[B15] Jesus Christ The Son of Man
The humanity of Jesus is the best possible lesson on what true human nature is. By contrasting ourselves with Him we may learn how poor and frail we are. By studying His life we may learn what we may become. It is good that we have such an inspiring ideal at which to look.
Table of Contents
15. Jesus Christ The Son Of Man
Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. — [St. Luke] 24:39.
I believe that Jesus Christ is truly the Son of God, of the same essence as the eternal Father; begotten, as to His Godhead, before all worlds, very God of very God. This is the confession we recently considered. It is one of the fundamental truths of the whole Bible. It is the whole-hearted confession of all who unreservedly accept the Bible as God’s Word. Without holding this truth no one has a Savior who really saves. There is no Savior other than the one who is essentially the Son of God. But in thinking of the almightiness of the Son of God, of His session on the eternal throne of glory, we must not forget that Jesus Christ also was, is still, and forever will be, the Son of man.
The statements of the Creed, and its explanation, “And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord,” and “I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity,” while absolutely essential, express but half of the true faith with respect to the person of the world’s Redeemer. Indeed, before we can have a Redeemer from sin, death and the power of the devil, we must have the other half of the truth concerning the person of Jesus Christ. And this half of the truth is expressed in the words, “born of the Virgin Mary,” “true man, born of the Virgin Mary.” Accordingly, we will today take up this part of our Christian confession concerning the person of our Redeemer,
I Believe That Jesus Christ Is the Son of Man
I. Jesus Was Really A Man
Let us first give emphasis to the fact that Jesus was a man not only in form and appearance, but in reality.
Every student of the Old Testament can recall some of the records telling of heavenly visitors coming to earth. For the purpose of better accomplishing their mission of holding converse with the children of men, and influencing them, they took upon themselves, at times, the forms of men. They appeared as men, but were not men. They were angels, or, in some instances, probably, the Son of God Himself. They were purely spiritual beings appearing in the form of human beings.
We must not think after this manner when the manhood of Jesus is under consideration. There were those in the early centuries who thus represented Jesus. It was a common belief in ancient times that human sin had its origin and roots in our flesh and blood. That all matter, in fact, was inherently and necessarily evil. These people held that the chief task of man in this world is to disengage his higher spiritual self from his physical nature. In late Apostolic days there were those who taught this, and still wanted to be Jesus’ disciples. Because of their erroneous ideas as to human nature, they could not believe that Jesus had a real human body. St. John probably had these people in mind when he wrote, “hereby know ye the spirit of God; every spirit which confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God; and every spirit which confesseth not Jesus is not of God” (1 Jn. 4:2, 3). Other Scripture passages set forth the same truth with equal clearness and emphasis. Jesus Christ did not only appear to be a man, He was a true man, a man of woman born. He had a true body of flesh and blood. There was not a substance or attribute truly belonging to human nature which was lacking in Jesus.
The proof of the genuine humanity of Jesus is so abundant and convincing that there are now few to question it. But occasionally some one reverts to the old error, as does Shelley in his beautiful, but misleading words:
“A mortal shape to Him
Was like the vapor dim,
Which the orient planet animates with light.”
To refresh our memories, let us recall a few of the many lines of evidence which affirm the humanity of Jesus. Throughout the Old Testament He is spoken of as “the seed of the woman”; and “the son of man,” “like unto his brethren.” The Christmas story, so indelibly impressed on the minds of all Christians, should place the true humanity of Jesus beyond all question. He was born, so far as the fact of birth is concerned, exactly as other children are born, of a human mother. As a child He was sheltered in Mary’s arms, and nurtured at her breast. He grew to man’s estate as other children do. He received the elements which make for growth and strength as other people do, from the bounties of nature. Jesus grew weary, He hungered; He rested, He ate, and slept as men do. In His body of real flesh and blood a real human soul subsisted. This soul, as do the souls of men, felt the alternate thrill of joy, and the pang of grief. The body of Jesus, as your body and mine, felt the cutting agony of pain, and finally succumbed in death to the assaults of sufferings such as no mortal can endure and live. And when the Godhead which had taken up its permanent union with humanity in the person of Jesus, brought His body victorious from the grave, Jesus said to the affrighted disciples: “Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; handle me and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye see me have.” Let us bear in mind that this was His resurrection body of which Jesus was speaking. It had been made a heavenly body, fit for heaven. And yet He tells the disciples that it was such a body that they could tell by handling that it was a body of flesh and bones. If there was no other declaration concerning Christ’s humanity in the Bible, our text would settle the question of its reality.
This was unquestionably the faith of those most intimately associated with Jesus during His earthly life. Gathered around Jesus there was a circle of intimate relatives, friends, disciples. In the center of this group stood Mary, the Virgin Mother; near to her was Salome, probably her sister; and Salome’s sons, James and John, who, if the previously suggested relationship be correct, were cousins-german to Jesus. All the members of this circle knew how Jesus had grown from infancy to youth, from youth to manhood, amid the quiet activities of secluded Nazareth. None of these people ever doubted that Jesus was truly a man. Indeed, just because they were so fully convinced of His manhood some of the circle of natural kindred found it hard to believe in His Divinity.
The humanity of Jesus Christ, then, was not a spectre humanity, it was a real humanity. It was not assumed for a little while, for the achievement of a mere temporary purpose. The human nature taken up into union with the person of the eternal Son of God was permanently assumed. In the words of our text Jesus asserts the continued reality of His human nature after death and resurrection. Elsewhere He declares that as the Son of man He shall ascend into the heavens, where, as the Son of God, He had ever been. And on the day of Pentecost, St. Peter, speaking under the influence of the Pentecostal gift of the Holy Ghost, declares that the eternal Father had exalted the same Jesus whom the Jews had crucified to His own right hand, to be both Lord and Christ. In heaven, today and forever, the Son of God bears the vesture of a glorified human nature. We have a brother on the throne of heaven.
II. The Son of Man and The Sons of Men
A second point for consideration is the Likeness and the Unlikeness of the Son of Man to the Sons of Men.
The Son of Man, Jesus Christ our Lord, is like us, the sons of men, in that He has a true human nature; a true body of flesh and blood, just as our first parents had before sin came to mar the image of God in which they had been created. This body had all the members of a normal body, all the attributes of a perfect humanity. Jesus was like us in this that in His human body there dwelt a human soul, with all its human affections.
Our Savior’s humanity was like ours now in this that it was subject to all the natural weaknesses to which we are subject: to hunger and thirst, to the weariness which makes rest refreshing and enjoyable; to the effects of heat and cold. So truly did Jesus take our nature, and enter into the very circumstances of our life, that He felt the sorrows we feel. He knew the flash of righteous indignation. He was grieved at many of the things which grieve us. He wept bitter tears as we often have to weep them. Jesus knew, as we all know, the distressing pull of temptation. He felt the heartache caused by false friends. He knew the anguish of a pain-racked body. And He knew the emptiness of things, the unutterable darkness, the disconsolate groping of the soul, when the face of the eternal Father had passed into eclipse.
Many of the experiences we have enumerated, indeed, the real burden of them all, came into human life as the result of the ravages of sin. However the mere experience of them is not accompanied by guilt. These natural infirmities Jesus took on Himself, not by constraint, but freely, out of the abounding love He felt for the children of men. He became one with us that, as the Apostle says, He might be touched with the feelings of our infirmities, and approach us as the God who had become our brother. He had to do this so that in reality, and not in seeming, He might become our substitute, and bear our infirmities.
So far as our essential nature is concerned, Christ Jesus had the same humanity we have; but as accidents of our humanity, that is, things which do not belong to our humanity as such, we have a good many things Jesus did not have. Sin did not give us another nature, but it put some things into it which do not rightfully belong there. Many of us have decided personal bodily infirmities, given us by the imperfect formative powers of those by whom we were begotten. All of us have some such imperfections, the result of which is sickness and death. Jesus, being miraculously begotten of a human mother, without a human father, had no such personal imperfections. Many of us, because of faulty knowledge, or imperfect self-control where knowledge exists, have brought various infirmities upon ourselves. Everything of this kind was altogether remote from the holy, perfect humanity of Jesus Christ.
The fundamental difference between Jesus and the children of men is expressed in this that according to His human nature also He was absolutely sinless. The prophets of old foretold that Messias was to be holy, guiltless of all violence and deceit. And the evangelists, looking back through a vista of years which gave them much of the dispassionateness of historical perspective, unhesitatingly spoke of Him as the One “who knew no sin,” being “holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners.” And even amid the surging passions which swayed the hearts of men as the result of the presence and message of Jesus Himself, He dared to fling out the challenge, “which of you convinceth me of sin?” To this day that challenge has never been successfully met. Indeed, all that men need in order to be convinced that in this respect Jesus is heaven high above all other men is truly to know Him, to live in real fellowship with Him. Thus do we come to know both the likeness and the unlikeness of the Son of man to the sons of men.
III. What The Humanity of Christ Means For Men
Finally, let us consider What the Humanity of Christ, the Son of Man, Means to us the Sons of Men.
The humanity of Jesus prepares the way for a better understanding, on man’s part, of God. In a very true sense, we can understand man, ourselves, only when we begin to understand God. On the other hand, God is so high above us, so ineffable in His nature, that we begin to understand Him aright only as we approach Him through the channels which our own nature opens for us. God tells us that He created man in His own image. It therefore necessarily follows that what man is in his best estate is at least a shadow of what God is. Jesus Christ, who came to earth as the express image of the Father, both as to His Divinity and humanity, showed men by the Divine which shone through the human what God is, and by the human which lived in unity with the Divine He showed men again what true humanity is.
In manifold ways the inspired Word emphasizes the fact that Jesus Christ, the God-man, is the avenue of approach both to the knowledge of God, and to fellowship with Him. St. John tells us, in the first chapter of His wonderful Gospel, that when the Eternal Word was made flesh we beheld in Him the glory of the only begotten Son of God. And again, “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him;” namely, in His incarnation, and in His incarnate life. Later, in this same book, the Son Himself, the Eternal Word of Truth, unhesitatingly declares: “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father;” and again, “No man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” Let us by no means ignore the other two persons of the Godhead, the Father and the Holy Ghost. Our great aim, our constant aim, is to be to get rightly to know God. And without knowing the holy Three in One we do not, cannot, know God at all. But if we are eagerly desirous of knowing God, let us put our hand in that of our Elder Brother. As we hear His teachings; as we come to know His character, and make it more and more our own; as we grow in His spirit, we shall more and more be able to visualize the person and character of God.
In Jesus Christ, the God-man, men best learn to know the compassion of God, and obtain their greatest comfort. The heart of man is a bleeding heart. Even when he knows not God, and seems to find pleasure in pursuit of worldly things, there is an emptiness within which often appalls him. He has no staff on which to lean, no anchor to which to tie. And in spite of all that he can do to stifle it, a voice within asserts itself; a voice he often hears echoing from sky, and land, and sea; a voice telling him that over all there is a Power, a Being, to whom we are all subject. Insistent as is this voice of God in nature, it leaves the nature of God a vague, intangible dream. Revelation as we have it in the Old Testament did much to give clearness to our understanding of God. But it was only when Jesus came, clothed in flesh and blood, that the clearest possible knowledge of God, and the closest possible fellowship with Him, were made possible. In Jesus Christ men were given not only the best possible vision of the holiness of God, but of how greatly the holy God loves unholy men, and would love them back into holiness. In Jesus men were given a vision of the beating heart of God, and every pulsation a yearning for the good of His lost and dying children. Jesus Christ, God made flesh, is the most direct, the most undeniable, the most satisfying proof of the love of God for man. The very veil of Jesus’ flesh, while serving to dim the scintillating rays of the light of His Divinity, was the best medium for revealing it, for unveiled it would have blinded mortal eyes.
The humanity of Jesus is the best possible lesson on what true human nature is. By contrasting ourselves with Him we may learn how poor and frail we are. By studying His life we may learn what we may become. It is good that we have such an inspiring ideal at which to look. For when we behold humanity as it is exhibited in many of the men and women around us, we are filled with disgust. And when we study human nature as we find it beneath our own coats, when we recall the ideals we have entertained, but so imperfectly realized; when we think of the thousand resolves we have made looking to betterment, and the thousand failures which have followed, an overwhelming sense of despair comes over us. Jesus inspires us with new hope, and new courage. He shows us the lofty heights to which we may ultimately attain. Not by sudden flight; not by mere self-effort, as so many foolishly dream; but by the way of grace, of forgiveness; and when, cleansed and strengthened by Jesus Himself, we are satisfied earnestly to fight with the weapons He puts in our hands, and slowly to climb laborious heights from which embattled enemies would hurl us down.
Jesus Christ, in His human life, gives us new visions of what the real purpose of our life should be. The prevalent idea of what human life should be is impregnated through and through with selfishness. The usual conception of glory is that the one who dreams of it be seated on some kind of throne around which all others surge to do homage. Happiness is generally conceived of as a state of luxury, the possession of wealth, and ease, ministered unto by those unable to attain. Jesus, in His own active life, taught the world that the crown of human life is attained when the spirit of brotherly, loving, self-sacrificing service so takes hold of one that all the promptings of ambition, and the cravings for happiness, are satisfied as loving ministry pours out its offering in the service of the needy and suffering.
Finally, brethren, let us remember that as the eternal Son of God had to become man in order to accomplish His work of redeeming the world, so must we, the sons of men, be brought into union with God in order to reach our goal. Christ our Savior, appropriated by faith, must dwell in our hearts. Once, many hundred years ago, the Son of God was born in the flesh. If His work is to be done in us individually He must now be permitted to find a new birth in the heart of each one of us.
“O holy child of Bethlehem,
Descend to us we pray;
Cast out our sin and enter in, —
Be born in us today.
O come to us, abide with us,
Our Lord Emmanuel.”
- Author: “Golladay, Robert Emory”
- Title: “The Apostles’ Creed”
- Originally Published: 1917 by Lutheran Book Concern, Columbus, Ohio.
- Lutheran Library Edition: 2020
- Copyright: CC BY 4.0