Incarnation; Humanity ~ 20131215 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
12/15/13 Theology of the Incarnation; Humanity; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20131215_incarnation-humanity.mp3
We are taking a few weeks to stand in wonder at the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. We want to know him, to know who he is, to know all that we can about him, so that we can worship him rightly. We are looking at probably the greatest mystery the universe has ever known, the theology of the incarnation, that God became a man. Last time we looked at the full deity of Jesus, that he always existed as God, fully possessing all the characteristics of God, equal to the Father and in perfect fellowship with his Father for all eternity. We saw Jesus as Creator of all that is, the divine Word who spoke everything into existence. We saw Jesus the omnipotent one, to whom all of nature and even the demonic hordes must bow, the sovereign one. Jesus, immortal, who has the power of life in himself, Jesus, all-knowing and unlimited by space and time. Jesus, the Son, sharing all the characteristics and attributes of deity with his Father, equally worthy to be worshiped with his Father.
Today we are going to look at Jesus in his humanity, and next week at how these two natures, humanity and deity, are united in one person forever. I want to warn you that these three messages go together and each one is incomplete without the others. Focusing on the divine nature of Christ to the neglect or dismissal of his true humanity is one of the earliest heresies of the Christian church. The Apostle John wrote:
There were many in the early church who attempted to deny the full humanity of our Lord Jesus Christ. John calls them deceivers and against Christ. The early creeds put it this way: 'Jesus ...very God of very God, ...who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, ...and was made man' (Nicea, 381). In order for Jesus sacrifice to be of infinite value to save us, he must be fully God. In order for Jesus to legitimately be our substitute he must be fully human. A savior not quite God is a bridge broken at the farther end; while a savior not quite man is a bridge broken at the nearer end (H.G.C.Moule, F.F.Bruce). The church fathers put it this way 'remaining what he was, he became what he was not'. The Son of God, continuing in undiminished deity, became what he had never been before, a real human being. This is what the bible teaches.
The Supernatural Conception
John's gospel tells us that the Word who was, who existed in the beginning with his Father, the Word who existed as God,
The Word, the eternal I AM who had always existed became something he had never been before. He became flesh [σάρξ]. The invisible God became carnal, God who is spirit became embodied.
John tells us that the Word who became flesh is the only Son from the Father. We know Jesus as the Son of God, but that title is open to misinterpretation. The Jews expected a merely human messiah, and Greek mythology told of occasions where one of their many gods would come down and have relations with a mortal and produce superhuman offspring. John is careful to make it clear that Jesus does not fit into either of these categories. Jesus is not merely human, he is the self-existent God who created everything who became man. Neither is he some hybrid half-god half-man produced by an illicit relationship. He had always existed as God and this one, the eternal Son, has now become also fully human. Jesus is one of a kind, the only one who pre-existed with the Father. This one, really truly became flesh. He didn't just appear in the form of a human, as angels sometimes do, he really truly became genuinely irreversibly human.
The angel Gabriel said it this way to Mary:
You will conceive in your womb; that is how all babies are normally conceived. With a placenta and an umbilical cord, cells dividing, DNA replicating, organs and limbs developing. Morning sickness. Stretch marks. Movement. You will bear a son; not an alien, a baby boy. Birthed in the normal natural way. Labor pains, contractions, water breaking, umbilical cord cut, messy. The song is wrong; 'no crying he makes'. With that first gulp of oxygen from this planet his lungs begin to function. He cried. He nursed. He burped. Spit up. Long sleepless nights. Messy diapers (or swaddling cloths).
Mary's question was one of biology and morality.
Mary's question is 'how will this be since I have not known a man? She understood what precedes conception, and for conception to take place, there has to be a father. This is the miracle. No human father would be involved. Her morality would remain intact. The Holy Spirit of God would supernaturally place the divine seed inside of her.
Matthew's gospel records it this way:
In Matthew's gospel, it is Joseph that has the questions. Mary is pregnant. He naturally assumes the worst.
He is assured that her purity is intact. The origin of this child is supernatural. The Word became flesh. But everything else about this child is as normal and natural as any other child. The birth is inconvenient. The timing is inopportune. The circumstances are terrible. The visitors were probably an awkward intrusion.
They had him circumcised on the eighth day (Lk.2:21), which tells us that he came with all the standard equipment that every other baby boy is born with. And I'm sure he cried then.
Luke tells us that his growth and development was normal and natural human development.
He nursed. He had to be fed. He rolled over. He began to crawl. He stood up. He took his first step. He learned to eat. He learned to walk. He learned his aleph-bet. He was taught to be quiet in church. He was taught to read the Torah. He learned how to relate to other people. He learned how to relate to God. He had to grow up just like every other boy had to grow up. There was only one unique difference with Jesus. He never once sinned. In everything he pleased his heavenly Father. He got left behind in Jerusalem when he was 12. He was submissive to his parents.
Doctor Luke tells us that he developed intellectually, physically, spiritually and socially like every other human. The Quran and the non-biblical Infancy Gospel of Thomas have the boy Jesus doing mischievous miracles, cursing, healing, and breathing life into clay birds. But this clearly contradicts the historically reliable biblical accounts. When Jesus changed over 100 gallons of water into fine wine at the wedding in Cana, we are told this was the first of his signs (Jn.2:11). When he returned to his hometown of Nazareth claiming to be the fulfillment of Scripture, those who saw him grow up took offense at him.
Jesus was so normal, so ordinary, so familiar, so human, that his own townspeople refused to believe that he was anything more than a mere man.
We see Jesus in the gospels as fully human. He thought, felt and acted in a fully human way. His human body was subject to the same limitations that we all have.
Jesus had an ordinary human mind. As we have seen, Jesus learned. He increased in wisdom. He asked questions in order to find out information he didn't know. When a woman touched him in the crowd, he asked “who touched my garments?”. In conversation with a demon-possessed boy's father, he asked “how long has this been happening to him?” In response to questions about the timing of the end of the age, Jesus said:
Jesus had ordinary human emotions. In John 11, we are told:
At the death of his friend, not only did Jesus ask “where have you laid him?” but it says:
When Jesus predicted that one of his own disciples would betray him, it says “Jesus was troubled in his spirit” (Jn.13:21). Looking toward the cross, he said “now is my soul very sorrowful, even to death” and he begged his Father to remove the cup from him (Mk.14:34-35). Luke tells us:
From the cross, Jesus cried out:“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt.27:46).
Jesus had an ordinary human body. At the beginning of Matthew, we are told
And after the temptation, Jesus was so physically weak we are told:
When Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the well and asked her for a drink, it describes his physical condition this way:
In Matthew 8, Jesus was so exhausted from a day of ministry that he was sleeping right through a great storm. After his scourging, Jesus was apparently so weak that the Roman soldiers compelled a man named Simon to carry his cross for him.
Jesus' body was real. And he really died a violent human death of public execution. John tells us after his death,
Real physical human blood. Real physical human death. In a real physical human body. Mark tells us:
A Roman centurion verified the real physical death of Jesus. His dead physical human body was taken down from the cross, wrapped in linen and laid in a tomb. The women came Sunday morning with spices to anoint the dead body of Jesus (Mk.16:1), because they fully expected that his body like any other dead physical body would begin to decompose and stink.
When Jesus presented himself alive to his followers, he made a point to demonstrate that he was really bodily physically there.
Providentially, Thomas was absent from this first appearance of the risen Jesus to his disciples. Thomas refused to believe unless he could handle real evidence.
Jesus ascended bodily, physically into heaven, where he is now bodily, physically seated at the right hand of the majesty on high. He promised that he would bodily, physically return to this earth.
The Importance of His True Humanity
Why is this so important? Why do the gospel writers give so much evidence to demonstrate that Jesus was really truly human? According to the Apostle John, the true humanity of Jesus is essential to Christianity.
The author of Hebrews gives us several reasons.
God the Son took on human flesh so that he could experience human death as a legitimate substitute for sinful humans. In order to die in the place of humans, he had to be himself human.
Animal sacrifices could never take away sin, because animals are not human, created in the image of God. Jesus took on a human body so that he could substitute himself for us.
Jesus partook of flesh and blood so that he could destroy the consequences of sin, death, by dying. He did not become an angel to rescue angels. He became human to rescue humans.
He had to (notice the language of necessity); he had to be made like his brothers in every respect (being sort of human or partially human would not be adequate; he had to be fully human); he had to be made like his brothers in every respect in order to carry out his role as our great high Priest making propitiation for sin. To bear the wrath of God against the sins of mankind, he had to be a man.
The next verse gives another reason he became a man.
Jesus really truly experienced temptation, so we can go to him for help when we are tempted.
Because Jesus in every respect has been tempted as we are, we can confidently come to him to receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 calls Christ the last Adam or the second man. Where Adam was placed in paradise with all of his needs met and he disobeyed, Jesus, driven into the wilderness and literally starving to death, fully obeyed his Father. He lived his whole life in perfect obedience. He was even obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Paul says in Romans 5:
Because of Jesus' perfect obedience as a man to his Father, his perfect righteousness as our substitute now makes us righteous.
For Jesus to truly mediate and be the spokesman both for God and for men, he must be both fully God and fully man.
The old creed says it this way: (would you say it with me?)
[We believe] in one
Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, begotten of his
Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of
very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the
Father; by whom all things were made;
Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; he suffered and was buried; and the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father; and he shall come again, with glory, to judge both the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.