Last week we looked at the deity of Christ, and this morning I want us to look at the humanity of Christ. That is, Jesus of Nazareth was not only fully God but also fully man. And as I thought about this it dawned on me that this lesson may be harder for us to accept than the last. For most people, the harder thing to grasp is that Jesus of Nazareth was fully God. After all, we know of no other man in our experience who was fully God, so that claim is a bit much for most people. But for those of us who indeed believe that Jesus of Nazareth was God the Son, it may be harder to believe that Jesus was fully human. And I think that’ll become clear as we unfold what his humanity means.
Therefore, this morning I want to cover three topics. First, I want to show that the Scripture argues that Jesus was a human. Second, I want to consider for a second what this means. Then, third, I want to look at why it was important for God the Son to take on a fully human nature.
Scriptural Evidence of Jesus’ Humanity
There is much evidence of Jesus’ humanity, but I will only list a handful of texts this morning:
John 1:14 – “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us . . .”
Romans 8:3 – “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh.”
Galatians 4:4 – “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law.”
Colossians 1:22 – “. . . he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death . . .”
1 Timothy 3:16 – “He was manifested in the flesh . . .”
Hebrews 2:14 – “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil.”
1 John 4:2 – “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.”
In addition to this, we can remember that Jesus was born of the virgin, ate, slept, bled, suffered, died, etc. He was obviously a human. But perhaps we haven’t considered this as deeply as we should. He was fully human.
The Meaning of Christ’s Full Humanity
When we saw that Christ was fully human, we do not merely mean that he had a human body (though we mean no less than that). We mean that he had a fully human body, fully human soul, fully human mind, fully human will, etc. – again, everything that it means to be fully human. And we see this in the Scripture as well.
We are told that he grew in wisdom and stature:
Luke 2:40 – “And the child grew and become strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.”
Luke 2:52 – “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.”
He had a will and desires as all other humans have:
John 6:38 – “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.”
Such language presuppose not only a metaphysical distinction between the will of Jesus and the will of the Father, but also the logical possibility that Jesus’ natural preferences (based on personal self-interest) might not always coincide with the wishes of the Father. . . . The Servant consults not his own interests but the interests of others (Phil. 2:4). This climaxes in Gethsemane, where the dilemma becomes almost unbearably acute.
So, you see that Jesus had a will, just like you and I have. And, as Macleod mentions, this is seen most dramatically in the garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prayed, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39). Wellum helpfully notes,
It is best to interpret the first petition of Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane, ‘Nevertheless, not my will . . .” (Luke 22:42 par.) as an expression of Jesus’ natural and sinless fear of death, which illustrates not his opposition to God’s will but his genuine humanness. At a very basic level, Jesus does not want this “cup;” everything in him shrinks from it, which the text makes abundantly clear. The words used to describe Jesus’ mental state are graphic.
The kind of description Wellum is alluding to is Jesus, for example, saying that he was sorrowful to the point of death, meaning his sorrow was so deep, it felt like it was going to kill him. That is genuine humanity, isn’t it? As Wellum later notes the description makes clear that he is “under incredible stress and duress.”
Jesus felt and expressed genuine emotion as he prayed in the garden. The author of Hebrews tells us that Jesus “offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears” (Hebrews 5:7). Yet, though he genuinely did not want to die, bearing the weight of our sin and God’s penalty for it, he submitted his human will to the divine will, saying, “Your will be done.”
This was a genuine sacrifice and struggle in the garden. To lessen it by noting that he was the God-man is simply to deny the clear teaching of the text. He suffered as a man whose will, mind, soul, and body were tormented – just as we often are as well. This is why he can sympathize and bear with us in our weaknesses. He’s been there.
Now, consider this for a second. This is God the Son who took on a fully human body, soul, mind, will, etc. that resulted in him suffering as we do (and worse). This is the greatest miracle ever known. It’s hard to think of anything that might compare to this. And he never ceased being human. Even after the resurrection, it is the incarnate Lord (now with a glorified body) who reveals himself to the apostles, ascends into heaven, and reigns at the Father’s right hand. What a miracle!
Why Did He Become Human?
But as we meditate on the glory of the incarnation, it’s helpful for us to ask, “Why?” Why did God the Son need to take on flesh? And though we could look at many texts, it’ll be easiest for us to walk through one text that tells us a few answers to this question: Hebrews 2:5-18.
In this text, the author of Hebrews tells us that Jesus accomplished multiple things in taking on flesh.
Jesus fulfilled the need for a human to reign over the earth.
From the beginning, it was God’s desire to have humans reign over his good world. That’s why he made mankind in his own image and gave them dominion over all things. Of course Adam failed in this task, though, and we with him. Therefore, the idea of mankind reigning over the earth can feel a bit foreign. We simply have no control against natural disasters that come and take lives, we are unable to tame numerous animals that themselves often take human lives, and we can’t even keep the ground from producing weeds. Thus, it seems that God’s initial design has failed. But it hasn’t, and it hasn’t because the Word became flesh. In Hebrews 2:5-9, the author of Hebrews argues that Jesus is superior to angels because he fulfills the task given to humanity to rule over the earth – something angels could never do. He writes:
For it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking. It has been testified somewhere, “What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him? You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, putting everything in subjection under his feet.” Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone (Heb. 2:5-9).
We don’t currently see the earth under the dominion of all of mankind. But what we do see is one of us (a human), Jesus of Nazareth, reigning from the Father’s right hand over the world. He fulfills the need for mankind to reign over the earth.
However, this doesn’t mean that he is glorified and there’s no hope for any of us to return to a state like Adam had in the beginning. This brings us to our second reason Jesus needed to take on flesh.
Jesus brings many sons to glory.
Continuing the arguing, the author of Hebrews writes:
For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.” And again, “I will put my trust in him.” And again, “Behold, I and the children God has given me” (Heb. 2:10-13).
Just as Adam was God’s son who reigned over the earth in glory, so Jesus comes in order that he might redeem us and restore us to glory, returning to us all the privileges of sonship that are ours in Christ. Yet there’s more.
Jesus freed us from the tyranny of Satan, sin, and death.
Again the author of Hebrews continues:
Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery (Heb. 2:14-15).
One of the ways that Satan holds us captive is through fear of death. Death reigns over us. It is a tyrant, an enemy, and a fearful foe. However, by becoming a human so that he might die, he defeated Satan, sin, and death so that those of us who have faith in him might no longer be enslaved. And finally:
Jesus appeased God’s wrath and serves as our high priest.
Finally, the author of Hebrews concludes:
For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. 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. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted (Heb. 2:16-18).
When the text says that “he had to be made like his brothers in every respect,” it means that it was a necessity that the Son took on a fully human nature. He had to experience what we experience. He had to suffer as we suffer. He had to be tempted as we are tempted. Why? Because he came to serve as our faithful high priest, and a high priest is a man who represents God before the people, able to sympathize with them because he knows (in his own experience) their weakness.
Well, Jesus knows ours. Our high priest intercedes for us at the Father’s right hand, knowing our weaknesses. He can sympathize with us in our struggles. He’s not unfamiliar with our suffering.
But as our high priest he did something more. He was the propitiation for our sins, meaning that he bore God’s wrath so that condemnation and wrath might no longer hang over us. For those of us in Christ, we’ll never know God’s wrath – not because our sins don’t deserve it – but because Christ bore God’s wrath in our place, as our substitute. He couldn’t have done this without becoming fully human.
Jesus of Nazareth was fully God. He is the God-man. And he was also fully human. He is the God-man. And what this means for us is that he took on our fully human nature so that he might redeem us. This is a cause for worship. Is there any doubt, then, why God commands the angels (and us) to worship him? Let us do that this morning in our corporate worship and with our lives. And next week we’ll try to put these two realities of Christ’s deity and humanity together in a coherent fashion. Amen.