On the Humanity of Jesus

Last week we discussed why it’s important that Jesus isn’t a bait-and-switch God. By that I mean, it’s significant that God’s real character is revealed in Jesus.

Because Jesus is God he shows us most clearly who God is. God loves like Jesus, acts like Jesus, shows mercy and forgiveness like Jesus. Because Jesus is God, we understand what God is like by looking at Jesus.

But the paradox of Jesus is that he is simultaneously fully God and yet fully human. Today we’re going to explore what it means that Jesus was human like us.

For a lot of us, we want a Jesus who was fully divine and simply appeared human. We want a Jesus who knew everything, performed all of his miracles through his own power and raised himself from the dead. We want a Jesus who is essentially super-human.

The problem is, that’s not the Jesus we see in the Bible. Instead, we see a Jesus full of weakness and limitations.

In Mark 11 we read, “The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry.”

In John’s gospel we read, “Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well.”

On two separate occasions, Luke makes sure to we understand Jesus had to learn and grow as a child saying first, “The child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.” Later Luke says, “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.”

The gospels present us with a Jesus who had to grow in wisdom and who got tired, hungry and thirst just as often as any of us do.

Or as the writer of Hebrews says, “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death.”

Jesus shares in our humanity. He became like us in every way, which includes limited knowledge.

 

Jesus didn’t know everything. In fact, he didn’t “know” he was God.

I should clarify that Jesus absolutely thought he was God, he believed he was God, and he taught others he was God. But when we’re talking about epistemology and different types of knowledge, it’s important to understand that Jesus didn’t have an experiential knowledge of his divinity.

To quote scholar Michael Bird,

It is necessary to explode a popular caricature where Jesus cruises around Galilee announcing, “Hi, I’m God. I’m going to die on the cross for your sins soon. But first of all, I’m going to teach you how to be a good Christian and how to get to heaven. And after that, I thought it would be fitting if you worshipped me as the second member of the Trinity.” This might seem a rather silly way to understand Jesus’ identity, but it is a sketch of Jesus many Bible-believing Christians have.

Jesus believed he was God. More specifically, Jesus believed that he was the unique agent of God inaugurating the Kingdom of God. But that is different than Jesus having an experiential knowledge of his own divinity.

Jesus’ belief he was God required trust. It required Jesus to trust that he was who God said he was.

 

This is what makes Jesus’ temptations in the desert so significant. Both the first and second temptations start with the word “if”.

If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down.”

The temptation in both of these instances is for Jesus to prove who he really thinks he is.

 

Here’s why this is important. If Jesus wants us to be like him, then he has to start by becoming like us. Jesus can’t call us to trust God with everything if he didn’t need to do that first.

Which is essentially what Hebrews says when it writes, “For this reason [Jesus] had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.”

Unless Jesus became fully human, like us in every way, then it’s impossible for him to empathize with us. It’s impossible for a Jesus who only appeared human, but instead retained his divinity, to ever really know what we’re going through.

But a Jesus who surrendered his divinity and humbled himself even to the point of death can show us exactly what it looks like to love and trust God on a daily basis. He sets an example for us.

So while Jesus divinity shows us what God is like, it’s Jesus humanity that shows us what it looks like to trust God with everything.

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