This week we are going to continue our preaching series focusing on our understanding of the nature and being of our Triune God; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Who are they? How do you describe them? Is our understanding of them accurate and theologically correct? Last week we began with God as we explored ways to express our belief in God, talk about God, and who do we understand God to be.
Today, we turn our attention to Jesus. Jesus has many sides and has been referred to in many different ways. Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus the Christ, Jesus the Messiah, Jesus: descendant of David, Jesus: son of Joseph. Which one is correct? Is one more accurate than another? Are they all correct? So much controversy for just one man! Christians have been faced with this controversy for generations. How do we reconcile the historical Jesus, the Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Mary and Joseph, with the Messiah, the Savior, the Son of God. Which is more important? After all Jesus is simply the Son of God, right? This morning we are going to seek to illuminate this debate as we turn our attention to discuss the nature and being of Jesus. Specifically, what is the bond between Jesus and God, what is the relationship between Jesus and humanity, and how can we as disciples of Christ articulate those bonds to others.
Who Is Jesus?
Last week we spent time looking at the nature and being of God and how our understanding of God comes through God revealing God's self to us. We emphasized that spending daily, dedicated time with God was one way to place ourselves in a position to experience God. Today I want us to take that same approach and apply it Jesus. Therefore, let us look at the nature and being of Jesus. Our United Methodist Book of Discipline describes our understanding of Jesus like this:
We believe in Jesus Christ, truly God and truly man,
in whom the divine and human natures are perfectly
and inseparably united. He is the eternal Word made
flesh, the only begotten Son of the Father, born of the
Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit. As ministering
Servant he lived, suffered and died on the cross. He
was buried, rose from the dead and ascended into heaven
to be with the Father, from whence he shall return. He is
eternal Savior and Mediator, who intercedes for us, and by
him all men will be judged.1
This description contains many aspects of the nature of Jesus. Attributes such as being both fully human and fully divine, eternal, incarnate, born of a virgin. It also speaks of Jesus' death and resurrection, as well as, the fact that Jesus now intercedes to the Father on our behalf. How can we know all of this is true? Scripture.
The Gospel of John attests that “in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God…The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:1, 14). As the “Word made flesh,” Jesus’ life, ministry, death and resurrection hold great significance for us as believers. Most weeks, we recite the Apostles’ Creed during worship. In that creed we can gain an understanding of both the person and work of Jesus Christ. One aspect we learn is that Jesus Christ is God’s “only Son our Lord: who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary.” This is the great mystery of the incarnation; that God would take on human form in the person of Jesus from Nazareth. All four Gospel writers address this relationship between God and Jesus. As we have already seen, John explains Jesus as the “Word made flesh,” while Mark speaks of Jesus’ adoption as God’s son during his baptism. Matthew and Luke refer to Jesus as being conceived by the Holy Spirit. But while Jesus as the Son of God is fully divine, Jesus is also fully human as the Son of Man, existing as a real living, breathing person. But how can Jesus be both? Scripture shows us repeatedly.
Jesus as Fully Human and Fully Divine
From our first Scripture lesson this morning, Hebrews 4:15: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.”
From Colossians 1:19: “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him”
And from our second Scripture lesson this morning, Phillipians 2:6-11: who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (NRSV)
We find Jesus not grasping to be an equal with God but to be a servant made in human likeness. Theologian Tyron Inbody explains the significance of Jesus’ humanity as: “Jesus Christ is true humanity, humanity as it was created to be. Jesus Christ, not Adam and Eve, defines what it is to be the image of God… and reveals the love and mercy of God and through identification with us restores or completes our human being, which is now disfigured by sin as the likeness of God.”2
Christ was not seeking to come in a position of power but rather out of a desire to love and to bless. Jesus was not using his nature of being fully human as a tool to garner more for himself, but to lift us up so that we might better understand the love, grace, and mercy of his Father, of God. Jesus was modeling the the true nature of what it means to love. There were no longer just words to help us understand. There was action. There was Jesus.
But why would Jesus need to come to us as fully human and fully divine? Why did he need to come and model for us what love really looked like? Because we needed a bridge. Humanity had been sought out by God time and time again. And we rejected God, time and time again. God needed a new way to reach us. A way that we could not ignore so easily. A way that would grab and hold our attention. Enter Jesus. Enter in the love and the very essence of God the Father. But in the flesh. Jesus emptying himself out for humanity.
Theologian Morna Hooker writes, Christ did not cease to be 'in the form of God' when he took the form of a slave, any more than he ceased to be the 'Son of God' when he was sent into the world. On the contrary, it is in his self-emptying and his humiliation that he reveals what God is like, and it is through his taking the form of a slave that we see 'the form of God.'”3
These acts, this model, are why Hebrews refers to Jesus as a “high priest who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses” (4:15). Jesus being both fully human and fully divine could connect us with God. He could be both human and divine for a world that desperately needed him.
Understanding these acts, understanding his nature as fully human and fully divine, understanding the love that was shown by this man to all he met, allows me to call him Lord of my life and to worship him.
When we proclaim “Jesus Christ is Lord” we acknowledge several things about the nature and work of the second person of our Triune God. The name Jesus reminds us that the love and grace of God was manifest in human form as the “Word made flesh” (John 1:14) in the person and work of Jesus from Nazareth. As Jesus himself explained to the disciples, “anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:6). But while Jesus was fully human in nature, he was also at the same time fully divine and the title of Christ reflects this divine nature and work as Savior. After the resurrection of Jesus, the early Christians proclaimed Jesus of Nazareth as the Christ (John 20:31, Acts 5:42, Romans 8:39), acknowledging him as the promised Messiah or God’s Anointed One. The title Lord is an expression of Jesus Christ’s “divine superiority, authority and power…over the world and the church”4 and reflects that Jesus “was appointed by the Father to have us under his power, to administer the Kingdom of God in heaven and earth.”5
In affirming the names Jesus and Christ, we come to understand the God who came to be with us. By professing Jesus Christ as kurios or Lord, we as believers personalize that understanding as we acknowledge Jesus’ kingdom rule not just in creation and the church, but also in our own hearts and lives. I have found this to be an ongoing process within my own faith journey for two reasons. One, it means acknowledging Jesus Christ as first priority in my life as I pray “thy kingdom come, thy will be done (Matthew 6:10). Two, it means daily letting go of selfish natures and desires and allowing myself to be shaped instead by Jesus’ values, attitudes, words and actions. Therefore, my relationship with Christ is ongoing as well, dynamic, and fluid.
This morning we have looked at who Jesus is, through his nature, through doctrine, and through our daily lives. The next step is up to you. Will you take this opportunity and empty yourself out for Jesus as he emptied himself out for you? Will you make your relationship with Christ more than just a formal admission and make it intimate? Will you go out and share with others what Jesus has done for you?
We have been restored by grace through faith. Now as part of that redemption we are called to live for Christ. To show others the love of Christ. Jesus the Christ lived and died so that we could have eternal life. Now we must live so that others can come to know salvation, salvation and atonement through Jesus.
1. Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, 2008. p.67.
2. Inbody, Tyron. The Faith of the Christian Church. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005). p 187.
3. Hooker, Marna. Philippians: NIB, Vol XI. p 58.
4. Inbody, Tyron. The Faith of the Christian Church. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005). p 206.
5. Oden, Thomas C. The Word of Life, Systematic Theology: Vol. 2. (Peabody, MA: Prince Press, 1998). p 52.