Thinking Thursday: The Humanity of Jesus

Because of the miraculous things Jesus did, it is easy to concentrate on his divinity, but it is vital that we see that he was fully human.

Matthew, writing to Jews, takes the trouble to list Jesus’ genealogy through his father (see Matt.1:1-17). Jesus was descended from David, who was promised an eternal kingship. The line was considered through the man, but there are four women listed: v.3 Tamar (1 Chron.2:4) dressed as a prostitute and seduced her father-in-law, v.5 Rahab (Josh.2:2) was a prostitute, v.5 Ruth (Ruth 1:22, Deut.7:1-4) was a foreigner, v.6 Uriah’s wife Bathsheba (2 Sam.11) was an adulteress, and David had her husband murdered. At the same time as establishing Jesus’ lineage, Matthew pointed out that it included weak, sinful, and non-Jewish people. Not what you would expect for a Messiah. Jesus’ heritage was messily human.

The people of his home town, Nazareth, know his background and did not believe. They had seen him grow up and because of that familiarity could not think of him as anything other than human. They asked, “Where did this man get this power?”

Matt.13:53-58
And when Jesus had finished these parables, he went away from there,
and 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 honour except in his hometown and in his own household.” And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.

As you read the gospels, you will find Jesus had
* Limitations of body and mind – he got tired, he needed to eat and to sleep
* Fullness of emotion & experiences – he got angry, he wept
* Experience of a spiritual life – he went alone to pray often

Why is it necessary for Jesus to be fully human?

* Representative obedience
Humanity must provide the way to repair the covenant broken by humanity. Jesus’ temptation in the desert was like a reversal of the Garden of Eden experience, but this time with obedience.
Matt.4:1-11
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.'” Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.
Jesus was tempted to use his divine powers for selfish gain, but he was obedient to his father.

* Representative sacrifice
It could only be possible for Jesus to represent humanity if Jesus was fully human.
Hebrews 2:14-17
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. … 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.

* Representative to God
Jesus had to be human but holy. He could not have sins of his own to deal with. Although Matthew began with Jesus’ human genealogy yet he made it clear that Mary was pregnant “by the Holy Spirit” (1:18) so that he did not inherit the father’s sin nature.
John the Baptist recognised Jesus was without sin.
John 1:29
The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold,
the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
John hesitated to baptise Jesus because he recognised his sinlessness and therefore he didn’t need it, but Jesus insisted because he was obedient.
Matt.3:13-17
Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness.” Then he consented. …

* Representative to us
1. Jesus shows us how we should live and empathises with our human experience. Jesus was not always human, he is part of the godhead, but he broke into time and history and was born a man.
2. He restores the dominion over creation given to man at the beginning
Matt.28:18
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
3. He also shows us that death is not the end. His resurrected body means we will be resurrected and will have a body like his.

Why does it matter?

1. It is very serious because to deny the humanity of Christ is to be antichrist.
1 John 4:2-3
By this you know the Spirit of God:
every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.
2. Whatever we go through, Jesus has experienced it, and will go through it with us.
3. The truth of Jesus’ humanity gives us the opportunity of breaking with the past. Who we really are is related to Jesus and he has set us free from the sin in our past. How we have been related to and how we have been treated no longer has to define us.
4. Suffering: we do not believe in a God who has created and walked away. In Jesus God got involved in our world and understands our suffering. He has provided the ultimate solution and one day he will deal justly with everyone, but until then we only have part of the answer.
Heb.2:8-11
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 honour because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. 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.

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About Ann Marie Thomas

Married since 1974, Christian since 1986, 4 children, 4 grand children, disabled with fibromyalgia but was working almost full time until a stroke in May 2010 changed my life completely. Writing poetry and making up stories since I was a child, I only started to write seriously when my children were grown. My main ambition is to write science fiction, but along the way I got distracted by local history and poetry about my stroke. Taking early retirement gave me the chance to concentrate on my writing. My book, Alina, The White Lady of Oystermouth, was published in print and ebook at Easter 2012. The success of Alina led to the publication of Broken Reed: The Lords of Gower and King John in September 2013, and The Magna Carta Story at Easter 2015. I am still writing science fiction - a series of novels called Flight of the Kestrel. For all my author news, see me author blog at www.annmariethomas.me.uk
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