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- Christianity, the Bible & Jesus
Jesus the Human
The idea that Jesus was physically human is basic to Christian doctrine, he was the word come in the flesh (John 1:14). The Gospels tell us very little of what Jesus was like as a human, most of what we know must be inferred. That he was born is a major element of his humanity, he was not simply a theophany, a god who clothes himself in mortal flesh, but born as a human. He experienced not simply physicality but life.
That means that Jesus cried at his birth, was hungry and fed, dirtied his diaper and burped. All of these things are normal for human babies. We have no reason to believe that his childhood was anything but normal and unremarkable. As we apply scriptures what does it mean to our perception of the humanity of Jesus? “For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.” Hebrews 2:18 . Do we limit to this to the cross or is there something of normal life here?
As a child who was unremarkable he would have stumbled as he learned to walk, skinned his knee as he learned to run, found slivers in his hand as he played in Joseph’s workshop. As an earnest young man he would have hit his thumb with a hammer and heard Joseph laugh about it. These things are normal and unremarkable and it is these things that often lead to our temptations. We want things to be easier, we want things to be without pain, but pain and learning to deal with it is part of growing up. As an adult he developed calluses, got more slivers in his hands, knew hunger and fatigue. We know this because of the way the people around him acted toward him.
Within the temptations of Jesus there are challenges not only to his divinity but to his humanity. As one preacher noted Jesus was 100% God but also at the same time 100% man. Not one in addition to the other but both together at the same time. The temptation with regard to bread is a temptation about provision. We all feel this temptation. We want God to care for us in tangible ways, ways that make life easier. The challenge to Jesus was to use his divinity to provide for his humanity. “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” Matthew 4:3 He was hungry but in his humanity he was dependent upon God.
The second temptation relates more directly to our inferred comments on Jesus, “If You are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written: He shall give His angels charge over you, and , In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.” Matthew 4:6 Does this mean then that Jesus never stumbled as a child, never skinned a knee or scraped an elbow? How then as a high priest can he help us (For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Hebrews 4:15)? I would argue that he did experience these things. This second temptation is a challenge to the protection of God for us.
The reply of Jesus is “You shall not tempt the Lord your God.” Matthew 4:7. If we have experience a “charmed” life without trouble then any trouble can quickly lead us to question God’s care for us. On the other hand we sometimes test God to failure. Having experienced good we want to push the limits to see if something bad can happen to us. We test God until he allows that bad thing. Jesus was not willing in his humanity to test that protection of God, not as a matter of potential failure but out of obedience to God.
The third and final temptation deals with the purpose of God in our lives. This was a direct appeal to Jesus humanity. To this point in his life he was but a simple unremarkable carpenter from the unremarkable village of Nazareth. For all the divine power that was at his disposal he was but a common working man. Satan therefore challenges his purpose in life “…the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, “All these things will I give to You if You will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you Satan! For it is written, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.” Matthew 4:8-9.
We all have some sort of ambition and we want God to help us in that ambition. We think that if only we could be some great person or do some great thing we could be a great testimony for God. But Jesus was only a carpenter and an unremarkable one at that, and then he surrounded himself with fishermen and a tax collector and other unremarkable people. Jesus’ resistance to Satan’s temptation was a human one, he depended on the written word of God even though he was the living Word of God. Humanity and divinity at the same time, but using his humanity to provide an example for us.
Throughout his ministry Jesus relied primarily on the normal everyday things for his personal life using miracles only for his ministry. So when he traveled through Samaria with his disciples, they were required to go buy food (John 4:8).
We are reminded that the people him knew him the longest had never seen anything extraordinary regarding let alone the miraculous. “When He had come to His own country, He taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished and said, “Where did this Man get this wisdom and these mighty works? “Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas? “And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this Man get all these things?” Matthew 13:54-56. Prior to the start of his ministry there were no miracles, there was no extraordinary teaching, there was just the son of a carpenter who did nothing remarkable in his childhood, youth or adulthood.
We know that Jesus also suffered from fatigue because he was able to sleep in an open boat during a storm. “And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow.” Mark 4:37-38.
We also know that his disciples did not expect him to use miracles to provide for them. “Now the disciples had forgotten to take bread, and they did not have more than one loaf with them in the boat. Then He charged them, saying, “Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “It is because we have no bread.” But Jesus, being aware of it, said to them, “Why do you reason because you no bread? Do you not yet perceive nor understand? Is your heart still hardened? Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear? And do you not remember? “When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments did you take up?” They said to Him, “Twelve.” “Also, when I broke the seven for the four thousand, how many large baskets full of fragments did you take up?” And they said, “Seven.” Mark 8:14-20. Even after they had seen miracles in which thousands were fed they still expected to be fed by the normal means. Jesus the human still used ordinary means to provide for ordinary needs.
We see the same expectations of the people around him. “Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus feet and heard his word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” Luke 10:38-40. Martha expects that Jesus needs her to serve, her request of him is not for some miracle but simply requiring the help of her sister in this service.
Throughout his ministry we see Jesus hungry and tired. We see even after his miracles that his disciples provide for his physical needs. The villagers of Nazareth knew of nothing remarkable about him other than what they heard of him from people further away. Jesus the man is Jesus the human, familiar with our weaknesses because he experienced them himself and therefore able to sympathize with us and aid us.