February 16, 2024

Jesus, The Man

The New Testament clearly affirms both the deity (divine nature) and humanity (human nature) of Jesus Christ. This has always been a difficult concept to grasp, and it’s one that the Church has always wrestled with trying to explain. Nonetheless, the Church, historically, has always affirmed the idea.

The notion that Jesus is both God and man is called the “incarnation”. The word literally means “infleshed” or “to take on flesh”. When God became a man in Jesus Christ, He was “infleshed” or incarnate. It is impossible to understand the Jesus of the Bible without understanding that he was both God and man. This article will deal exclusively with his humanity. (For a fuller discussion of the incarnation, see the related article.)

The incarnation and the fact that Jesus was fully human is important for many reasons, but it’s significant at a personal level because it affirms both my value and potential as a human being. That’s what we want to consider here.

As a human, Jesus had to grow the same way we do. Even though we (and more importantly the New Testament) affirm his absolute deity, it is also clear from the Gospels that Jesus bore the realities of being a physical human being in a physical world.

Mark and John tell us nothing of Jesus’ birth and childhood. Matthew and Luke don’t tell us much. They tell us enough, however, to understand that Jesus did not miraculously appear in this world as an adult on a mission for God. He came as a baby. . . a HUMAN baby. As a baby, Jesus needed protection, nourishment, love, community, direction, and all the things any human baby needs.

As a child, Jesus needed guidance, direction, and all the things any human child needs. Because Jesus was human, he GREW. Luke 2:51-52 tells us that following his experience in the temple (and his parents’ scolding) at the age of 12, “He went down with them and came to Nazareth and was obedient to them. And Jesus INCREASED in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and with people.” (Emphasis added.) Clearly, Jesus was growing. He was becoming. . . like you and me.

Like you and me, Jesus had to LEARN. He had to learn to crawl, then walk, and then run. He had to learn how to read, and write, and do math. He had to learn language skills like vocabulary, grammar, and spelling. He had to learn history, social customs, and geography. He learned Scripture, law, and politics. And, he had to learn who he was, who God was, and what God wanted.

Jesus was not born with this knowledge. He learned formally and informally as he watched, listened, studied, and even failed. Yes, he must have failed. Are we to believe he never stumbled as a toddler and fell into the family’s entertainment center? (Well, maybe not that.) Are we to believe that Jesus never misquoted some portion of the Ten Commandments as he repeated them over and over with his parents? Yes, Jesus experienced failure like we do, but he LEARNED as a result of that failure and he GREW through it.

Jesus also learned faith through his family and through his community. He learned that God is a God who speaks. He learned that God is personal with plans, preferences, and perspectives. He learned that God had a purpose for him and that this purpose could be accomplished only through a close, intimate relationship with God, the Father. And, he learned that God was not merely the Father of Israel, He was Jesus’ Father.

These are things that Jesus had to learn because he was human and not born with this knowledge. These are things that WE need to learn because we, like Jesus, are also human. The incarnation shows us that while our humanity may limit us, it does not prevent us from becoming what God the Father desires for us to become. Because we are human, we can also increase “in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and with people”.

Jesus’ incarnation affirms our potential as human beings. We should be encouraged by Jesus’ life as a human and seek to be in the kind of intimate relationship with the Father that will enable us to be all He desires in our lives.

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