>Image via Wikipedia(Note: This is a sermon series focused on misconceptions of Jesus in our culture where Jesus is all around us. I’m using Jared Wilson’s book, Your Jesus is Too Safe as a springboard into the series and will follow along with some of his themes. For those of you who haven’t read Wilson’s stuff, I encourage you to at least check out his blog, The Gospel-Driven Church. And, I’ve really enjoyed the book. It’s challenged me.)
Text: Psalm 24:1-6 & Romans 5:17-21
Title: “Jesus: The Man”
We like our God tough. We like our God OMNIPOTENT and OMNIPRESENT and OMNISCIENT (all-powerful, all-present, all-knowing). We like our God to be GODLY, with some holy muscle on him. We can talk pretty openly about Jesus being with us wherever we go and how much he loves us and speaks to us through his Spirit.
Sometimes it’s harder for us to come to grips with the humanness of Jesus. That’s why I stress at Christmastime that the great God of the universe has come to us as a helpless baby in the manger…who cried and got gas and spit up on Mary’s shoulder as she burped him.
That’s some human stuff.
And there’s other parts with being human that we just don’t get into with Jesus. As fully human I’m pretty sure he had to use the restroom. I’m pretty sure he left toys on the floor and had acne. I’m pretty sure he sometimes laughed so hard that he got the hiccups or did one of those SNORT noises that some people do when they laugh. He was human. He was a baby. He was a boy. He was a teenager. He was a man.
But, if we’re honest with ourselves, we need to admit that there is a leap of faith that comes with this, for we say that Jesus was both fully God and fully man…not the typical, everyday experience. And sometimes, trying to hold these together, persons have come down way on the side of one of the other.
Throughout this sermon series, we’ve been saying that there are certain MISCONCEPTIONS that people have of Jesus – like he’s angry and doesn’t forgive of that he has nothing to do with all that came before him in the Old Testament. But, the MISCONCEPTION about Jesus being fully God and not human at all isn’t even a misconception. The church, long ago—like, in the 3rd century—,called it a heresy.
Here’s a little history lesson for you. In the 3rd century the church was dealing with a growing belief that JESUS FELT NO PAIN. While there was a lot going on at the time that tried to deny the divinity of Christ, this is one that denied the humanity. The name of this belief is DOCETISM. Docetism comes from the Greek work which means “TO SEEM” or “TO APPEAR” and, in docetism, Jesus wasn’t really human although he SEEMED to be human.
There is a logic here. Because we have an all-powerful, all present, totally transcendent God, it would be impossible for our God to experience any kind of human suffering. It wouldn’t make sense. And to embrace some sort of idea where the great ruler of the universe would have put on human flesh and moved into our neighborhoods was, well unthinkable. Couldn’t have happened.
The early church, however, fought back hard. I know the name Irenaeus probably isn’t known to you, but it was Irenaeus who wrote from prison saying, essentially: Hey, why am I in prison if the gospel is just some harmless lie, where no one really suffered and died?
His exact words were more pointed, even:
Turn a deaf ear therefore when any one speaks to you apart from Jesus Christ, who was of the family of David, the child of Mary, who was truly born, who ate and drank, who was truly persecuted under Pontius Pilate, was truly crucified and truly died….But if, as some godless men, that is, unbelievers, say, he suffered in mere appearance (being themselves being mere appearances), why am I in bonds?
[And another ancient saint in the fray is Polycarp who] “makes the strongest possible charge against the Docetists by saying that “everyone who does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is an anti-Christ,” echoing 1 John 4:2-3.”
So, what’s the big deal here? What’s the problem with having a view that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ never touched the ground because he was so Godly and surely couldn’t have suffered and died? Well, that’s what we need to get at.
It all kind of goes back to that Psalm passage we read, from Psalm 24 a bit earlier:
The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it; for he has founded it on the seas, and established it on the rivers. Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? Those who have clean hands and pure hearts, who do not lift up their souls to what is false, and do not swear deceitfully. They will receive blessing from the Lord, and vindication from the God of their salvation. Such is the company of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob.
This is David, back in the Old Testament. David…with all of his Bathsheba problem. This is not someone with clean hands and a pure heart. And yet, here he is, singing about the only one being able to ascend the hill of the Lord…the only one able to bridge the distance between God and humankind is the one who is clean and pure and doesn’t do what is false, and doesn’t swear…deceitfully.
Even in the Old Testament, there was a sense that what was needed, to really connect us with God was someone…some human…who was without sin. We needed a human to make the sacrifice to restore the relationship between humans and God.
That’s where Jesus comes in.
The Bible is full of the humanness of Jesus. We’ve already alluded to that birth in the manger that we celebrated about a month and a half ago. (Really, it’s about a month and a half ago. I swear!) And we know this was a real birth, albeit a miraculous one with a virgin for a mother—and that’s “virgin” in the classic sense of the word and not “virgin” as in “a young girl” which is what the original word in Isaiah, that points to this might have meant. The gospels are clear that Mary and Joseph had no marital relations before Jesus was born.
And then we kind of enter a cloudy area in Jesus’ life, because there’s just not much there. We might be fully interested in hearing about Jesus’ childhood friends, and whether he got picked first or last for the baseball team and whether or not he responded with some “and the first will be last” comment. But we just don’t have that information. We know that he got lost from his parents when he was just 12 years old and his parents found him in the temple. But that’s about it. And we have to deal with that.
Says Jared Wilson, whose book Your Jesus is Too Safe is serving as the background for this series says,
Though we’d love to know more about Jesus as a child, the gospel writers were more interested in telling us about the powerful and redemptive work of his adult ministry than in satisfying our curiosity about his childhood. The modern imaginative insistence—that the church excised from the Gospels and then concealed whatever happened in Jesus’ adolescence—is not only fanciful, it is also anachronistic—it assumes the Gospels must adhere to the forms and conventions of modern biographies. (83)
In short, the gospel writers didn’t care to tell us what happened in Jesus’ teens and twenties…why…because that wasn’t really important to the salvation story at hand.
We can assume some things.
We might assume that Jesus was a carpenter because we know Joseph was. But, Jesus is never called a carpenter in the Bible…only a carpenter’s son (Matthew 13:55). He’s called “Rabbi” or “Teacher” a lot more frequently. It could very well be that he studied as a Rabbi. That would make some sense.
We can also assume that Joseph, Jesus’ dad died at some point. That would explain why we don’t hear about Joseph at all after the “lost in the temple” experience. And, it would also explain why, Jesus, at the cross, gives his friend John charge of his mother.
There would have been no need to do this if Joseph were still living, and indeed, John takes Mary into his home to live thereafter. Mary’s widowhood would partially explain Jesus’ close relationship with her throughout the gospel stories. The other explanation for maintaining such a close, sweet relationship with his mother is just that he was the perfect son. (Wilson, 84)
Some have assumed that Jesus was married, even married and having kids. Does Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code ring a bell to anyone? There are some problems with this.
First, it doesn’t make historical sense. We know it’s not in the four gospels. And, if he had gotten married, there’d be no reason not to include it. It wouldn’t be scandalous and therefore kept from the first century Christians. Moreover, if he had been married with kids, it would have been a big part of his life and worthy of a mention.
Secondly, it doesn’t make logical sense. We started this discussion of Jesus’ manhood by saying that he was the perfect man…the perfect human…and was therefore able to bridge the divide between God and humanity. Well, what kind of perfect man would leave his wife and kids behind to go tour around the countryside with 12 guys for three year before dying for the sins of the world? He’d be a horrible man. It’s not logical.
All this is to say that, orthodox Christianity doesn’t believe that he was married. If he had been, it wouldn’t make him any less the Son of God and Son of Man. But, since he didn’t get married it’s kind of a moot point.
But, beyond assumptions, there are some things that we really can know about Jesus the Man from the three years of ministry that get recorded in the Gospels.
We can know the Jesus was a humble man.
This is, perhaps, a little odd considering here’s a guy who says, “I am the Way and the Truth, and the Life” and demanded that the lives of all his followers revolved around him. But we know he was humble.
This is one who gave up the throne of heaven to come down to earth to redeem. He gave. He served. He sought. Think of how he lowered himself to move into our neighborhood, earth…the neighborhood on the other side of the tracks from heaven.
Philippians says he “made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross.”
He was humble man.
We can also know he was a brilliant man.
This may be hard for us to grasp, as we see brilliance in the minds of Einstein or Plato, Augustine or Isaac Newton. We don’t think of Jesus.
Yesterday I had a meeting for The Walk to Emmaus spiritual retreat. And, on the retreat, the Walk to Emmaus story from Luke comes up where Jesus walks with persons after the resurrection and they are distraught at what’s taken place around his death. But as they walked along Jesus opened up their hearts to all the scriptures about himself.
And we believe that Jesus was a brilliant guy and believe that his words are not just a quaint account of first century life, but are words of instruction and life across the miles and the ages. We believe he was good, but that he was smart in the practical application.
But, says Wilson:
In one of the great ironies of our modern evangelical subculture, we are very big on “making” the Christian faith practical and “relevant,” yet by and large we go on living our lives as if Jesus had nothing relevant to say about what we do and say, who we date or marry, what sort of jobs we take, what sort of families we raise, where we spend our time with. (94-95)
We’ll take our Jesus as “good” but will we take him as smart enough to know what’s best for us.
We can know him as fully man.
Because Jesus was fully man, he can reverse Adam’s fall. Our Romans passage says this:
If, because of the one man’s trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all.
Jesus was fully man…but a fully sinless man. That makes our righteousness possible. This is integral to a Christian understanding of salvation.
But he was fully man as well in that he experienced the highs, the lows, of human life. He knew loss of family (Joseph and John the Baptist). He knew the loss of a friend (Lazarus). He knew temptation (remember that time in the desert). He knew what it was like to be lost from him parent.
He might not have experienced exactly what you’re going through or you’ve been through but he knew what it was like to be rejected by friends and family. He knew anxiety. He knew physical abuse. He even knew what it was like to die.
As human as we are, we may want a God who is totally other than us…divine. That’s understandable. And, in many ways, Jesus was and is that. But as divine as our God is, he knew that the way to offer us a better way was to become one of us…fully. Know that Jesus the man has accomplished all that his Father has set out to have him do. And because of that we can ascend “the hill of the Lord.”
In the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.