Many of us have made Jesus so inhuman that he becomes, as Paul Wallace says,
a lot like Superman: he’s an alien, an immigrant from an unearthly realm sent to us—yes, by his father—from the heavens. He looks like one of us but is not really one of us. Like Clark Kent, his humble exterior is merely a cover for out-of-this-world powers. He’s essentially distinct from the general run of earthly creatures. He is the Messiah of Steel.
Because of this perception we often miss the fact that the Bible affirms Jesus’ humanity over and over again. He was, by all means, quite like us and entirely relatable. After all, He had friends (Jn 15:14-15) and siblings (Mt 12:46-47); He had parents He obeyed (Lk 2:51); He grew and learned (Lk 2:52), asked questions (Mk 9:21) and didn’t know some things (Mt 24:36); He fasted (Mt 4:2) and was hungry (Mk 11:12); He was tempted (Mt 4:1); He worked a job (Mk 6:3); He paid taxes (Mt 17:24-27); He celebrated holidays (Lk 2:41-42); He got angry (Mk 3:5) and frustrated (Mk 9:19); He was troubled in soul (Jn 12:27) and spirit (Jn 13:21), cried (Jn 11:35), and was sorrowful (Mt 26:38); He had friends die (Mt 14:10-13) and go back on their word (Mt 26:35); He was mocked (Mk 15:20); He was rejected (Lk 4:29), denied (Lk 22:34), betrayed (Lk 22:48), abandoned (Mt 26:31), and even felt abandoned by God (Mt 27:46); and ultimately, He died (Mt 27:50).
Sometimes we focus on the Trinitarian side of Jesus so much that we miss the point that His role in the Trinity was to become man. When we ignore His humanity we downplay the message that Hebrews tries so hard to communicate:
Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. (He 2:14-18)
Hebrews 4:15 goes on to elaborate on that last verse, saying, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”
Are we listening? If we are we should be getting a fully God, fully man vibe from these passages. Like man, He is flesh and blood; made like His brothers in every respect; He’s suffered; He’s been tempted in every way that we’ve been tempted. Jesus is relatable and His humanity is truly affirmed.
But so is His Godhood. Unlike man, Jesus is capable of destroying the power of death and the devil; He is capable of delivering us from lifelong slavery; He has not given into temptation and He is without sin. His Godhood is truly affirmed as these are things that humans cannot do. But now that the God-man has done these things, He has created a new form of humanity for His followers to take part in. As Paul points out,
Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. (1 Cor 15:45-49)
From Paul’s perspective Jesus is a new form of humanity. Yes, He is man, but a man from Heaven who is capable of setting right that which Adam got wrong. And if we have faith in Him, He will conform us to the heavenly image of man that He is offering humanity, so that we too, may be of Heaven.
This is important to note because it helps us see the Holy Spirit at work in Jesus’ life. If He is just God then He has little to actually teach us, because come on—no one can live up to that. But if He is “fully God and fully man” as the saying goes, then we begin to understand why God had to baptize God with God in order for the Son to do the things He did.
If we conclude that the Son was able to heal people, cast out demons, and raise the dead simply because He was God-in-flesh, then the rest of our Bible turns into blasphemy. After all, many of the things Jesus did were also done by others in the Bible both in the Old and New Testament. Just as Jesus multiplied bread and fish to feed the masses, so did Elijah tell a widow that her jar of flour and jug of oil would not empty until a set time (1 Ki 17:14-16). Just as Jesus casted out demons and healed people, so He gave His twelve disciples the “authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction” (Mt 10:1). And since healing is a spiritual gift given to us by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:30) and Jesus casts out demons by the power of the Holy Spirit (Mt 12:28), we can gather that Jesus gave them this authority by imparting to them the Holy Spirit’s power.
We can even note that as amazing as it was that Jesus raised the dead, He was not the only one to do so. We see Elijah (1 Ki 17:17-24), Peter (Ac 9:36-41) and Paul (Ac 20:8-12) all raise people from the dead. Furthermore, we also see others outside of the Bible raise people from the dead.
If Jesus did miracles simply because He was God, then we’d have to apply the same ideology to all of these other people—and that’s blasphemy, for they are not God. Rather than try to devise a whole new theology to understand Jesus’ power, it makes a whole lot more sense to simply believe what the Bible is communicating: Jesus is fully God and fully man and the Holy Spirit’s role in His life was to empower Him, just as the Holy Spirit had done to others throughout history in the Old Testament.
If we understand that Jesus and His followers operate in the power of the Spirit, we won’t be super confused when we see people do even greater things than Jesus did, just as He said we would (Jn 14:12). Granted, we don’t even know everything Jesus did (Jn 21:25), so who even knows for sure when we’re doing things that He didn’t?
Wallace, Paul. Stars Beneath Us: Finding God in the Evolving Cosmos. Minneapolis, Fortress Press, 2015, p. 114.
This is an adapted excerpt from my new book, The Rush and the Rest.