The Humanity of Jesus
Over eighty times in the four Gospels Jesus Christ is referred to as the “Son of Man.” As we look at the life of Jesus, we find that He lived a common life, not any different from those around Him. He was truly God, but became truly man in order to make the gift of salvation available. Although He continued to exist as God, during His incarnation He did not hold on to the rights and privileges that were rightly His. He never used His power or authority for His own personal gain, but willingly suffered the worst possible humiliation rather than demand the honor, privilege, and glory due His name.
Jesus’ life here on earth started off being truly man. He was born of a woman, born into the humblest of families, in the humblest of places. In the eyes of His family and those around Him, He lived an unexceptional life. This is especially seen in the twelve disciples He chose who were common men with little education, skills (other than fishing), or position.
In Philippians 2, we find the best example of Christ’s humility: His Incarnation. “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:5-8 ESV).
In verse 7, we see that He was “born in the likeness of men.” Jesus was made like us, and God made Him this way through His miraculous conception and virgin birth. To be in “the likeness of men,” He was like us in appearance as verse 8 says, “being found in human form,” or “in appearance as a man.” Isaiah predicted this some seven hundred years earlier when he said, “Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief, and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Is. 53:1-3). Jesus looked like a common person of that day.
The term “likeness” refers to more than just being similar in appearance; it also refers to being similar in reality. He became exactly like all of us. As a human child, he needed the attention and care of loving parents (Luke 2:40-52). He became hungry and thirsty, suffered pain, felt sadness; He became tired and weak. And although He was completely without sin, He was tempted in all things just as we are. He did not ask for any special privileges as a man, but took His place among the common people. He was not just as a man among men, but emptied of all privileges that were rightly His, He became a servant among servants.
In John 1:9-11, it says, “The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.” God came into the world, His own creation, His own people, and they did not receive him. They didn’t even know him. There was nothing special about his appearance that caught the people’s attention. Verse 12 continues, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” Whoever could see past His appearance and believe that He was both who He said He was and who John the Baptist foretold of; to them He gave the right to become the children of God.
Further on in John chapter 7, we see Jesus at the Feast of Booths. As He is hanging around in Galilee waiting for His time to come for him to go to Judea, His brothers urge him to go. In verse 5, it says, “For not even his brothers believed in him.” Even Jesus’ brothers didn’t know who He really was. By his appearance and the way he conducted Himself, people could not tell that He was any different than a common person. It was not until He started to teach and preach and answer some of the Jews’ questions that people started to notice a difference. Some thought he was a good man and others thought he was leading them astray (Verse 12).
The fact that Jesus is both God and man is very important for us. As a human who shares in our weaknesses, He knows what it is like to be human and tempted, and so He is able to represent us in the presence of the Father. Because He is God, He is able to pay for our sins and bring us into a relationship with God again (Col.1:19-20).
At no time did Jesus ever cease to be God. Although He was made fully human, there was never a point when He neglected his divine nature. Hebrews 2:17-18 gives us the reason that Jesus had to be both God and man: “Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”
The Son of God took on human flesh to provide redemption to those under the law. “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Gal.4:4-5). Now, because of Christ, we are no longer slaves but sons!