In our studies, we have seen Jesus as the great powerful God who created everything. We learned that although he was born as a man in Bethlehem, he was alive long before that time and, in fact, was alive even before the time of the Creation! Yet there are certain facts that we know are true—facts that cannot be denied! Jesus was born as a human being and when he was a little over thirty years old he died! He was killed on a cross. One of the most challenging questions people today can ask is, “If Jesus is really God, then why did he die? God cannot be killed. If Jesus was killed then that must mean that he is not God.” So, what can we say about this? Does the fact that Jesus died contradict the information we found in our previous lessons? Is Jesus only a regular person? It is the human side of Jesus—or rather the misunderstanding of his human side—which seems to be the cause of so much confusion in religion today. Today’s lesson will look closer at this “humanity” that we see in Jesus.
We have already seen how Jesus existed long before he was born to Mary in Bethlehem. Since his humanity began at that place and time, our study should begin there as well. Birth is a very important time for all humans. It marks the beginning of our existence. As we have already established by our previous research, this was not the case for Jesus. He existed before his birth. Because of the special background of Jesus, many Bible teachers consider it improper and inaccurate to refer to what Jesus experienced in Bethlehem as a “birth”. Instead, you will find the word INCARNATION being used in books and commentaries. This is a rather uncommon word in our every-day vocabulary. What does it mean? Well – it is not a brand of powdered milk! Perhaps we are most familiar with this word through its use in the word REINCARNATION. Most people will recognize this word. It represents an idea in which a person is born, lives, dies, and is reborn over and over again. INCARNATION comes from Latin and simply means “to be made into flesh”. If you think for just a moment, you might be able to understand why Bible teachers like this word when trying to describe what happened to Jesus. Let us see how this word applies into our discussion.
In our past lessons, we looked at John 1:14. Let us take a closer look at it now in relation to “INCARNATION.”
“The Word became a man and lived among us. We saw his glory—glory that belongs to the only son of the Father. The Word was full of grace and truth.”
The passage tells us that the WORD became flesh and lived among us. Here is where we are introduced to the idea of incarnation. In Bethlehem, Jesus did not come into existence. He “became flesh.” What does all of this mean? Simply put, it means that when the time was right, our Creator came down and became a man! John 1:14 is perhaps the most specific passage concerning this important event.
From John 1:14, we learn four basic facts about the incarnation.
|1. WHO was incarnated?||“The eternal WORD”||(Jesus Christ)|
|2. WHAT happened?||“he became flesh”||(became a human being)|
|3. WHERE did it happen?||“he lived among us”||(he lived on this earth)||4. The PROOF?||: “We saw his glory”||(it is a fact of history!)|
Before proceeding any further, perhaps we should investigate WHY Jesus came down and became a man. It seems strange that the God, who existed before the beginning and created everything, would end up as a dead human on a cross in Jerusalem! It would seem that his coming here was not accidental! Perhaps his becoming a man was no accident either. Consider carefully the following passages.
Please read Matthew 26:51-53. This is a very remarkable passage don’t you think? Imagine Jesus picking that man’s ear up off the ground and “pasting” it back in place! As exciting as that may be it is not the point we want to focus upon. Instead, notice what Jesus says. He speaks of his being here for a purpose and he was dedicated to fulfilling that purpose, even if it meant being unjustly killed! He could have done certain things to ensure his escape from the police officials there, but chose not to.
Jesus made no secret of the fact that he was here on the earth for a purpose. One such place is found in Luke 19:10. Please read this passage and note how he definitely thought of himself as being here with a purpose to accomplish.
In addition, please read John 12:44-50. Here we find that Jesus is speaking about himself. It seems to be a very emotional situation because Jesus is shouting. Notice how he speaks of himself as being sent by someone. If we look at verse 49 we discover that it was the Father who sent Jesus. Therefore, aside from the fact that Jesus CHOSE to come here, we also discover that he was SENT.
Another important passage we need to look at again is Galatians 4:4-5. Notice how it states not only that God sent his son into the world, but that there was a time consideration. It says that “when the time was right” God sent his son. This implies not only a purpose, but also a PLAN!
One very important passage is Acts 2:23. The background of this passage is very interesting. (Please read all of chapter 2 of Acts.) The apostle Peter is making a speech and verse 23 is a statement from his speech. We must remember that many people in the crowd were the ones who asked Pontius Pilate to crucify Jesus. These people were very confident. They believed that when they asked to have Jesus killed that they were doing a good thing for God because they were convinced that Jesus was a fake. What Peter said here made many of them feel very bad. He told them that they had been used by God to fulfill a PLAN, which he had made long before they were ever born!
One of the more important passages is Philippians 2:6-8. We have already looked at this passage in our past studies. This passage not only shows that Jesus chose to come here, but also that he chose to come here under different form of existence. The explanation here is not difficult to understand. Jesus began his existence in a form that is described as “being equal with God”. However, when he decided to come down to the earth, he “emptied himself” and the result was that he took on a human form and thus became “equal with man”. We will discuss this passage in much more detail in a future lesson but for now please notice that all of this happened because Jesus CHOSE to have it happen.
Considering what these passages reveal, it should now be very clear that Jesus’ coming to the earth as a man was not accidental!
One problem we face is that some people do not believe that a person named Jesus ever lived. They say that it is only in the Bible that we read about him and that he is only a myth. However, this is simply not true. The proof of Jesus’ existence is a historical fact and is supported by sources other than the Bible! Historians who lived during the 1st Century AD verify his existence.
One of the most brilliant writers of the first century was a Jew named Flavius Josephus. He was born in 37 AD and became a Pharisee at the age of 19. He took the name of Flavius in honor of the Flavian Emperors. When he was 26 years old, he visited Rome and was so impressed that he spent the rest of his life trying to bring about better relations between the Jews and the Romans. In AD 66, he was the commander of the Jewish forces in Galilee. Later, after his capture in a battle of the Romans against the Jews, he was sent to Rome. He became so highly respected by the Romans that he was with Titus when Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 AD. During the latter part of his life, he even lived in the Emperor’s palace in Rome, where he had access to all of the libraries of the Roman Empire. Josephus, a non-Christian, wrote concerning Jesus Christ:
“Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was the Christ, and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men among us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians so named for him are not extinct at this day.” 1
Cornelius Tacitus, who wrote in about the year 100 AD, was a Roman historian, Governor of Asia, and son-in-law of Julius Agricola who was governor of Britannia from 80-84 AD. Tacitus had a strong dislike for Christians. This fact, however, makes his testimony even stronger! In discussing the life of Nero, and the accusation that he burned Rome and blamed it on the Christians, Tacitus said:
“But neither all human help nor the liberality of the Emperor, nor all the atonements presented to the gods availed to abate the infamy he lay under of having ordered the city to be set on fire. To suppress, therefore, this common rumor, Nero procured others to be accused, and afflicted exquisite punishment upon those people, who were in abhorrence for their crimes, and were commonly known by the name of Christians. They had their denomination from Christus, who in the reign of Tiberius was put to death as a criminal by the procurator Pontius Pilate.” 2
The summary of Tacitus’ testimony, which is unchallenged historically, states that Christ is the founder of the Christians, and, that he was put to death by Pontius Pilate. This agrees completely with the details we find revealed in the Bible account.
The fact that we can find testimony in secular history that verifies the existence of Jesus Christ is very important. It is impossible for a person to say that Jesus was not a real person. He was seen and his deeds recorded by historians who were not his disciples. Jesus Christ is a person of history.
If we put this fact into our increasing knowledge about Jesus, regardless of the difficulties in understanding how God could become a man, it is an undeniable FACT of history that the MAN, Jesus Christ, existed and that this person was the same individual who made the earth and everything in it! That is an awesome thought. Don’t you think?
Now we must proceed to an even greater question. “How HUMAN was Jesus?” How much was he like us? The first four books of the New Testament are filled with pieces of evidence which, when put together, present a picture of the human side of Jesus. To help you research this matter on your own, we have provided another worksheet. Please stop here and carefully study your way through the list of passages and then we will go through them together.
The first verse in our worksheet is Matthew 1:1. Actually, the evidence is the whole first chapter of the book. Here we can easily see that this material applies to Jesus because it is introduced as a record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ. So, what do we have here? This is a list of the physical ancestors of Jesus. The main thing we learn from this is that the physical side of Jesus did not come into existence like the seas, or mountains of the Creation. Just as in the case of you and I, Jesus’ chromosomes from Mary came as a result of generations of breeding. However, the fact we want to notice here is that Jesus, like all humans, had relatives!
Along with this we found Galatians 4:4. What did this passage teach us about Jesus? It tells us that Jesus was born from a woman like all other people were. Remember that Jesus did not materialize suddenly out of thin air. He was in his mother’s womb for nine months just the same as you were. And he came into this world in the same way that you did.
By looking at Luke 2:40 and 52, we discover that Jesus did not miraculously grow up. He had a childhood and adolescence just like you and I. In fact, the Bible teaches us that Jesus was about 30 years old when he started his work for God. (Please see Luke 3:23.)
In Mark 6:3, we see several interesting facts about Jesus. One thing we see is that Jesus learned a trade. He was a carpenter. We also notice that Jesus had brothers and sisters. We even have the names of several of them listed in the text.
The next passage in the worksheet is John 19:28. Here we find Jesus experiencing thirst. Although this may not seem significant, we know from other passages that Jesus was completely human in that he had to eat and drink in order to survive.
In John 4:6 we see Jesus was tired. In Matthew 8:24, we see him sleeping.
In John 2:15, we see him experiencing anger. In Matthew 4:1 we see Jesus experiencing temptation. In Hebrews 5:2 we learn that Jesus experienced times of weakness.
In Luke 7:34, we find that Jesus was continually being misunderstood by people around him. Luke 5:16 shows us that Jesus found it necessary to seek seclusion. Perhaps this was due to the constant pressure he found himself under due to his work.
During Jesus’ life he developed relationships with different people. Perhaps one of his closest friends was a man named Lazarus. John 11:3 described Lazarus as a close friend. In fact, in John 11:35 we find that Jesus experienced the extreme sorrows of humanity. An example of this is when he discovered that his good friend had died.
We also learn that Jesus experienced times of fear. Mark 14:34 records Jesus’ experience in the Garden of Gethsemane. It was here that he spent his last night alive struggling over the question of whether he would do what he wanted to do or what his Father wanted him to do. As he agonized there, Jesus himself tells us that he was afraid of what was going to happen to him the next day. Fortunately for us, Jesus decided to do what God wanted him to do. However, we can all relate to his experience of struggle and fear.
The next two passages are very interesting. They show Jesus experiencing some very human things. In Matthew 27:46, we see Jesus experiencing human separation from God because of sin. This is a very human thing. Jesus was not separated from God because he himself did something wrong. Jesus was separated because he took on the sins of the whole world. However, the fact remains that he experienced human separation from God!
The final verse in our worksheet is Matthew 27:50. This passage tells us that Jesus died.
If we look back over the whole list of passages in the worksheet, a picture emerges of the extent of Jesus’ humanity. In conclusion, what we see is basically a person who was just like us. However, some of these human characteristics create problems for us when we try to think back over what we have learned about Jesus in our previous lessons. If Jesus is God then how can God be KILLED? Many people today point to Jesus’ death as “undeniable” proof that Jesus is not God. Before we make that conclusion, we need to do further research into what has been written about Jesus. Perhaps there is other information that can explain how Jesus could be God and yet die a human death!
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