God with Us—Perfect Humanity
Unlike theophanies and Christophanies of the Old Testament where God manifested Himself to people on numerous occasions, the Incarnation was a one-time event in which the Second Person of the Godhead actually became man. Please note, theophanies were temporary. The Incarnation is permanent. (1)
The apostle John unequivocally declares:
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (Jn. 1:14).
Jesus did not merely project the appearance of humanity. He was human!
Attributes exclusive to human beings distinguish man from all other lifeforms. The portrait of Jesus in the gospels reveals He was truly human.
With a completely human body, Jesus possessed a physiological being
Jesus possessed a physical body just like any other human being. He was born as every human baby is born (Lk. 2:7). He grew physically, intellectually and experientially as boys have grown since the beginning of time (Lk 2:52). Prior to His resurrection, Jesus was constrained by the physical limitations of a human body.
The corporeality shared by all humans was part of Jesus’ daily experience:
- After fasting, He was hungry (Mt. 4:2).
- On the cross, He was thirsty (Jn. 19:28).
- At Jacob’s Well, He was weary (Jn. 4:6).
- Before calming the sea, He slept in the stern of a boat (Mt. 8:24).
- His body had material substance allowing a disciple to lean against Him during Passover (Jn. 13:23).
- Even after the resurrection, we are told women embraced His feet, and Mary of Magdala clung to Him for joy (Mt. 28:9; Jn. 20:17).
That Jesus ascended bodily into heaven rather than simply vanishing is also significant (Acts 1:9). Two angels appearing at the scene reassured the disciples,
“This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).
Jesus’ bodily ascension into heaven and His promised bodily return to the earth establishes that He continues to exist in His resurrected physical body.
With a completely human soul, Jesus possessed mind, intellect and emotion
But, man is more than a physical body, which is why the realm of Jesus’ experiences went beyond the physiological. He loved, felt compassion for the multitudes, was angered by the stubbornness of religious leaders and wept at Lazarus’ death (Jn. 11:5; Mt. 9:36; Mk. 3:5; Jn. 11:35). The apostle Matthew records Jesus crying aloud, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death” (Mt. 26:38).
Man possesses a rational soul that distinguishes human beings from all other life forms on the planet.
With a completely human spirit, Jesus possessed the capacity to know and love God
Conversely, Mark calls attention to Jesus’ human spirit explaining,” Jesus perceived in His spirit that they reasoned thus within themselves” (Mk. 2:8).
As a flawless human being, Jesus not only enjoyed unbroken fellowship with God, but also voluntarily and completely submitted to the will of the Father in every aspect of His being (Jn. 5:30).
THE RELEVANCE OF JESUS’ HUMANITY
In his letter to the Philippians, Paul described Jesus as,
“. . . Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:6-8).
In every point of His human experience, Jesus demonstrated a completely human nature. His mother Mary and adoptive father Joseph were the first people to observe the newborn Savior. Temple shepherds tending their flocks near Bethlehem were informed about the Nativity via a vast host of angelic messengers.
“Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.’
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
‘Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!’
So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
The shepherds who were entrusted with the supernatural birth announcement immediately responded to the Good News of the Redeemer’s birth by telling everyone they encountered.
We can learn much by pondering the Scripture concerning what the shepherds witnessed at the prophesied location of the Nativity. Though some details about the setting will remain elusive, one essential fact has never been contested. The newborn lying in the manger was in every sense a human baby!
Contrary to artistic depictions, no aura, halo or nimbus distinguished Jesus from any other human baby! However, when we consider Jesus’ humanity, a completely different portrait emerges! And, that reality they observed is well documented in Scripture.
Throughout the Christmas season, choose to focus on the newborn in the manger who not only matured into a Man, but experienced every sensation, emotion and longing that binds us together as members of the human race. Then like the shepherds, tell everyone in your sphere of influence the Good News! (Lk. 2:17).
1) Theophanies and Christophanies describe God’s Old Testament revelation of Himself to individuals in human form. Both words derive from the Greek names theos “God” or Christos “Christ” coupled with the word phaino “to appear.” Sometimes He is referred to as “the Lord;” at others times, Christ is described as “the Angel of the Lord” (Gen. 18:1-3; 22:15; Jud. 2:1-6; 6:12; 13:3-6). Generally distinguished from angels by the fact that as a theophany Christ is identified as God either directly or indirectly and that He accepts worship, which all angels refuse (Rev. 19:10). After the resurrection of Jesus, His appearances to people are neither theophanies nor Christophanies, but Christ actually appearing in His glorified body (Acts 9:1-6; 1 Cor. 9:1).
1) La Nativité de Notre-Seigneur Jésus-Christ (The Birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ), (circa. 1886-1894). (Image used for illustrative purposes) (Photo credit: By Jacques Joseph Tissot/[No restrictions/Public domain]/Brooklyn Museum/Enhancement, MKM Portfolios)
2) L’adoration des bergers (The Adoration of the Shepherds). (Image used for illustrative purposes) (Photo credit: By Jacques Joseph Tissot/[No restrictions/Public domain]/Brooklyn Museum/Enhancement, MKM Portfolios)
Copyright © 2016 Charles E. McCracken, devotional comments only. Repost/Reprint with permission from the author. Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.