We’ve seen it in so many movies: a superhero runs into a burning building, clad in a super-suit that grants him special powers, guaranteeing his safety. Crowds marvel at the superhero’s apparent bravery and courage but in reality there wouldn’t be much to admire because the superhero was never in any danger. If it’s impossible for Superman to be burned by fire then it requires no courage or personal risk to go into a burning building to rescue someone, like it would for a normal person.
This may be an odd way to think about the humanity and divinity of Jesus but I think the same basic principle applies. I’ve always thought that if there’s a God, then there’s also a reasonable expectation that He would attempt to communicate with us about Himself, His will for us, and the purpose our very existence; so the fact that God came to humanity in some way doesn’t really surprise me.
But what absolutely blows my mind is when I think about the way in which God chose to come to us: as fully, totally, utterly, and beautifully human. It is Jesus’ raw humanness that compels me to fall on my knees and commit my life to him; for in Jesus’ humanity I see just how low God was willing to stoop, how far He was willing to reach, and how much He was willing to suffer, in order to save me, us.
Christians today focus so heavily on Jesus’ divinity that we almost completely discard his humanity. For example: in our images of Jesus there’s always a magic glowing light shining just behind his head that presumably followed him everywhere; we imagine ‘baby Jesus’ as a serene infant who never cried; we think of the attributes of God as all-knowing and all-powerful and apply them directly to Jesus. In short, we understand Jesus as if his humanity did not exist or were not real.
This is why we’re uncomfortable thinking about Jesus going to the bathroom, getting sick, puking, or having zits; why we overlook passages that state or imply there were things he didn’t know: like the time of his own return (Mk 13:32/Mt 24:36); who touched his robe (Mk 5:25-34); or when he pleads with his Father to take his cup from him ‘if it is possible (Mt 26:39/Lk 22/Mk 14),’ which implies Jesus thought it might be possible to avoid it. He also ‘increased in wisdom’ (Lk 2:52), revealing again that he didn’t know everything. Other passages we overlook imply Jesus was not all-powerful: ‘he could not do any miracles’ (Mk 6:4-6) due to the lack of peoples’ faith and later wants to rest, presumably because he’s tired (Mk 6:31).
When we discard all this we ignore what compels me more than anything else to love and appreciate the God who reveals Himself in Jesus: that God chose to come to us like this.
If the man Jesus had been all-knowing and all-powerful like he was as the pre-incarnate Son before becoming flesh, then what might appear to be great heroism, bravery, or self-sacrifice on his part would’ve actually been more like Superman rescuing someone from a burning building: it looks noble and worthy but in truth he was never in any real danger and therefore risked nothing.
If Jesus had known everything then it would’ve been impossible to catch him off-guard or surprise him; if all-powerful then nothing could’ve harmed him. But I ask you: what courage would Jesus need if he were invincible to all pain, suffering, loneliness, fear, or worry? What honor would he deserve if he wasn’t willing to suffer or endure anything to reach and save us? And how unfair of him to expect us to follow him if he had so many advantages that we simply don’t have? It would be like Superman asking us to follow him and fly like he does but without any super-powers: it’s an impossible and ridiculous expectation. Further: why should we be expected to endure personal suffering, pain, or sacrifice for him if he wasn’t really willing to do the same for us?
Why should we contemplate the humanity of Jesus?
On the other hand, if Jesus was a real human being then we can see just how low God was willing to stoop, humble Himself, and even suffer for us, and we can trust in Jesus because he’s walked in our shoes and knows what its like.
During this ‘Fully Human’ blog-series we’ll lay the scriptural foundations for the humanity of Jesus and come face to face with a stunning, and often shocking, picture of a God who is so passionately in love with us that He is willing to do, endure, and suffer almost anything to break through to us. My hope is that we’ll never be the same.
Q. Have you ever seriously thought about the humanity of Jesus? What questions does it rise for you?
For the entire Fully Human series click here.