Our Lord’s Humanity
The Lord Jesus Christ, although He was God, was in every respect a real man, sin apart. He became man, and dwelt amongst men, being in the likeness and fashion of man.
The coming into the world of One who would be at the same time God and man was foreshown in the Old Testament. In Isaiah 7:14-15 we are shown (a) the nature of His birth —He would be born of a virgin, (b) the meaning of His name — Immanuel, God with us, telling of His Deity, (c) the means of His sustenance —butter and honey, the food of an ordinary man. Two chapters later the prophet reveals that the Child, who would be born naturally, would be the Almighty God. He describes the attributes implied in His name, and shows the greatness of His reign (9:6-7). A contemporary prophet, Micah, showed from what tribe amongst men He would come — He who was the eternal God (Mic. 5:2). It was necessary for the Son of God to become man ere He could provide salvation for men. As God He could not die. Thus He became man to die man’s death, and by that death to discharge the debt his sin had accumulated, to destroy the devil who had the power of death, and to deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage (Heb. 2:9, 14-15). As the Son of God He had not experienced man’s temptations. To become a merciful and faithful High Priest, and to be able to succour us, He took our humanity that He Himself might experience being tempted (Heb. 2:17-18).
By taking our humanity the Lord manifested God’s love to men, for He came to do the will of God. By this will believers have been sanctified (Heb. 10:7-10). He is the one Mediator between God and men, Himself man (1 Tim. 2:5, R.V.). He was manifested to take away sin, and to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:5, 8). This He did by the sacrifice of Himself. To bring many sons unto glory He must needs partake of flesh and blood in which to experience perfectly man’s sufferings (Heb. 2:10-13).
The coming into manhood of the Son of God was an event of paramount interest to all. God the Father found delight in it. He had found no pleasure in the sacrifices of the Law, but twice opened the heavens to testify to the pleasure He had found in His beloved Son, now become Man. The devil saw in the coming the beginning of his doom as told to Eve. Here was the seed of the woman that would bruise his head. And so Satan set about to destroy this seed — through Herod’s decree that all male children under two years of age should be put to death. The Incarnation of the Son of God was heralded by the angel to the shepherds of Bethlehem as good tidings of great joy to all people. It evoked the praise of a multitude of the heavenly host as they said, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14). The shepherds were so interested in what the angel had announced that they rose the same hour of the night, and went to Bethlehem to ratify the fact.
The stars of heaven heralded the Incarnation, and led Wise Men from the east to seek the young child, to worship Him, and to present gifts. He who from eternity was the Word, in time became flesh. Full of grace and truth He dwelt amongst men, revealing all the while His glory as the only-begotten One. Thus all heaven and earth took cognisance of the advent of the Son of God as Man.
How the Lord became man must always remain to us a mystery. “Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh” (1 Tim. 3:16).
In thinking of the humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ we do well not to refer to Him as the God-man. Scripture does not so designate Him, nor should we. He is God, and He is man. The Man Christ Jesus is identical with the eternal Word. In taking manhood He still continued one and the same person, changing only the manner of His subsisting. Before He was in the form of God alone; He became also, and now is, in the form of man. Now is He both God and Man.
In His person the two natures are inseparably combined. Let us avoid ascribing this or that action to His Deity, or to His manhood. In speaking of the person of Christ we do well always to use the words of Scripture. God did not send His Son into the body of a man; Christ did not come into flesh; He became flesh (John 1:14); He came in flesh (1 John 4:2).
Note how Philippians 2:6-8 describes the Incarnation. Christ Jesus ever was, and always remained in the form (the manner of existence) of God. He was equal with God the Father in power, in glory, and in dignity, and so did not need to grasp after equality with God, for He had possessed it eternally. But He “made Himself of no reputation” in taking the form (the manner of existence) of the Servant of God. His service led Him to be made in the likeness of men. He was found by men in the fashion (the outward presentation) of a man. This was what men looked upon. Those who really knew Him knew His form — God and Man.
The Lord possessed man’s tripartite nature. He had a body (Matt. 26:26); He had a soul (Matt. 26:38); He had a spirit (Luke 23:46). But whilst truly Man His manhood was unique, for He alone was sinless. He had a human name — Jesus of Nazareth. He constantly called Himself the Son of Man — a term that implied that He was the ideal Man, Man as God intended. Other men witnessed to His manhood. The unfriendly Jewish mob said of Him, “Thou being a man” (John 10:33). Pilate presented Him to the chief priests and officers with the words, “Behold the man”. None of these doubted His real humanity.
That the Lord was really man is proven by the fact that His life was so normal.
His was a normal birth. After a fulltime gestation He was born by natural processes, and wrapped as other new-born babes in swaddling clothes (Luke 2:6-7).
His was a normal babyhood. Like other Jewish firstborn sons He was circumcised the eighth day, named, and presented to Jehovah.
His was a normal boyhood. This is the time of transition from childhood to manhood. Four verbs are used to describe this change in Jesus, (1) He was growing up, (2) He was becoming physically stronger, (3) He was becoming full of wisdom (Luke 2:40), (4) He was making progress—mentally, physically and spiritually (Luke 2:52).
His was a normal manhood. His life was lived as other men, in that (a) He performed the normal functions of a man — eating, drinking (Matt. 11:19), talking (John 4:27), hearing (Matt. 8:10), walking (Matt. 4:18), sleeping (Luke 8:23). (b) He experienced the normal feelings of a man — hunger (Matt. 4:2), thirst (John 19:28), sorrow (Matt. 26:38), suffering (Matt. 16:21), weariness (John 4:6). (c) He showed the normal reactions of a man — compassion (Matt. 9:26), gratitude (Matt. 26:10), Loneliness (Matt. 26:38), grief and anger (Mark 3:5), amazement (Mark 6:6).
As a result of the Lord’s Incarnation the Father has been revealed to men (John 1:8). God having thus sent His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and as an offering for sin, has condemned sin in the flesh, cleared man from sin’s dominion, and has justified many. These Christ is not ashamed to call His brethren, amongst whom He is first — in time, in dignity and in power. He is their file-leader — the One, who going before, is leading many sons to glory. Through His manhood also comes to us the hope of resurrection (1 Cor. 15:20). He has risen from the dead, to die no more, and so shall we rise.
The Lord will carry His humanity into eternity. He is the highly exalted Man of God’s right hand. “This Man…sat down” (Heb. 10:12). As Man, Jesus the Son of God, is the Great High Priest who feels for our weaknesses, for He Himself, when Man, was tempted. John in a vision saw Him walking in the midst of the churches like the Son of Man. He is coming in flesh (2 John 7, R. V.). This same Jesus shall so come as He went — a Man. In the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God, is Jesus, the Mediator of the new covenant. What a comfort it is for us that amidst all that awe-inspiring spectacle we shall see Him! The Man whose blood is sprinkled there, and who is Himself there, will make the believer feel at home in the midst of such glory. Verily, “This Man …continueth ever” (Heb. 7:24).
What a theme is this! The great God of eternity, infinite in power, in wisdom and in love, became Man. He passed by the angels, and took hold of our humanity to die for our offences, to rise again for our justification, and to live for our present succour and our eternal hope. Let us praise Him for thus humbling Himself. Let us worship Him as the glorified, exalted Man, for whose coming we wait.