Section 4: Jesus
Week 1: Jesus Is Fully Human
Day 1: Jesus Has a Human Body
1 John 4:2-3
As we’ll see throughout this month’s study, the Bible teaches Jesus was (and still is) both fully God and fully man. The early Church struggled to figure out how to hold those two truths together. One of the first struggles had to do with Jesus’ body. We’ve noted before that the body tended to get a bad rap in Greek philosophy. The body was seen as evil in contrast to the spirit, which was good. Some in the early Church, therefore, wondered whether Jesus could really have had a human body. Jesus is God, and God can’t have anything to do with evil. So, if the body is evil, Jesus couldn’t have had a body.
Jesus Had a Body Just Like Yours and Mine
To get around that problem, some said Jesus only appeared to have a human body. This view was known as Docetism. How would that have worked, though? People saw Jesus. He walked among them. He talked to them. He broke bread with them and washed their feet. How could he not have had a body? If the debate were happening today, the Docetists might have used a video game analogy.
I’m not much of a gamer, but the graphics today are pretty remarkable. The action is incredibly realistic and the characters look amazingly lifelike. Many games even allow you to change your character’s appearance (or avatar) to suit your personal preferences. If you want your avatar to look like you, you can do that. Want to make some improvements? Bigger biceps? A stronger jawline? You can do that too. To get a sense of what Docetism was trying to say, picture God the Son in heaven: He turns on a game console, selects his appearance (long brown hair, neatly trimmed beard, flowing robe) and he starts walking around and doing “stuff” through his Jesus avatar. Wouldn’t those around him have been able to tell his body wasn’t real? Well… if human game makers can create avatars that look lifelike, imagine what God could do.
Docetists may not have explained their view in exactly those terms, but you get the idea. The Bible, however, makes it clear the Docetists had the wrong picture of Jesus. He had a human body that was just as real as yours or mine. Jesus got hungry (Matt. 4:2). He got thirsty (John 19:28). He got tired (John 4:6). He slept (Matt. 8:24). He experienced physical weakness (Luke 23:26). And he died (Mark 15:33-37).
Jesus Accepted the Limitations That Came with Having a Body
It’s amazing that Jesus willingly took on all the limitations that come with having a human body. Especially when you consider how often we fight against our physical limitations. We complain that there aren’t enough hours in a day to get everything done. So, we try to “add” hours by sleeping less. When we start to feel drained at the end of the day, we suck down a couple of energy drinks, hoping that will keep us going. In our effort to do more, we are constantly looking for ways to transcend the limitations our bodies impose upon us. If we could clone ourselves, many of us probably would. Then we could pick the kids up from school and do the grocery shopping at the same time.
Our physical limitations are part of our original design, though. And in Jesus, God himself willingly accepted those limitations. That’s significant because it’s not as if Jesus was just lying around all day. He had a mission to accomplish while he was here on earth. Yet having taken on a human body, he was limited in what he could do—just as we are. He couldn’t be everywhere at once. He didn’t have unlimited stores of energy. As a result, he couldn’t heal everyone who needed healing. He couldn’t teach everyone who needed teaching. And he knew that. But he didn’t fight against it. He didn’t refuse to sleep. He didn’t refuse to eat. He didn’t eliminate his prayer time. He accepted the inherent limitations of being human. Why? Because he trusted the Father to work everything out according to his plan. That trust freed him to sleep, to enjoy his friends, and spend time in prayer.
If Jesus accepted and embraced the limitations of his human body, shouldn’t we?
Read Mark 1:35-38.
In the passage above, why did Jesus want to move on? Could Jesus preach in all the villages at once? Why not? Does he seem troubled by that fact? Why not? What limitations do you find most frustrating? How can Jesus’ approach help you to look at your limitations differently?
This is a great study to understand Jesus incarnate and what that means to us. “It’s amazing that Jesus willingly took on all the limitations that come with having a human body.”