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What He Gets About Us

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I’ve previously written about how Jesus’s conception by the Holy Spirit and birth by the Virgin Mary reminds us who we are referring to when we say “He gets us” – it is Jesus, the eternal Son of God. This reality also teaches us how and what Jesus “gets” about us by showing us that Jesus became fully human while remaining fully divine. This concept that Jesus is fully human and fully divine, however, is something that Christians have struggled to understand over the years and at times may not fully grasp its meaning and significance. Thus I thought it worth considering in greater depth in this post.

What This Doesn’t Mean – Some Potential Misunderstandings
A key point of discussion in the early church was how Jesus could be both God and human. Some thought Jesus was a human who “became” God with the descent of the Holy Spirit at his baptism (think of him like Spiderman but instead of being bitten by a radioactive bug, he is “bitten” by a celestial dove!). However, the fact that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit means that he never “became” God, but rather than the human Jesus was God from the moment of his conception. Others thought that perhaps Jesus only appeared to be human but did not actually have human flesh, often because they viewed the physical world as being evil and thus not proper or possible for God to take on flesh. This view, though, is out of line with what we see in the New Testament, as Jesus took on flesh (John 1:14). There are numerous places that affirm this fact in the face of others who denied it (see 1 John 4:2-3; 2 John 7), so this view is not within the bounds of orthodox Christian faith.

Some affirmed the truth that Jesus was God and man, but the way they relate these two natures is problematic. One view was that Jesus had a divine soul and then took on human flesh. The issue with this position is that Jesus would not then be fully human, as we are not just flesh and blood but also body and soul. In affirming that Jesus was divine with a human body and soul, others would blend them together in such a way that Jesus becomes something that is neither truly human nor divine in that the natures are mixed together. I like to call this “Robocop” Christology in that it makes Jesus to be part-man and part-God rather than fully-man and fully-God. If these natures are mixed, then it would seem that one could overpower the other, thus rendering Jesus as less than human. The solution to this problem, though, is not to completely separate the human and divine natures in Jesus to the extent that he essentially becomes two persons within one body (like the Incredible Hulk) who is at times a human and at other times, God.

The problems with all these views led theologians in the early church to describe Jesus as having two natures (divine and human) that are united in one person in a way that neither mixes them together but also does not divide them from each other. The fancy name for what I just described is the “hypostatic union.” I’m less concerned that you know the name and more concerned that you understand its implications.

What This Does Mean – Some Powerful Ramifications
The belief that Jesus had both a real human body and a real human soul means that Jesus doesn’t just kind of get us, or only gets part of us, but rather truly understands us as human beings and all that is involved in being alive. This includes both the qualities and powers that are in us as well as the common infirmities that we encounter in this life in body and soul. 

Scripture affirms the bodily limitations that Jesus faced in his life. He was hungry (Matthew 4:2). He was thirsty (John 19:28). He grew tired and weary (John 4:6). He grew physically but also emotionally and intellectually as he moved from being a child to an adult (Luke 2:52). The fact that Jesus had these limits is a great reminder that these things are not inherently wrong but are tied to the finite human condition.

Not only did Jesus face the same limitations that we face that are inherent to the nature of humanity, he also experienced the pain and suffering that is part of living as a human in this broken, sinful world. He lost some he cared about and grieved for them  (John 11:35, 38). When faced with difficulties and challenges, he was sorrowful and troubled (Matthew 26:37; John 12:27; 13:21). He suffered (Hebrews 5:8). While such suffering was included the pain and the shame of the cross (Hebrews 12:2), it was not just on the cross that he experienced suffering as he also faced various hardships and troubles in life like we do. Part of this suffering seems to be in experiencing temptation (Hebrews 2:17) as he was “tempted in every way as we are” (Hebrews 4:15). He lived in the midst of the war that humanity finds itself in because of sin. Thus we can say that Jesus truly became “like his brothers and sisters in every way” (Hebrews 2:17).

Because Jesus truly was human, he is qualified to represent us before God and to restore us to God. As the Book of Hebrews notes in its discussion of Jesus as our great high priest, a priest was selected from the people to represent them (Hebrews 5:1-2). Jesus could only be this priest who stands before God on our behalf if he was truly like us in every way. As a human, he can represent us before God, and he can do so as one who sympathizes with us and our weakness (Hebrews 4:15). In addition, because he is like us, he points us to what a restored life with God looks like. In teaching us God’s Word, he does so with an understanding of the struggles that we face both from within and from the world around us. Because of that, we shouldn’t look to his teachings as from someone who is out of touch with “real” people or pointing to some idealized standard which is completely unattainable. In addition, he lived out his teaching, showing us an example that we are called to follow – a common theme throughout the New Testament (1 Corinthians 11:1; 1 Thessalonians 1:6; 1 Peter 2:21; 1 John 2:6; Hebrews 12:2-3). He would not be able to relate to us or point to his example had he not been human.

While emphasizing that Jesus became like one of us and thus “gets” us, there is also a key way in which Hebrews 4:15 points to Jesus not being like us and thus does not “get us.” We will talk about that in the next blog post.

Questions about the Bible or theology? Email them to Pastor Brian at Theology@WeAreFaith.org. You can also email to be added to the list that receives weekly emails with our blog posts.

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