Thoughts on the Humanity of Christ
Cyril Cann, Glastonbury, England [SEE PROFILE BELOW]
It was necessary that the One who was to be the Saviour of men and women should become a man and be the bearer of the guilt of their sin. This Christ did without compromising His deity in any way. The words of the angel to the shepherds indicate this with great clarity, 'For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger'. Luke 2. 11-12. The Baby of Bethlehem's manger was Christ the Lord. The writer of each gospel presents us with a particular view of the person, character and life of the Lord Jesus Christ. Luke's particular perspective is that of His humanity. The purpose of this short paper is to consider three incidents, recorded only in Luke's gospel, which help us to understand something of the character of Christ's humanity and the implication of this for our salvation.
Christ's humanity is first presented as holy humanity. The angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and informed her that she was highly favoured and blessed amongst women and, whilst still a virgin, she would conceive of the Holy Spirit and give birth to a child who would be designated 'Son of the Highest', Luke 1. 32. These words were beyond Mary's understanding so an explanation was given to her. 'The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing (being) which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God', Luke 1. 35. Mary was told that the Baby to which she would give birth would be a holy Being. In this earliest communication to Mary, the Scriptures present the humanity of the Lord Jesus as holy humanity.
Holy humanity is that which is apart from sin. Christ was from a different 'source' and was not partaker of Adam's fallen and sinful nature. Even though dwelling in a sinful world and brought up in Nazareth, a wicked Roman garrison town, there was nothing in Him which responded to the sinful environment. Peter, who as one of the twelve kept company with Jesus, wrote in the power of the Spirit concerning Him 'who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth', 1 Pet. 2. 22. This establishes that the Lord Jesus did not commit sins, and the motives behind His conduct were always pure and apart from sin. The writer to the Hebrews asserts that Jesus, the Son of God, was 'in all points tempted (tested) like as we are, yet without sin', Heb. 4. 15. John, also one of the twelve, testifies 'in him is no sin', 1 John 3. 5. This Bearer of holy humanity had no principle or root of sin within Him, did not commit sins, nor could because He was God incarnate. His holy humanity was and is impeccable and unassailable.
Christ's humanity was also true humanity. The scriptural record contains only one reference to the boyhood of the Lord Jesus. This brief glimpse, however, gives us a sight of true humanity. It was the custom of Joseph and Mary to visit the temple in Jerusalem each year at the Feast of the Passover, Luke 2. 42. Luke relates the visit which was made when Jesus was twelve years old. As Joseph and Mary make their way home to Nazareth, they discover that Jesus is not amongst the company, vv. 43-45. After three days He is found by them in the temple holding discourse with the doctors, and these men of intellectual learning were astonished at His understanding and answers, v. 47. In her anxiety Mary remonstrates with Jesus and receives the gentle but firm response, 'Wist ye not that I should be about my Father's business?', v. 49. We then read words which are directly relevant to our meditation, 'he (Jesus) went down with them, and came to. Nazareth and was subject to them', v. 51, and, 'Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, v. 52. We note these statements but are not able to understand them. It is beyond human comprehension that the eternal Son of the eternal God should increase in wisdom and stature but it reveals to us that Christ's humanity was true humanity. He was not One who merely visited from a distant place, viewed us and our situation with pity and then went away again. He assumed, never to relinquish, our very nature - true humanity - but without any sin. So we can read of 'God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh', Rom". 8. 3.
Christ's humanity was also compassionate humanity. The account in Luke 7 of our Lord's meeting with the widow lady at Nain is deeply moving. The depth of this lady's sadness and sorrow is outlined poignantly and carefully. We are told she was a widow and would have known, therefore, the grief of the passing of her husband. She had one son upon whom, presumably, all her hopes and expectations were focused. He had now died, v. 12. The Lord Jesus met her at the point of her deepest grief as she led that sad cortege which was taking the bier, on which the body of her son lay, to the burial ground, v. 12. We read, 'When Jesus saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not!', v. 13.
The word translated 'compassion' is used twelve times in the gospels and on each occasion it relates, directly or indirectly, only to the Lord Jesus. It is an emotional word which means, literally, that He was moved to the depths of His being. When the subject of compassion is considered relative to the conduct of the believer, e.g. Heb. 10. 34, 1 Pet. 3. 8, Jude 1. 22, a different word is used which indicates a weaker emotion. The depth and character of His compassion was unique and, moved by this, the Lord Jesus utters words consequent upon which deep sorrow in the heart of the widow lady was replaced by deep joy. Said Jesus, 'Young man, I say unto thee, arise! . . . and he delivered him to his mother', vv. 14-15. Our Lord took upon Himself compassionate humanity.
Let us now consider how these characteristics of Christ's humanity relate to the salvation He has provided for men and women. The nature of sin is such that it opposes and constantly challenges the essential, holy character of God. The words of the serpent to our forebear Eve were, 'Yea, hath God said?', Gen. 3. 1. Because sin constantly challenges, it can never be set aside - it has to be dealt with. This has dire consequences for the sinner who continues in his sin. But if the sinner's guilt is to be borne by another, then such a substitution must be suitable; to be suitable the proposed substitute must be without and apart from sin.
This thought is presented typically in Genesis 22. After Abraham in obedience to God's command had taken Isaac to mount Moriah, had bound him to the altar and raised the sacrificial knife to slay him, an angelic voice instructed him to stay the execution and offer up a substitute sacrifice in place of his son. Abraham's attention was directed to a ram, v. 13. He would have been aware of the standards required in a suitable sacrifice and would have approached the ram with fear and trembling. Had it been torn or harmed in any way it would not have been suitable. The Scripture carefully indicates that the ram was 'caught in a thicket by his horns,' v. 13. Only when its suitability was established could it be offered as acceptable substitute for Isaac. Christ's holy, and, therefore, sinless, humanity meant that He was suitable to be our Saviour.
Very reverently and very carefully, we note that if we were to be saved there was need for something more than a suitable sacrifice. How awful it would have been if one had been found who was suitable or qualified but not able to undertake the work! The one suitable and qualified to be a sacrifice also needed the ability to become the actual sacrifice if we were to be saved. In the book of Ruth there is an example of one who was in this position of not being able to help. There was a kinsman apart from Boaz who was qualified to redeem the inheritance of Elimilech but his situation was such that he could not fulfil that which was required of him. We read that this kinsman declared, 'I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I mar mine own inheritance', Ruth 4. 6. Christ's true humanity meant that He was able to die for sin and the sins of men and women. We read in Hebrews 2, 'we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death', v. 9, and, 'as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil', v. 14. He was able to be our Saviour.
Is it possible to think of anything more wonderful than this? Remarkably, the answer is that there is something even more wonderful. It is that not only was Christ suitable and able to suffer for our sins but He was also willing to do this. This was unique, compassionate humanity. His life was not taken from Him; those who hated the Lord Jesus were never able to kill Him. He said, 'I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep', John 10. 11. The expectation of a good shepherd was that, should the situation arise, he would be willing to risk his life for the sheep; this Good Shepherd gave His life for the sheep. He also said, 'No man taketh it (my life) from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again', John 10. 18. Paul rejoiced in this truth and wrote of 'our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity', Tit. 2. 13-14. Our compassionate Lord was willing to be our Saviour.
The Lord, when He ascended from the Mount of Olives, took glorified humanity into heaven itself and presented it before the throne of His Father. That glorified humanity is not in any way diminished from that which He bore when upon the earth. His humanity is still holy, true and compassionate. The writer to the Hebrews seems to have this in mind when he pens the profound but comforting words, 'For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feelings of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted (tested) like as we are, yet without sin', Heb. 4. 15.
It transcends human thought and understanding that deity should become clothed in holy, true and compassionate humanity thus enabling Christ to die on the cross and establish the way for guilty sinners to become possessors of eternal life, sons and daughters of the eternal God and equipped to dwell with Him for all eternity. We can, however, and do, rejoice in the enjoyment of the Scripture, 'Christ Jesus . . . made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross', Phil. 2. 5, 7, 8. We can respond only in the words of another Scripture, 'great is the mystery of godliness; God was manifest in flesh', 1 Tim. 3. 16.