To err is human. And we’re good at it. When it comes to Christology (doctrine focused particularly on Jesus), err often takes a nose-dive straight in to heresy. The pendulum swings too far, we emphasise one attribute or characteristic at the expense of another. We can’t hold things in tension.
All sorts of people have differing opinions about who Jesus is. Some people don’t believe He ever existed. Most think He was a revolutionary teacher of good living, and a great example. Some think that He was a prophet of God; while others believe that He was one of God’s top angels. You’ll bump into people like this everywhere. This inability to put Jesus in a box is nothing new. The church has been dealing with and answering them from the beginning. We can be confident, however, that what we’re being asked about Jesus has been answered before. We are not the first to wrestle with these things.
SUCH A SPIRITUAL GUY
One of the earliest misunderstandings about Jesus goes write back to the days of the New Testament. And is a misunderstanding that continually creeps its way into the church. Sometimes we can mistakenly think to ourselves, “O, that Jesus, He was such a spiritual guy.” Surely He couldn’t possibly be bound by a human body, it must have been like a cloak or disguise. Bodies and physical things are so eughh and sinful. Jesus must’ve just appeared to be human. Just like Superman.
As we all know, Superman is the Last Son of Krypton. He was born on this alien planet just as it was about to implode, so Mr. and Mrs. Superman sent baby Superman out in a little rocket across the galaxy towards the third planet from the Yellow Sun (earth). Fortunately, Kryptonians and Earthlings look pretty much the same, except Superman can fly and do some amazing things. But, as pointed out in 2016’s undisputed favourite movie, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Superman is an alien. He is not one of us.
Sometimes that’s how we think of Jesus, as a super man from another world. He looks like a man, but it’s a mask, a facade. It’s God pretending to be human. This idea of God behind a mask first popped up within 200 years of Jesus ascending into heaven. It had a fancy Greek name, because back then everyone spoke Greek. It was known as Docetism, from the Greek dokeĩn meaning “to seem, to appear, like an illusion or phantom.”
But it’s so important that we have a correct understanding of Jesus’ humanity. Jesus was truly human (Truly God too, yes, but we’ll look at that at another time). Jesus has human DNA, He has finger prints, He has a shoe size, a unique iris, a blood group, 23 chromosomes. He has a birthday, He went through puberty, He got tired, He got hungry, He was thirsty. He felt pain, He knew sadness, He laughed, He got angry, He cried. He knew the pull of temptation to sin, like we do. John says in John One “The Word became flesh” Paul says in Philippians Two “[He was] made in human likeness.”
OK, so maybe Jesus is fully human. Why does it matter? Let’s look at what the author of the book of Hebrews had to say about Jesus’ humanity. Hebrews 2:14-3:1, then jumping across to Hebrews 4:14-16.
14 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 – that is, the devil – 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. 16 For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. 17 For this reason he 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. 18 Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. 3:1 Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest.
4:14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to feel sympathy for our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
(Hebrews 2:14-3:1; 4:14-16)
HE PAYS. What did we see in that passage? It tells us that Jesus had to be a human being in order to be eligible to pay for our sin. Do you see those repeating thoughts, “He [Jesus] shared in [our] humanity so that…” “For THIS REASON He had to be made like His brothers in every way…” “IN ORDER THAT He might…” “and THAT He might…” Jesus became human to represent us, to pay for us, to atone for us. Atone just means “to cover”, like when you’ve gone for coffee, and you don’t have cash and they don’t take cards, ano someone has to “cover” you. You are atoned for. The debt of sin is humanity’s. Only a human can pay it. He came to be our High Priest, our mediator, our rep. Why is it important that Jesus is truly human? So that He can pay the debt of humans.
HE KNOWS. It also tells us in this passage that Jesus gets us. He knows what’s it’s like living here, on earth. He knows what it’s like to misunderstood, to be wrong accused, to face disappointment, to be stressed, to suffer, to be tempted. “He is able to help those who are being tempted.” How encouraging is that! Jesus knows what it is like! He endured temptation, overcame temptation. Never sinned. But emphasises with us who are tempted. He knows the pull, the attraction, but He also knows the way out. He is the way out. “Fix your thoughts on Jesus.” “Hold firmly to the faith we profess.” “Approach the throne of grace with confidence.” Jesus is already there. He is one of us, He is the one who overcame for us, He is our rep.
HE OWNS. So God became man. Jesus is truly human. He is our rep, our High Priest, and He understands. But also, finally, what we can learn from understanding that Jesus is truly human, is the importance of our bodies to God. Jesus took on flesh, He had a body. It was killed, God raised it again and then Jesus ascended into heaven, body and all. Where is Jesus’ body now? Sometimes we think of heaven as this spiritual realm of disembodied souls, But Jesus is there right now in His human body. He is our High Priest, He prays to the Father for us. He rules and reigns from the throne of heaven.
Bodies are important. At the end of the age, when Jesus returns, we will get a new body. A sin-free body. Like Jesus, it’ll be recognisable, but new. What does Paul tell us about our bodies in First Corinthians Six? “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your body.” (1 Cor 6:19-20) If Jesus is truly human, and retains His human body in heaven, and promises to resurrect our bodies at the second coming, then maybe we need to think about how we treat, act and behave in our bodies. We are not waiting to escape our bodies in heaven, we are to follow the pattern set by Jesus and glorify God in our bodies.
Jesus being truly human has huge implication for us humans. It’s important we don’t forget. But, of course, Jesus wasn’t just truly human. And we’ll look at that next time.