“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)
This verse gives us a beautiful hint that the Messiah would be both God and man, for it says that “for to us a child is born,” which means that this Messiah will be a man, born as a child. But it also says, “to us a son is given,” which means that this Messiah also will a son, given to us by God, God’s Son. So this prophecy 700 years before the birth of Jesus already points to Him being both God and man. But did this prophecy come true? Is Jesus really both God and man? Fully God, fully man; His whole earthly life, and now still?
My objective in this post is simple. Let’s see what the Bible has to say about Jesus’ humanity. Let’s see what the Bible has to say about Jesus’ divinity. Let’s ask some difficult questions that come into mind. And let’s consider the importance of Jesus being both.
Jesus Is Fully Man
So how human was Jesus? Well, although His conception was a miracle, Jesus was born just as all human babies are born (Luke 2:7), and the Bible says that He “grew and became strong” (Luke 2:40). The fact that Jesus “increased in wisdom” (Luke 2:52) implies that He went through a learning process just as all other children do – learning how to eat, talk, read, write, and how to be obedient to His parents (Heb. 5:8).
After Jesus had fasted for forty days in the wilderness, we read that “He was hungry” (Mat. 4:2). And when He hung on the cross He said, “I thirst” (John 19:28). When He came to the well in Samaria and was talking to the woman, it says that He was sitting down because He was wearied from His journey (John 4:6), and so He became tired just as we do. Something we see as well right before Jesus wakes up to calm the storm, He “was in the stern, asleep on the cushion” (Mark 4:38) and the disciples actually had to wake Him up to calm the storm. We also read that His soul was troubled (John 12:27), and that He was “troubled in His spirit” (John 13:21). He was clearly angry when He drove the money-changers out of the temple with a whip of cords (John 2:15). He marvelled at the faith of the centurion (Mat. 8:10), and wept at the death of His good friend Lazarus (John 11:35). Yet He also had compassion on the crowd (Mat. 9:36), and wanted His joy to be in us (John 15:11).
On His way to the cross to be crucified, the soldiers forced Simon the Cyrene to carry His cross (Luke 23:26), most likely because Jesus was so weak from all the beatings He had received. And ultimately we see His limitations in terms of His human body when He died on the cross (Luke 23:46) and His human body ceased to have life in it, just as ours does when we die. But then Jesus also rose from the dead in a physical human body (though one that was made perfect), and afterward when He was with His disciples He said to them, “See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have,” (Luke 24:39) and they “gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them.” (Luke 24:42-43). And in that same human body Jesus also ascended into heaven (Acts 1:9), and it says that He will come back in that same body (Acts 1:11).
Matthew reports an amazing incident in the middle of Jesus’ ministry when even though He had taught throughout Galilee “healing every disease and every affliction among the people” (Mat. 4:23), when He came in His own village of Nazareth the people who knew Him best, the neighbors with whom He has lived and worked for thirty years, saw Him as no more than an ordinary man, living an ordinary life, saying, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter’s son? […] Where then did this man get all these things?” (Mat. 13:54-58).
All this to say that as far as Jesus’ human body is concerned, it was like ours in every aspect both before as well as after the resurrection. His divine nature was permanently united to His human nature. Jesus will remain fully God and fully man, yet in one person, forever.
Jesus Is Fully God
So what do the gospels say about the deity of Jesus? Was Jesus really God? Some people say that Jesus never says that He is God, but that is not true. Jesus repeatedly said He is God, but often He does it in a way that we do not directly recognize without understanding some background.
Two things we need to realize. The first is that many times in the gospels Jesus calls Himself the Son of Man, which is a term from Daniel’s vision in Daniel 7, pointing to the Messiah, the eternal world ruler, coming from heaven. So when we read in Matthew 26, “And the high priest said to him, ‘I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.’ Jesus said to him, ‘You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.’ Then the high priest tore his robes and said, ‘He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy.’” (Matthew 26:63-65; see also Mark 14:61-62), Jesus is claiming to be this eternal world ruler coming from heaven from Daniel’s vision. And we know that the high priest knows this as well, because he calls it blasphemy. What is blasphemy according to the Jews? Making yourself equal to God. So, Jesus said He was God.
And this is exactly why the Jews wanted Jesus dead. We read in John 10, “The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, ‘I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?’ The Jews answered him, ‘It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.’” (John 10:31-33). Jesus continually made Himself equal to God.
Secondly, Jesus frequently called Himself the Son of God (see for instance Matthew 27:43); saying that God was His father. Now we may see that being God and being the Son of God are two different things, they are not the same. But the Jews say otherwise. We read, “This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.” (John 5:18). And Jesus acknowledged this equality with God by saying things like “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30) and “Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me” (John 14:11).
One of the biggest statements of Jesus claiming to be God can be found in John 8 where He is talking to the Jews about Abraham, and the Jews say “‘Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?” […] You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.’ So they picked up stones to throw at him” (John 8:53, 57-58). Why did they pick up stones to kill Jesus? When Jesus said, “before Abraham was, I AM” He was claiming to be the voice from the burning bush; the I AM WHO I AM. The I AM who sent Moses to liberate Israel. Jesus was claiming to be God.
We also have His disciples say that He is God. When He asked them, “‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered him, ‘You are the Christ.’” (Mark 8:29). And also when Jesus presents Himself to Thomas after the resurrection, Jesus said, “‘Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’” (John 20:27-28)
OK, this is all Jesus or others saying that He was God, but are there any examples of actions in Jesus’ lifetime that point to Him being God? Well, Jesus demonstrated His omnipotence (being all powerful) when He multiplied the loaves and the fish (Matthew 14:19), or when He stilled the storm at sea with a word (Matthew 8:26-27). Jesus demonstrated His omniscience (being all knowing) in knowing people’s thoughts (Mark 2:8) and it says that Jesus “needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.” (John 2:25). And also the disciples said things like, “Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God.” (John 16:30) and “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you” (John 21:17). On top of that Jesus claimed the power to lay down His life and take it up again (John 10:17-18), which He both did.
All of this to say that Scripture tells us in words and actions that Jesus was fully God. “He is the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15), “for in Him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Colossians 2:9). “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature” (Hebrews 1:3)
Questions, Questions, Questions!
Now, I don’t know about you, but this raises all sorts of questions for me. And none of them are easy to answer. Questions like, how can Jesus be fully God and fully man at the same time, always? How could Jesus be all powerful and yet weak? How could He leave the world and be present everywhere? How could He learn things and yet be all knowing? And if He was always both at the same time, was Jesus able to sin? If He was able to sin, then how can He be God (because God can’t sin)? If He wasn’t able to sin, then was He even tempted to sin? And how can He truly identify and sympathize with us if He was or wasn’t able to sin? Why was it even necessary for Him to be fully man and fully God? And why is it important to understand and embrace this? Does this really matter in daily life? Like I said, none of these questions are easy to answer, but I do want to share some thoughts.
The Bible clearly says that while He was fully human, He was different in one important respect: He was without sin, and He never committed sin during His lifetime. To the Jews who opposed Him, Jesus asked, “Which one of you convicts me of sin?” (John 8:46), and received no answer. In spite of all the accusations, Pilate could “find no crime in Him” (John 18:38). Jesus Himself said regarding His father, “I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.” (John 8:29). Paul said that “for our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Peter said, “He committed no sin” (1 Peter 2:22).
OK, He was truly man yet without sin. But was it even possible for Jesus to have sinned? The Bible tells us that Jesus was fully man who did not sin, that Jesus is fully God, that Jesus was tempted (Luke 4:2; Hebrews 4:15), and that God cannot be tempted (James 1:13) nor sin. Do you see the difficulty with these truths? If we believe these individual statements, and that these all come together in the person of Jesus, then there must be a way in which Jesus’ human nature and divine nature work together in a way that He can be distinctly fully man and distinctly fully God, and was tempted in one (human) sense and in another (divine) sense not be tempted. Yet Scripture doesn’t explain it, so I guess this is where faith comes in.
On the other hand, we can make a suggestion. We could say that if Jesus’ human nature had existed by itself apart from His divine nature, then there would have been the possibility for Him to have sinned, since it was a similar human nature that God gave Adam and Eve, and they sinned. But Jesus’ human nature never existed apart from His divine nature. Both His human and divine nature existed united in one person. We could also say that any act of sin involves the person, and that therefore if He had sinned, it would have involved both His human and divine natures. But this would imply that God Himself would have sinned, and it’s not possible for God to sin. Therefore, a conclusion could be that it was not possible for Jesus to sin, because the union of both natures in one person would have prevented that.
This then raises the question if Jesus’ temptations could have been real. And the answer is yes, because Jesus refused to rely on His divine nature to make obedience easier for Him, but met every temptation to sin on the strength of His human nature alone. And we see this play out in the temptations of Jesus in the wilderness. For instance, Jesus had the ability, because of His divine nature, to change the stones into bread, but if He had done this He would no longer have been obeying in the strength of His human nature alone. And so He resisted the temptation to the full although He was very hunger. The temptations were real, even though He did not give in to them. In fact, they were most real because He did not give in to them. Jesus was “one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)
Why Is This All So Important?
This brings me to the question of why is it so important to understand and embrace the fact that Jesus was, and is, fully man and fully God? And what does this mean for every day life?
If Jesus isn’t fully man, we lose everything. Jesus has to be fully man so He could perfectly obey God’s law in our place where Adam and all of us failed (Rom. 5:19). Jesus has to be fully man so He could die and pay the penalty for our sins in our place. He died the death we should have died and paid the prize we should have paid (2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 2:16-17). Jesus has to be fully man so He could live an exemplary life for us to follow (1 Peter 2:21). And Jesus has to be fully man so He could rise from the dead to give us hope beyond this life. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15, “… if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. […] If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead […] For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 5:16-21)
Likewise, if Jesus isn’t fully God, we lose everything. Jesus has to be fully God, because only an infinite God could bear the penalty of all the sins. Jesus has to be fully God, because “salvation belongs to the LORD!” (Jonah 2:9), and the whole message of the Bible is designed to show that no human being could ever save man or himself, only God Himself could. And Jesus has to be fully God, because only someone truly and fully God could both bring us back to God (1 Timothy 2:5) and also reveal God most fully to us (John 17:1-5)
He had to be both! “… the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. […] And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” (John 1:14, 16)
This isn’t just good news, this is the best news ever! I don’t need a God who just sits on His throne in heaven and silently and unpredictably looks down on me with contempt, thinking ‘How can you be this way?’, but giving me no possibilities or opportunities to meet His standards.
I don’t need a God like this. I need Jesus to be exactly how He is. I need a God who is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (Psalm 103:8). A God who came down from heaven to earth to dwell among us to give us “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6). A God who came down to save all of us who are so desperately lost, and call us to repent and turn to Him. A God who came down to serve us by laying down His life for us in order to save us and bring us God. But in my depth of sin and the face of constant trial and temptation, I also need a God who can understand and relate because He not only faced it all, but has done it in a way which gives all glory to God. And in all those circumstances I need a God who doesn’t just have pity on me, but who is “able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him” (Hebrews 7:25)
And we have a God like this, and His name is Jesus. By His perfect and sinless life, His sacrificial death and His resurrection, God provided us a way to be reconciled to Him, if by faith we believe that Jesus is the Son of God. And right now there is a human in the throne room of heaven, who, because He is fully human, is able to sympathize with all of our weaknesses and struggles because He was tempted in every respect as we are (Hebrews 4:15), and because He is fully God, is able to intercede for us to God the Father to ensure our salvation.
This is a God worthy of all worship and glory, so let us rejoice with great joy in what God has done for us through Jesus, who came, and because of what He has done we can now come to Him, and proclaim “Salvation belongs to the LORD!” (Jonah 2:9)