The Humanity of Jesus
Luke 4:1-13 records that Jesus, prior to the start of His ministry, submitted Himself to being tested by Satan. Presumably, Satan was unwilling to entrust this task to even his most accomplished minion. Surely, he wanted to handle Jesus personally. We read that after he failed in his attempt to exploit the hunger and weakness caused by Jesus' 40-day fast, Satan next offered Him a bribe: sovereign power over the entire earth--if He would but bow down and worship Him:
The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world.
And he said to him, "I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you worship me, it will all be yours."
Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.'"
Consider this scenario carefully for a moment. Is it likely that Satan—in His wildest imagination, really believed that God would kneel and worship him? Of course not. We know that God neither tempts, nor can He be tempted. (James 1:13). So then, obviously the devil was not trying to tempt God, he was tempting a man. It should also be obvious that Satan had reason to believe Jesus was susceptible to temptation, or else he would not have even bothered trying to bribe Him. We can therefore conclude that the Devil truly believed Jesus to have a fully human nature, with a human mind and will.
Therefore, while Jesus is indeed God manifest in the flesh, He was also fully and completely human, with an actual human nature like ours. At the very least, He possessed the innate capacity to accept Satan's offer. That’s the issue. And that fully human nature of Jesus is the focus of this study--a topic rarely discussed, but one that examines an attribute of Jesus which is just as vital to His being our Savior as is His deity.
Yes, Jesus is fully God. If He were not, He could not have spoken of the divine glory He once shared with His Father before He became human. (John 17:5) If He were not inwardly God, He could not have been born without sin, and therefore couldn't have been the sinless Lamb of God, sacrificed to pay our sin debt. If He were not God, He would not have been able to willingly "give up the Spirit" when the time was right, nor take it up again. Nor could He have simply exited the gates of hell after dwelling three days among the dead in Sheol—taking the keys to death and hell with Him when He left.
And yet, if He were not fully and completely human, He would not have qualified as our Kinsman-Redeemer, which He was by virtue of being related to Adam through the human ancestry of his mother. He would not have possessed the royal lineage that entitled Him to the throne of Israel--that legal right actually coming to Him by means of the heritage of both Mary and Joseph, whose common ancestry converge in King David—giving Jesus the title, “Son of David.” If Jesus were not fully human, He could not truly relate to our humanity--to feel what we feel, and experience all of our many weaknesses and limitations. Nor could He have experienced the temptations leveled at Him from Satan, subsequently giving us victory through His victory.
If Jesus were not fully human, He would not have possessed a human will with which to reject Satan, and submit to God--thereby undoing the damage done in Eden. Both Adam and Eve broke the spiritual relationship they had with God through their willful disobedience. It began with Eve, but both are equally responsible for the current fallen state of man. The tragic consequences of their actions ruined not only their own estate, but also that of all who came after them. In the wake of sin’s entrance into the world, came the subsequent curse upon Creation, which has caused all of the pain and suffering of mankind--which is then followed by eternal damnation.
It was because Eve chose to believe the lies of the serpent, and disbelieve the Word of God, that she disobeyed His commandment, and ate of the forbidden fruit. Adam likewise broke the commandment, so they were both equally guilty of disobeying God. And that disobedience resulted in their spiritual death and utter alienation from God, resulting in all of their descendants inheriting a spiritually dead, fallen nature, instead of what God had intended for them.
That’s where Jesus comes in as the Word of God incarnate. Through Him, the damage done in the garden of Eden is reversed. Lack of faith in the Word of God led to disobedience, and disobedience led to death. Conversely, faith in Jesus as the Word of God, leads to obedience, and obedience leads to eternal life.
Because He was fully God, Jesus did not inherit the spiritually dead nature of those descended from Adam. Yet, because He was also fully human, He possessed the same capacity that Adam had to either obey or disobey. One may be hesitant to embrace the idea that Jesus was capable of disobeying God. But I submit that it is His choice to be obedient to the will of God which is at the very heart of what He accomplished for us. Scripture tells us:
5Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, 8 he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross. (Phil 2:5-8 NRSV)
During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered, and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.(Heb 5:7-9 NIV)
Indeed, in the hour of His anguish in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus--knowing full well what He was about to endure—and perhaps already feeling the crushing weight of the sins of the world upon Him, besought God to let that most bitter and dreadful cup pass from Him, if at all possible:
He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, "My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. (Matt 26:39 NLT)
Yet, He immediately followed that petition with a surrender of His will to the Father’s will, discounting what His human nature wanted:
“Yet, I want your will to be done, not mine." (Matt 26:39 NLT)
So then, the reign of sin began in a garden when one man chose to disobey, and oppose his will to that of God, and the end of sin’s reign also began in a garden, when one man chose to obey--and to submit Himself fully to the will of god. The first Adam brought the curse of both spiritual death, and eternal condemnation down on mankind by his disobedience, and the “last Adam” purchased for us, eternal life and redemption from the curse, by His obedience (Rom 5:17).
It seems fair to say that we can only fully appreciate the total picture of Jesus when we recognize that everything He did, He did willingly—as a flesh and blood man, fully dependent upon, and guided by the Spirit of His Father, Who indwelt Him from the moment of His supernatural conception. Jesus was acutely and fully aware of His pre-incarnate existence as the Word, and of His inherent equality with God. Yet, He disassociated Himself from those divine prerogatives to become a human vessel, emptied of self, and relying on God for everything He said and did, and everything He was able to do.
Jesus went through the entire process of human life, from embryonic development in the womb to adulthood, and lived a typical childhood in between--including submitting Himself to parental authority, and growing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men ( Luke 2:52). And throughout His entire life and earthly ministry, Jesus very clearly submitted Himself entirely to a subordinate position under the Father, stating this total dependence on Him for everything, several times:
"I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. (John 5:19 NIV)
He stated that He was essentially a human conduit through which God operated:
Don't you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I speak are not my own, but my Father who lives in me does his work through me. (John 14:10)
Jesus also declared that He lacked the full authority which the Father possessed:
Then the mother of Zebedee's sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him.
"What is it you want?" he asked. She said, "Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom."
"You don't know what you are asking," Jesus said to them. "Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?" "We can," they answered.
Jesus said to them, "You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father."
Jesus even declared His lack of complete omniscience, by stating that only the Father knew the exact day of His future return in glory:
"No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. (Mark 13:32)
Only after His resurrection, did Jesus declare that all authority in heaven and earth was fully His:
Jesus came and told his disciples, "I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. (Matt 28:18-19)
Obviously, if Jesus had already possessed that power and authority, He would not have announced that it had been given to Him at a point in time. For that matter, if He had already possessed it, that authority could not even have been given to Him.
The point is, prior to His resurrection, Jesus was the eternal Word of God manifest in the flesh--and yet voluntarily divested of all divine privileges. For all intents and purposes, aside from His miraculous birth and inherent deity, Jesus lived the life of an ordinary human being, and was guided by, obedient to, and empowered by the Holy Spirit—exactly what every Christian is called to do. To successfully accomplish the purpose for which He was sent, Jesus had do what Adam failed to do: remain true to the will and Word of God, no matter what. And in order to do that, He had to have the same human will as Adam. Yet, that required having the integrity necessary for sheer, unyielding adherence to the will of God--a task which Adam fell far short of.
The Greek word most frequently translated in the New Testament as “sin,” actually denotes missing, or falling short of the mark. The practical application of that idea is seen in the futility of our efforts to ever measure up to the standards of God’s holy righteousness. As the Apostle Paul states, “All have fallen short of the glory of God.” Indeed, Scripture teaches that even the most zealous attempts of unregenerate man at righteousness are in vain, and amount to no more than filthy rags before our holy God. (Isa 64:6).
We are born spiritually naked, just as we are physically—a sad legacy of Adam and Eve, who became aware of their nakedness when the Holy Spirit that clothed them, departed upon the entrance of sin and loss of innocence. And no one can enter into the presence of God without being clothed with the pure robe of righteousness, made white and clean only by the sinless blood of the Lamb of god:
After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands. (Rev 7:9 NLT)
Then one of the twenty-four elders asked me, "Who are these who are clothed in white? Where did they come from?" And I said to him, "Sir, you are the one who knows." Then he said to me, "These are the ones who died in the great tribulation. They have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb and made them white. (Rev 7:13-14 NLT)
Those so arrayed in these white robes are the blood-washed called and chosen, who will walk the golden streets of the New Jerusalem in perfect peace, and will dwell in the presence of God forever. And this privilege is made possible only because the man Christ Jesus prevailed against the powers of darkness, and remained faithful to God. Despising His own human will, Jesus followed the arduous path that God had prepared for Him—all the way to the end, where His sinless heart suffered and broke under the crushing weight of every vile sin ever committed.
It is our being clothed in the holiness and righteousness of God that saves us, and allows us to come before His throne. And it is only because the one man who never committed sin became sin, that we will enjoy that glorious experience.:
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor 5:21)
God has always worked through man in the process of working out His plan for man. He gave the Hebrews of old the victory in their battles, yet it was they themselves who were the instruments He used to give them that victory. In a similar same way, believers--spiritual warriors arrayed in the armor of God, must battle and prevail over the god of this world and his evil minions, even though the victory is already assured. Because the power of sin came through the choices made by a man, the power of sin had to be conquered through the choices made by a man.
We will have all eternity to offer thanksgiving, praise, worship and honor to our God, as we behold Him dwelling in His temple of glorified humanity--a temple not made by hands--that He ordained for Himself. And we should never forget that the faithful man He worked through to accomplish His purpose—His Christ, and very incarnation of Himself--very literally went through hell for us. And He did it by choice.