ACST 32. Christ: The Nazarene

Baby to Egypt There have been those who have problems understanding and believing what the Bible says about Christ’s pre-existence and deity as the eternal Logos. There have also been those who cannot quite accept the flip-side of the issue. The Bible insists that Christ was (and is and always will be) fully human as well. In the same chapter where he writes of the Logos coming to earth, John says that he “became flesh” and pitched his tent among us.[1]

Jesus was called (among other things) a Nazarene.[2] The title referred to the fact that he grew up in Nazareth, a town in Galilee. Except for a few miracles connected with his birth and one particular incident when he was twelve,[3] we know nothing about that childhood. The scriptures leave us to assume that the early years of Christ’s life were relatively insignificant. Jesus did not take advantage of his divine nature during these years. Instead, being human, he submitted entirely to his human nature and became a servant instead of the Master.

Jesus Got Hungry

One of the signs of Jesus’ full humanity was that he became hungry.[4] The scriptures indicate that his body worked like every other body, being subject to the same limitations and needs. One of the first needs any person feels is hunger. Immediately after birth most babies instinctively search for their mother’s breast. One day when Jesus was hungry he walked up to a fig tree, but found it empty. Matthew tells us that “he said to (the tree), “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once.”[5] Perhaps Jesus was doing something symbolic there – indicating his disgust at Israel. His own nation was being like that fig tree – pretending to bear fruit but bearing nothing. But Jesus’ hunger was real. He was like any one of us.

Jesus Got Tired

Jesus and his disciples traveled a great deal, and almost always walked wherever they went.[6] His encounter with the woman of Samaria happened because Jesus was tired after a long day of walking, so was sitting at the well.[7] The human body was created with a mechanism for self-renewal, and fatigue is part of that mechanism. The urge to rest showed that Jesus was completely human. He was not pretending to be human, nor was his humanity completely under the control of his divine nature. Weariness showed that he was real.

Jesus Got Emotional

Another clue that Jesus was completely human was the way he reacted to the things that happened around him. Even though Jesus knew that Lazarus was asleep (dead) and he was going to wake him up (by raising him from the dead), Jesus still wept and was overcome by sorrow at his friend’s grave.[8] In the same way, we Christians weep over the deaths of our loved ones. Even though we know that their deaths are not permanent. Our sorrow is not like that of unbelievers who have no hope.[9] Yet we do sorrow, because we know that death is real and the loss is real.

Jesus was called a man of sorrows.[10] The scriptures tell us that he wept, but it is not recorded that he laughed. Doubtless he did. He surely experienced the full range of emotions. The writer of Hebrews implied that Jesus experienced all aspects of humanity so that he could be a sympathetic high priest.[11]

Jesus Experienced Limited Knowledge

As the divine Logos, Jesus was omniscient. Throughout eternity he knew all things. But for the short time between his incarnation and his ascension, Jesus apparently limited his own knowledge of certain facts. At one time during his ministry he was surrounded by crowds, and a woman seeking healing touched his garment. He asked who it was.[12] This may have been only to draw the woman out so that he could heal her, but it certainly suggests that Jesus’ knowledge was limited during his earthly life.

When Jesus was teaching about his second coming, he indicated that the exact timing of this future event was known only to his heavenly Father. He said that “concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”[13] The New Testament says a great deal about this event, but nowhere does it tell us when it will occur. In God’s wisdom, this fact is hidden from us. Jesus could live with that. He did not have to have all his questions answered. It was enough for him to know that the Father knew. It should be enough for us as believers as well to know that Christ is coming again, and to seek to live our lives in such a way that we are prepared for him when he comes.

Jesus Experienced Psychological Anguish

Jesus was born in the shadow of his own cross. He described his coming suffering as a baptism that he is destined for, and said “how great is my distress until it is accomplished!”[14] Imagine going through life knowing that you are destined to die a horrible painful death, and there is nothing you can do about it. He knew that his own people would turn against him. He knew that his own disciples would run in fear at his arrest. He knew that he would be betrayed by one of his own students.

The apex of Christ’s lifetime of mental suffering came on the night of his betrayal, when he was praying alone in the garden called Gethsemane. That night Jesus said “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death.”[15] He prayed to God alone while his heart was breaking. Luke tells us that “being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”[16]

A tremendous spiritual battle was being fought that night. The devil, having been defeated when he tried to tempt Jesus years before, had only “departed from him until an opportune time”[17] Now Satan was giving Jesus all that he had. Men who have undergone great physical torture and endured it without breaking have been known to fall apart when they felt that their loved ones were in danger. Possibly Jesus ordeal in Gethsemane involved the fact that he knew the eternal lives of multitudes of people rested upon his shoulders. The rescue of the entire human race depended upon his ability to withstand the temptations of the devil that night.

The writer of Hebrews showed how this terrible event fit within the plan of God for Christ and those he would redeem:

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.[18]

What was at stake was Jesus qualification to be “the source of eternal salvation.” If Jesus had not endured and overcome the anguish of that fateful night, he would not have been qualified to go to the cross to purchase salvation for humanity. He had to endure the worst and remain the best so that he could redeem his own.

That psychological anguish continued while Jesus endured the cross. Even as his life’s blood poured from him, he had to face the fact that his mother would be left alone. He also felt the horrible emptiness that even his heavenly Father was going to turn his back upon his suffering. When he cried out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”[19] He was not just quoting scripture. He was expressing how he felt.

Jesus Experienced Temptation

Before Jesus began his ministry with his disciples, he underwent a time of prayer and fasting in the wilderness alone. There Satan joined him and tried to thwart God’s purposes by tempting Christ to sin.

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, “‘ Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘ He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘ You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.'” Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.[20]

This ordeal in the desert was not the only time Jesus was tempted. He was completely human, so there were many times when the enemy sought to overcome him through this tactic. Once the devil even utilized the apostle Peter to convince Jesus that he could achieve God’s will without going to the cross. Matthew records that Jesus “turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.””[21]

It was God’s will that “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”[22] That “in every respect” suggests that there will be no temptation that any of us have to endure that Jesus has not already endured and was victorious over. His victory was a human victory. He did not utilize his divine powers to overcome temptation because that would have disqualified him to be our high priest.[23]

Jesus Experienced Physical Pain.

Jesus took on humanity in order to save humanity. He did not just take on the appearance of humanity. The Bible presents him as a babe in a manger, but the Bible does not say “no crying he makes.” He was what Pinocchio wanted to be; he was a real boy. Real boys and laugh and snuggle and wet themselves. They also cry, because they experience discomfort. Eight days after his birth, Jesus was circumcised. He felt pain.

Before having his flesh nailed to the wooden beams of the cross, Jesus had already been beaten almost to death by the Roman guards. On the cross, every breath was an experience in agony. Every movement accentuated the pain. He spoke several times, and each word was paid for by pain. Just as the sacrifices suffered when being slaughtered outside the gate of Jerusalem, so Christ suffered outside the gate “in order to sanctify the people through his own blood.”[24]

The fact that Christ, as a completely human being was able to suffer and remain sinless is an example for those of us who choose to follow him. Peter says “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.”[25] If Christ were some divine being posing as human, his suffering and death could hardly serve as an example for his followers.

Because Christ was who he was – what he did matters. Even in the first century – during the time of the apostle John – some were beginning to doubt that Christ was fully human. John attacked this heresy by proclaiming that “every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God.”[26] He had to teach this doctrine because “many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh.”[27] To deny that Christ was fully human was to deny Christ.

Yet this was the same John who had declared that Christ was God and with God in the beginning.[28] The apostle encourages believers to hold to two seemingly opposite truths at the same time. Christ is simultaneously both fully divine and fully human. This mystery shall be explored in the next chapter.


[1] John 1:14.

[2] Matt. 2:23; Mark 14:67.

[3] See Luke 1-2.

[4] Matt. 4:2.

[5] Matt. 21:19.

[6] The only exception I can think of is Jesus’ riding the donkey’s colt during the triumphal entry (Matt. 21; Mark 11; Luke 19; John 12).

[7] John 4:6.

[8] John 11:11,35,38.

[9] 1 Thess. 4:13.

[10] Isaiah 53:3.

[11] Heb. 4:15.

[12] Luke 8:45-48.

[13] Mark 13:32.

[14] Luke 12:50.

[15] Matt. 26:38.

[16] Luke 22:44.

[17] Luke 4:13.

[18] Heb. 5:7-10.

[19] Matt. 27:46.

[20] Matt. 4:1-11.

[21] Matt. 16:23.

[22] Heb. 4:15.

[23] Heb. 2:17-18; 4:15-16; 5:2,7; 7:25.

[24] Heb.13:12.

[25] 1 Peter 2:21-23.

[26] 1 John 4:2-3.

[27] 2 John 1:7.

[28] John 1:1-2.

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