The Reality of His Humanity. Was Jesus really a human being like you and me?
Study and Discussion Questions:
- After claiming that Jesus is divine, how can we possibly also make the claim that he was a human being like us? What human traits of Jesus do the Gospels record that indicate that he shared at least some of the infirmities of the human race?
Comment: Psalm 127 is an Old Testament harbinger of the incarnation: “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord guards the city the guard keeps watch in vain” (Psa 127:1-2). Can one tidily distinguish what the work of the human is in these instances and what would be evidently divine? Humans build the house and guard the city. Yet Scripture says that it is the Lord who does it.
- What does the first chapter of Matthew tell us through a remarkable genealogy, the story of a virgin birth, and the claim that Jesus would be “God with Us”?
Comment: Matthew’s genealogy includes four notable women: Tamar, who committed incest with her father-in-law (Gen 38), Rahab, the prostitute from Jericho (Josh 2, 6), Ruth the Moabitess, and Bathsheba, with whom David committed adultery (2 Sam 11) Remarkably, Matthew doesn’t even mention Bathsheba by name or call her David’s wife; she is listed simply as the “wife of Uriah.” What does all that suggest about Jesus’ humanity?
- Philippians 2:5-11 tells us that Jesus emptied himself of his divinity. How can we illustrate that remarkable claim?
Comment: Ellen White suggests that when Jesus calmed the winds on the Sea of Galilee, he did so with the same power that is available to any human being: “But He rested not in the possession of almighty power. It was not as the “Master of earth and sea and sky” that He reposed in quiet. That power He had laid down, and He says, “I can of Mine own self do nothing.” John 5:30. He trusted in the Father”s might. It was in faith–faith in God”s love and care–that Jesus rested, and the power of that word which stilled the storm was the power of God. (DA 336)
C. S. Lewis suggests something similar when he refers to “an old opinion” of his “that we ought all of us to be ashamed of not performing miracles and that we do not feel this shame enough. We regard our own state as normal and theurgy as exceptional, whereas we ought perhaps to regard the worker of miracles, however rare, as the true Christian norm and ourselves as spiritual cripples.” – “Petitionary Prayer: A Problem Without an Answer,” in Christian Reflections, 150.
- Hebrews 4:15-16 tells us that we have a high priest just like us. Are there any ways in which Jesus was not like us? And how are these verses important for Christian living?
Comment: Perhaps the most notable way in which Jesus was not like us was that he never suffered the remorse of broken promises, the agony of slipping and falling again and again, making promise after promise, only to see them broken “like ropes of sand.” Those vivid words from Steps to Christ paint the picture with painful clarity: “Your promises and resolutions are like ropes of sand. You cannot control your thoughts, your impulses, your affections. The knowledge of your broken promises and forfeited pledges weakens your confidence in your own sincerity, and causes you to feel that God cannot accept you; but you need not despair.” (SC 47) That’s precisely why the Bible is full of stories of great sinners, great forgiven sinners, like David and Peter. People like us.
Our temptations were not at all like Jesus’ temptations. We have never been tempted to turn stones to bread. But for Jesus that was a powerful temptation, one that he had to face every waking moment. Does that mean that Jesus have advantages over us? Of course, but those advantages are powerfully overshadowed by the enormous weight of the temptations he faced day in and day out to use his power in an illegitimate way.
- In Luke 24, we find the remarkable story of the Emmaus road. Touch me, feel me, he says. Our study guide uses the phrase “eternal solidarity.” Is that clear? Hard to understanding? Helpful? Troubling?