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Study 8: The Nature of Jesus
Introduction | Differences Between God and Jesus | The Nature of Jesus | The Humanity of Jesus | The Relationship of God with Jesus | Digressions ("Being in the form of God") | Questions
8.4 The Humanity Of Jesus
The Gospel records provide many examples of how completely Jesus had human nature. It is recorded that he was weary, and had to sit down to drink from a well (John 4:6). "Jesus wept" at the death of Lazarus (John 11:35). Most supremely, the record of his final sufferings should be proof enough of his humanity: "Now is my soul troubled", he admitted as he prayed for God to save him from having to go through with his death on the cross (John 12:27). He "prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup (of suffering and death) pass from me; nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt" (Matt. 26:39). This indicates that in some ways Christ's 'will', or desires, was different from that of God.
During his whole life Christ had submitted his will to that of God in preparation for this final trial of the cross: "I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me" (John 5:30). This difference between Christ's will and that of God is proof enough that Jesus was not God.
Throughout our lives we are expected to grow in our knowledge of God, learning from the trials which we experience in life. In this, Jesus was our great example. He did not have complete knowledge of God beamed into him any more than we have. From childhood "Jesus increased in wisdom and stature (i.e. spiritual maturity, cp. Eph. 4:13), and in favour with God and man" (Luke 2:52). "The child grew, and waxed (became) strong in spirit" (Luke 2:40). These two verses portray Christ's physical growth as being parallel to his spiritual development; the growth process occurred in him both naturally and spiritually. If "The Son is God", as the Athanasian Creed states concerning the 'Trinity', this would not have been possible. Even at the end of his life, Christ admitted that he did not know the exact time of his second coming, although the Father did (Mark 13:32).
Obedience to God's will is something which we all have to learn over a period of time. Christ also had to go through this process of learning obedience to his Father, as any son has to. "Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience (i.e. obedience to God) by the things which he suffered; and being made perfect (i.e. spiritually mature), he became the author of eternal salvation" as a result of his completed and total spiritual growth (Heb. 5:8,9). Phil. 2:7,8 (further commented on in Digression 27) records this same process of spiritual growth in Jesus, culminating in his death on the cross. He "made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form (demeanour) of a servant...he humbled himself and became obedient unto...the death of the cross." The language used here illustrates how Jesus consciously forged ahead in his spiritual development, making himself more and more humble, so that finally he "became obedient" to God's desire that he should die on the cross. Thus he was "made perfect" by correctly responding to his sufferings.
It is evident from this that Jesus had to make a conscious, personal effort to be righteous; in no way was he forced to be so by God, which would have resulted in him being a mere puppet. Jesus truly loved us, and gave his life on the cross from this motive. The constant emphasis upon the love of Christ for us would be hollow if God forced him to die on the cross (Eph. 5:2,25; Rev. 1:5; Gal. 2:20). If Jesus was God, then he would have had no option but to be perfect and then die on the cross. That Jesus did have these options, makes us able to appreciate his love, and to form a personal relationship with him.
It was because of Christ's willingness to voluntarily give his life, that God was so delighted with him: "Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life...No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself" (John 10:17,18). God being so pleased with Christ's willing obedience is hard to understand if Jesus was God, living out a life in human form as some kind of tokenistic association with sinful man (Matt. 3:17; 12:18; 17:5). These records of the Father's delight in the Son's obedience, is proof enough that Christ had the possibility of disobedience, but consciously chose to be obedient.
Christ's Need Of Salvation
Because of his human nature, Jesus experienced minor illnesses, tiredness etc. just as we do. It therefore follows that if he had not died on the cross, he would have died any way, e.g. of old age. In view of this, Jesus needed to be saved from death by God. Intensely recognizing this, Jesus "offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him (God) that was able to save him from death, and was heard for his piety" (Heb. 5:7 A.V. mg.). The fact that Christ had to plead with God to save him from death rules out any possibility of him being God in person. After Christ's resurrection, death had "no more dominion over him" (Rom. 6:9), implying that beforehand it did.
Many of the Psalms are prophetic of Jesus; when some verses from a Psalm are quoted about Christ in the New Testament, it is reasonable to assume that many of the other verses in the Psalm are about him too. There are a number of occasions where Christ's need for salvation by God is emphasized:-
Christ's prayers to God for salvation were heard; he was heard because of his personal spirituality, not because of his place in a 'trinity' (Heb. 5:7). That God resurrected Jesus and glorified him with immortality is a major New Testament theme:-
If Jesus was God Himself, then all this emphasis would be out of place, seeing that God cannot die. Jesus would not have needed saving if he were God. That it was God who exalted Jesus demonstrates God's superiority over him, and the separateness of God and Jesus. In no way could Christ have been "very and eternal God (with) two...natures...Godhead and manhood", as the first of the 39 Articles of the Church of England states. By the very meaning of the word, a being can only have one nature. We submit that the evidence is overwhelming that Christ was of our human nature.