Last week we took a look at a critical question. Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” We took a long hard look at Jesus Christ and that he is fully God. We saw that there was and still is a great controversy regarding this Jesus. This morning we want to go the other way. We want to explore that not only is Jesus fully God, but Jesus was fully human while he was on earth.
You’ve already heard some of the opinions on Jesus and we’ve already learned that the identity of Jesus is the most debated point of the Christian faith. As we have been reciting the Apostle’s Creed each week, we see that that the creed says more about Jesus than either of the other two other persons of the Trinity.
The Creed states:
I believe in Jesus Christ His only Son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried; and descended into Hades. The third day He rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of God the Father Almighty. Whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
With these words the Creed speaks boldly, affirming without reservation the deity of Jesus and it speaks just as boldly about the humanity of Jesus.
The debate over Jesus comes to us from both sides. One side asks, “Is Jesus God?” The other side asks, “Was Jesus fully human?” Other religions see him as a prophet or a good man who taught good things and we touched on that last week. But none of those religions address Jesus as God. The eastern religions teach that God is in Christ because God is in all things. He is not unique. He is not different. He is just another human being in whom God dwells. As we will see, Christianity approaches it from a different stand point.
In the early centuries of the church, great controversies raged related to his humanity. Some argued that matter is evil and spirit is good. The two can never interact together because the evil would defile the spirit. This means that Jesus could be God but not human. These would deny the reality of the Incarnation. They cannot believe that God could ever dirty his hands by becoming involved with sinful humanity or by entering the world through the normal means of human birth. John the Evangelist addresses this in several of his writings; as we have been discovering on Wednesday evenings.
It’s into this theological landscape that the early church fathers developed the creeds. Some scholars believe that the words, “born of the Virgin Mary” were included in the Apostle’s Creed not so much to emphasize the word virgin, though it is important, but to emphasize the word born. They wanted to clearly proclaim that at the heart of our faith is the truth that Jesus is both God and a normal, living, breathing human being.
But the question remains – why is the humanity of Jesus central to the creed? Why is belief in the humanity of Jesus so vital – so important? His humanity has tremendous implications for our faith. Let’s read what the Gospel of John says about Jesus in John 1:1-18.
1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning. (So Jesus is fully God.)
3Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
6There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. 7He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him (Jesus) all men might believe. 8He (John the Baptist) himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light (Jesus). 9The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.
10He (Jesus) was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
Here’s what we want to concentrate on.
14The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
15John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ ” 16From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. 17For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.
Jesus Became Human to Personify the Nature of the Father
As we take a look at this scripture, we are first told that God and Jesus are one. Jesus is fully divine and yet as we begin to look at verse 14, we see that the Word (or Jesus) became flesh and made his dwelling among us. In verse 18, John goes on to tell us that no one has ever seen God, but because we can know the father because of his son, because God has made Jesus known to us.
A few weeks ago we took a look at the concept that some of us have of the Father God. We often have a misunderstanding of who God is. We often see God as a taskmaster, especially if that is how our earthly father treated us. On the other hand we may see him as the kindly grandfather who winks at our sins. Neither of these images is correct of our heavenly father, because neither takes into the account of his great love for us. This is something that the children of Israel in the Old Testament. We can know God our father because Jesus personifies God. Jesus came to dwell among us so that we know what the father is like.
A story is told of a artist who was trying to illustrate the parable of the prodigal son. In his picture, the father was standing on the porch with his arms crossed, with a stern scowl on his face with an “I told you so” look. Someone asked the artist about the painting. He asked him why he painted the father that way. The artist said, “That’s the way a father should act around a wayward son.” The artist was challenged to look at the story of the prodigal son again. The parable tells us the father ran out to meet the son and wrapped his arms around him.
The artist went back to his studio and reworked the picture. This time you could see the love in the father’s eyes as he ran full tilt toward his son. On his feet was a mismatched pair of shoes. Again the artist was questioned about this.
He replied, “The father was so happy about his sons return, that he found the first two shoes he could find so that he could immediately go out and meet his son.”
That is a wonderful picture of the way God the Father sent the son for us. We just like the prodigal son didn’t deserve the father’s love, but he comes running to us. It doesn’t matter because the lost has been made found.
Jesus Became Human to Reveal the Depths of God’s Love for Us
The Word became flesh. The Word that was, is, and is to be eternal, became. Jesus Christ came into history and lived among us.
Think about that the creator came into the world that he created. He was born of a human woman. Here the creator of the universe was now subject to the authority of his own creation. He was now counting on the very creation he created to sustain him. The Bread of Life ate in order to exist. The Living Water drank to sustain life. Jesus existed on this earth with all the limitations of the human body. He subjected himself to infections, scraped knees, sickness, aches and pains. He endured harsh treatment by his own people. And in spite of this, people still rejected Him, ignored Him, hated Him, and eventually crucified Him.
Another ancient hymn proclaims this. “Though he was God, he did not think equality with God as something to cling to. Instead he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
An old parable of the last Judgment proposes that at the end of time, all the people who have ever lived were brought before the throne of God to be judged. But instead of submitting to God, they had complaints to make.
One group was made up of Jews who had suffered great persecution. Some died in gas chambers and concentration camps. How can God judge them? What could He know of their suffering? “Who is God, that He should be our judge?” they cried.
Another group was of slaves who had suffered all kinds of indignities. There were homeless people with no place to lay their heads. And there were poor folk—workers who were never able to make ends meet. There were sick ones and sufferers of all kinds, each with a complaint against God!
“How can God judge us?” they thought. How lucky God is, to live in heaven where all is goodness and light—no tears, no worries, no fears, no hunger, no inhumanities.
So a commission was appointed to draw up the case against God! They concluded that before God could judge them, He must first endure what they have endured. So they sentenced God to live on earth as a human being, to submit to the painful, agonizing, troublesome realities of life. As the tension mounted they shouted out: “Let Him be born a Jew!” “Let Him be born poor!” “Let Him be rejected by His people!” “Let Him have friends who hold Him in contempt!” “Let Him be betrayed by one of His friends!” “Let Him be indicted on false charges, tried before a prejudiced jury, and convicted by a cowardly judge!” “Let Him be abandoned by His friends!” “Let Him be tortured!” “Let Him be lonely!” “Let Him die at the hands of His enemies!”
As each group announced its sentence upon God, the crowd cheered in approval. Then suddenly, there was silence. No one moved. No one uttered a word or made a sound. For everyone realized that God already had served this sentence!
God is willing to prove His love to us. And when we face the difficult circumstances of life; when we are overwhelmed by injustice and pain and grief and loss, we may turn to God and see not only one who says that He loves us, but one who has proven that He does. As John wrote in his first letter, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (4:10).
Jesus Became Human to be the Way of Salvation
Jesus tells us in John 10:10, that “I thief comes to steal and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Jesus came so that we may have life. If Jesus hadn’t come to earth, we would still be under the Old Covenant of bulls and goats and rams. We would still have to sacrifice animals every time we sinned. I believe that the priests in the Old Testament had a full time job taking care of the people and their sins. But Jesus has come to save us from our sins. He came to break the bondage of sin in our life. Jesus didn’t just come so that we could have a ticket to heaven. He tells us in John 10:10 that I came so that you might have life to the full. That is not a life that is bound in sin. Jesus came to give us life and as we’ve already seen he has paid the penalty. He cares about us and knows what we have gone through. Hebrews 4:14-16 says, “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and fine grace to help us in our time of need.”
Louis Cassels wrote a modern parable describing a man who didn’t believe in the Incarnation and consequently thought Christmas was “a lot of humbug.” He was a nice man; he just didn’t understand the claim that God became human. One Christmas Eve his wife and children went to the midnight service, but he chose to stay at home. Soon after they left, it began to snow, and he settled into a chair by the fire to read.
After several minutes, he was startled from his reading by a thud at the window. There quickly followed another thud, and then another. Thinking someone must have been throwing snowballs at the window, he went outside to investigate. What he saw was a flock of birds huddled in the snow. In an attempt to find shelter from the storm, they had tried to fly through his window. Wondering how he could help the birds, he remembered the barn. It would make a good shelter. So he bundled up and headed to the barn. First he turned on a light, but the birds didn’t budge. Then he sprinkled a path of breadcrumbs leading into the barn, but the birds did not notice. Finally he tried shooing them into the barn, but they scattered in every direction except the barn.
The man realized that they saw him as only a strange and terrifying creature. He wondered how in the world he could communicate that he was trying to help them and that they could trust him. He thought, “If only I could be a bird myself for a few minutes, perhaps I could lead them to safety.”
At just that moment, the bells of the church began to ring. He stood silently for a few moments, and then sank to his knees in the snow, realizing what he had missed all those years.
The humanity of Jesus is not just a theological tenet, but real life and death, transformational, eternal truth. The humanity of Jesus places before us a powerful truth and a vital question: God loves you enough to send His one and only Son. Seeing all that Christ has done for you, you can bow in adoration and worship––submitting your life to Him and finding all that you long for, or you can ignore Him in apathy and indifference––condemning yourself to eternal separation from Him.
How are you going to respond?