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.


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