TEXT: Isa 7:1-14; Ps 40:1-10; 1 Tim 3:14-16; John 1:1-14
From New Testament times every Church failing is grounded in a failure to share fully in the life of Christ (Col 2:9-10 ESV). The Corinthians were in disorder because they trusted in human wisdom rather than the cross (1 Cor 1:18-2:5 ESV), the Colossians were entangled in legalisms because they thought spirit beings other than Christ could connect us to God (Col 2:8-23 ESV), the church in Ephesus had fallen because they had abandoned Jesus as their first love (Rev 2:2-5 ESV).
The catastrophic powerlessness, immorality, division and decline in Western Christianity is a sign we are not trusting Christ as our sole foundation (1 Cor 3:11 ESV; Eph 2:20 ESV). When Paul says, “there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 2:5 ESV) he pictures Jesus as the sole saving point of contact between God and humanity.
As a divine-human person Jesus alone can tell us who God is and what it means to be a human being. Jesus personally is the solution to the age old lament articulated about God by Job, “There is no arbiter between us, who might lay his hand on us both.” (Job 9:33 ESV).
That the one true God exists as a human being in Christ is inexpressible wonderful news that cries out for communication. We should always be talking to others about Jesus, inside and outside of the Church.
Two personal experiences come to mind that explain why this isn’t happening.
The first is when a theology tutor reminded our class that Jesus went to the toilet.
The second is when after a week of prayer for revival the Holy Spirit brought indelibly to my mind these words for the Athanasian Creed; that Jesus is God and Man “not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh; but by the taking of humanity into God”.
In Jesus humanity has become a part of God forever.
But rarely are Christians gripped in their hearts by the fullness of the reality of the humanity of God because we are confused about what sort of a human being God has become.
NATURE AND SIN
When John 1 (John 1:14 ESV) says, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” it uses a word for “flesh” which never has a positive meaning in this Gospel. In John 3 Jesus sets “flesh” and “spirit” in contradiction; “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit….‘You must be born again.’” (John 3:6-7 ESV).
In John 6 (John 6:63 ESV) Christ says, “It is the Spirit (of God) who gives life; the flesh is no help at all.” At the very least the humanity which the Son of God took on was a useless weight to the divine purposes.
Even more forcefully, when Hebrews says “in every respect (Jesus) has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb 4:15 ESV), it means that in order to fully identify with our struggles Jesus took up our weakened human nature.
This insight should humble us into a deeper appreciation of what Jesus endured to save us. But the scriptural testimony to the incapacitating character of the humanity the Son of God took on for us is even more penetrating.
Romans 8 (Rom 8:3 ESV) says, “God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh.” In coming to transform us as we are Jesus took on a nature essentially the same as ours, a nature disposed to rebel against God.
His victories over temptation came not from his being God or possessing some “super-humanity” but by totally depending on the Holy Spirit. I’ll come back to this a little later as it is the key to our salvation.
A GROWING NATURE
To be a real person Christ had to grow and develop. So Luke tells us the young Jesus “increased in wisdom and in stature and in favour with God and people.” (Luke 2:52 ESV).
It’s easy to envisage Jesus growing physically and mentally but the Bible teaches he also grew spiritually. Hebrews tells us twice that Jesus was “made perfect” through suffering (Heb 2:10 ESV; Heb 5:9 ESV). This doesn’t mean Jesus ever sinned but indicates he needed ongoing empowerment to keep on obeying his Father’s commandments (John 15:10 ESV).
He was strengthened in grace through prayer, reading the scriptures, sharing in the fellowship of the people of God and so on (e.g. Luke 4:16 ESV; Luke 11:1 ESV). If you are struggling to pray, ask Jesus to share with you how the Father taught him to pray, if the Bible is dull, ask Christ to share with you what the scriptures mean to him… Christians grow to be like Christ by ever deeper communion with his humanity.
Jesus delights to share with us everything that’s truly human. For example, we increase in joy as we receive more of Jesus’ own joy; as he said in John 15:11 ESV, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (cf. John 17:13 ESV; 1 Pet 1:8 ESV).
A FEELING NATURE
People think that God doesn’t understand them, but in Jesus God is completely familiar with human feelings, from the inside. When the Gospels tell us that Jesus felt compassion it uses a word related to the troubled movement of the intestines (Matt 9:36; 14:14; 15:32). An experiential state so potent it is used only of Jesus and of God in the New Testament. To feel compassion for someone you have to sense in them something you identify with in yourself; the compassion of Jesus is an outstanding evidence of his fully perfect humanity. And since Jesus alone never hardened his heart to the broken condition of lost humanity his sensitivity to our suffering was limitless.
Jesus’ “fellow feeling” with lost people is far more important than what we might first imagine. Remember the shortest verse in the Bible, “Jesus wept” (John 11:35).
The empathy of the Son of God imparted a tremendous sense of dignity to those broken people around him.
Sinful, suffering, struggling men and women felt limitlessly honoured by the feeling heart of God in Christ. They knew that God was not “out there” on the other side of some divide but that in Jesus God was “found on the same side as humanity under distress” (Ray S. Anderson).
Do lost people see God as on their side through our lives?… If the answer is “No” then you know what the problem is; we, the Church, don’t really believe in the humanity of God in Christ.
All this could sound very sentimental but the biblical account of the humanity of Jesus is all embracing.
Confronting the legalism of the Pharisees Mark tells us Jesus “looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart” (Mark 3:5 ESV).
Christ is the perfect lens through which both God’s sorrow and wrath are revealed in equal measure (cf. John 14:9 ESV). When Jesus was confronted with taking the cup of God’s wrath in the Garden of Gethsemane (Isa 51:17 ESV; Jer 25:15 ESV; Rev 14:9-10 ESV) his soul was in such turmoil that in prayer “his sweat became like great drops of blood” (Luke 22:44 ESV). This was his perfect fear of taking on the judgement of God which we all deserve.
Life was never easy for Jesus.
Born into relative poverty (Luke 2:24 ESV), fasting for 40 days in the wilderness (Matt 4:2 ESV), rejected by his own home town (Luke 4:18-30 ESV), not believed in by his own brothers (John 7:5 ESV), unsupported and then abandoned by his closest friends (Mark 14:32-50 ESV), betrayed, beaten, crucified. In Christ God’s sensitivity to the human struggle is complete.
Only the sacrificial love of God can explain why the Son of God left the beauty of heaven to enter into the realm of our tortured humanity (John 3:16 ESV ff.). In love God took into himself the sinfulness of the human race in order to destroy the power of sin (Rom 8:3 ESV). In Jesus a complete victory for humanity in humanity has taken place.
When Paul proclaims triumphantly, “thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor 15:57 ESV), he means that we overcome sin, death and the law by the power of Jesus’ own victorious humanity.
Christ is not a mere teacher of the ways of God or a perfect example to be imitated. He is the Way of God who recreates our hearts and minds from the inside (John 14:6 ESV cf. Col 1:15 – 3:10 ESV).
This is why there are no “Christian principles”. God doesn’t have any “truths” to share with you he only has his Son to give to you who is the Truth (John 14:6 ESV; Eph 4:21 ESV).
I was appalled during the week to read a well known Christian writing that the Islamic proclamation, “In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful” was the best perspective on God of any religion and Jesus embodied this perspective.
But we cannot know anything final about compassion and mercy outside the revelation of who God is in Jesus. Jesus is not the embodiment of some “principle” but the substance of everything God ever wanted for humanity.
The Christian faith really is scandalous to ordinary human reason and religion for we worship a human being who has revealed the one true God through his own struggling but victorious humanity.
Anyone who would be saved (Matt 1:21 ESV) know God as he is (John 17:31-32 ESV)… know the truth which sets us free (John 8:32 ESV) must come to Jesus. Have you come to Jesus?
Are you asking Jesus, daily, constantly, to share his life with you? In Christ God became human, suffered and died and was glorified so he might give himself to us as we give ourselves to him.
It’s all about Jesus; he’s the centre and circumference of all the Father’s purposes for creation. As the mathematics teacher would say, “Jesus is the whole point.” Or as I would tell to my students, “It’s Jesus, the whole Jesus and nothing but Jesus so help me God!”
Do you know that the Father whom we worship in the power of the Spirit has only one aim for your life because he has only one aim in his life, now and forever, to fill everything with his all lovely, excellent, honourable and praiseworthy Son (Gal 1:16 ESV; Eph 1:10 ESV; Phil 4:9 ESV).
If you are not Jesus centred in this way then you are centred on something else; you’re self-centred, family-centred, money-centred, pleasure centred or even (how dreadful) church-centred. Today let us run to Christ and implore him to share his life with us so that we might our lives with him, whatever the cost…
MESSAGE DELIVERED: 3rd. June, 2018 | St Mark’s
Author: Dr. John Yates
MESSAGE YouTube or PODCAST: 3rd. June, 2018
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