Jesus is fully human
If we had seen Jesus as a man, we would have seen a normal guy carrying his lunch box in one hand and a tool box in the other, heading off to work. He did the normal things that actual people do: eating, sleeping, going to the bathroom, and blowing his nose. I say none of this to be disrespectful of Jesus, but to simply state that these are the kinds of things that we experience as humans, and Jesus Christ was not only fully God but also fully human during his Incarnation on the earth.
Jesus looked like a normal, average guy. Or, in the words of the prophet Isaiah, “He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him” (Isa. 53:2). Indeed, when we examine the life of Jesus as told in Scripture, we see a man who does not appear at first glance to be God. Conversely, Jesus appears as a radically normal and average human being experiencing normal life events like the rest of us:
- Born of a woman (Gal. 4:4)
- Had a normal body of flesh and bones (Luke 24:39)
- Grew up as a boy (Luke 2:52)
- Had a family (Matt. 13:54–58; Mark 6:3; 1 Cor. 9:5)
- Obeyed his parents (Luke 2:51)
- Worshiped God (Luke 4:16) and prayed (Mark 1:35; 6:46)
- Worked as a carpenter (Mark 6:3)
- Got hungry (Matt. 4:2; 21:18) and thirsty (John 4:7; 19:28)
- Asked for information (Mark 9:16–21; John 11:34; 18:34)
- Was stressed (John 13:21)
- Was astonished (Mark 6:6; Luke 7:9)
- Was happy (Luke 10:21-24; John 15:11; 17:13; Heb.12:2, 22)
- Told jokes (Matt. 7:6; 23:24; Mark 4:21)
- Had compassion (Mark 1:41; Luke 7:13)
- Had male and female friends he loved (John 11:3-5)
- Gave encouraging compliments (Mark 12:41–44)
- Loved children (Mat. 19:13–15)
- Celebrated holidays (Luke 2:41)
- Went to parties (Matt. 11:19)
- Loved his mom (John 19:26–27)
God does not get tired or hungry. He does not take naps. He does not need a diaper change. He does not grow or add to his knowledge. Taken together, these are clearly the ways we speak of human beings, and Jesus did all of these things during his life on earth because Jesus was a human being. The importance of this fact is found in 1 John 4:2–3:
By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.
The idea of God “in the flesh” is another significant concept referred to as the “Incarnation.”
Incarnation (from the Latin meaning “becoming flesh”) is the word theologians use to explain how the second member of the Trinity entered into human history in flesh as the God-man Jesus Christ. In an article published by Dallas Theological Seminary, scholar David J. Macleod explains:
The English word “incarnation” is based on the Latin Vulgate, “Et verbum caro factum est.” The noun caro is from the root carn- (“flesh”). The Incarnation means that the eternal Son of God became “flesh,” that is, He assumed an additional nature, namely, a human nature (Bibliotheca Sacra, 161.641.75).
The Incarnation is expressly stated in John 1:14, which says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
Faults, flaws, and mistakes are an unavoidable part of human life. But the Bible tells us that Jesus is fully man, yet without sin. What does it mean for Jesus to be both fully God and fully human?
“I’m only human.”
Most of us have used that line on more than one occasion to explain our mistakes. “I’m only human” usually means “nobody’s perfect,” which implies “I deserve a pass.”
Certainly, all of us humans are prone to make mistakes. Ever lost your keys? Ever tripped over your feet? Ever dropped your spoon? When you did, were you in sin or did you just make a mistake?
Mistakes and sins
Life together requires patience, grace, and empathy. But there is an important distinction between human mistakes and human sin. Mistakes are to be expected because they’re part of the natural learning process. Sin is to be repented of because it’s the manifestation of our rebellion against God.
As an example, some years ago I was sitting at a burger joint with my wife Grace and our kids. Another family with young children was nearby. As often happens with little ones, during the meal a young child went to grab their drink and it slipped out of their hand, spilling all over the table. One of the parents responded by telling the child they would later get a spanking in the car for what they did.
Overhearing this interaction, one of my children looked at me and asked, “Dad, should they get in trouble for that?” I said, “No.” Little kids with little hands picking up a big wet glass make mistakes sometimes and it slips out of their hands. That’s not a sin; it’s a mistake. It’s something you learn to avoid as you grow older and figure out how to handle a wet glass.
There is an important distinction between human mistakes and human sin.
As parents, we should be careful to distinguish between mistakes and sins. A mistake is when a child trips over his feet carrying a dish to the sink, spilling food on the ground. A sin is when a child throws his dish on the ground in defiance of his parent. The result is the same, but the heart motive is different.
Admittedly, the line between an honest mistake and a moral transgression is not always clear, because sin includes not just the things we do but also our motives and thoughts along the way. When a child spells a word wrong, perhaps it’s because she was lazy and didn’t study… or maybe she just hasn’t learned certain principles of phonics yet. The former would be sin; the latter would be a mistake; the result on paper looks the same. God is a Father, and he sees this difference at the heart level.
The one man who never sinned
In considering the difference between sins and mistakes, I find it helpful to look at the life of Jesus. Jesus was human and Jesus was morally perfect without any sin. This paradox has been exploding minds for thousands of years. In AD 451, the Council of Chalcedon convened in response to many heresies that wrongly defined the humanity and divinity of Jesus. The Chalcedonian Creed drafted at these meetings declared that Jesus Christ is one person with two natures—human and divine—who is both fully God and fully man.
Theologically, the term for the union of both natures in Jesus Christ is hypostatic union, which is taken from the Greek word hypostasis for “person.” This concept summarizes three principles:
- Christ has two distinct natures: humanity and deity.
- There is no mixture or intermingling of the two natures.
- Although he has two natures, Christ is one person.
The Chalcedonian summary of the Incarnation is the position held by all of Christianity, including Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant Christians. Despite this helpful contribution of clarity and unity, however, the nature of Jesus has continued to be controversial throughout church history.
See previous article, Why Jesus is Fully God.
Reprinted from The Resurgence. Used by permission.