Written by Doug Ponder on June 12, 2016
The Fully Human Jesus
Jesus farted. I don’t mean to be irreverent; it’s just a biological fact. Jesus farted, and it almost certainly didn’t smell like roses. After all, Jesus was “born in the likeness of men” (Phil 2:7) and “made like his brothers in every respect” (Heb 2:17)—“yet without sin” (Heb 4:16).
OK, you may be thinking. Jesus farted—but why mention it? Does this really matter?
The answer is yes, and probably a lot more than you think.
Saying “Jesus farted” is an earthy way of reminding us of the full humanity of Jesus. Sometimes we have to talk in such ways in order to get the point across. Indeed, there is a strong tendency in some corners of Christianity to emphasize the divinity of Jesus in such a way that his humanity is diminished, or at least overlooked.
“Jesus is God,” we hasten to say, and rightly so. But this is sometimes said in such a way that makes it sound as if Jesus’ divinity swallows his humanity like a drop of honey in the ocean. (The honey is still technically there, but it’s not all that significant.)
I can remember having an argument in high school with some friends about whether or not Jesus ever got sick. I knew that Jesus was human—the Bible is quite clear about this—yet I kept insisting that Jesus didn’t have to bother with certain aspects of human life as we know it, since he would have had more important things to do with his time. Basically, I was arguing Jesus didn’t have time for sick days, so he made sure that he never got ill, or scraped his knee, or anything of the sort.
But I was wrong.
The whole point of the incarnation is that in Jesus God was as fully human as those he came to save. He wasn’t just “hiding inside” a human body like a costume. Jesus was “truly God and truly man,” as the Chalcedonian Creed summarizes. He was “in all things like us, without sin.” That means:
He felt tired, just as we do (John 4:6).
He got thirsty, just as we do (John 19:28).
He grew hungry, just as we do (Mark 11:12).
He cried, just as we do (John 11:35).
He gave hugs, just as we do (Mark 10:16).
He sweat, just as we do (Luke 22:44).
He bled, just as we do (John 19:34).
He died, just as we will (Matt 27:50).
And he was raised, just as we will be (1 Cor 15:20-23).
Jesus was God in the flesh, just as human as you and me. And this matters for two big reasons.
To Destroy Death
The problems of the world are inside→outside problems, in that order. The evil that comes out of our mouths, or the barrel of a gun, or the tips of our fingers originates within. As Jesus said, “From within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these evil things come from within; they are what defile you” (Mark 7:21-23).
The same is true of death; it’s an inside→outside problem. We die physically because we first died spiritually. “For the wages of sin is death…” (Rom 6:23).
God’s response to our inside→outside problem is an inside→outside solution. He overcame death from within the world, by becoming a human and dwelling among us. As a man Jesus allowed Satan to do its very worst to him. And then, like a sponge that absorbs every drop of water around it, Jesus drank in the deadly power of Satan and spit out life in its place.
Or as the author of the book of Hebrews says, “Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying” (Heb 2:14-15).
To Become Our High Priest
“Therefore,” the writer of Hebrews continues, “He had to be made like us in every respect—fully human in every way—so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make atonement for the sins of the people” (Heb 2:17).
Jesus not only destroyed death from ‘the inside,’ but he destroys sin in this way as well. By becoming as human as we, Jesus took on the original purpose of humanity as well. God made us to be priests and kings who rule responsibly over his creation and represent all things before God (Gen 2:15; 1 Pet 2:9; Rev 5:10). Because of sin, however, we all fail in both of these tasks (Rom 3:23).
But in Jesus, humanity fulfills the purpose God has given it. He lives the life we should have lived, and then he died the death we deserve to die—thereby making atonement for the sins of his people. And Jesus did this on our behalf, becoming our faithful high priest before God, representing us in his presence, pleading his life and death on our behalf, securing God’s favor for us without end.
And there’s more!
All this is glorious news, but there’s even more glory to the priesthood of Jesus. Not only does is Jesus a faithful high priest; he’s a merciful priest too. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses. Instead, we have one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet he never sinned. So let us keep on coming boldly to the throne of grace, so that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Heb 4:16-17).
That means Jesus “gets” us. He understands our difficulties and trials. He knows what it’s like to be tempted and tired, weak and weighed down with cares. Jesus knows this not theoretically, but truly: he has walked this road before us—and he is walking with us still (Matt 28:20). Because he has been where you are, Jesus knows what it’s like to need the help that he is ready to give all who ask.
All this is true for scraped knees and sick days and the struggle to resist temptation and the stress of weekly life and the sad loss of a friend or family member. Jesus gets it. Because he experienced it. And overcame it. For you.
Doug Ponder is one of the founding pastors of Remnant Church in Richmond, VA, where he serves in many of the church’s teaching ministries. He has contributed to several published works and is a regular contributor to RE|SOURCE. His interests include the intersection of theology, ethics, and the Christian life. Follow him on Twitter @dougponder.