Jesus the Human Being
Although He existed in the form of God, Christ did not retain equality with God, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant and being made in the likeness of men.
~ Philippians 2:6-7
Oddly, the meaning of this somewhat difficult verse was wonderfully (if somewhat irreverently) captured by a hit song in 1995, “What if God Was One of Us?” The Christian understands what the song is really getting at, because God was, in fact, one of us. The song is asking us to consider the humanity of Jesus. Jesus was a human being. He intentionally took on very real “non-God” weaknesses, temptations, needs, and emotions.
We can infer, from Paul’s comment (together with what little we know of Jesus’ infancy and childhood), that Jesus developed as a normal person. He needed diapers as a baby. He cried when He was hungry. He had to be taught to speak. He was in some ways more than human — He astonished His listeners on His ability to expound Scripture when He was 12 — but in some ways, He was no different from you or I.
The most important aspects of His humanity deal with His crucifixion. Jesus did not face His torture and death with a smug smile on his face, as God might do. He did not have universal knowledge; He did not have a special way of sensing that He would rise again. Rather, He went to the cross as a matter of faith; God the Father instructed Him to do it, and instructed Him concerning His divinity. In fact, Jesus sweated blood in the hours leading up to his arrest (Luke 22:44) and prayed to the Father that He might not have to do it. (Mark 14:36)
But why? Just consider the benefits. First, it made Jesus the model of faith. Facing torture and crucifixion means more to us when we consider that Jesus suffered it as a matter of faith in the Father, rather than in the absolute knowledge of His resurrection that would come from omniscience.
Second, it gave us, in our weakness, more confidence in His empathy for us. We know Christ suffered exactly the way we suffer. He suffered as a human being. He was afraid! Absence of fear is not courage. Courage is demonstrated by acting in spite of fear; and the greater the fear, the more profound the courage, and ultimately, the more profound the demonstration of faith.
Does God know what it is like to feel lust, to be so hungry one wants to steal, or to feel the fear of death? I mean, does He really know, sitting up there in Heaven, invulnerable? Why, yes he does, because he made Himself vulnerable and ignorant, intentionally, to prove it to us.
A third lesson we might take away from Jesus’ humanity is this: It is not a sin to be human. We know for a fact that Jesus slept, got hungry, ate, and wept. He had friends. In fact, no matter how strongly we might infer it, and no matter how unlikely it seems, the Bible never says that Jesus did not marry.
It is not a sin to feel grief when a loved one dies; it does not show a lack of faith. How can one say this with assurance? Because “Jesus wept” when His friend Lazarus died.
So we celebrate at Christmas, not only because our Savior has come at last. Just as much, we celebrate the humanity of Jesus. We are not forced to love only an abstract God. We can love a human being.
Lord Christ, thank you for becoming one of us. Amen.
~ Mason Barge
Editor, Daily Prayer