The Full Humanity of Jesus – a Summary

December 12, 2009 — Leave a comment

ecce homo - "Behold the man!"

Our series on Fully Human Fully Alive is taking two weeks in Advent to examine the implications of Jesus being both Fully Human and Fully God.  Here is a summary of the biblical and theological truth of Jesus’ full humanity as summarized in an article from the ESV Study Bible.

The Humanity of Christ

From the moment of Mary’s virginal conception of Jesus, his divine nature became permanently united to his human nature in one and the same person, the now incarnate Son of God. The biblical evidence for Jesus’ humanity is strong, showing that he had a human body, and a human mind, and experienced human temptation.

Jesus had a human birth and a human genealogy: “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Gal. 4:4–5).

Jesus had a human body that experienced growth (Luke 2:40, 52) as well as physical susceptibilities like hunger (Matt. 4:2), thirst (John 19:28), tiredness (John 4:6), and death (Luke 23:46).

As an old man, the apostle John was still in awe of the fact that he had been able to experience God the Son in the flesh. Like an excited child, he keeps repeating himself as he describes the incarnation:

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 andheard 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 (1 John 1:1–3).

John has known about the incarnation for over 50 years when he writes this letter, yet he still writes with wide-eyed wonder as he reflects on walking the shores of Galilee, fishing, eating, and laughing with, and having his feet washed by, a carpenter who was God in flesh!

Jesus continues to have a physical body in his resurrected state, and he went to great lengths to make sure his disciples realized this: “See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have” (Luke 24:39; cf. Luke 24:42–43John 20:17, 25–27). After his resurrection, Jesus returned to the Father by ascending in his divinely reanimated body before his disciples’ wondering eyes, thus affirming his ongoing full physical humanity (Luke 24:50–51Acts 1:9–11). The ascension has been included in every important creed of the church because it teaches the enduring complete humanity of Jesus as the only mediator between God and man.

Jesus had a human mind that, according to the will of the Father, had limitations in knowledge: “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mark 13:32). His human mind grew and increased in wisdom (Luke 2:52), and he even “learned obedience” (Heb. 5:8–9). To say Jesus “learned obedience” does not mean he moved from disobedience to obedience, but that he grew in his capacity to obey as he endured suffering.

Jesus experienced human temptation: “For we 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” (Heb. 4:15; cf. Luke 4:1–2). While Jesus experienced every kind of human temptation, he never succumbed to sin (John 8:29, 46; 15:102 Cor. 5:21Heb. 7:261 Pet. 2:221 John 3:5).

Jesus practiced spiritual disciplines. He regularly prayed with passion (Mark 14:36Luke 10:21Heb. 5:7), worshiped at services in the synagogue (Luke 4:16), read and memorized Scripture (Matt. 4:4–10), practiced the discipline of solitude (Mark 1:35; 6:46), observed the Sabbath (Luke 4:16), obeyed OT ceremonial laws (John 8:29, 46; 15:102 Cor. 5:21Heb. 4:15), and received the fullness of the Spirit (Luke 3:22; 4:1). These religious activities were done earnestly (Heb. 5:7) and habitually (Luke 4:16) as the means of a truly human spiritual growth process.

Given Jesus’ divine nature, the normality of most of his earthly life is staggering. It seems that Jesus spent the first 30 years of his life in relative obscurity, doing manual labor, taking care of his family, and being faithful to whatever his Father called him to do. In his public ministry Jesus performed miraculous signs and delivered authoritative teaching that could only come from God, and this was shockingly offensive for the people of his hometown, who saw Jesus’ simplicity and humility as incompatible with messianic wisdom and power:

Coming to his hometown he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household” (Matt. 13:54–57).

Jesus did not cease to be fully human after the resurrection. He will be a man forever as he represents redeemed humanity for all of eternity (Acts 1:11; 9:51 Cor. 9:1; 15:81 Tim. 2:5Heb. 7:25Rev. 1:13).

Implications of the Humanity of Christ

Humans have obviously been sinful ever since the fall. Therefore, it is easy to assume that being sinful is an essential, necessary part of being a “human being.” But this is not true. Jesus was human and yet did not sin. The fact that he became man reveals the nature of true humanity. His humanity gives a glimpse of what our humanity would be, were it not tainted with sin. He shows that the problem with humanity is not that we are humans, but rather that we are fallen. Jesus’ human nature shows the potential of humanity as God intended. This display of sinless humanity reaffirms God’s declaration that creation in all its original dimensions (material and spiritual), including humanity, is by divine definition very good (Gen. 1:31).

Jesus’ humanity enables his representative obedience for us. “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous” (Rom. 5:18–19). Because Jesus is truly human, his perfect life of obedience and overcoming all temptations—culminating in his perfect substitutionary death—can take the place of human rebellion and failure.

Because of Jesus’ humanity, he can truly be a substitutionary sacrifice for mankind. “Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Heb. 2:17). A man died on the cross when Jesus died, and his death truly atones for the sin of human beings, whose nature he shared.

Jesus’ humanity makes him the only effective mediator between God and man: “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5). Jesus’ divine and human natures enable him to stand in the gap between fallen humans and a holy God.

Jesus’ humanity enabled him to become a sympathetic high priest who experientially understands the difficult plight of humanity in a fallen world: “For we 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. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:15–16; cf. Heb. 2:18).

Jesus’ humanity means he is a true example and pattern for human character and conduct. “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps” (1 Pet. 2:21; cf. 1 John 2:6).

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