Monday, January 21, 2013

Fully Man and Fully God

We've been going through the Apostles' Creed a few lines at a time.  We went through the concept of God, to the actual Christian view of God as Father and creator.  Then we touched on the idea of the Son as the agent of creation--through Him all things were made.  The bulk of the Apostles' Creed is about Jesus, the Son, so let's begin trying to understand who this is.

First we have "And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord."  The key word here is ONLY.  Aren't we sons and daughters of God, too?  Yes, but only in a created sense.  Jesus is something special.  He is God of God, because he is begotten, not made.  My daughters are flesh of my flesh, but Jesus is God of God, light of light, very God of very God.  The Nicene creed was needed to expand that one word in the Apostles' Creed "only," but all that meaning is there, compacted into that single word.

Jesus is fully God, but he is also fully man.  That is where the next two lines come in: "conceived by the Holy Spirit; born of the Virgin Mary."  Why are these two lines in there?  Aren't those unimportant tidbits about Jesus?  Who cares how he got here?  Why do we have to know this?  Well, these two lines reveal that Jesus was both fully God and fully man.  He was conceived by God but born out of a human.  The trouble we get into involves false ideas about Jesus.  Our minds can't get around what fully God and fully man means.  We tend to go for the "half and half" concept.  Or that Jesus interchanged from God to man and back to God again at different times, like a man possessed by a spirit who then snaps out of it and asks "what happened?"

Then there's one of the oldest heresies, called Docetism.  The idea is that God just pretended to be man, but he was always only God.  This idea comes from the mythology behind gods like Zeus, who visited people as animals, but he was never really an animal.  Jesus is not like this.  He was fully human.  He bled.  He died.  He cried.

Probably the most informative passage on the fully human and fully God nature of Christ is from John 11:

Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha met Him. Then the Jews who were with her in the house, and consoling her, when they saw that Mary got up quickly and went out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. Therefore, when Mary came where Jesus was, she saw Him, and fell at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled, and said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. So the Jews were saying, “See how He loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not this man, who opened the eyes of the blind man, have kept this man also from dying?”

So Jesus, again being deeply moved within, came to the tomb. Now it was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, “Remove the stone.” Martha, the sister of the deceased, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” So they removed the stone. Then Jesus raised His eyes, and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me.” When He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth.” The man who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” (John 11:30-44)

Why did Jesus weep?  He wept for many reasons.  He wept because he was fully human.  Although he knew he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead, he didn't just look around, see everyone weeping, and then just whip up some crocodile tears.  He was deeply moved.  Lazarus was his friend.  Death should have no power, and yet here is the victory of death--something that should not be in God's original creation--taking victory over his friend.  All humans have to suffer through this.  Jesus himself was to suffer through death.  People are emotional creatures  Yes, he was fully human, and the prospect of death and its fangs moved him to tears.

He also wept because he was fully God.  I read an article where the author described Jesus' death as horrible but not as horrible as other deaths in history.  Some linger on for years, being eaten away by cancer, and suffering is much greater.  The loved ones of those people look on helplessly and suffer, too.  The feeling is extreme nausea, protracted, lingering.  Jesus only suffered for a day and he died relatively quickly on the cross.  What we forget is that God loves us even more than we love ourselves and each other.  The nausea we feel when we see suffering--that is how God feels every day, and has felt throughout history, as he watches his children suffer and die.  Jesus may be the only begotten Son, but God cares so deeply about each of his created beings, we have no match in our own emotions. We shouldn't be lost to death.  We shouldn't suffer, but sin has let death and suffering into the world, and God watches as we hurt ourselves and each other and succumb to death.  He grieves on a divine level, as does Jesus, because the Son is fully God.

Finally, Jesus grieves because he is the solution to the problem of death.  Lazarus has died and Jesus will raise him, but Lazarus will die again.  This life that Jesus is resurrecting Lazarus into is just a repeat of what he had before.  But the solution to the problem of death is Jesus' own death.  He is to die in our place, not so that we can just have a repeat of our earthly existence.  Jesus' death ushers in a new life for everyone, imperishable and everlasting.  This is a new kind of existence, not like the first.  The demonstration here with Lazarus is only a shadow of the life that Jesus will bestow on us with his death on the cross.

But why weep over that?  Isn't that a reason for rejoicing?  Jesus' death is to give life to everyone, imperishable life.  Why would that make him sad?  Because he knows that this way to everlasting life, this only way to living forever, will be rejected, not by some, but by most, if not nearly all, human beings.  We tend to think that there was a problem of death and then Jesus came over to earth, like a plumber coming over to our house, to fix the problem, like fixing the sink.  Jesus is not Mr. Fixit. He does not come over to our homes with his little tool belt and fix our broken sinks.  He comes over and tells us to come live with him in his own home.  "My mansion has many rooms, and they all have working sinks with running waters overflowing with everlasting life."  Jesus' is the only home with working sinks.  That is the solution to the problem, not just coming over and fixing our sink and then leaving, so we can then continue on with our lives of sinful living and TV shows.  He invites us to come over to his house with a working sink.  And we smile and say, "no thanks.  I'll just hang out here with my broken sink and my booze.  Don't need water when I've got vodka.

Jesus wept.  He wept because he was conceived by the Holy Ghost.  He wept because he was born of the Virgin Mary.  He wept because he offers us life everlasting and we choose death everlasting.  How will we ever choose him?  We will discuss the Holy Spirit in a couple weeks.