Studies in John’s Epistles – Introduction

John begins his first Epistle, as he did his Gospel, by affirming that Jesus is both fully-God AND fully-human. He goes on to assert that those who deny that Jesus was fully-human are not only NOT saved, but are possessed by a demonic-spirit, the spirit of the anti-Christ.

In some ways, John picks up where he left off in his Gospel, by presenting the physical-evidence that Jesus didn’t just “appear” to be human, but that He WAS fully-human. Our entire salvation hinges on this doctrine, as does the entire Word of God.

If anyone was in a position to make these assertions, John certainly was. He had spent over three years with Jesus, had seen Him be crucified and die, and was one of the first witnesses to the empty tomb. He had seen Jesus walk on water, but he had also seen Jesus tired, hungry and thirsty. He had witnessed many miracles, including when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. John had also seen Jesus’ majesty and glory on the Mount of Transfiguration. He was a “well-qualified eye-witness“.

What IF John was wrong, and Jesus was a hoax? Paul puts it succinctly in 1 Corinthians 15:1-19;

15 Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.

3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He appeared to Peter, then to the twelve. 6 After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; 7 then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; 8 and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

12 Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; 14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. 15 Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; 17 and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.

If John was wrong about whom Jesus is, the consequences are catastrophic. If Jesus was ONLY a man;

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to”. (From Mere Christianity, Book Two, by C.S. Lewis)

Both John and Paul understood the consequences of mis-characterizing Jesus Christ, which was why John began this Letter, as he did his Gospel, by asserting that Jesus Christ IS fully-God AND fully-human.

Introduction, the Incarnate Word
1 What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life— 2 and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us— 3 what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. 4 These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete. (1 John 1:1-4)

1:1-4 The central event of history is the appearance of eternal life in Jesus Christ. John is one of the chosen witnesses who saw, heard and touched the One who had existed from the beginning – the Son of God, whose eternal fellowship with the Father is now extended to others. This extension takes place through the apostolic proclamation, including the writing of 1st John itself.

1:1 the beginning. The verse echoes John 1:1, as that verse in turn echoes Genesis 1:1. The two New Testament verses highlight the Incarnation as an event as significant as creation itself.

The Word of life. The subject of John’s proclamation is Jesus, the Incarnate Word (John 1:1-14).

John has a way of telling the story of Jesus from a lofty, heavenly viewpoint, and this is surely one of those instances. His Gospel begins in a similar way, (see John 1:1-4) it provides a perfect parallel passage in fact. Of course, in Revelation, John’s vantage point is so lofty that most misread it entirely. Here in this short letter, John is setting forth two basic and wonderful facts: First, that Jesus is the Messiah, the anointed One of God. Second, He is setting forth the fact that he, himself, is an eyewitness of Jesus, and Apostle who lived and walked with Jesus for over three years, consequently he is able to give eyewitness testimony about Him.

In verse one, John is letting us know that he saw this Jesus with his own eyes, touched Him with his own hands, heard Him with his own ears, and that now he (John) is proclaiming as the Word of Life, the Word that was with God and that was in fact God from the very beginning, a beginning that predates time itself.

Heard…seen…looked upon…handled. These vivid verbs defend the reality of the human nature of Christ against the Docetic speculation that is later rejected explicitly (2:22, 4:2, 3) (The Docetic view was that Jesus Christ only “appeared” to be human, that He only “appeared” to die and only “appeared” to be raised from the dead.)

If John was addressing an American audience today, he might put it this way; “Listen up folks, because I am going to tell you something which is far more important than who is going to occupy the Oval Office for the next four years. This will affect your eternal-destiny. I was an eye-witness to these events, so I know that they are true.”

In verse two, John takes a step further, as he did in John 1:2. This Word of Life really appeared, and John saw Him, John was there. This eternal life that came from the Father Himself John is now going to proclaim to us! John will proclaim this great news of the Word of Life so that we may have fellowship with John and with Jesus, the Son as well as with the Father. And in doing so, our entry into fellowship will make John’s joy complete.

Fellowship is an interesting word, from the Greek word koinōnia meaning “association, community, communion, joint participation, intercourse; the share which one has in anything, participation.” This participation is not only in relationship, but in purpose, for we really cannot separate the Person of Christ from the purpose of the Father. John’s joy will be complete, because by the proclamation of the Word of Life, we will be in relationship and purpose with John, our fellow believers, and with the Lord Himself.

4 These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete. Those who proclaim the Gospel of Christ derive great joy from proclaiming it and helping those they teach understand it and make it their own. That is the essence of “making disciples” (Luke 24:46-48).

God Is Light
5 This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; 7 but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us. (1 John 1)

1:5-10 Like John’s Gospel, 1st John begins with a contrast between light and darkness. In the Gospel, the Incarnate Christ is the light that continues to shine in the darkness of a world that tries to exclude Him. Believers are faced with a choice: either to “walk in the light“, coming to Him and opening their hearts to Him in confession of sin, or to “walk in the darkness“, denying that they are sinners. The contrast between “light” and “darkness” is inseparably linked to a contrast between those who “practice the truth” and agree with God, and those who make God a “liar“. It is an inescapable reality that believers sin; the remedy for sin – confession, and cleansing by the blood of Jesus – is God’s continuing irrevocable gift to believers. Because Jesus’ death has paid in full the penalty for sin, and because God has recognized Jesus as His true Son by raising Him from the dead, God grants forgiveness and cleansing as a matter of faithfulness and justice. He will not and cannot refuse.

Earlier we looked at the introduction to this letter, and here, we enter the first section of the letter which begins at verse 5 and continues through 2:14. This section is given context in verse 5: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. Thus, this section is all about John’s declaration of light versus darkness, and it contains comparisons and contrasts.

1:5 God is light. This description of God emphasizes His attributes of moral purity and omniscience, reinforcing John’s focus on our need to confess sin.

Before we take a look at it, keep in mind what John wrote in John 1:4 “In him was life, and that life was the light of men.” All through the Gospel story, John used “light” as signifying the presence of Jesus, contrasted with “darkness” denoting His absence. Keeping this in mind, let’s take a look at our text. After proclaiming that God is light, John gets down to his explanation, claiming that if we claim to be in fellowship with God, but walk in darkness, we lie, and are not in the truth. This is a rather easy statement to understand, for if we are in darkness, then we aren’t in His presence, and if we aren’t in His presence, we couldn’t possibly be in fellowship. There is no half-way!

The contrast is that if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship… because we are with Him in the light. If we have this fellowship in the light of His presence and truth, then His blood purifies us from all sin. The reality of the statement is that we can’t be in fellowship with Him until our sins have been forgiven by His sacrifice on the cross.

1:7 the blood of Jesus Christ. As Hebrews 9:22 indicates, “without the shedding of blood there is no remission“. The shedding of the blood of Christ was a voluntary substitutionary sacrifice of infinite value for the elect; it paid in full God’s penalty for sin (Hebrews 9:27, 28)

Sometimes, we may walk a ways in darkness, and by this I mean that we may stray from time-to-time. John doesn’t suggest that our errors kick us out of fellowship as we will see a little farther through this text, but that there is a way to return to the light of His presence, by confessing our sins, as we see in the next paragraph:

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:8-10)

1:9 If we confess our sins. God’s forgiveness is given as soon as we admit our need for it, not on the basis of any acts we have done to earn it, but solely because of His grace. The free gift of forgiveness carries with it purification from unrighteousness. God accepts us as righteous because He imputes the righteousness of Christ to us. That is, the very righteousness of Christ, our sin-bearer, is reckoned to our account.

1:10 If we say that we have not sinned. Perhaps the “sin leading to death” mentioned in 5:16 is a stubborn-refusal to accept God’s diagnosis of our need and His offer of forgiveness.

I think we all would agree that a claim by any one of us to have never sinned would be little short of crazy. John seems to think it’s worse than that! All have sinned, but take heart, for there is a way out, confess your sins and He will forgive; this is our covenant promise.

There is simply no need for us to wring our hands and carry around a burden of guilt and shame before God, for when we confess our sins (acknowledge them) He will forgive; we have His Word on that!

Sola Deo Gloria!

Whose Glory?

What do the Oscars, the Emmy’s, and the Golden Globes have in common? What about the Walk of Fame? What do the World Series, the Superbowl, the NBA Finals and the Stanley Cup have in common? What about the Daytona 500, the Indianapolis 500 and the Gatornationals? What do the Master’s, Wimbledon and the Tour de France have in common? How about the Heisman Trophy?

They all celebrate human achievement, whether in entertainment, team sports, auto racing or in individual sports. We crave recognition, because the satisfaction of a job well done isn’t quite enough. We want someone to pat us on the back and say “Congratulations!”. We want GLORY!

Since the dawn of human-history, mankind has had an insatiable thirst for glory. When Adam and Eve took Satan’s bait, “You shall be as gods“, the die was cast, and the pursuit of glory has been in the forefront of mankind’s minds ever since.

The Tower of Babel is a classic example of building a monument to and for man’s glory, but after God intervened, all that was left was a pile of useless rubble. Are we still building “Towers of Babel“? There are a few in my home-town, monuments to human-achievement.

Why do race-car drivers risk life and limb for one more checkered-flag? Why do pro football players risk a career-ending injury for one more Superbowl Ring? Why do boxers risk their lives for one more title bout? Why do professional athletes take perfomance-enhancing drugs, when they risk ruining their careers if they get caught? Why do many entertainers sell their souls to Satan for fame and fortune? Is it really worth it? Robin Williams met a gruesome end, in spite of all his success and fame.

Fame comes, and fame goes, but no earthly-fame lasts forever. There is always someone waiting in the wings for the star to slip up or wear out. There is always someone with an even-bigger ego waiting to take the star’s place. Is it really worth it?

Why is a little fame never enough? Is the thirst for fame so insatiable that a person will risk everything for a little bit more fame?

37 Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. 38 This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet:
“Lord, who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”

39 For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere:
40 “He has blinded their eyes
and hardened their hearts,
so they can neither see with their eyes,
nor understand with their hearts,
nor turn—and I would heal them.”

41 Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him.

42 Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved human praise more than praise from God. (John 12:37-43)

Do the last two verses of this passage catch your attention the way they caught mine? Whose praise was more important to them, God’s or man’s? They wanted to be in the spotlight NOW. They wanted their praise NOW. They wanted their glory NOW, and they were willing to sacrifice their eternal destiny on the altar of human glory.

I worked with a man in Search and Rescue for several years who was a magnet for the news media. He was the “public face” of Search and Rescue, and he LOVED it. Even though many other people did the hard work of finding and rescuing lost people while he sat in base-camp directing the action, he got the GLORY.

A few years ago, I received an award that I really deserved – NOT!!! I was picked as the Firefighter of the Year by the Chief of the volunteer fire department that I was a part of. There were many other members who contributed far more than I did, but some of them had already been recognized in previous years, so I received the award. My mom still has that award and a picture of me with it in her living room. It really wasn’t my award, even though it was presented to me, because without the rest of the team all pulling together, we would have had fallen apart as a department long before that. Every member of that department deserved that award.

There is one award that I am looking forward to, but not because I deserve it. I look forward to hearing “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord.” That is the only award that has eternal-significance, and the only one that matters to me.

In Christ,
Steve

How Human Was Jesus? Part 3

In the previous segments, we have looked at the physical evidence of His humanity, and built a “photo-album” of His early life. Now I want to examine Jesus through the eyes of the Apostle John, who wrote extensively in his gospel and in his epistles about Jesus. John adds a dimension to our beliefs about Jesus’s humanity which few really take to heart.

Does it really matter if we believe that Jesus was truly and fully human? Does it really matter if we believe that Jesus is the Christ?

His divinity…
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-5)

The Word became flesh…
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

Seen, heard, touched…
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:1-3)

First warning…
18 Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that Antichrist is coming, so now many Antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. 20 But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. 21 I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth. 22 Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the Antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. 23 No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. 24 Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life. (1 John 2:18-25)

Second warning…
4 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. (1 John 4:1-3)

Third warning…
For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the Antichrist. (2 John 1:7)

Conclusions…
People have believed many things about Jesus, both when He walked this earth, and since. Many will still say that “He was a great teacher“, or “He was a good man“, or even “He was a great prophet“, but none of these descriptions of Jesus even scratches the surface of who He really was and is.

It is hard to ignore the importance of what we believe about Jesus Christ. John, one of His closest disciples, opened both his gospel and one of his letters with affirmations of His humanity. After he gave us these solid affirmations, John gave us three warnings, warnings, that if we fail to heed them, our eternal destiny is at stake.

Are YOU willing to bet your eternal-destiny on a less-than-Biblical belief about who Jesus was and is? That is what is at stake.

In Christ,
Steve

The Life Of Christ…an Introduction

I know I already have the cart far ahead of this horse, but I really hadn’t planned to do a series on the life of Christ. The more I have pondered the life of Christ, the more I am coming to realize that there is no better usage of my time and resources than to study our Lord, because if I am to be more like Him, I need to know as much about Him as I can.

In my first segment, “How Human was Jesus?“, I explored the physical, visible reality of His humanity. He was just like me, male-equipment and all. In “How Human Was Jesus? Part 2“, I tried to put together a “photo-album” of his early life, with the purpose of emphasizing that, apart from His virgin birth, He was an ordinary child, and He went through all the stages of growth that my own children did. As the father of four children, I am intimately-acquainted with what children go through from birth through puberty.

Jesus wasn’t simply just born, appeared in the temple at twelve years-of-age, when He became legally an adult, and then burst on the scene at thirty years of age, when He began His public ministry. Along the way, He witnessed the miracle of life as His mother gave birth to several brothers and sisters. He was “big-brother” to several brothers and sisters. He probably became an accomplished carpenter like His dad, Joseph, and when He walked out of the J&J Carpentry Shop for the last time, it may well have been closed forever, because even though His mother, Mary, and His siblings are mentioned several times throughout His ministry, Joseph is only alluded to. Certainly by the time He went to the cross, Mary was a widow and Jesus was the “man of the house“, at which time He commissioned John to take on His responsibility. The only part of our human experience that He didn’t experience first-hand was being a husband and father.

So, welcome aboard. Sit back, relax and buckle up, as we explore the life of Christ. Come grow with me as we find out what it means to be more like Him. Don’t be surprised if your theological “house” gets remodeled, because to be a Christian is to be like Christ, in our thoughts, words and deeds. Mine certainly has been. One of the most important things we can do is ask “What would Jesus do?“, but if we don’t know what He did, we won’t have a clue as to what we should do. I don’t have a “plan” per se, so what I write about will be what comes into my heart that I can’t get away from.

God bless!
Steve

How Human Was Jesus? Part 2

In my first segment on the humanity of Jesus, I focused on the physical evidences of His humanity. While it may be uncomfortable to some to think of Jesus in this way, if He was less than fully-human, displaying all the physical attributes of His humanity, He could not have been our Redeemer. Because some in His day believed that Jesus only “appeared” to be human, the Apostle John focused in one His humanity, not only in the Gospel of John, but also in 1st and 2nd John.

We only get a few snapshots of His early life in Scripture, as if we are only seeing pages ripped out of the photo-album of His life, but those snapshots paint an incomplete picture of Him. What about the rest of His thirty years before His baptism by John the Baptist? Jesus didn’t simply get born, and voila, He was a man. He experienced life as any child does as he or she grows into adulthood.

As a baby…

Jesus entered our world as every child has since Adam and Eve had their first child. He was born, and His birth was in a filthy, smelly stable. Nothing clean or sanitary about His birth. He was wrapped in whatever rags were available. Scripture calls them “swaddling cloths“. There were no Pampers, He had no “baby-clothes“. He was simply wrapped up with what was available.

We are told that He was circumcised and named on His eight day of life, as was the custom. There had been no “baby-shower“, so He didn’t have some cute outfit for this ceremony. When He was forty days old, His parents took Him to the temple to dedicate Him to the Lord, and offer the sacrifices which were required for His mother’s ceremonial purification. His “baby-album” ended with this snapshot.

Was He a cranky baby when He was cutting teeth? Teething is not a pleasant experience for any baby, and I am sure that He was no exception. He experienced the pains of baby-hood just as every child does.

Did He ever have an ear-infection or runny nose? Only about half of all babies born made it to their thirteenth birthday. Infant mortality was very high.

What were His first words? Was He a “super-baby” speaking in whole sentences almost immediately, or were His first words “Ma-Ma” and “Da-Da“? Babies have been learning to talk since the first one was born, and He was no exception.

Did He crawl before He walked? How many times did He skin His nose or knees learning to walk? Floors back then weren’t well-padded carpet. The very poor had dirt floors in their homes. He didn’t enter our world to live in luxury. He left that behind so that He could experience life with the poorest of us. How old was He before He got His first pair of sandals? Did His parents have trouble keeping clothes on Him? Young children, who have never been taught that their bodies are shameful, will happily run around naked any chance they get.

As a toddler…

The next snapshot we get was when His life was threatened and His parents were forced to flee to Egypt. That was a long, hard journey, which may have taken several weeks to complete. They rode donkeys, and if they had a tent, camped in it. Otherwise, they slept on the ground under the stars. There were no motels along the way, perhaps a rustic inn or two, but nothing we would find appealing.

How many siblings did He have by then? Joseph and Mary didn’t consummate their marriage until after Jesus was born, and probably not until after her purification was complete. Did Mary get pregnant on their wedding-night?

Did they travel to Egypt with both a toddler and a baby? Scripture makes it very clear that Jesus had brothers and sisters. That was a journey unlike any we have ever experienced. They were also traveling to a foreign country. It is one thing to travel by car for hundreds of miles and stay with family and friends or in a hotel, but quite a different story traveling that same distance on foot or on a donkey with one or more young children.

Out of Egypt…

Once the threat was no longer there, God told the family to go back home, except that it wasn’t back to their hometown. They would have to start in a new community – Nazareth. Joseph didn’t have his old carpenter shop to go back to. It wasn’t easy starting all over again. There wasn’t a department store on every corner where they could get everything necessary to set up their new home.

Meanings…

You are probably thinking “Steve, why all the detail?”. Until we deal with the nitty-gritty of His life, we won’t really understand why He was described as “A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief“. The nitty-gritty IS what makes Him one of us, fully-human. I grew up poor, but we were rich by comparison.

In the temple…

The next snapshot we find in Scripture is when He was twelve years old. His parents had journied to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. As they traveled back home with their friends and neighbors, Jesus came up missing. His parents asked around if any of their friends and relatives had seen Him, but no one could remember exactly where they saw Him last. They were panic-stricken.

It wasn’t safe to travel alone, which was why they traveled as a group. As a father, and as someone who has been involved with many missing-child searches, I can relate intimately with how they felt. There was only one thing to do, turn back and search until they found Him. That search took three days.

As a foretaste of His roles as our Prophet and Priest, His parents found Him in the temple in Jerusalem discussing Scripture with the religious teachers. They were amazed at His knowledge at such a young age, and they would continue to be amazed throughout His ministry.

Was He Just a rebelous almost-teenager, or was there a connection with God the Father that His parents didn’t understand? “And He said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in My Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49) Jesus, Emanuel, God with us, was no ordinary child.

His parents didn’t understand, because the mystery of the Incarnation was as huge a mystery to them as it is to us today. “And they did not understand the saying that He spoke to them. And He went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And His mother treasured up all these things in her heart.” (Luke 2:50-51)

As an adolescent…

Even though Jesus was no ordinary child in a spiritual sense, He still went through the trials of puberty. As the Creator of our bodies, He experienced first-hand what it was like to go through everything a young boy experiences. How old was He when His voice started cracking and deepening? Did He go through a precocious puberty, or was He normal for His age? Did He ever have pimples? How old was He when peach-fuzz turned into a real beard? Babies don’t become men overnight, and He was no exception.

Questions…

Have you confronted His full humanity yet, or are you content with the sanitized version of Jesus Christ? If we ignore what it actually took for Jesus to go from being a new-born baby to being a grown man, it is quite easy to see Him as a “super-human“. Turning water into wine, walking on water, feeding thousands of people, healing sick people and even raising the dead are more the marks of a “super-human“, not what we would expect of an ordinary guy, and yet, as a human, a man, He was totally-ordinary. God didn’t come down and merely inhabit a human body. God became human. He was the God-Man, and He often celebrated His humanity by using the title “Son of Man“, not the exalted titles of His deity.

As a teen…

What was the first thing He built in His dad’s shop? Was it as perfect as He was? Did He struggle with learning all the languages of His era? Many Jews of His day were multi-lingual, and even though Hebrew was the national language of the Jews, Greek, Latin and Aramaic were also in common use. The Roman empire had conquered all of the know world, and all of the languages of the various countries in the empire could be heard in the streets, particularly in Jerusalem.

Manhood…

When did Jesus have to become the man of the house? How old was He when His dad died? Joseph is never mentioned in the accounts of His ministry. I am sure that He mourned the loss of His dad as any other young man would. One of His tasks as the oldest son was to make sure His mother was well cared-for, and even as He suffered on the cross, He commissioned John to be His mother’s care-taker. As He bore our sins on the cross, He didn’t neglect His human responsibility. How many other family-members did He lose on His way to the cross? Had He already lost some of His siblings?

What if…

What if we could look at a complete photo-album of His life? What uncomfortable truths would it reveal? How would our perceptions of Jesus of Nazareth be changed? Would we still worship and adore Him, or would the nitty-gritty of His life scare us away? Would we, like His brothers and sisters, think that He had lost His mind when He claimed to be God?

Why?

Why have I tried to build a photo-album of word-pictures of Him? God didn’t see fit to provide us more details, but that doesn’t mean that those details aren’t important. The Apostle John told us the purpose of his gospel; “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:30-31). John ended His gospel with these words; “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” (John 21:25) Your redemption, your salvation, and mine too, depends on His full humanity.

Your turn…

Are you ready to kneel beside that manger and adore the Great I AM? Would you kiss the face of God? Would you cry with the Word who became flesh as His tender foreskin was cut and removed? Would you crawl around on that dirty floor with the Prince of Peace? Would you hold out your hands as the Everlasting Father took His first few steps? Would you play hide-and-seek with the Mighty God on the dusty streets of Nazareth? Would you listen intently as the Wonderful Counselor spoke His first few words? Would you marvel with the teachers as Emmanuel, God with us, spoke wisdom way beyond His years? Would you admire that beautiful wooden sculpture which He made with His own hands?

Are you ready to step down to the edge of the river to be baptized with the Lamb of God? Would you gladly introduce your friends to Jesus? Would you forsake everything to follow Him? Would you dine at the table of a tax collector with Him? Would you have had a heart-attack when you saw Him walking on water? Would you weep with Him in front of the grave of a close friend? Would you throw your garment down before Him as He rode that donkey into Jerusalem? Would you vie with John for the place closest to Him at that Last Supper? Would you be embarrassed as He laid aside His garments to wash your feet, taking on the role of a servant? Would you weep at the foot of the Cross as the Messiah bore your sin and shame, naked, battered and beaten? Would you be grief-stricken with Mary Magdalene when you found that His tomb was empty? Could you contain your joy when you received word that your Lord was alive, risen from the dead? Would you run to the empty tomb with Peter and John? Would you offer Him that bread and fish? Those who knew Him best were never the same. They had been with Jesus.

Do you want the healing of spirit and soul that only comes from the Great Physician? Come to Jesus. Come to the God-Man. Embrace and adore the Son of Man. He is the KING of kings and the LORD of lords, and our own flesh and blood is at the Father’s right hand, forever. You will never be the same.

Come and behold Him,
Born the King of Angels.
Oh come let us adore Him,
Oh come let us adore Him,
Oh come let us adore Him,
Christ, the Lord!

In Christ,
Steve

How Human Was Jesus?

Throughout the history of the church, there has been a faction in the church that believed that Jesus only appeared to be a human – a man, and the question of Jesus’s humanity has serious implications for both our life and for our salvation.

This question was so important to the Apostle John, that after he proclaimed Christ’s full deity, he also proclaimed His full humanity. John also devoted large sections of 1st John to Christ’s humanity, and then reiterated it in 2nd John. Let’s start by looking at these pivotal Scriptures:

The Eternal Word

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. (John 1:1-5)

The Word Becomes Flesh

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

What Was Heard, Seen, and Touched

1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life— 2 the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things we write to you that your joy may be full. (1 John 1:1-4)

Could He have been “the King of the Jews” if He hadn’t been fully-human? So, just how human WAS Jesus?

Christ’s Birth Announced to Mary

26 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”

29 But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. 30 Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33 And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”

34 Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”

35 And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing will be impossible.”

38 Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. (Luke 1:26-38)

His Conception…

The mystery of the Incarnation, God, in Jesus Christ, taking on human flesh, begins with His miraculous conception. If order for Him to be fully and truly human, He had to have a human parent, who was His mother. In order for Him to be human, yet sinless, required that His Father be divine. We aren’t told anything about the mechanism of His conception, except that it was by the Holy Spirit. Did God create one perfect sperm with human genetics, but without a human source? If so, did God create that sperm to replicate His earthly “father’s” genetics, so that He looked just like “one of the boys“? During His earthly ministry, those around Him had no problem matching Him up with His siblings. What we do know is that His mother Mary was a virgin, and that He had no human biological father. Those are questions which will have to wait for Heaven. Mary knew that what was going to happen was not humanly-possible, since she was a virgin and not yet married.

Christ Born of Mary

2 And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. 3 So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.

4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. 6 So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:1-7)

His Birth…

Jesus came into the world the same way every other human has, with the exceptions of Adam and Eve. The only thing out of the ordinary was His conception, and the fact that His mother was a virgin. She was a young Jewish peasant girl, who had gotten pregnant out of wedlock. His step-father was a Jewish carpenter.

The “Bethlehem Maternity Center” was a stable, a place where animals could retreat from the weather. We are not even told that Mary and Joseph had a mid-wife to help with that special delivery, let alone doctors and nurses. His first “crib” was a feeding trough (manger), and His first set of clothes were “swaddling cloths“, whatever was handy to wrap a baby in.

His life…

Jesus was circumcised eight days after He was born, as all boys who were born into Jewish society were. Circumcision was no sterile medical procedure with all the conveniences of the modern hospital. Knives were crude at best, not exactly Wilkinson Sword quality, so they did more tearing of the flesh, rather than cutting it cleanly. He bled, He cried when it was done, and it hurt. Yes, Jesus was born a fully-equipped male baby, and that fact would become important during His crucifixion.

While we have little information in the Bible about His early life, I believe it is safe to assume that He grew up like any other Jewish boy of His day and time. He played in the dusty streets of whatever town they were living in when He wasn’t in school or learning to be a carpenter. How many times did He skin His knees up? Did He ever trip and fall? Was He a real child…

As a teen, did He ever have a “wet-dream“, or as He grew into adulthood, did He ever wake up with a “morning-glory“? Those things sound too “crude“, too “vulgar” for the Incarnate Son of God, but as the architect and creator of our male bodies, He gave us those physiological responses to help keep ours AND His equipment in good working-order. Have we forgotten that His favorite title for Himself was “the Son of Man“? He called Himself “the Son of Man” more times than all of His other titles combined. I seriously doubt that He ever said “Why, Oh why, did I create men this way?”.

How often did He smash His thumb while learning to drive a nail? How many splinters did He get from the rough-cut wood that they used? We see many references throughout His teachings to things relating to construction and His trade as a carpenter. As He hefted one of those crude, rough nails, could He almost feel it tearing through His flesh? Was His shadow shaped like a Cross, knowing that He created the tree He was going to be crucified on?

Our problem…

Our “Jesus” is too “clean“, too “sanitary“, too “unearthly” for Him to really have been “one of us“. We can’t imagine a “Jesus” with diaper-rash when He was a baby, or that when He was young, He ran around “naked as a jaybird” like real children do if they get the chance. He ate, He drank, He pooped, He peed, just like we do, but those things just don’t seem “God-like” enough for Him. He got tired, He got hungry, He got thirsty, and He even cried. How “unmanly“, and yet Scripture affirms all of these to be true. He experienced the complete “human experience” while He walked this Earth. He was tempted, but He never succombed to temptation. He was sinless, although He always attracted a crowd of sinners around Him, and He certainly enjoyed a good glass of wine.

We have strapped our own body-shame issues to Jesus, as if He had the same kind of body-shame that we carry around. We can’t imagine a “Jesus with a penis” because we have been taught to be ashamed of our own sexual equipment, and yet, had He not been born “fully-equipped“, penis and all, Pilate could not have declared Him to be “The King of the Jews” when He was crucified. No penis=no “king“, not circumcised=not a “Jew“.

Why does His humanity matter?

The short answer is that, if Jesus wasn’t fully-human, He could not have brought salvation to us. His death, burial and resurrection would have been a fraud if He wasn’t fully-human, and we would be miserable, hell-bound idiots for believing this fairy-tale. If Jesus wasn’t human, I, and my fellow Christian bloggers, writers, pastors, teachers, missionaries and evangelists are perpetuating a hoax, a lie, but we aren’t. Jesus was, and still is, as human as you and I, and as we prepare to celebrate His Incarnation, God taking on human flesh, this is the greatest story of the most wonderful event in human and redemption history.

I invite you to kneel before the manger, and bow before the KING of Kings and the LORD of Lords, Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us. He is worthy of ALL of our worship and adoration.

God bless and Merry Christmas!
Steve