No topic or series of biblical texts could possibly be more important than this week’s lesson. Even if we devoted thirteen weeks to this topic, we would not exhaust the enormous meaningfulness of getting the “reality of his humanity” right! This is far more than a theological exercise. The personal experiences of every man, woman, and child breathing on this planet today is directly affected by his or her grasp of how “real” Christ’s humanity was! And is!
When Galatians 4:4 (NKJV) tells us that Jesus was “born of a woman, born under the law,” we immediately are forced to ask, “What kind of a woman?” and “What kind of law?” Much confusion over Mary has divided Christianity for hundreds of years. Mary was not the “Queen of Heaven.” Mary was not herself born in some kind of Immaculate Conception. She was born as all Jewish women were born and as her Son would be born, accepting “the results of the working of the great law of heredity.”
Mary and her Son were both born “under the law.” But Jesus had a special mission: He came to redeem mankind from the bondage of the Law. Nothing wrong with the Law but mankind was “cursed “because they had not “fulfilled” the Law’s purpose. Jesus “redeemed us from the curse of the law” (Gal. 3:1013 NKJV). But Paul did not say that Jesus was “accursed,” but that in his life and death, he abolished the curse, showing that the Law was “holy, just and good” (Rom. 7:12 NKJV) and could be obeyed by others even as he was obedient (Rev. 3:21 NKJV).
A lot of reality, but there is more. Paul was insistent that we should understand the significance of our Lord’s humanity. Gregory of Nazianzus (early fourth century) understood Paul: “For that which He has not assumed He has not healed.” Note the soteriological connection in Paul’s Christology, which to many theologians is the essence of the reality of our Lord’s humanity:
Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise share in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil. Therefore, in all things (“in every respect,” RSV) He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, For in that He himself has suffered, begin tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted. (Heb. 2:1418 NKJV)
Not hard for a sixth grader to understand! Jesus fended off every arrow shot by Satan, toe to toe in personal combat “in every respect,” as you and I must. Jesus won and Satan lost! So what? So that we may know without a flicker of doubt that we have a living Lord, our High Priest, whose chief job description is to give us through the Holy Spirit that same kind of mental and emotional support that he needed when he was going through the same type of temptation/lure/appeal of Satan two thousand years ago.
The primary reason why getting the humanity of Jesus right rests on this simple principle: We know that Jesus was a “real” human, no special advantages, meeting the same challenges of growing up as a teenager and young adult, staring face-to-face at the same lure and temptations that all young people contend with today. Knowing that Jesus has been here facing the same stuff that all young and old relate today, that kind of awareness becomes the “Jesus Difference.” Without this knowledge, Jesus surely does not have anything really to sayexcept to extend “forgiveness” when we cave in. And that does not do much for what God wants to accomplish in his Plan of Salvation!
What about those who suffer or doubt or face loneliness or sense failure, what can they expect from the Jesus Difference. Plenty! Paul surely understood what we are focusing on today:
Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin [that is, he did not yield to sin]. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Heb. 4:1416 NKJV)
The Jesus Difference indeed comes with two hands with just what we need for every occasion as the days go by: He offers freely both “mercy” and “grace,” pardon and power. Limited definitions of grace confuse the Jesus Differencegrace in its fullest meaning is whatever we need in going toe to toe with the Evil One.
We would never have known how close Jesus came to us in this lousy world if Paul had not seen the connection between his soteriology and his Christology, between his grasp of God’s salvation plan and the reality of our Lord’s humanity.
Herbert E. Douglass is a theologian, retired college administrator, and author of twenty-two books who currently lives in Lincoln, California.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/501