3 Reasons Human Jesus is Important

3 Reasons Human Jesus is Important March 31, 2015

by Jared Byas

Jared Byas

This week Christians celebrate the crazy idea that God became human.

While affirming this in theory, my evangelical upbringing was very uncomfortable with the idea of Human Jesus. We had to admit Jesus was human but that didn’t mean we had to like it.

After all, God Jesus is where the magic happens. Human Jesus sometimes muddles the important stuff, takes our eyes off the ball about heaven and whatnot. But here I submit 3 reasons why Human Jesus is important to remember:

1. God gets that we are a mess. Jesus experienced the love of his mother and the betrayal of his best friends. He felt the beautiful sensuality of getting his feet wiped with the hair of a young woman and the tortuous pain of getting his feet nailed to a cross.

In seminary it was through seeing Jesus as unapologetically human that I was able to see that God doesn’t want me to become superhuman but wants me to be a loved person.

Christianity isn’t an instruction manual for how to be perfect like God but a story about how God became like us. And that’s a crucial difference.

2. God is willing to join the mess. God doesn’t mind “looking bad” for the sake of those God loves.

If you want to be in relationship with broken humans, you run the risk of looking broken yourself. God doesn’t seem to care. Why do we?Bible House

The streak I see in Human Jesus is the holy being so involved in the lives of the unholy that people are uncomfortable with how, from the outside, it’s hard to tell the difference. I see a God who, for the sake of love would risk reputation, trading in “omnipotent” for “glutton” and “drunk.”

3. Because of #1 & #2, I expect a very human-looking Bible.
If the same God that came to earth as an unimpressive carpenter from an underperforming people group also provided us a book, I would expect it to look very human. Would it run the risk of looking ordinary, unrefined, and altogether human?

Yes. Point taken. The Bible looks a lot like Jesus.


Photo | Bible House by Theen Moy

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  • Jefferson W. Slinkard

    Wonderful story! Having a human Jesus makes it understandable, that scripture too, can be “messed” up a bit.

    • newenglandsun

      Either that or at least “dumbed down” in such a way that we humans can understand a little better. My mom was telling me when we were looking into a Lutheran Church a few months ago (I wanted to see what was inside because it was one of those LCMS churches that tend to be more elaborate) how when me and my sisters were little, they wanted us to see Jesus as a man so we could relate better to God.

      Of course, I would definitely raise my own children (assuming I end up having children) mysticizing on the entire Trinity and hypostatic union (understanding not a requirement for me). But God becoming a man was definitely a way of “dumbing it down” for us humans. Even the transfiguration moment was difficult to handle for the disciples.

  • newenglandsun

    We have Jesus’s humanity, of course. But humanity itself was created in the image of God. Jesus was literally human in its fullest sense of the word. The humanity of Jesus is definitely important. God became man so that we might become god as St. Athanasius would say. Without the incarnation, our nature could not possibly be fully raised back up to its fullest. The incarnation enabled theosis.

    • FEEuser

      What is the difference between “God” and “god”?

      • newenglandsun

        We don’t actually become God himself but partake in the nature of the divinity with God. “god” means “deified” in this sense.

        • FEEuser

          How can one “partake in the nature of the divinity with God” without BECOMING God, better, without BEING God?

          If Jesus, who was fully God, was fully human as well, why are you, who are fully human, not fully “God” as well? Why isn’t every human being fully God as well?

          • newenglandsun

            Theosis is a mystery (like the Trinity) that is accepted with faith but can only be understood via experiencing it. Sorry I can’t give you much more.

  • Human Jesus also cries when his friend dies, becomes enraged at the Temple being used for commerce, and is so worried about his impending death that he sweats drops like blood and pleads with God to take it away from him if possible.

    Human Jesus shows that these emotions are not impious or due to bad theology. Human Jesus gives us a real person to love and not someone who stoically drifts from town to town righting wrongs with kung fu and searching for his brother.

    • Gary

      Aren’t those drops of blood scribal insertions?

      • Couldn’t tell ya, but he’s really upset about it either way.

      • Jon Fermin

        for what it’s worth hematidrosis is a real condition and it can be caused by extreme stress. anticipating your own impending death I think qualifies as an extreme source of stress.

  • Bev Mitchell

    Inspiring thoughts. Here’s what came to mind reading your concise post.

    It’s through the human Jesus that we can know what love is. Some think that God’s love is hopelessly beyond our ken. It would be if Jesus was not really human. In fact, in Christ, via the Holy Spirit, we can see that love is the source of even God’s power and holiness. Anything, any idea that puts that perfect love in the shade, like downplaying the humanity of Jesus or elevating God’s power above his love, misses the mark.

    To imagine God’s love in the shade of his power is to miss the whole point of revelation. His power always basks in the full light of his perfect love.

  • Andrew Dowling

    The incarnation is one of the most poorly understood doctrines in all of Christianity. Docetism is alive and well in probably a majority of churches . . .

    • Gary

      My church, for sure.

    • newenglandsun

      If I ever meet someone who understands the incarnation, I will fall down at his feet and repeat the following:
      “Lord, I am not worthy, that thou shall come under my roof, but speak the word only, and my soul shall be healed.”

      It’s part of the entire mystery. I have trouble articulating and explaining the hypostatic union. I understand the significance but I don’t know how it works because I am just a human whereas only one was both God and human.

    • David Kemball-Cook

      The incarnation is poorly understood because nobody understands it.

      I could use similar definitions to Chalcedon to create a square circle, just by
      insisted that two natures, squareness and circularity, are unmixed in the resulting shape.

      Chalcedon is basically nonsense. It is not logically possible for the same being to be both divine and human.

      • Veritas

        And light, nor an electron, can be both a particle and a wave. That is logically impossible…until it turned out to be true. That we cannot bend our little minds to bigger realities does not mean the reality is false, but that our assumptions are untrue. ( so our logic is fine) You may talk with confidence to negate what is possible in creation, but we can’t even explain all the behavior of measured phenomena.

        There is more to the universe than can be dreamed of in your philosophies, David…

        We know only a fraction in our puny little brains. Yours included

        • peteenns

          Your channelling Rob Bell’s argument in “What We Talk About When We Talk About God”: indeterminacy of physical phenomena suggest mystery.

          • Veritas

            I’m saying you cannot make statements of truth about phenomena we do not understand, and use them in arguments as logical assumptions…if B them C…for if B is wrong, your argument for C does not stand.

            Example; if an electron is a particle, it can’t exhibit wave like interference patterns. That was tru until it was proved false by our misunderstanding of what a particle is.

            Certainly the unknown is where the mystery of God works, but more importantly, our limited understanding of what is meant by divinity, mortality and the incarnation are what make mystery. We cannot probe divinity, and therefore the nature of God in any way, except what he reveals to us about himself.

            There are no experiments we can do, we must operate on faith/trust

  • David Kemball-Cook

    If Jesus was really human he would have to have really died. That is why I cannot understand how Jesus ‘is God’, because God cannot die.

    • Gary

      Why not? Who says?

      • David Kemball-Cook

        Hi Gary
        the Bible says that Jesus died. Therefore he was mortal by definition.
        The Bible says that God is immortal (1 Tim 6:16), and everybody believes that God cannot die.
        Nobody can be both mortal and immortal
        Therefore Jesus cannot be God


        • Gary

          Bible says alotta stuff.

          • David Kemball-Cook

            Sorry Gary
            I thought you were arguing from a Christian viewpoint


          • Gary

            I didn’t even know were were arguing.

  • Ross

    A human Jesus is so difficult to understand. Or another way to look at it, a God who became human is so difficult to understand.

    A while ago I got very wound up by someone who declared that Jesus must have had perfect doctrine (or should we say that God beamed it into him).

    It’s all a bit confusing, particularly when people seem to think that scripture is God and must also be perfect. Or that St Paul must be God and therefore also perfect, particularly when writing.

    For me, I wonder about when the reported Jesus said things, how much was he a man of his times and understanding?

    I also wonder about how much of what he said was accurately recorded.

    All of this actually palls into insignificance if we compare it to God actually becoming a man. A man (woman/person). just like us.

    Maybe we try and hang a lot on him propitiating for us, or how he miracaled a lot, but, for me, I think how distant we are from the God of creation, how far above and separated he is and particularly still are. That no matter how far we separated ourselves from him, he still decided that it was worth leaving the comforts of heaven and came down to Hell to ask us to go back with him.

    • Jared Byas

      Thanks Ross, well said.

  • gingoro

    You must have been a part of a different branch of evangelicalism than I was growing up. We liked that Jesus was human as then he was part of “us”. My question was what kind of human was Jesus? Did he tussle with the other boys, did he play any pranks or was he goody two shoes. (If you don’t know the expression google it.) I have never been clear on the extent of kenosis and accommodation in scripture or in Christ. If one of you scholars know I’d appreciate a post or two. However, I expect that is a vain request just like my one inquiring about the limits of midrash or is scripture nothing but midrash all the way down as I fear on days when my fatigue from chemo (5 months ago) is especially deep. DaveW

  • Bev Mitchell

    Just got home to my paper books after some months away and picked up Thomas F. Torrance’s “Incarnation” which I started reading a while back. Outstanding in its clarity and focus on how essential it is that we hold the human and divine of Christ together in our theological and historical thinking. This book, and a companion volume “Atonement”, are a compilation of his lecture notes and handouts into book form made by one of his students after Torrance’s death. The reviews at Amazon give a good account of what to expect. All very apropos to this discussion. Blessed Easter celebration to all.

  • Awesome read, thanks a lot!