“who was conceived by the Holy Spirit
and born of the virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried”
In this brief synopsis of the life of Christ the humanity of Jesus is affirmed. This is not some divine being appearing to be human yet escaping the true nature and bounds of flesh nor is a superhuman who is transcending mortality. Christ was really real. He had flesh and blood. He experienced a life of earthiness and he spoke of tangible things like coins, fish, soil, and bread. Jesus wasn’t separated from the realities of human life but was fully immersed in the everyday things that make up existence.
During the Early Church some people could not believe that God would indwell human flesh and was merely appearing to be human. This was based on Greek and Roman philosophy that looked down on flesh and the physical world as corrupt and lesser. However, this stands in contrast to the Hebraic understanding of creation. Back in Genesis when God created each part of creation he said that it was “good”. The plants, animals, and even humans were all called good by their Creator. Therefore, the physical world is not bad or evil but has been stained by sin. This sin, starting with Adam and Eve’s rebellion against God in the Garden, has corrupted Creation and caused the strife and evil we see. In Romans 8:18-25 Paul writes that Jesus coming as fully divine and fully human is part of the redemption of the physical world from the bondage of sin.
In his time on Earth, Jesus experienced the fullness of human life and all of the emotions that go along with it. In Scripture we can read about Jesus weeping at the loss of a friend, angered at the disrespect of the Temple by money changers, and anxious about his upcoming arrest and death. Though not found in Scripture it is not unreasonable to assume that Jesus also laughed as he enjoyed his time with the disciples. We often picture God as a stoic figure unmoved by the happenings of this world. This is based more on Greek philosophy that believed that for God to react to creation would lessen his sovereignty over it. The impassibility of God does not seem to be supported by the Bible. God reveals that he mourns over rebellious Israel, is angered over people’s sin, and rejoices over the restoration of his people. In Christ, the divine felt the range of human existence and the emotions associated with it.
Why is all of this important? Why does it matter that God mourns, rejoices, and regrets. It matters because it forms how we understand how God is still responding to events that happen today. When tragedy happens and we are moved to tears God is also mourning the pain and loss. When people are oppressed and injustice reigns God is angered. As people experience healing and restoration God is rejoicing. God remaining impassible does not portray strength or divinity but rather a cold detachment. The God of Scripture is one who does respond and is moved.
God also understands our human limitations, struggles, and hurts because Christ was truly human. Jesus knows the joys of friendship, the pain of betrayal, and tired that comes from a long day walking on dusty roads. He enjoyed meals with friends and often met people in the midst of their daily schedules encountering them cleaning nets, collecting taxes, and getting water. Jesus was involved in daily life and most of his time on Earth was not spent doing miraculous things but normal and mundane tasks. Even his public ministry was only three of the thirty-three years that he spent on Earth. Jesus knows in an intimate and experiential way what our human existence is like and therefore he can intercede for us in a way that no other could.
Even the symbols that Christ used to institute the sacraments are basic and everyday items. At the Last Supper he used bread and wine, and in baptism he utilized water. Elements that could be touched, smelled, and tasted. Christ living a fully human life infuses our life with meaning. He came not just to bring salvation for a life here after but to enable us to live a life and for that life to be abundant in grace and meaning. Our life now and the fellowship we experience and the joy we share are foretaste of the goodness of our hope in the New Heaven and New Earth. Because Christ really lived and is living now our present can be redeemed and salvation experience now. All this is possible because Christ came was born, lived, and died. He lived a fully human life and now offers that life to us.