The son of God is not only godly; he is also quintessentially human.
What manner of a man is Jesus? The answer reveals a kingdom dynamic vital and fundamental to the believer’s walk. Jesus is the godly man; precisely the kind of man God re-created man to be.
Jesus is a man. Like us, he was born of a woman. Like us, he had brothers and sisters. (Matthew 13:55-56). It is imperative to recognise Jesus as a man, otherwise he would become irrelevant to us. Jesus is exactly like you and me; making him appropriately our kinsman redeemer:
“From the very beginning God decided that those who came to him – and all along he knew who would – should become like his Son (Jesus), so that his Son would be the First, with many brothers.” (Romans 8:29).
Jesus became a man in order to demonstrate to men that the impossible is now possible in man. Because of Jesus, it is now possible for man to be godly. Because of Jesus, the believer is no longer ordinary but extraordinary. He is no longer natural but supernatural. He is no longer human but super-human.
Indeed, what the scriptures say about Jesus, is now also applicable to believers. When they talk about the ability of Jesus, they are also talking about our ability. Jesus says: “He who believes in me, the works that I do he will do also.” (John 14:12). Since Jesus is the light of the world, the believer is also the light of the world.
Jesus’ full identification with our humanity is a great source of hope. It is encouraging that Jesus was tempted in all points, just as we are, and yet he remained completely free of sin. If Jesus had overcome the tempter in his nature as God, it would clearly have no relevance to us. But significantly Jesus met Satan’s tests as a human being.
The devil dared Jesus that if he is the Son of God he should command stones to become bread. However, Jesus did not answer him as the Son of God. He answered him as the son of man. He told him: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4).
Brother In Humanity
Since Jesus overcame Satan’s testing as a human being, then it means we too have the dominion to overcome temptation as human beings:
“It was necessary for Jesus to be like us, his brothers, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God, a Priest who would be both merciful to us and faithful to God in dealing with the sins of the people. For since he himself has now been through suffering and temptation, he knows what it is like when we suffer and are tempted, and he is wonderfully able to help us.” (Hebrews 2:17-18).
In Jesus, the very power of God entered the mainstream of humanity. The scriptures proclaim this grace in dramatic fashion. When Jesus performed a miracle: “A chill of fear swept through the crowd as they saw this happen right before their eyes. How they praised God for giving such authority to a man!” (Matthew 9:8).
Jesus is so embarrassingly human that his humanity is often a stumbling stone and a rock of offence to the undiscerning. Isaiah describes him unglamorously as “a tender plant; a root out of a dry ground.” (Isaiah 53:2). If you slapped Jesus, he would cry out in pain. If you stabbed him he would bleed. When he went without food, he became hungry. (Matthew 4:2). When he went without water, he became thirsty. (John 4:7). When he was pained, he wept. (John 11:35). Confronted with the cross, he travailed. (Luke 22:41-44). When he was crucified, he died.
Jesus was not all spit and polish. He was not a stiff and joyless religious man as are many latter-day Pharisees and contemporary Christians. He liked visiting his friends. Although purposeful, he had time for relaxation. If you invited him to a party or to a wedding, he was not too religious to attend. He would come even if you were a Pharisee or say an atheist. He loved a good meal. He was not impartial to a glass of fine wine. And if you ran out prematurely, he was known to turn water into alcoholic wine.
The scriptures also describe Elijah as a man of like passions as we are. Here was a mighty “man of God,” and yet he was man and therefore very much like us. Elijah had just triumphed over the prophets of Baal, killing 400 of them. And yet Jezebel, undaunted, threatened him: “Elijah, by this time tomorrow, you are a dead man.”
What did Elijah do? He ran away. He did not just stand firm and call down fire from heaven. Some insist: “If I were Elijah, I would have shown Jezebel a thing or two.” Well, you would have waited for Jezebel and been killed because you are a man. If Jezebel shoots you, you will die because you are still in the flesh. When Herod threatened baby Jesus, God instructed his parents to flee to Egypt.
How did God deal with runaway Elijah? He did not rebuke him. Instead, he ministered to his humanity. He provided for his needs. An angel came and brought him food to eat and water to drink. (1 Kings 19:5-8).
Man’s Divine Validation
The incarnation of Jesus is God’s validation of our humanity. It means God has taken everything about the frailty of our humanity into full consideration in working out our salvation. The psalmist notes that: “(God) knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:14).
Thanks to Jesus, God knows exactly how much we can take. He knows exactly what we can endure: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15).
We ascribe a lot to the divinity of God. God is holy. God is sinless. God is love. God is merciful. But what about the humanity of God? Balaam says: “God is not a man!” (Number 23:19). Bully for Balaam. God became a man. Therefore, man must become godly. If God is holy then the man in Christ must also be holy. Indeed, it is God’s commandment: “Be holy for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:16).
What happens to the man side of man when the son of man becomes the son of God? Why does God not merely create godly gods if the human side of man is supposed to be nullified? Why does he go through the route of making men godly? It can only be because God does not reject the man side of man.
When God created man as man, he said it was very good. He only became disappointed when man became ungodly. But now in Christ, God has created the godly man. But to do that, God became a man. So doing, he validated our humanity. In which case, the son of God is not only godly; he is also quintessentially human.