The humanity of Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth was not only fully God, as it is written: “For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell” (Colossians 1:19), but He was also fully man, fully human, for it is written that He shared in our humanity (Hebrews 2:14) coming in the likeness of men (Philippians 2:7).
Even though His conception was supernatural, for He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, His birth was that of a normal child born of a human mother (Matthew 1:18). He is spoken of as being “born of a woman” (Galatians 4:4 – NIV).
Jesus, as a normal child, grew physically and mentally, as it is written: “And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom … and Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:40, 52 – NKJV).
Jesus referred to Himself as a man, as He said to the Jews: “But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God” (John 8:40 – NKJV). He was recognized by others as a man (John 10:33; Luke 23:4, 41). Jesus called Himself the Son of Man (Matthew 16:13; 26:24; 24:30) to assert His identification with us as sons of men (but also to assert His preeminence over all men), for ‘son of man’ means ‘having the nature or character of man.’
He had a body, soul and spirit, and shared our physical and emotional experiences. He got hungry (Matthew 4:2) and thirsty (John 4:7; 19:28). He got weary from travelling (John 4:6). He slept (Matthew 8:24). He expressed love and compassion; for it is written that He loved His disciples to the end (John 13:1) and He was moved with compassion for the multitudes, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd (Matthew 9:36). He was grieved by the hardness of His enemies’ hearts (Mark 3:5); He was angry at those who made His Father’s house a den of robbers (Matthew 21:12-13); He wept at the tomb of His friend Lazarus (John 11:35), and He wept over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41).
And on the night He was betrayed, while He was in the Garden of Gethsemane, His soul was exceedingly sorrowful, even to death (Matthew 26:38).
Since Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, He was born without sin, that is, free from hereditary depravity. Furthermore, during His earthly life He committed no sin, even though He was in all points tempted as we are (Hebrews 4:15).
The Scripture states that He “knew no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21). One day He challenged His enemies to convict Him of a single sin, as He asked them this question: “Which of you convicts Me of sin?” (John 8:46 – NKJV), and His foes had no reply. As we will see later, it was necessary for Jesus to be born without sin and to live a sinless life in order to make atonement for our sins through the offering of His body.
As we have seen, Jesus was a real man, therefore as a man He was inferior to God, for He was subject to human limitations. That’s why the Scripture says: “You made him a little lower than God” (Psalm 8:5 – NIV ‘Than God’ is in a footnote. The IBRV reads “Tu l’hai fatto poco minor di Dio,” that is, “You made him a little lower than God,‘’ in the text, while in the footnotes we find ‘Tu l’hai fatto poco minor degli angeli,” that is, “You made him a little lower than the angels”. However, even if we accept ‘than the angels,’ as the KJV reads, it is evident that since the angels of God are heavenly beings inferior to God, Jesus also – as a man – was inferior to God).
Now, by comparing some Bible verses, referring to Jesus, with some others referring to God, I will show you what the Scripture means when it states that Jesus was made a little lower than God.
● John says: “Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour” (John 4:6). Therefore Jesus got weary. But we know that in Isaiah it is written about God that He “fainteth not, neither is weary” (Isaiah 40:28. The NIV reads: “He will not grow tired or weary”). However, this does not lead us to say that Jesus was not God, because His tiredness was due to the fact that He had a human body, which was subject to some limitations.
● Matthew says: “And when he was entered into a ship, his disciples followed him. And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep” (Matthew 8:23-24), while in the book of Psalms it is written about God: “Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:4). Now, as you can see, on the one hand the Scripture states that the Son of God fell asleep while He was on the ship together with His disciples, and on the other hand it states that God cannot fall asleep. However, although Jesus fell asleep on that occasion, we don’t say that Jesus was not God, because we know that the Son, being a man like us, needed to sleep. He had a physical body like ours, which got tired and needed rest, that’s why He fell asleep.
● Jesus said: “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father” (Mark 13:32). Now we know that God “is a God who knows” (1 Samuel 2:3 – NIV) everything, why then did Jesus Christ, who was God, said that He knew neither the day nor the hour of His second coming? Because He was also fully man.
Therefore we must not be surprised if Jesus, on the night He was arrested, said to His disciples: “Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I” (John 14:28), for He, as a man, was inferior to God, as it is written: “You made him a little lower than God” (Psalm 8:5 – NIV), and on that occasion Jesus spoke as a man.
In conclusion, I want to say this. Of course, when we speak about the two natures of Christ – that is, the divine and the human nature of Christ – and we explain the mystery of how they were united in Him (as to the union between them we believe and teach that they were organically and indissolubly united, yet so that no third nature was formed thereby), we acknowledge that we are talking about something that we don’t understand fully and thus we can’t offer a complete explanation as to how Christ’s humanity and deity were united, for in this life the Incarnation will always contain areas of mystery for us, but that does not prevent us from believing and proclaiming that He was truly man and truly God. “Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness” (1 Timothy 3:16). To Christ Jesus, our great God and Saviour, be the glory now and forevermore. Amen.