Back in April 2014 I attended Theology Café at church, which looked at Easter and the identity of Jesus. For as long as I can remember I have heard that Jesus was fully God and fully human, but this particular evening brought about a discussion that caused me to see for the first time that Jesus is indeed truly human. Fully human just like me. Now I realise that last sentence needs some more unpacking but bear with me please.
I admit I have always viewed Jesus as God in a ‘man skin’ but with the full God backpack of power, who cannot divorce himself from his God-ness and dips into his divine backpack whenever he has need. It’s true he cannot divorce himself from his God-ness, but he can choose to relinquish the independent use of his power and rely on the Holy Spirit’s power. Now this gets a little murky as it sounds more like rewording than anything, but in fact it isn’t. It’s so very relevant to you and me personally. If Jesus chose to use only the power given to him by the Spirit of God and do only as the Father told him, then his humanity looks a lot like ours if we are followers of Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit.
This point makes me read the New Testament much differently than I did when I viewed Jesus as fully God with ‘human skin’. As Reverend Dr Andrew Burgess said at Theology Café in April, “Jesus walks out his obedience to God day by day, moment by moment. His obedience is perfected in his death.”
What Jesus went through in the garden of Gethsemane wasn’t easy, nor was it decided – until it was decided. Jesus had to decide to obey his Father. Exactly when that was decided I have no clue, but you can’t deny he certainly felt the moment of obedience in Gethsemane.
‘A few hours after the foot-washing episode, Jesus wasn’t feeling much like sacrificing his life for humankind; “Going a little ahead, he fell on his face, praying, “My Father, if there is any way , get me out of this. But please, not what I want, but what do you want?” Jesus found the source for obeying his Abba, in his Abba, not in his own emotional reserves. That’s a much better ending than … I was going to save the world … but then I didn’t feel like it. Thank God, Jesus was who he was and did what the Father asked him to do’” Brennan Manning.
In that moment, Jesus felt the decision to accept the suffering and obey, by taking on sin and wearing it through death. If it was an easy decision, why did he sweat blood? If it was easy, why did he ask his friends to watch and pray? If it was easy, why did he ask that if at all possible, could it not happen? Matthew 26:39 shows the heart of Jesus. And going a little further he fell on his face and prayed, saying, "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will."
Henri Nouwen writes, “Jesus didn’t throw the cup away in despair. No, he kept it in his hands, willing to drink it to the dregs. This was not a show of willpower, staunch determination, or great heroism. This was a deep spiritual yes to Abba, the lover of his wounded heart.”
Hebrews 5:8-9 sums it all up, “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.”
Jesus in his humanity said yes to the Father. We in our humanity can also say yes to the Father. Even in the face of the really hard stuff. Even in the face of things terminal. Even in the face of the unfair. If Jesus can say yes in the face of the suffering he foreknew, we can say yes in the face of the unknown.
Today that point made a difference. I had to deal with hard stuff and I could have chosen to metaphorically ‘pull the fingers’ at life and my struggles and give up, but instead I had to constantly remind myself that I am here and here is where God wants me. This reminder works most times, other times I have a tiny strop, but fortunately in most situations we get another chance to obey and surrender. Personally I can only do that because I know that Jesus faced the choice of obedience daily as I do.
Yes Jesus is God. He is also human, like you and me. If he can draw on the power to say yes, then so can we. I hear your argument, but he was God, of course he has to be obedient in all situations, because he’s perfect. But when we choose to argue this way, we degrade the humanity of Jesus. Fully man, fully God. Jesus could have come solely as God, but he didn’t. Makes you think that maybe it was important to him that we knew he would understand us in our humanity. 100% God, 100% human.