"In His majesty [I write] victoriously for the cause of truth...for the Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary." ~ Isaiah 50:4 (ESV)
Saturday, September 7, 2013
Fully God, Fully Human
Last week, a LEGACY youth asked me if Jesus was 100% man and 100% divine. Without hesitation, I answered: He was most certainly both, for Christ's nature can't be divided (To help drive this point home, I used an illustration of how men and women are 100% human when they are married and become 100% one flesh); however, I couldn't help but wonder if a better analogy existed as I plunged deeper into the question.
After all, the query is one of the most divisive in the 21st century church. And though many would agree in the bottom line - Christ did not forsake his divinity in the incarnation - the route to the conclusion is notably spread out among believers (see graphic below). Yet, despite the denominational divide, there is a foundational truth we can all adhere to: the duality of Christ's nature was accomplished through the laying down of His prerogative, by yielding to the same Holy Spirit we all have the privilege of yielding to on a daily basis.
Several scriptures, especially in the Gospels, support this truth: *For example, Jesus claimed, "before Abraham was born, I am" (John 8:58), alluding to Exodus 3:14. He also claimed to be one with the Father (John 10:30-33). He acknowledged that he was the Christ, or Messiah (Mark 14:60-64; compare with Daniel 7:13-14). He also claimed that our eternal destinies hinged on our response to him (Luke 12:8-9). In addition, Jesus is said to be the eternal word of God incarnate (John 1:1-3, 14). He is called the Creator and head of the church (Colossians 1:15-20). These are just a few of the passages which speak of Christ's deity or divinity.
Other passages speak of his humanity. For example, Jesus was conceived and born of a woman (Matthew 1:18-25). He thus had a human body. He experienced hunger, thirst and fatigue (Matt. 4:2; John 4:6; etc.). He suffered and died (John 19:34). He could be heard, seen and touched (1 John 1:1). He evidenced the emotional and intellectual qualities of a human being (see Matt. 26:37 and Mark 9:21).
It's also interesting to note how Jesus' favorite name was 'Son of Man', and how beautifully this reference illustrates the prophesy of Daniel 7:13-14 and Christ's distinction as being the only being who knew flesh AND omniscience.
**Note: If you read Daniel 7, you'll see that the Son of Man is a very exalted figure: not just a human figure but an exalted figure.
If you do a study of the term "Son of Man" in the Gospels you'll see that he didn't refer to himself most often as Son of God but as Son of Man. He said things like, in Mark 10:45, "The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many." This is why 'Son of Man' was Jesus' favorite self-designation. The reason he did so is because, on the face of it, Son of Man is an ordinary phrase for "human being." He was born of a man. And there's no offense there: who isn't a son of man? But those with ears to hear could hear Daniel 7, in which he was claiming a very exalted role in the history of redemption. And he meant to do it.
Although many christologies out there emphasize one aspect of Jesus' nature over the other, what's ultimately important for us to realize is how the Holy Spirit bridges the divide between prerogative and identity. With the Holy Spirit standing in the gap, we can experience the full nature of Christ in accord with the full nature of the Trinity. In other words, we, too, can lay aside our rights and entitlements and feel the empowering freedom of being tempted and resisting. We, too, can learn obedience through suffering. We, too, can take up our cross and encounter the supernatural joy that comes with daily dying to selfish ambitions, just as Jesus did.
Note how this truth sets up 2 Timothy 1:8-14 (ESV):
"Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you." *From Michael Gleghorn **From John Piper