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TEXT: II John 7-11
SUBJECT: Humanity of Christ #1: The Doctrine
My sermons this week are on The Humanity of Christ. Before I get to that, however, I must take a few minutes for a disclaimer. Nothing I say should be understood to deny or diminish the full Divinity of Jesus Christ. In the crib, I learned that our Lord is God. Not that He is like God or that God is with Him in a special way, but that He is God. And now, well into middle-age, I'm proud to affirm the same doctrine. From the bottom of my heart, I believe what the Nicene Creed says of Him. He is
"Very God of Very God".
In respect to His nature and character, He is equal to the Father and the Holy Spirit. The Westminster Shorter Catechism has Him,
"The same in essence, equal in power and glory".
In spite of the mystery of it all, we are called to bear witness to the Divinity of Christ-to tell sinners that God has acted in time and space to save them-and that He's done it uniquely in "the man Christ Jesus". Many verses could be cited to this effect-but this is not what my sermons are about this week. Maybe they should be, but they're not-and perhaps you'll find a blessing in the other side of His Wonderful Person.
We Reformed Baptists are famous (or notorious) for long introductions and tedious reviews. Whenever I'm tempted to that, I remember the story of the patient Puritan lady. Her pastor spent 90 minutes introducing the sermon-and then preached another two hours! When asked what she thought of his effort, she said,
"It took him so long to set the table
that I lost my appetite!"
Now, with God's blessing, let's have a look at our Lord's sacred humanity. As we work our way through it, let's remember this is not academic-and must not be approached that way! We are not looking at a topic or a subject or a doctrine, but at a Person-the One and Only Person who died for our sins and to whom we owe a debt of love and service we can never repay.
If the command is, "Let all the angels of God worship Him", how much more ought we to adore Him? He could have taken on the nature of angels to save the ones that fell. But He chose to not save them, but to save us. By taking on the seed of Abraham.
"Joy to the world, the Lord has come,
Let earth receive her king!"
When we speak of the humanity of Christ what are we getting at? We simply mean that He is a man-not that He looks like a man-only--but that He is as human as you and I are. Whatever we can say about other humans, we can say about the Lord-except that He is not a sinner as the rest of us are.
There is such a thing as human nature. People differ from each other in many ways, of course, but however much we vary in physical appearance, or in mental makeup, or in background, and so on, there is a commonness to all people-from Adam and Eve to you and me! We share a human nature.
And so does the Lord Jesus Christ!
The Nicene Creed says He is
"Very man of very man".
This is just what the Bible teaches--both directly and indirectly. The Word often calls Him a man. Pontius Pilate said, "Behold the Man!" Paul wrote, "There is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus!"
If you read His story in the Gospels, you'll see the marks of His humanity everywhere. He was conceived in Mary's womb and born to the poor Jewish girl. Thus, He didn't drop out of heaven as Martians are believed to-and angels really did! There's nothing alien about Him-no green skin, no pointed ears. He's manifestly one of us!
As a boy, He "grew in wisdom and stature". At twelve, He amazed the scholars of Israel, but no one took Him for an Extra Terrestrial! He looked like a boy, spoke like a boy, and thought like a boy. A boy innocent and wonderfully gifted-but a boy nonetheless.
As a man, He felt the same things we feel. Great joy, at times, and a lot of sorrow. After forty days of fasting in the wilderness, "He hungered"-almost to death, it seems. After a long walk into Samaria, He asked for a drink of water. With hours of preaching behind Him-and more to come-He fell asleep on the boat. When He saw injustice, He got mad! When He saw people suffering, He felt pity. When He stood by the tomb of a dear friend, He cried so hard that others said, "Behold, how He loved him!" As the cross drew near, He longed to be with His disciples. When His hour had come, He shuddered with fear and "sweat great drops of blood".
Hunger, thirst, sleepiness, anger, pity, bereavement, loneliness, and fear. Do they ring with you? Sure they do! They're distinctly human things-and things Christ felt. Because He was and is a Man!
When did the Lord Jesus Christ become God? He never became God. He is God-and always Divine. But His humanity is not eternal. There was a time when He was not a man.
He became a man in time-about 2,000 years ago. He was conceived in Nazareth and born in Bethlehem nine months later. For some time after that, He lived in Egypt and then moved back to Galilee. In the last few years of His life, many thousands saw His human body, heard His human voice, and recognized His human mannerisms.
When the disciples thought He was a ghost, He assured them that He was no such thing. After rising from the dead, He was still human-as human as He was before the cross. The story of Doubting Thomas never gets old with me. I think we should call him Talking Thomas, for the others doubted as much as he did-but they just kept their mouths shut about it!
In any event, when the others told him, "The Lord is risen, indeed" Thomas did not believe them. And why should he? You don't generally see dead men on the loose! In fact, old Tom said unless he put his fingers into the nail prints and stuck his hand in the place where the spear went into His side, he would not believe. That night, the Lord showed up with pierced hands and wounded side-and daring Thomas to touch Him and know. The Doubter didn't need to do that, however, as he burst into praise,
"My Lord and my God!"
About 2,000 years ago, God joined the human race in Jesus Christ. And-here's the punchline-He's still with us! Exalted to God's Right Hand and sharing a glory that would kill us if we saw it, He's "This same Jesus"!
Seeing Him in glory, John fell at His feet as dead. But he was gotten up by the same Man whose chest he had once used for a pillow.
That sobering hymn on the Second Coming has it right,
"See the Judge our nature wearing,
clothed in Majesty Divine".
And so, Jesus Christ has always been God. But He became a Man in time-and will be one forever.
How do you explain this? How can the Lord Jesus Christ be God and Man at the same time? Did He lay aside His Godhead when He became a man? No. Did He deify humanity when He became a man? No. Did He mix up the human and divine in some way? Maybe 50-50? No.
The Bible teaches that He added a human nature to His Divine nature. That He never quit being God (in the full sense of that word), but added something to His Divinity. He didn't become a man instead of God, but became a man as well as God.
How did He do this? That's easy to explain-and I'm not being facetious! He did it by a miracle. As far as I know, there is no natural process for turning water into wine, but He did just that, by the exercise of an unnatural and superhuman power. And though that miracle is far smaller than the Incarnation, it is the same Divine power and wisdom that pulled off what C.S. Lewis called,
"The Grand Miracle".
Without giving the mechanics, John simply says,
"And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us
and we beheld His glory-the glory of the only
begotten of the Father-full of grace and truth".
When we arrange our doctrines in order of importance, how high ought we to put our Lord's humanity? Though every Bible teaching is true, not everyone is important. A difference-let's say-on church government is less significant than a disagreement on the Trinity or on the way of salvation.
Most of us-I suspect-don't put the Lord's humanity very high on the list. You know why: It's not a doctrine very much in dispute. All Christians affirm it; and the cults and secular unbelievers do too!
Those people who interrupt your breakfast every Saturday morning are not there to deny the Lord's humanity-though, if you give them a chance, it won't be long till they're pulling down His Divinity.
The same thing is true with your friends at work and the neighborhood-who are mostly secular in their worldview. They pretty much believe there was a man named Jesus, but they can't imagine why you worship Him and want to get them to do it too!
The Lord's humanity, therefore, is not a hot issue. But whatever it's temperature, it is more important than I can tell you. In our text, John says if anyone denies it, he's a deceiver and an antichrist!
There was a special reason for that in the First Century. Scholars say there was a cult at the time who believed spiritual things were good and material things were bad. Thus, the human body of Jesus Christ couldn't have been a real body. Thus, they formally denied the Incarnation and fundamentally changed the nature of salvation. They thought it was a matter of intellect of ideas or light of the mind. But it isn't! We aren't saved by the Lord's teaching (as dear as it is), but by His death on the cross. Sinners don't need knowledge, they need an Atonement!
That's why John was at such pains to insist on the Lord's full and true humanity.
But what about now? Is harping on the Lord's humanity something like telling people they don't have to be circumcised in order to be saved? That's a Biblical doctrine, of course, but not very relevant to many people.
But our Lord's humanity is. What does it say to us?
God loves us. You and I have no say in what we are. We are humans-but not by our choice. But that's the thing: our Lord Jesus Christ is human by choice-by His own free will, He chose to become a man and enter into all the unhappiness, the suffering, and the death common to the human race.
Would you like to become a dirty, mangy, flea-bitten dog whose master ignores him, does not feed him, and kicks him every day? I wouldn't like that at all. But what if the salvation of all dogs depended on you becoming one of them and suffering that way for 20 years? Would you do it then? No way! I'd let them suffer an Eternal Pound before I'd do any such thing. And I like dogs! But not that much.
Yet what the Lord did for us is a far bigger step down than what we might do for the canines of the world.
The humanity of Jesus Christ-the Incarnation of God-means God loves us with a love Divine all loves excelling.
I don't know Spanish, but my wife tells me that carne means both "flesh" and "meat" (depending on the context). A carneceria is a butcher shop. Now, put that word in the Incarnation-and you begin to feel the depth of God's love for sinners.
"And the Word was made meat". Meat to be carved up for the salvation of His enemies.
"Amazing love! How can it be that
Thou, my God, shouldst die for me".
All struggles with assurance come down to the question: Does God love me? The Incarnation provides a compelling answer. God did all the nasty things men do to save me. He sweated, He hungered, He slept outside, He listened to people ream Him out-all for my salvation.
God understands us. Just a few days ago I talked to a man whose wife died in her mid-forties after a long and discouraging fight with cancer. She was everything to him-his best friend, his most trusted advisor, his lover, his partner in ministry, and-when he was gravely sick not long ago, she was his nurse. Needless to say, my friend is torn up at the loss.
I feel awful for him, but I cannot sympathize with him. I've lost loved ones-but not my wife. I could only tell him that the Incarnation means God knows what death is and how much it hurts and how it mangles the loved ones who survive!
I got a card a couple of days later saying that was his only comfort in life-that God understands Him. Not that He just knows in a detached way, but that He has felt death as a Man!
Your problems are not unique to you: your Savior had the same ones. His family did not understand Him. His friends weren't there for Him when He needed them. One friend sold Him for 30 pieces of silver. He has felt hunger and thirst and weariness and disappointment and persecution. He knows what it is to die.
"We do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are." (Hebrews 4:15).
I don't know what the devout Jews thought when they read, "In all of their affliction, He was afflicted". But, after the Incarnation, we know. "He bore our sorrows" quite literally in His own body-and soul.
The humanity of Christ means God knows our problems. When the president said, "I feel your pain" I don't know if he meant it or not. But the Lord does! This means we can
"Cast all our cares upon Him,
for He cares for us".
Let us, therefore, praise the Lord for His great love! And let us go to Him in times of pain and confusion with confidence: for "He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust".
God bless you everyone. For Christ's sake. Amen.
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