The Humanity of Jesus
By Peter Amsterdam
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According to God’s plan of salvation, Jesus’ humanity is as important as His deity, because our salvation depends on Jesus being both fully God and fully man. Only one who is God can bear the weight of the sins of the world. Only one who is eternally God can bring a sacrifice of infinite value and render perfect obedience to the law of God, bear the wrath of God redemptively, and so free others from the judgment of the law.
By the same token, only one who shares in humanity can make salvation possible. Because the first man, Adam, sinned and brought condemnation to all men, it was necessary that another human bear the punishment and receive God’s judgment upon himself—for only a human being can vicariously represent mankind. “For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”1
Often people focus on the deity of Jesus and push His humanity into the background. But while Jesus was God living on earth in human flesh, He was just as human as you and me. He had the same physical needs and weaknesses that we have. He had the same physical and mental limitations. He had the same emotions. He was tempted to sin and had internal spiritual suffering, just as we do. He was a man, and He was born, lived, and died just like any man. He had human nature, meaning both a material body and a rational soul or mind.
Jesus had both of the major elements of human nature—a material body and a rational soul. He spoke of His body and of His soul/spirit (in some instances soul and spirit are used interchangeably to mean the same thing). He spoke of His flesh and bones.2 The book of Hebrews speaks of His having flesh and blood.3
Jesus called Himself a man in the book of John: “You seek to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God.”4Others also attested to His being a man: “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through Him in your midst.”5
As with all humans, Jesus was ruled by the natural laws of human growth and development. He was born,6 He grew physically from childhood to manhood.7 He went through the normal learning process a child does. He grew in knowledge, understanding, wisdom, and responsibility.8 He grew strong in spirit over time, most likely by learning lessons, such as obedience to His parents, through suffering, and other experiences.9
Jesus also had the physical weaknesses and needs that we have as humans. He got hungry, thirsty, tired.10 He became physically weak. He became weary. Once He was so tired that He slept soundly in a fishing boat in the midst of a violent storm.11
Jesus experienced emotions as we do. He felt compassion for people.12 He pitied those in need. He wept.13 He marveled, was deeply moved, got angry.14 He grieved. He prayed in desperation, was sorrowful, was in psychological agony.15 He was sometimes troubled. He had friends and He loved them.16 And like every human being, Jesus died. His body ceased to have life.
The people whom Jesus grew up with and lived among until the start of His public ministry all seemed to consider Him a normal human, which is seen by their reaction to Him once He began His ministry. After He had been doing miracles and preaching in Galilee and large crowds followed Him, He visited His hometown of Nazareth and was rejected by His former neighbors and townspeople.17
Even His brothers didn’t believe in Him,18 though some of them eventually became known as believers and church leaders—James and Jude.
If those who lived with and around Him for most of His life wondered where He got the wisdom and knowledge to speak and preach so authoritatively, and were astonished, then it’s fairly clear that they looked at Him as a normal person—not God, not even a great teacher, but just a normal human being.
Martin Luther expressed the reality of Jesus’ full humanity when he said: “He ate, drank, slept and waked; was weary, sad, joyous; wept, laughed; was hungry, thirsty, cold; sweated, talked, worked, prayed.” Jesus was fully human. He experienced life as we do. He was human in every sense except sin. That’s the one difference. Jesus didn’t sin, ever. “He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in His mouth.”19
You may wonder if Jesus could sin. The answer based on Scripture seems to be no, He couldn’t. If you look at Scripture, it tells us that 1) Jesus didn’t sin; 2) Jesus was tempted in every respect that we are, and as such we know He was truly tempted to sin,20 and 3) Jesus is God, and God cannot be tempted with evil. “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and He Himself tempts no one.”21
One of the attributes of God is His holiness, which means He is separated from sin. God can’t sin; if He did, He would not be God. The Scriptures tell us that Jesus was fully God and was fully man. It also tells us that Jesus was tempted and that God can’t be tempted.
If Jesus’ human nature existed independently from His divine nature, then He would have been similar to Adam and Eve when they were first created, in that He would have been free of sin but theoretically able to sin. But Jesus’ human nature never existed apart from His divine nature, as both natures existed in one Person. An act of sin would have been a moral act, which seems as if it would have involved the whole person of Christ, both His divine and human natures. If that had happened, then the divine nature of Jesus would have sinned, meaning God had sinned, and that means He would not be God. But that’s not possible, because it would mean God going against His own nature, something that God doesn’t do.
As such, it can be seen that the union of Jesus’ human and divine natures in one person prevented Him from being able to sin. However, exactly how that happened, we can’t know. It’s one of those mysteries that we face in Christianity, which is understandable considering that Jesus is the only one who has ever had two natures—the nature of God and the nature of man—so it’s not unreasonable that it’s difficult, if not impossible, for us to know how such things worked within Him.
He was fully tempted in all things just as we are, yet in every instance He resisted the temptation and therefore didn’t sin. He had to fight through every temptation in order to resist sin. The appeal to sin that He experienced is the exact same appeal that we experience. The difference is that Jesus didn’t ever yield to temptation, so He didn’t sin.
Because Jesus didn’t sin, it wasn’t necessary for Him to die for His own sins, but He could instead die for the sins of mankind. When we consider that God the Son chose to humble Himself by taking on human nature and all that being human entails so that each of us would have the opportunity to be forgiven for our sins and live forever, it can’t help but make us love and thank Him for doing so.
Originally published June 28, 2011. Adapted and republished March 2019.
Read by Jason Lawrence.
1 1 Corinthians 15:21–22.
2 Luke 24:39.
3 Hebrews 2:14.
4 John 8:40.
5 Acts 2:22.
6 Luke 2:7.
7 Luke 2:40.
8 Luke 2:52.
9 Hebrews 5:8.
10 Matthew 4:2; John 4:6–7.
11 Matthew 8:24.
12 Matthew 9:36.
13 John 11:35.
14 Matthew 8:10; John 11:33.
15 Luke 22:44; John 12:27.
16 John 11:5.
17 Matthew 13:53–58.
18 John 7:5.
19 1 Peter 2:22.
20 See Hebrews 4:15.
21 James 1:13.