Friday, December 9, 2016

Jesus: humanity as it was intended

Yesterday was the last class in my theological foundations course. It was fitting that we ended with the Incarnation. For the past three weeks, I have been thinking about Jesus Christ in his humanity and deity.

It is important for us to understand fully the balance between humanity and deity. To emphasize one can lead to a detraction of the other. There is no division in Jesus' person. He is fully God and fully man in one person. As an old song sings it, he is "meekness and majesty, manhood and deity."

At Christmas, we tend to focus more on the humanity. We look at the baby, the stable, the difficult circumstances of Mary and Joseph; the angels, the shepherds, and the star. It is miraculous! A child born to a virgin; a child who is God's own son, condescending to humanity. And of course, it does not end on Christmas Day. Jesus came for a purpose. Jesus came to redeem. And in addition to that, in his humanity, he was the perfect human being.

Jesus, while in his humanity, was sinless. He is the perfect example of what humanity was meant to be. My professor asked yesterday if anyone was willing to admit if they'd ever worn a "WWJD" bracelet. He could not understand why some scholars would dismiss the question: "what would Jesus do?" Of course, the whole trend became a fashionable, trendy thing, which is a good reason to ignore it, but he thought the question a valid one. Surely, if Jesus is our example, how he conducted himself is something we ought to be interested in.

When we think about humanity, where do we begin? When we think about Jesus in his humanity, where do we begin? Do we look around at others and ourselves, and then look to Jesus, wondering if he is like us? I was quite struck by the words in my theology textbook with regard to this:
Our understanding of human nature has been formed by an inductive investigation of both ourselves and other humans as we find them about us. But none of us is humanity as God intended it to be or a it came from his hand. Humanity was spoiled and corrupted by the sin of Adam and Eve. Consequently, we are not true human beings, but impaired, broken-down vestiges of essential humanity, and it is difficult to imagine this kind of humanity united with deity. But when we say that in the incarnation Jesus took on humanity, we are not talking about this kind of humanity. For Jesus's humanity was not the humanity of sinful beings, but that possessed by Adam and Eve from their creation and before their fall. He was not merely as human as we are; he was more human than we are  (emphasis mine). . . We should define humanity, not by integrating our present empirical observations, but by examining the human nature of Jesus, for he most fully reveals the true nature of humanity.
We do spend a lot of time looking at humanity whether it is in others or in ourselves. And there are times when we tend to see Jesus as more of a better version of ourselves. We may speculate about whether Jesus did this or that, was tempted by this or by that. Yes, he understands our weaknesses, but to see him as merely a more evolved human detracts from his deity as well as reflecting a poor understanding of his humanity. This is the time of year when we are reminded often of his humanity. Let's remember that his humanity did not end after the manger; in fact, he remains eternally human. He is the most human being in the history of the world. That is who that baby is.

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