Intro: Here is your vocabulary word for today: Docetism (doh-SEE-tiz-um). Have you ever met a Docetist (Doh-SEE-tist)? In a general sense you probably have. Docetism is defined narrowly as “the doctrine according to which the phenomenon of Christ, his historical and bodily existence, and thus above all the human form of Jesus, was altogether mere semblance without any true reality.” [Wikipedia] It is the belief that Jesus only seemed to be human, and that his human form was an illusion. This heresy developed early in church history through the teaching of the Gnostics (opposed in late NT writings of John and early 2nd century Christians such as Ignatius of Antioch). How serious was it to deny the actual humanity of Jesus? Listen to John:
- 1 John 4:1-3 – Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.
- 2 John 7 – 7 For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.
What does the Bible teach?
The writer of Hebrews affirms that Jesus was made to be fully human. In fact he affirms that His mission depended upon it. Heb 2:14-17 – Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. 16 For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. 17 Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
The context of this statement is His qualifications as a High Priest, but it speaks to His humanity as an inherent characteristic. Jesus was fully a man.
I. The Evidence for Jesus’ Full Humanity: The Bible pictures Jesus as having a full and complete human nature. He was not a phantom or mirage. The question at hand hinges on our understanding of Jesus possession of a human body.
A. Jesus had a real flesh and blood human body. That is clearly the teaching of the passages we just noticed in Hebrews 2: Since all of God’s earthly children “share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same” (Heb 2:14). He was made like us “in all things” (2:17)
1. The apostle Paul states that Jesus “was revealed in the flesh” (1 Tim 3:16); As we noticed last week John states that “the Word became flesh” (John 1:14). In addition we understand that human body of Jesus was subject to all the physical needs and infirmities of our bodies.
a. Between his conception and birth Jesus inhabited his mother’s womb as any other baby. Luke tells us she was “with child” (Luke 2:15) and that the child was born when the days were completed for her to be delivered (2:6). Jesus was born “a descendant of David according to the flesh” (Rom 1:3).
b. After his birth he had to be cared for as an infant and protected from harm (Matt 2:13-15). He developed in a normal physical way. Luke 2:40 – 40 And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him. Luke 2:52 – 52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. Luke also tells us that Jesus was “brought up” in Nazareth. This indicates a natural human childhood (Luke 4:16). He was known as a young man who earned his living as a carpenter (Mark 6:3).
2. Jesus also experienced the physical bodily limitations that accompany a human body.
- He got physically tired and weary (John 4:6)
- He needed sleep (Matt 8:24; Luke 8:23).
- He got hungry and thirsty (Matt 4:2; 21:18; John 19:28).
- And most obviously, He hurt and suffered physically, and eventually died.
3. Jesus’ human nature included a spiritual inward person with all the human feelings and emotions.
a. compassion: when confronted with the needs and sufferings of others – Matthew 15:32 – 22 Now Jesus called His disciples to Himself and said, “I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now continued with Me three days and have nothing to eat. And I do not want to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.” Matthew 14:14 – 14 And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick.
b. love for others: (both agape & phileo) Mark 10:21- the rich young ruler; John 11:5 – Mary, Martha, and Lazarus; John is referred to as the disciple “whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23). Jesus’ love is always on display.
c. anger: toward both circumstances and people. Some religious leaders were opposed to his healing a man on the Sabbath day. Jesus looked at them with anger (orge) and then healed the man anyway (Mark 3:5). In Mark 10:14 – 14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.
- John reports that at Lazarus’ tomb Jesus was “deeply moved” (John 11:33, 38). The word used here is embrimaomai, which has the sense of snorting with anger and displeasure (AG). (Warfield says Jesus was feeling rage and fury against the enemy death that had caused so much sorrow and suffering for his friends; “Emotional Life,” 110-117).
d. joy: Luke 10:21 – 21 In that hour Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight.
e. deep grief and distress: Isaiah 53:3 foretold that he would be “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” He was grieved with the sins and infirmities of men even to the point of weeping (John 11:35). His grief was especially strong in the Garden of Gethsemane, where he said, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death”
- Matthew 26:37-38 – 37 And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. 38 Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.” Luke 22:44 – 44 And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. Hebrews 5:7 says He offered up prayers with “vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death”.
4. Jesus even experienced uniquely human emotions: All of the above emotions are indeed human, but God also demonstrates these emotions. Thus are not absolute indicators of Jesus’ humanity. There are other emotions, though, that would seem to be below the level of divine experience and can be seen as true evidence of Jesus’ human nature.
a. astonishment: Jesus “was astonished” at the faith of the centurion who asked him to heal a servant in Matt 8:10 (NIV). He “was amazed” at the unbelief of his old neighbors in Mark 6:6 (NIV). The same word (ekthambeo) is used in Mark 14:33 to describe the feeling that overwhelmed Jesus at the beginning of his Gethsemane experience: “And he … began to be greatly amazed” (ASV). The same word is used in Mark 16:5-6 to describe the alarm of the two Marys and Salome at the empty tomb; and of the people in the Temple at the healing of the lame man in Acts 3:11. Can God be surprised?
b. dread: The word tarasso, can mean “to trouble, disturb, terrify, startle, frighten.” It is used of Herod (Matt 2:3), Zacharias (Luke 1:12), and the apostles (Matt 14:26) It is used in Christ’s exhortation, “Do not let your heart be troubled” (John 14:1). Spicq says that when the word is used of individuals it “usually expresses simple uneasiness mixed with fear” (3:374).
- Three times it is used for Jesus in John’s gospel: 1) when he was “troubled” at Lazarus’ tomb (John 11:33), 2) when he contemplated his destiny of the cross (John 12:27, “Now My soul has become troubled”), 3) and when he spoke of his betrayal (John 13:21, “He became troubled in spirit”). Spicq says that in these three texts “trembling and dread are envisioned: Jesus was upset” (3:375). This experience of dread, he says, “emphasizes the real humanity of the innocent Christ” (3:376). We should note that this was not a fear of the unknown, but simply a dread of what he knew he had to endure for our sakes. This is the human emotion that led him to cry out in Gethsemane, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me” (Matt 26:39).
B. Our conclusion is that just as Jesus was fully divine, so Jesus possessed a human nature in every sense. Christ, the God-Man.
II. The Necessity for Jesus’ Full Humanity. There are certain implications toward His mission of mercy that flow from Jesus’ full humanity. If Jesus were not fully human, he could not perform the work necessary to save us from our sins. 1 Tim 2:5-6 – For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus who gave Himself a ransom for all… John MacArthur has this comment on 1 Timothy 2:6 – The absence of the article before anthropos (man) suggests the translation, “Christ Jesus, Himself man.” As the perfect God-man, he brings God and man together. What are the connections?
A. His humanity qualified Him to die for us. A mediator by definition, represents each party to be reconciled to the other. As a divine person, Jesus qualifies without question. Jesus told Philip, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9) As a human person, Jesus was qualified to represent us.
1. But this mediation was not a verbal defense of our choices (Jesus does not share in our sin), but a willingness to take the punishment that was due because of our sins. This is the essence of Jesus work as our mediator. The writer of Hebrews hinges his arguments are the fact of the death of Jesus’ physical body. (body & blood) Heb 9:12 – Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. Heb 9:15 – And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. Hebrews 10:4-7 ” For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins. 5 Therefore, when He came into the world, He said: “Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, But a body You have prepared for Me. 6 In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You had no pleasure. 7 Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come — In the volume of the book it is written of Me — To do Your will, O God.'” …. vs. 10 – By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. vs. 14 – For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified. vs. 20 – a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh. Hebrews 13:11-12 – – For the bodies of those animals, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned outside the camp. 12 Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate.
B. His humanity enabled Him to sympathize with us. He can understand the nature of our problems. Go back to Hebrews 2:14; 17-18 – “Since then the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same. Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted” (2:14, 17-18). 4:15-16 – Again, he said, “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need”
1. Jesus is qualified to recognize an excuse when He hears one. No one will be able to say to God in the day of judgment, “You just do not know what it is like down there on earth.” Our Judge, Jesus Christ, does know what it is like down here.
C. His humanity is essential to the power of His Resurrection: If Jesus did not have a real physical body, then there could not have been a bodily resurrection, and that is the heart of the gospel message. 1 Cor 15:20-23 – 20 But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. 23 But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. Jesus consistently offered imperical and physical proof of His resurrection through the evidence of His body. John 20:27-29 – Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” 28 And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
D. His humanity made it possible for Him to give us the perfect example. 1 Peter 2:21-22 – For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: 22 “Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth”; Jesus has shown us the kind of life which pleases God and told us to imitate it. Especially in His physical suffering.
Conclusion: Jesus came down to be a man. He came down to die for you and me. This we can never comprehend, not forget. We can properly worship Jesus without recognizing His humanity – In the Lord’s supper, it is His body and blood that are memorialized. Without His body and blood we would be lost.
- Why did God come in the flesh? The simple, yet most profound answer to that question is that Jesus loved me. Out of the ivory palaces, Into a world of woe, Only His great eternal love Made my Savior go.