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TEXT: II John 7:11
SUBJECT: Studies in the Incarnation #2: Humanity
Today, with God's blessing, we will move on in our Sunday afternoon series called Studies in the Incarnation. By 'the incarnation', of course, I mean the Miracle of Christmas, the Day God joined the human race. I've chosen the topic for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it's important. to John's way of thinking, no doctrine separates the friends of God from the enemies of God as decisively as the Incarnation of Christ. Everything the Bible teaches is significant, but some things are more significant than others: The Incarnation is one of those things. We can be wrong on some things, but not this thing!
A week ago, we spent our time in the first five verses of John's Gospel and from them drew the undeniable conclusion: Jesus is God. He is not 'like God', He is God, every bit as Divine as the Father and the Holy Spirit. No command is clearer or more often issued in the Bible than to worship God and no one but God. But, in the New Testament, people worshiped Jesus and with His evident approval. This means one of two things: Either (a) the Church is idolatrous and its founder is a blasphemer, or (b) Jesus is worthy of our worship because He is God.
The Bible plainly teaches the second option and, for all its faults, the Church has always chosen it. The term, 'Christian' can and has been defined in many ways, but however much they differ, on one point there is complete agreement: Christians are people who worship Jesus as God.
This is true and in these theologically fuzzy times, we have to keep it in sharp focus. But if the Bible teaches the Divinity of Christ, this is not all it teaches about it (and this is where the confusion comes in). The Bible that teaches and the Church that confesses the Deity of Christ also teaches and believes in His Humanity.
The Bible calls Him--
Man Christ Jesus.
The Word was made flesh.
And the Church has always embraced the mystery with joy and without apology. Jesus is, in the Words of the Nicene Creed--
Very man of very man.
Why do Christians believe this? People believe things for a variety of reasons, but the main reason we believe in His humanity is because that's what the Bible teaches!
If you read the Gospels, you'll find the marks of His humanity everywhere. He is 'the Lord from Heaven', but He didn't come to the earth in a spaceship. Like other humans, he was conceived in a woman's womb and born nine months later in the ordinary way. There is 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, but they didn't take Him for an Extra Terrestrial! He looked like a boy, spoke like a boy, thought like a boy. A boy without sin, of course, and wonderfully gifted--but still very much a boy!
As a man, He felt the same things we do. Great joy, at times, and a whole lot of sorrow. After fasting in the wilderness for forty days, He hungered. After a long walk to Samaria, He asked for a drink of water. After a long day of preaching, He fell asleep in the boat. When He saw injustice, He got mad; when He saw people suffering, He felt pity;
when He lost a good friend, He cried His eyes out! Nearing the Cross, He was scared and longed for the company and support of His friends.
Hunger, thirst, sleepiness, anger, pity, loneliness, and fear. Do they sound familiar? Of course they do! They're mankind's lot in this present evil age.
Our Lord Jesus Christ had a full share of them all. It makes us cringe to hear it, but He did all the low, animal things we do, from sweating to spitting to going to the bathroom!
In his commentary on Job, David Jackson tells the story of a Muslim girl he was trying to win to Christ. She very much admired Jesus and was even willing to believe that He is God, but there was one thing she couldn't get past. If He's really a man--she thought--He must have gone to the bathroom, and she couldn't square 'going to the bathroom' with being God! And so she continued in her unbelief, unable to get over the barrier of His complete humanity. We know how she feels, don't we? It's hard to worship someone who smelled like we do after a long day in the sun. But that's what Jesus was, a real man living in the real world.
And so I say to you what Pontius Pilate said to the mob at Passover--
Behold the Man!
Jesus was and is human.
He has always been Divine, but was He always human? Was there ever a time that He was not a man? Yes, there was.
Jesus, who is Eternal God, became a man in time. When and where? About two thousand years ago in Israel. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit in Nazareth and born to the virgin Mary in Bethlehem. These are real places, places you can visit if you want to. My beloved Middle Earth is in books; Nazareth and Bethlehem are in the Middle East.
Our calendars say He was born in 1 AD, but scholars think He was born a few years before that. While we don't have the exact date of His birth, there is an exact date. There was a real moment in history when Jesus became human, when God joined the race of men.
All of you know Jesus joined the human race on the first Christmas Day, but what some of you may not know is that He hasn't quit the human race! He is still a Man.
The disciples found this hard to believe. When He rose from the dead, they thought He was a ghost! But He assured them that He was as human as ever. He ate with them, and He told them to touch Him, so they would know it was really He, and not some kind of apparition.
Now, of course, a human body was required to prove the Resurrection, and so it's no wonder He spent forty days with the disciples--alive and in the body--after He rose from the dead. But what about now? When Jesus ascended to Heaven, did He shuck off His human nature? Or does He still wear it?
At God's Right Hand--the Bible assures us--He is as human as He was in the manger, at the table, or on the cross. No one knew our Lord better than John, the beloved disciple. When he saw Him in glory, he fainted at the sight, but Jesus pulled him up saying--
I am the First and the Last...
Meaning, in part, that He's the same Man in glory that John knew so well in Galilee. Looking at His Majesty, it must have been hard for John to believe that he once--
Lay his head on Jesus' bosom.
But He did. The Man from Nazareth is now the Man at God's Right Hand. He's--
This same Jesus.
One of the Trinity's most sobering hymns is Day of Judgment, Day of Wonder. The second verse begins--
See the Judge our nature wearing,
clothed in Majesty Divine.
The One clothed in Majesty Divine wears our nature--human nature! First on earth for thirty-some years, now forever in glory.
How do you explain the mystery? There is no explaining it, not in full. But the New Testament tells us what we need to know about it.
Does it say Jesus is half God and half man? No. Does it say He deified human nature or humanized the Divine nature? No. Does it say there are two persons inside of Him, one human and one Divine? No.
What is says is that, in time, the Eternal God added a human nature to His Divine nature. He didn't mix up the two, making a third nature, but somehow welded them together without compromising either.
How did He do this? He performed a miracle, what CS Lewis called--
The Grand Miracle.
The Incarnation of God is a one-time act of infinite power, wisdom and goodness, and has no analogy. Without giving the mechanics, all John could say is--
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.
No event stirs the imagination more than full humanity of Christ. But, really, how important is it? Where does it rank in our list of doctrines?
As I said before, this is not a hot-button issue for most people. The secularists don't deny it, for the most part, and the Jehovah's Witnesses are eager to endorse it (to deny His deity). But whether the issue is sexy or not has no bearing on its importance.
The New Testament puts the doctrine at or near the top of the list, John going so far as to call anyone denying it--
A deceiver and an antichrist.
Why is John so vehement about it? Because if Jesus is not a Man He cannot sympathize with us or make an Atonement for our sins! He understands our problem in a remote and detached way, but He does not really know them unless--
In all of our afflictions, He was afflicted.
As for the Atonement, animal blood didn't satisfy the justice of God because it wasn't animal sin that threw the world out of whack by separating it from God. Human sin did that, and justice will not prevail until humans pay the price for their sins.
That's what happened on the Cross. A Real Man (who is also God) took the weight of human sin upon Himself and paid the price Justice demands.
Our salvation depends on the humanity of Jesus Christ. That's why we ignore it or water it down at the risk of our own souls.
The humanity of Christ is a doctrine, but never think of it as a 'mere doctrine' an idea or concept that has little or no effect on everyday day. It isn't that kind of doctrine; it's one shot through with comfort.
The humanity of Christ means:
God loves us. We did not choose to be humans, no less humans who have to suffer and die. God did have that choice, and in Jesus Christ, He made it--for us.
God understand us. A man in my church lies in the hospital today and is not expected to live. I can sympathize with his children, bothers and friends, because I lost my father January 4, 2011, and a good brother and friend as recently as August 17th of last year. I understand what it is to lose a loved one to death, and most of you do as well. What we don't understand is what it is to die. Some of us have been close to death, but no one in this room has died. And thus, as the saying goes, 'Every man dies alone'.
But as common as the saying is, it's a lie! Christians do not die alone! Their Savior draws near to them in their dying days, and He knows what they're going through, because, only He--
Lives and was dead, and is alive forever more!
There is nothing you suffer in life or death that Jesus Christ did not suffer first and more severely. Loneliness, rejection, disappointment, physical pain, fear, bereavement, poverty, prejudice, keep going, the list is endless--
He was tempted in all points as we are.
This means you can--
Cast all your cares upon Him, because He cares for you.
Finally, it means He knows how to deliver you out of your problems or to give you what you need to endure them. In Jesus Christ, God understands human troubles from the inside. Some of the problems need to be taken away; others need to be lived with. Because He faced every problem Himself, He knows which is which, and He can be trusted to help us out of our problems if that's what we need, or to help us in our problems if we need that more.
Let us, therefore, affirm and confess the full humanity of our Lord Jesus Christ. Celebrate it. And live by it.
The love of Christ be with you all. Amen.
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