Monthly Archives: December 2015

Christ’s True Humanity, Part II

But now, how do we explain the apparent examples of mind reading that Jesus performed, of clairvoyance? Well the answer is in the same way that Peter said to Ananias and Sapphira, “Why would you lie to God?”, when they brought their offering.  Or even in Isaiah when he wrote 700 years before Christ’s birth, “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bare a son…”  And there are many other passages that predict places, dates and names.  Christ is not only a prophet, he is our Chief Prophet, according to our catechism.  So, let’s listen to the testimony of Christ himself, all concentrated in the gospel of John, where he says, “The Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does.”  And, later in verse 30 of Chapter 5 he says, “By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgement is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.”  And there are many other passages throughout John that are easily found in the Red Letter editions of the Bible.  So there is the explanation, there  is the answer.

Now, let’s look at the means that God used to inform the Lord Jesus Christ, to give him this super-human knowledge.  Did God whisper these things into his ear?  There are 3 or 4 ways that God imparts his wisdom and the first and most important and over-looked is what we used in the paragraph above and what most people have copies of in their own home and that is the Bible.  God’s self-revelation, His word.  God in-scripturated, God stereo-typed, God on paper, in ink and paper.  Now when I say the Jesus had the Bible I should correct that and remind you that it was not the same Bible that you have at home; you have a lot more than what he had.  He had only the Old Testament.  How much better off are we than he when it comes to the revelation of God.  No wonder he said, “Don’t marvel at what I’m telling you and doing.  Greater works than these will you do.”  Jesus has given us a commentary in the gospels on the only book that he had, the Old Testament.  Jesus saturated himself in that word, he quoted it instinctively, automatically.  He didn’t think up something new to say when he was on the cross and said, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” But he was quoting one of the Psalms.  And because he knew the Bible so well, he knew human beings.  It’s the greatest textbook on human psychology that has ever been written.  The “wisdom literature” particularly.  That is why Billy Graham is so astute despite his lack of seminary training.  He reads some of the Psalms and Proverbs every day.  It is just a gold mine of sociology and all the rest.  John Greenleaf Whittier said, “We come back laden from our quests to find the Bible said it best and all the things the sages said is in the book our mother’s read.”

That brings me to the second source of Jesus’ super-human wisdom and that is the fact that he himself was so honest, there was no pretense.  He was able to read minds because his own mind was so pure.  He knew what Nicodemus was thinking, he knew what “the woman at the well” was like.  He knew what Peter was going to do before he ever said it.  “Who me? Not me,” said Peter.  Jesus knew Psalm 139 backward and forward, “Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord.”  No wonder he knew Nathaniel, who was just the picture of innocence.  “Behold a man in whom there is no guile.” He knew men.  We are so easily distracted, buffaloed, snowed, conned.  We have a whole string of synonyms to show how common it is in our relationships with one another.  We say “love is blind” when someone is so fond of someone else that they are prejudiced in their favor and they don’t see all their faults.  Jesus is never guilty of that wishy-washy sentimentality.  To the contrary all of us are constantly constructing false faces, we are living lies and we fall for that in one another.  We are just fooling each other.  And because we are projecting a lot of the time we do each other a disservice. And so we classify people instinctively, automatically.  I do, you do.  The minute we see them for the first time we size them up.  And how?  Like a man, or a woman. “That’s just a kid.”  Or he’s black, or poor, or he’s got an accent.  For years I thought someone that spoke with an accent wasn’t very smart, just because so many immigrants for the sake of economy had come here to better their fortunes, and did not have much education. Until I found out that men who couldn’t talk much English were brainier than I, much often.  Jesus wasn’t deceived that way.   That’s what Paul means in Corinthians when he said, “I don’t know anyone after the flesh any more.”  Whether in terms of their clothes or their degrees, their sex.  He says that “they are all the same to me.”  The only thing that he is concerned with he says in the next verse is “if they are in Christ.”  That’s the thing that matters.  That’s why Jesus was so intuitive, so instinctive, so incisive.

Besides all this, there were times when God directly revealed certain things to Jesus.  And why shouldn’t he.  He did that to Hannah.  A lot of women want to know whether they are going to marry and have children.  He also told that to the father of John the Baptist.  And He also told Mary through his chief messenger Gabriel.  Well if He was going to do that to his mother, why wouldn’t He do that to Jesus?  And I think that explains the incident of Nathaniel and the fig tree.  God had did it to Elisha when his servant sneaked out the back door and ran down Naaman and said, “We have unexpected company.  We could use a little of that money that you promised.”  And when he came home Elisha said, “Do you think I didn’t see you going down the road?”  Of course he hadn’t. God had and told him.  And that would also seem to be the case of the tax money in the fish too.  The miracle is not that the fish had a coin in his mouth.  That had happened before and since.  They will snap at anything that is bright, such as lures that have no bait on them.  People have found more than money in fishes mouths.  But it was the fact that Jesus knew that.  That is where the miracle lay.  It reminds me of an Uncle of mine that desperately had to find something.  There was no alternative.  Remember, there was necessity here.  Jesus could never had done that if there was money in his pocket, just to get out of paying taxes.  He was desperate, he was poor.  He didn’t have it.  And so in the case of my Uncle too he just pled with God, that He would lead him to something that he needed.  And God just put it in his mind as if it was written in neon.  We seem to limit miracles these days to things like healing.  Miracles abound if we just keep our eyes open to them.  It was super-human knowledge that God was pleased to give to one of his children when it was necessary.  Mark well too that Jesus was sensible about this.  He didn’t tell Matthew to go catch the fish.  Matthew was a book keeper, a business man.  No, he sent a man who knows how to catch fish.  He sends Peter, this was his business, his calling.  And so today, time after time in our occupation he puts ideas in our minds.  You think that just a preacher gets brilliant flashes of inspiration when he works on his sermons?  You’re getting them all the time.  Super-human knowledge.

Christ’s True Humanity, Part I

We all know that it is heresy, call it liberalism or modernism or whatever you want, to deny the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ.  It’s abhorrent to us. But it is just as much heresy to deny Jesus’ humanity, to say that he wasn’t a real man.  As a matter of fact, that heresy arose even before that of denying his divinity, his God-head.  Colossians reports this gnostic idea that Jesus was just make-believe, that it was all a charade.  The technical word for it in theology is docetism.  Kind of a pretense.  And most of the New Testament epistles are really directed against that.  “Oh, he really wasn’t tempted, and he really didn’t suffer” and all that sort of thing.  Particularly the first epistle of John.  It starts off, “What we saw, and what we handled, what we heard.”  You have 3 senses there.  He could have even added smell, for example.  He even had a certain smell, after a sweaty day in the carpenter shop or after a long walk, as when Simon his host didn’t wash his feet or perfume his hair.  And taste, although they didn’t taste him literally, they ate together with him.  So there you have all the five senses.  That is where John begins his epistle.  And then he says, “Anybody that denies that God did not come in the flesh is a heretic, have nothing to do with him.”  So in reaction to liberalism, in denying Jesus deity, we must not fall over backwards and deny the other.

Now there are some passages in the Gospel that might seem to run contrary to that.  In Matthew 17 verse 24 and following is the story of Jesus paying the temple tax by having Peter catch a fish with a coin in its mouth.  Well, here’s a miracle and it hardly sounds very human, at least you and I would like to try that when it comes to April 15.  In John we find echoes of this same thing.  In the first chapter of John, verse 43 Jesus tells Nathanael that he saw him under the fig tree when Phillip called him.  Similarly, in John 2:23 ff it says that Jesus “knew all men….and he knew what was in a man.”  There are other texts about Jesus predicting his own crucifixion and Judas’ betrayal, but I think you catch the problem, Jesus’ apparent omniscience.

There are three things that characterize divinity, that make God divine, that make God God.  Number one is omnipotence.  He can do anything that is in keeping with his character.  A second attribute of God is his omnipresence.  Unlike the angels who are ubiquitous, he is omnipresent, he is everywhere.  And the third quality of God is omniscience. Omni- meaning all, he knows all the science, let alone everything else.  Now, if Jesus our savior, the true man, exercised any one of those no matter to what degree while he was here on earth for 33 years, by that act he exempts himself for being a true substitute, a true sympathizer, a true relative of ours, by that act he was not truly human.  The whole book of Hebrews is about the idea that he became like one of us in all things except sin, tempted as we are and so on, but if he was for one moment omniscient or omnipresent or omnipotent, then you could say, “Not like one of us, not like me.”

Now we don’t have a problem when it comes to omnipresent.  I think we would all agree that he was in one place at one time.  When he walked in Palestine he was not over somewhere else, say with the Native Americans in 30 AD, way back then.  He wasn’t omnipresent, so we can forget that.  And I think we can all admit that he didn’t exercise his omnipotence.  Unlike Superman he didn’t just jump off the top of the temple the way Satan suggested that he do, and he didn’t come off the cross and yank it out of the ground, even though he was being taunted to do so.  But I think we all have a problem with that matter of omniscience, this matter of knowledge.  We feel that he had that and that he used it sometimes.  Don’t those passages quoted earlier sound like it?  And knowledge is power.  That is the slogan of a lot of universities.  The more knowledge, the more power.  If you knew everything there was to know about human nature, what a politician or a statesman one would make.  What influence you would have, you would become a world figure.  And knowledge is not only power but is also omnipresent.  If you knew everyone all over the world, just like a clerk in a store who has closed circuit television, he or she is effectively like being in the whole store.  So if I saw everything in the world, knew everything that was going to happen, and could control my life and other lives in terms of that, whether it was going to rain this week, etc., I’d have omnipotence.

So, let’s talk then about Jesus real true human knowledge, and see that it was like ours and is an example to us.  As far as his divine knowledge is concerned, he blanked it out, abandoned it.  Philippians 2 says “he laid it aside, he emptied himself.”  It’s one thing to say that.  Is it humanly possible? Is it divinely possible?  I can see how a person can refuse to use his power, much like the book “The Prince and the Pauper” where the prince gave up his legal rights, and he had no power. He divested himself of his power.  Same with the prodigal son, a wealthy young man who, after his money was all gone, had no power.  But the prince surely remembered it all, and that is why he wanted to get back, switch again the roles.  He remembered what he had enjoyed and so did the prodigal son.  It says, “When he came to himself and thought about all the wealth of his father, he had sense enough to go home.”  He couldn’t forget that all, blank it all out.  But Jesus said, when they asked him, “What about this, and what about that? When is the fall of Jerusalem?” He said, “I don’t know.”  Now that may seem impossible yet it is medical fact and is reported frequently in the newspapers let alone medical journals that there is such a thing as complete amnesia.  A person will just cut off his history, his former associates (sometimes its fake but often it is involuntary) and begin a new life, in all innocence, marry someone and start a new family, and have no knowledge of his past.  Often it is caused by something unpleasant, like shell-shock in the war.  Anything that is bad.  That is why we forget such things as dental dates.  Anything that is unpleasant, we just cut it out.  And that saves our psyche.  We would all go crazy if we didn’t forget this, that or the other.  It’s divine.  And so too God does the same thing.  How he does it, we do not know.  But the Bible says explicitly that when it comes to the bad, He just blocks it out.  “Your sins I’ll remember no more.”  And on the Day of Judgment he will say to the lost, “I never knew you.”  So that is how Jesus operated here on earth.