Revive Our Hearts Podcast

The Humanity of Christ

Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss begins today's Revive Our Hearts with a serious story.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: In 1959, a journalist named John Howard Griffin changed himself from a white man into a black man. He used drugs, sunlamp treatment, and dye to darken his skin. He then spent six weeks traveling through the racially segregated southern states, posing as an itinerant black man. One description of this experiment said, “He left behind his privileged life as a Southern white man to step into the body of a stranger”

As he traveled he journaled the treatment and the reactions he received from people. Some of it was really awful. He was denied housing, transportation, work, even sometimes the use of restrooms. He experienced rudeness, racial slurs, violent threats, just because his skin was dark.

Griffin wrote about his treatment in a book, Black Like Me. As I read about this, I thought the story of Jesus coming to earth could be titled, Human Like Me.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, March 4, 2015.

Today, we'll focus on the humanity of Christ.

Nancy: That's what we read about in Philippians 2,

Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God [we talked about his deity yesterday] did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself (vv. 6–8).

The description that was given of John Howard Griffin we could modify to say of Christ—that He left His privileged life as the Son of God in heaven to step into our bodies.

We talked about the fact that Jesus is God, His deity. Today we want to focus on His humanity. His deity and His humanity. He is God, and He is man. If you are following along with us in Oswald Sanders' book, The Incomparable Christ, today we are looking at chapter 10, "The Humanity of Christ."

There are two errors in relation to Christ and both extremes are dangerous.

  • One is that we elevate His humanity and diminish His deity.
  • The other is that we focus on His deity to the exclusion of His humanity. We see that mistake made in in many cultural portrayals of Christ.

For example, at Christmastime we'll sing that carol “Away in a Manger.”

The cattle are lowing, the Baby awakes,
But little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes.

I have a newborn in my home as I told you in a recent session. Last night as I was preparing for this session, that newborn was squalling downstairs. I thought, I know better! The baby Jesus cried. He was human.

You look at paintings of baby Jesus in attempt to honor Him as God, you'll often see light surrounding Him or a halo over His head. The fact is that He was a normal looking baby. He was human.

The Scripture tells us in 1 Timothy 2,

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all (vv. 5–6).

J. I. Packer says that you could describe these verses as “the key, not merely to the New Testament, but to the whole Bible, for they crystallize into a phrase the sum and substance of its message.”1 The mediator, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all.

That mediator between God and men had to be a man, had to be a human being. I want to look today at some evidences that He was human.

For example, as a man, He had a human, physical body. He was flesh and blood. He was born as all babies are born. He had to grow up physically—we looked at that in Luke 2 in an earlier session. He had a physical appearance. He looked like an ordinary man. People didn’t think there was anything unusual about Him. He didn't walk around with a halo around His head or an aura surrounding Him. He didn't always wear a white robe while everyone else wore other colors. He looked human.

In fact, His own brothers and those who grew up around Him did not believe He was God. They said, “Is this the carpenter’s son?” He looked like a normal man. He was in appearance a normal man. He had normal physical functions. He ate, He drank, He breathed.

He had the capacity to experience pain. We see that in Gethsemane as He sweat drops of blood. His physical makeup was responsive to stress. On the cross, He bled. He died physically. He had a physical human body.

After the resurrection he appeared to his disciples in a glorified physical body. He said in Luke 24, “See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have” (Luke 24:39).

Even after the resurrection in His glory, He still had a physical body. He is human. He is God, but He is also man. When He ascended to heaven—forty days after His resurrection—in that glorified physical body, which He still has today in heaven, and which we will see when He comes back to earth at His second coming.

He didn't go to heaven and His body vanished and He became a spirit again. He has a human physical body which He retained.

He not only has a physical body, but He has physical limitations and weaknesses. While He was here on this earth, Jesus walked from one place to another; He didn’t fly like Superman. The Scripture tells us that He got physically tired. We see Him sleeping in the boat. We see Him wearied from his journey, sitting next to that well in Samaria.

The Scripture tells us that He got hungry. After he fasted in the wilderness, He said He was hungry. On the cross He said, “I thirst” (John 19:38). He got thirsty. Normal physical limitations and weaknesses.

I asked myself recently when seven out of eight people who were staying in my home—myself included—came down with a stomach bug in one twenty-four-hour period, I asked myself, “Did Jesus ever get the flu? Did He have headaches? Did He get colds?”

It's interesting, over the last twenty-four hours I've been consulting my theological lifelines, people I know who study these things. The fact is that Scripture doesn’t explicitly say. It does tell us he got hungry, thirsty, and tired. It doesn’t say whether he got physically ill. But Hebrews 2 tells us, “He had to be made like his brothers in every respect” (Heb. 2:17) so that He could be a merciful and faithful high priest to us.

That means He experienced the full range of what it meant to be human except without sin. So it's not unreasonable to believe that if He was susceptible to hunger, thirst, tiredness, and death, He would also be susceptible to sickness.

Not the kind of sickness that we get after we eat too much or because we are lazy or because we have lifestyle issues or lifestyle choices that make us sick. But His human body in this fallen, corrupt world where there are germs, sicknesses, it seems reasonable to believe that He participated in that aspect of our humanness.

Not only was He physically human, but He had a human makeup and soul—all the elements of human nature. Whatever it is to be a man, apart from sin, he had.

Take the whole area of emotions. He had the whole range, the whole gamut. This was no dry-eyed, joyless, unfeeling robot. Jesus was constantly moved with the things that moved the heart of God.

Let me give you a few examples. He marveled at the faith of the centurion (Matt. 8:10). He was moved with compassion—you see this many times—for a leper, for needy multitudes, for a widow who had just lost her only son. He was moved with compassion to the point of tears. He cared.

John 11:15 speaks of Him being glad and rejoicing. Take the area of humor. Now Scripture doesn't tell us explicitly that He laughed. There is no reference of Him laughing. Again, I would say that it is reasonable to believe that Jesus enjoyed good, clean humor. He had a band of twelve men traveling around with Him. It's not going to be raunchy locker room humor. It's just going to be a time of enjoying God's creation. Jesus had a range of emotions.

We also know, and there is a lot of about this in the Scripture, that He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. The whole range of human emotions. He wept at the tomb of Lazarus; He burst into tears over Jerusalem. At the Last Supper, Scripture says, "He was troubled in his spirit" (John 13:21).

That verse in Hebrews 5:7 says,

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death.

You see Jesus having this whole range of emotions. That says something to us. Sometimes we think that emotions are something bad, or they're supposed to be suppressed. If you're a good Christian, you won't get very emotional.

The example of Christ in His humanity tells us that emotions are an important part of what it is to be human. It gives us a model of the healthy, wholesome, godly, balanced display of emotions. Exhibiting those emotions as Christ did in the right time, place, way, and over right things.

My problem with emotions is I squander my emotions on the wrong things. I have the wrong emotions at the wrong time. I'm angry when I should be glad. I'm glad when I should be angry. I'm being driven by my emotions often, rather than by the Spirit and the Word of God. But there is nothing wrong with having emotions.

In fact, to be fully human as a child of God is to express emotions in a wholesome, balanced, godly way. That's part of our discipleship, being conformed into the likeness of Christ. Where we don’t squelch or bury them, but are able to express them in godly and balanced ways.

Jesus experienced all that is part of a human makeup. He experienced temptation, as we've seen in this series. He experienced a need for dependence on His Father that led Him to pray. That's part of what it meant to be human. If He was just God and not also fully human, why would He have needed to pray. Why do we see such a pattern through His life of Him praying to His Father over and over again? It is because He was fully man. He was living life in that human body as a man.

He fully possessed a human nature, without possessing a sinful nature. We need to keep that distinction in view. Sinful nature is not inherent to humans. Adam and Eve were humans without a sinful nature until they sinned. So Jesus was fully human without having a sinful nature.

It wasn't until Jesus came to earth, fully God and fully man, that we could understand what God meant and intended when He said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Gen. 1:26). What did that look like? Adam and Eve were made in the likeness of God, but pretty soon thereafter, they blew it. They rebelled against God. That image was shattered, marred, and broken.

We've never seen what it looks like to be a man created in the likeness of the image of God, apart from Christ. Christ has shown us what that was supposed to look like—what we would have been like had we not sinned! Wrap your mind around this if you can. The life that Jesus lived here on earth was intended to show us what we would have been like, and what we would be like, apart from sin. Fully human. We need that picture. We’re so helped by that picture.

His humanity was not only necessary for us to see what it would be like to be created in the image of God, but it was necessary for us to be saved. His humanity—Christ, who is the invisible God—becoming a man made it possible for us to be sons of God.

You read that in Galatians 4, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, [that’s the deity] born of a woman, [that’s the humanity] born under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons (Gal 4:4–5). To make us sons of God, Jesus came as the Son of God and became a man.

As I try to do on this program day after day, that’s the "what." Now what’s the “So what?” What are the implications of that? Let me just mention a few.

First of all, the fact that Jesus was a man makes God accessible to us. I have a friend that received an email this week, and I received permission to share with you. This lady said in her email,

I feel really distant from God. It's hard to reach out to Him at times because He seems unimaginably big and powerful and distant and because He is unseen and spirit.

You ever felt that way? You can't get close to God. He seems so far away. You can't see Him. Well, in Christ, God came near. Look to Christ, and in Him you see how to draw near to God. He makes God accessible to us.

Then we experience incredible gratitude and worship as we contemplate His incredible condescension of Christ, that He, equal with God, would take on human flesh. Let me read to you a couple of quotes from a theologian named A.W. Pink who has written some wonderful things on the nature of God. He captures some of this wonder.

God became man. But what does this mean for you and me? You can never again take sin lightly, as Jesus Christ saw it as something so destructive that he came out of heaven and endured the worst that man could throw at him to deal sin a deathblow. And you can never again take God’s love lightly. He didn’t have to become a man and suffer as he did, but he did, and he did for you!2

How could we ever doubt the love of God when we see Christ becoming a man?

Let me read a little bit more from A.W. Pink. He says,

It was truly remarkable when man was made in the image of God. . . . But bow in wonderment and worship at the amazing condescension of God being made in the image of man! How this manifests the greatness of His love and the riches of His grace! It was for His people and their salvation that the eternal Son assumed human nature and abased Himself even to death. He drew a veil over His glory that He might remove our reproach. Surely, pride must be forever renounced by the followers of such a Savior.3

He humbled Himself. He veiled His glory. He took on flesh and our humanity. That's the power of the Incarnation. How can we not humble ourselves toward God and toward others?

Here’s another “So what?” of the humanity of Christ. It gives us great encouragement and comfort. When we experience physical weariness, pain, human limitations, a whole gamut of emotions in a broken world, we're reminded that Jesus has experienced all that and more! He subjected Himself to the same laws of nature that we are bound to. So when struggling under the weight of physical and emotional challenges of our humanness, we can cry out to him and know that He understands—that He can empathize.

Psalm 103 says, “He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.” (v.14 NASB) How does He know that? He not only knows it because He created us, but He knows it because he walked in our skin. Human like me.

That's what makes Him a merciful and faithful High Priest who is is sympathetic toward us in our weaknesses, as Hebrews 2 tells us, and is able to help us.

There's an old gospel song that I love that says,

Does Jesus care when my heart is pained
Too deeply for mirth or song,
As the burdens press, and the cares distress,
And the way grows weary and long?

Oh, yes, He cares, I know He cares,
His heart is touched with my grief;
When the days are weary, the long nights dreary,
I know my Savior cares.
4

We know because he's been there. One other “So what?” As a result of Christ's humanity, He left us “an example, that [we] should follow in his steps. He committed no sin” (1 Pet 2:21–22). I want you to think about this for a moment. This will be mind-blowing if you haven't thought about it before.

“He left an example that we should follow in his steps. He committed no sin.” We are called to be holy. Sin is an affront against a holy God. We are told that we are to be holy, to follow in the steps of Jesus, to follow in His example. How many of us know we can't be holy? We aren't holy. We are sinners. We have a sinful nature. We’re commanded to be like him. But here's the good news, by his grace, we can be holy.

Process this with me for a moment. Jesus was fully God—that's how He was holy, He was fully God. But He didn’t rely on His divine nature, and he did not draw on His supernatural power as God to resist temptation. When He was here on earth, when He overcame His limitations, in order to fulfill His mission here on earth, he didn't rely on His powers as God. He still had those powers. Rather, He lived a perfect sinless life as a man in a human body.

How did He do it? By depending on the power of the Holy Spirit. By using the same resources that are available to us as human beings. Get this—it will really change your paradigm about how you respond to temptation, how you try to live the Christian life. Jesus faced the same temptations, the same daily struggles, the same weariness, the same exhaustion, the same weaknesses as we do, yet without sin. He responded perfectly under pressure. Oh, that I could say that!

He obeyed God in the most adverse of circumstances. He loved unlovable people. He trusted His Father’s heart when He couldn’t see His hand. He overcame as a man in the power of of the Holy Spirit. As a man, He lived and operated empowered by the Spirit while He was here on this earth. The good news is that that same power is available to us by His indwelling Spirit. We can overcome. We can live that life as Christ lives in us.

Put these two verses together from the book of Acts: “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power”(10:38). He did miracles. God gave Him the Holy Spirit in power. But then look at Acts 1: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:8).

The humanity of Christ means that as Christ relied on the power of the Holy Spirit to live that perfect, sinless life, so we can follow in His steps by depending and relying on the power of that same Holy Spirit, relying on those same resources that Christ relied on as a man. Does that encourage your heart? It should. It encourages mine.

Leslie: Jesus was human. You've probably heard that before. But when you focus on that truth and really think about it, it helps you appreciate Jesus in a whole new way. Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been leading us through that process. That teaching on the humanity of Jesus is part of a series called "The Incomparable Christ."

Each day of the series is another opportunity to think about who Jesus was and what He did. Many of our listeners are getting more out of the series by reading a book called The Incomparable Christ by J. Oswald Sanders. It's a classic written in the 1950s. It had a deep effect on Nancy in the weeks leading up to Easter the first time she read it.

So we’ve created a Revive Our Hearts special edition of the book. We’ll send you a copy when you donate any amount to the ministry. And you’ll also get a companion journal. It includes some follow up questions to help you let this material go deeper in your life. We’ll send one book and journal set for your donation of any size. Ask for The Incomparable Christ when you call 1–800–569–5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

When you see depictions of Jesus in paintings and films, do you ever notice that he comes across wimpy? Nancy Leigh DeMoss challenges you to think of an important aspect of Christ—His masculinity. That's "The Incomparable Christ" continuing tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

1C. J. Mahaney. Christ Our Mediator. Multnomah, 2004, p. 42.

2 http://www.pacificchurch.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/20091213_deity-of-jesus.pdf (A. W. Pink, Gleanings in the Godhead).

3 http://www.pbministries.org/books/pink/Gleanings_Godhead/godhead_29.htm: (A.W. Pink, Gleanings in the Godhead).

4 “Does Jesus Care?” Frank E. Graeff, 1901.

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