Throughout church history, Christians have believed that Jesus was both fully God and fully man. This teaching is such an important part of Christianity that when heretics arose from time to time, overemphasizing or denying one or the other of these realities, they were identified as heretics and “dealt with” (sometimes corrected, sometimes exiled, sometimes killed).

Like much Byzantine art, this 11th Century Mosaic of Jesus in the Hagia Sophia portrays Jesus as more of a symbol or a concept than an actual human being.

Most of us would sign off on the dual nature of Christ. Yes, Jesus is both fully God and fully man. But for most of my theological life, I’ve been a bit deity-heavy in my descriptions of Jesus. I’ve felt a weird insecurity that has led me to downplay Jesus’ humanity and emphasize his deity.

In telling people about Jesus, I’ve focused on passages like John 1, Hebrews 1, and Colossians 1, which strongly affirm Jesus’ divine nature. When I would talk about Jesus’ birth to the virgin, I would emphasize the fact that Jesus had no human father, he was born of the Spirit of God. In speaking of his miracles, I would overlook the physicality of his healing or feeding and show that these acts proved his deity.

None of this is wrong. We must see Jesus as God. But I wonder if we really see Jesus as man. Think about it. Did Jesus just look like a dude, or was he really and truly human? Look at the people around you. Can you picture Jesus looking just like that? If you had stepped on Jesus’ toe, would he have yelped? Could you have shaken his hand, given him a hug, or watched him straighten his hair?

I’m not convinced that we see Jesus in this way. We think of Jesus floating a few inches off the ground as he travelled from place to place. He had x-ray vision and was reading everyone’s minds all the time.

Rembrandt: “Head of Christ” (1648-56). By using live models for his paintings of Jesus, Rembrandt humanized Jesus.

But the Bible is clear that Jesus was as human as you or I. Read the gospels and see Jesus in flesh and blood. Read Hebrews 1 and get a feel for Jesus’ deity, then read Hebrews 2 and be convinced of Jesus’ humanity.

In fact, the author of Hebrews goes out of his way to emphasize Jesus’ humanity. Jesus was able to stand alongside us and call us brothers (v. 11)—without snickering or winking. He really wore flesh, and blood really coursed through his veins (v. 14). In fact, he was “made like his brothers in every respect” (v. 17). Hebrews is also clear that Jesus did not sin when he was tempted (4:15), but this should not lead us to see Jesus as less than human.

Why is it important that we see Jesus as truly human? If you read through Psalm 8, then read through Hebrews 2, you’ll see that Jesus came to be the fulfillment of what mankind was always supposed to be. Unless Jesus was fully human, he could not have fulfilled God’s purposes for humanity. Romans 5 describes Jesus as a kind of “second Adam.” In a very real way, Jesus personifies the human experiment put back on track. Adam (and all mankind along with him) failed to live as God’s image, as God’s representative on earth. Jesus accomplished this perfectly, showed us what it means to be truly human, and then created a means whereby we can be recreated into the new humanity that Jesus personified.

Seeing Jesus’ true humanity inevitably leads us back to his deity, because we see signs of a mere man doing and being far more than a mere man could ever do and be. But the Bible makes a point of telling us that Jesus was a man. We should think of Jesus as more than human, but never less. I encourage you to read through Hebrews 2 and be amazed at the human side of Jesus.

 

 

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Mark Beuving

Mark Beuving currently serves as Associate Pastor at Creekside Church in Rocklin, CA. Prior to going back into pastoral ministry, Mark spent ten years on staff at Eternity Bible College as a Campus Pastor, Dean of Students, and then Associate Professor. Mark now teaches online adjunct for Eternity. He is passionate about building up the body of Christ, training future leaders for the Church, and writing. Though he is interested in many areas of theology and philosophy, Mark is most fascinated with practical theology and exploring the many ways in which the Bible can speak to and transform our world. He is the author of “Resonate: Enjoying God’s Gift of Music” and the co-author with Francis Chan of “Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples.” Mark lives in Rocklin with his wife and two daughters.