early creed of Athanasius of Alexandria.
I want to conclude by saying that in Jesus we see the impossible become possible – He was fully human and fully divine. As problems come into your life, as they surely will, remember that Jesus can fully understand and empathize with you, because He is fully human. So, as these problems come into your life, remember to Keep the Son in Your Eyes.