In Search of the Biblical Jesus - Part 1

Selected Scriptures

Tom Pennington  •  April 20, 2008
Audio   •  PDF
  • Share:

Well, last Sunday we finished our 13 weeks of surveying the Old Testament, the intertestamental period, and the New Testament. And I hope, coming up in June, with the beginning of June, to begin a study of the Gospel of Mark on Sunday night. I'm looking forward to that. I've already begun my study and reading, and I think it'll be a great encouragement to all of us. What better thing could we do as believers than focus on the most wonderful person who has ever lived, to give our time and our energy and our thoughts to focusing on the life and ministry and teaching and work of our Lord Jesus Christ? And so, Lord willing, that's what we will begin in June.

But I wanted, because there are a couple of—there are two reasons I want to do something else until we get to June. First of all, because there are a couple of special events, and so the time is going to be sort of staccato. And I don't want to start something in Mark, and then have us miss a couple of weeks in that time. But secondly, there was something that we really left out as we went through our theological study. And I want to take two weeks, between now and when we start our study on the Gospel of Mark, and focus on the doctrine of Jesus Christ. Now, I did that for a particular reason then because when we started our study, we were in the middle of a study of Philippians. And we had already dealt with (in great detail) the truth about Jesus Christ and His nature and who He was. But I think it would be appropriate for me, and I want to do this. And I hope it'll be an encouragement to you to go back and look in a little more detail at the nature of Jesus Christ.

This is so important because Jesus Christ is constantly under attack. The biblical Jesus is forever being attacked. It started with the rationalism of the Enlightenment. Between 1775 and 1900, German and French scholars sought to write "realistic" (quote, unquote) biographies of Jesus. These men were unbelievers. They rejected the supernatural. And so, when they read the gospel accounts of Jesus' life, they said those things cannot be true. They started with an anti-supernatural prejudice, an anti-supernatural bias that said there's no way those things are true, and so we have to look through the gospels for those kernels that might have been true of the "historical Jesus." You've probably heard that term. They stripped the gospels of the miraculous. They brought in new materials from non-Christian, literary sources. And they sought to write a new biography of Jesus Christ, separate from the gospels, but gleaning some of the materials that they believed met their standard of acceptability. Probably the low point of that study came in the work of 1906 by Albert Schweitzer, in what became a classic called The Quest of the Historical Jesus. And since then this whole process of demythologizing the Jesus of the New Testament has continued. The most recent attack has come in the study that was called (You've read about in the newspaper.) called the Jesus Seminar, in which a group of scholars (Many of whom, most of whom in fact, aren't even believers, who reject the cardinal doctrines of the Christian faith.) got together and by vote decided what portions of the gospels were authentic and what portions were not.

The truth about Jesus Christ ultimately has to be rooted in His own teaching. You'll remember that we talked about Christ said, here's the authority by which I do what I do, and I say what I say, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it [again.]" Early in His ministry Jesus said that. They thought He meant the temple in Jerusalem. John says in John 2, "He was speaking of the temple of His body." In other words (Listen carefully.) Jesus was staking everything He taught and everything He did on His resurrection. And He said if I am raised from the dead, then you better embrace everything I said and everything I did. And of course, history itself underscores the reality of the resurrection. Not only does the Scripture, but there are a number of historical arguments that we've looked at as well in the past.

So, the truth about Jesus Christ has to begin with His own teaching and His own earthly ministry recorded by those whom He sent out to be His representatives. This would be true, by the way, and is true with all other ancient, historical documents. No one demythologizes the writings of Plato. No one demythologizes the writings of Aristotle. They accept them at historical face value. But because there is an anti-supernatural bias, they will not leave the teaching of Jesus Christ alone. Even after His ascension Jesus continued to teach His disciples about Himself through the Holy Spirit, He promised He would send. And under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the disciples then communicated the truth about Christ to the church through the letters they wrote that became the New Testament.

Because Christ is the center of all that God is doing, Satan has attacked Jesus Christ from the 1st century. He attacked Him during His life, and he attacked Him violently after His resurrection and ascension through His people initially, through persecution. And when that wasn't successful, he began even in the early days of the apostles to bring false doctrine into the church. Paul warned the churches that this would happen. John warned the churches that there would be a jesus taught who was not the real Jesus. And so, several of the New Testament epistles actually were written to correct false teaching about Jesus. And as time went on, these heresies grew into full-blown teaching. And when that happened, the leaders of the church met together after the pattern of Acts 15 to state with greater precision what the Bible teaches about Christ. What they did was address the wrong teaching of their time. And they tried to, as best they could, express the true teaching of Scripture as an antidote to that heresy, that false teaching.

Let me briefly give you—as we look for the biblical Jesus, I want to start with the Christological heresies; that is, those heresies that grew up in the early days of the church related to Jesus Christ. Some of them are not around anymore. I won't spend much time on them. A couple are still with us. And I'll spend a little more time on them.

First of all, when you look at sort of the terrible Pandora's box of heresies regarding the person of Jesus Christ, beginning as early as about 70 AD - 300 AD, were the Ebionites. These were Jews who had as their mission to Judaize Christianity. They taught that Jesus was the son of Mary and Joseph, the physical offspring of Mary and Joseph; that He fulfilled the Mosaic Law; and because of that, God chose Him then, sort of after the fact, to be Messiah; and Jesus became conscious of this choice of Him to be Messiah at His baptism. Ebionism denies the deity of Jesus Christ. In their teaching He was a human being, the physical offspring of Mary and Joseph, who was a wonderful human being, albeit not God. They denied it, because they said it is absolutely incompatible with monotheism (that is, there's one God) for there to be Yahweh and for Jesus to be God as well. This is refuted throughout the New Testament, and we'll talk about this some in the future.

A second heresy that sprung up was Gnosticism. This was primarily Gentile in its origins. It was the rationalism of the early church. The word "gnosis" is a Greek word that means "knowledge." They used it to speak of higher knowledge, the sort of intuitive knowledge that was at a higher level than everyone else. The basic tenet of Gnosticism is Dualism. You may be familiar with that from your philosophy classes or studies that you've had, things you've read. They said there's the spiritual world, and there's the material world. And the spiritual world is good, and the material world is evil. Well, since material things, the body, is evil, it is impossible, they said, for God to become flesh, for God to become human.

And so, they posed two solutions, two different schools, if you will, of this kind of thinking: Cerinthian Gnosticism, in which they said the divine Christ came upon the human Jesus at His baptism and departed shortly before His death; and Docetic Gnosticism, which means that Jesus only had the appearance of flesh. In other words, He looked like a human being, but He really wasn't. This view denies the humanity of Christ. And we'll look at some Scripture that very clearly contradicts the view of the Gnostics.

Here's a view that's still with us: the Arians. In the 300s AD there was a man named Arius. He was known historically [This is not a caricature of him, this is just a historical truth.] to be a proud, ambitious, argumentative man. He founded this teaching that we call Arianism. Arianism taught that Christ existed before all other creatures, Christ was the agent that God used to create the world, but Christ Himself was a created being. This is the position of the modern-day cult, Jehovah's Witnesses. Their theological argument is: the opposite view is unreasonable and irreconcilable with monotheism and God's dignity. Again, we're back to, how can there be one God, and yet be the Father is God, and Jesus is God?

The answer to this point is very simple. The scriptural data reveals what we teach as the doctrine of the Trinity. There are three basic propositions that the Scripture teaches that lie behind the doctrine of the Trinity. The word "trinity" itself doesn't appear in the Scripture, but these three propositions do: Jesus is God, there is one God, and Jesus is distinct from the Father who is also God. When you take those three propositions and put them together, you land on the doctrine of the Trinity, that there is one God manifest in three persons.

They also had a couple of scriptural arguments that they tried to use, the Arians did. They used Proverbs 8. You know, Proverbs 8 sort of waxes about wisdom and wisdom being the tool by which God created the world. And the early church interpreted Proverbs 8 as a description of Christ. The Greek translation of the Hebrew word in verse 22 uses a word, a Greek word that means "to create". So, in other words, if you read it like that, then you have Christ being created. The answers are very clear and direct. The Hebrew word can be translated by "acquire, buy, possess" but never "create." So, that's a bad translation the Septuagint authors (translators), used. Beyond that, wisdom is speaking there and not Christ. They may have similarities, but it's wisdom that's created, not Christ Himself.

Another argument they use is (Colossians 2:15) Colossians 1:15, where it says Christ is "the firstborn of all creation." Arians argue that must mean that Christ was created. Well, there are a number of answers to this. Three of them. The other biblical uses of the Greek word "firstborn" speaks of "preeminence" in other passages, not birth order, or not created order. It speaks about "the most important One". In Jewish literature this word is used to speak of God. Rabbi Bechai described Jehovah as the "first born of the world." Obviously, Rabbi Bechai was not saying that Yahweh, Jehovah God, was created. That's not Jewish theology. And so, this word clearly does not demand someone being created. And also, when you look at the context, the context of (Colossians 2:15) Colossians 1:15 is focusing on Christ's preeminence.

And so, Arianism denies the full deity of Christ. He is the first of the created beings; He is "a" god, but not "the" God. You'll hear the Jehovah's Witnesses use language just like that. In 325 AD the Nicaean Counsel rejected Arianism as heresy, proclaiming Christ to be of one substance with the Father. But it keeps coming back, like, you know, the soprano in the opera. She never dies, she just keeps coming back. It's the same way with these heresies.

The Apollinarians. Apollinaris first taught this. He said man is composed of three parts. He's a three part being: he's spirit, soul, and body. Christ had a human soul and a human body, but He didn't' have a human spirit, because the divine Logos, in other words, God took the place of that human spirit. They deny Jesus' full humanity. The Counsel of Constantinople in 381 AD condemned this as heresy.

The Nestorians. Patriarch of Constantinople, Nestorius, first proposed this. He said Christ has two natures, and He's two people. The divine Logos indwelt the human Jesus. They divide Christ into persons: one human and one divine. At 431 in the Synod of Ephesus, this was condemned as heresy.

The Eudocians. The Eudocians believe there's one nature. They teach Christ had only a divine nature, and they fail to properly distinguish between His divine and human natures. In 451 the Counsel of Chalcedon condemned this doctrine.

As Dr. A.P. Peabody said, "The cannon of infidelity was closed almost as soon as that of the Scriptures. Modern unbelievers have, for the most part, repeated the objections of their ancient predecessors." If you want to know what is taught today wrongly about Jesus Christ, for the most part, you can find it in those ancient heresies. Because of all of the heresies that sprung up about Christ, in 451 AD, a counsel was called: the Counsel of Chalcedon. And in the Counsel of Chalcedon, they wrote an extensive statement about the person of Jesus Christ. They said,

Following, then, the holy fathers, we unite in teaching all men to confess the one and only Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ. This selfsame One is perfect both in deity and in humanness. He is actually God and actually man, [He's truly God and truly man.] with a rational soul [that is, a human soul] and a body. He is of the same reality as God as far as His deity is concerned and of the same reality as we ourselves as far as His humanness is concerned; thus, like us in all respects, except for sin. [Which you hear me say often.] Before time began, He was begotten of the Father in respect of his deity. In these last days, He was born of Mary the Virgin, who is the God-bearer in respect of His humanness.

[It goes on to say,] We teach that we apprehend this one and only Christ-Son, Lord, Only-Begotten in two natures; but these two natures, the divine and the human, we don't confuse, we don't transmute one nature into the other, we don't divide them, and we don't contrast them according to area or function. The bottom line of all of that (those are key expressions), but the bottom line is, Christ is one person, but the natures never mix. His divine nature doesn't become human; His human nature doesn't become divine. He is one person, together, the God-man: fully God, and at the same time fully man. [Chalcedon finishes with this.] It says, the properties stay the same; there's one substance, one reality; they're not two persons, but they're one and only, one person, the Lord Jesus Christ; this is what the Scriptures have taught; this is what has been handed down to us.

This is what we believe as well. Why do we believe it? Because of the Counsel of Chalcedon? No. The men who drafted the Counsel of Chalcedon were merely trying to reflect the biblical evidence for the nature of Christ. This is very important. I want you to understand this. This is at the foundation of our faith. Do you understand that there are people all around you who reject the character of Jesus Christ, the nature of Christ? So, you better be ready to understand those objections and to defend against it. So, with that in mind, what I want to do is help you create a defense. I want to start with His human nature, the humanity of Christ. This is so important for us to understand. There's so much encouragement and practical comfort here.

How do we know biblically that Jesus was, in fact, "very man of very man" as the statement says? Well, there are a number of lines of argument. First of all, He had a human birth into a human line. You've read the story of Luke 2, the birth of Christ. He was born just like everyone else here was born. His birth was not supernatural. His conception was supernatural. But His birth, the pregnancy of Mary and the birth of Christ was just like all of these children that we dedicated tonight. He had a human birth into a human genealogy. And that genealogy is recorded for us in Matthew's gospel as well as in Luke's gospel, Luke 3:23 - 38. There are real people with real names, real ancestors, in the family into which Jesus Christ was born. Romans 1:3 says, "concerning … [the] Son [of God, He] … was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh…." born [out] of a descendant of David, [Mary, and of course also legally through His adopted father, Joseph.] But directly and specifically, Mary, too, was a descendant of David, and He was born to her. Galatians 4:4: "But when the fullness of ... time came, God sent forth His Son…." [And this is how He sent Him.] "born of a woman…." [Very clear that He had a human birth into a human line.]

He also developed as a human being. In Luke 2, those familiar verses where Luke sort of captures for us what went on in Christ's life, verse 40 of Luke 2 says, "The Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him." Verse 52 says, "And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and [in] stature, and in favor with God and men." So, Jesus was born as a human being is born into a family like you and I were born into a family, and then He grew and developed as we grew and developed. He was human.

Jesus also had the essential elements that go with being human. Man, (the Bible teaches, and we've studied it at length, so I won't belabor it here.) but man is composed of two parts. He has a material part, his body, and he has an immaterial part, his soul. Jesus had both of those. First of all, He had a body. Matthew 26:12, "She poured this perfume [Jesus said] on My body, she did it to prepare Me for burial." After His resurrection, He says, "See My hands and ... feet, that [it's Me]; touch Me and see [that I'm not a spirit. I'm not a ghost. Ghost doesn't] have flesh and bones as you see that I have." It was really in response to this whole idea that Jesus (was) just seemed to be among them and wasn't really, physically there that caused John at the beginning of his first letter to say, "What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at [what we have] touched with our hands ... [this is what we] proclaim to you."

He wasn't a ghost. He had a body. He invited us even after His resurrection to touch Him and see that He was real. John 1:14, "The Word became flesh [flesh], and dwelt among us." John 2:21, Jesus, in that time in the temple, "was speaking of the temple of His body." He claimed to have a body. 1 Timothy 3:16, "Great is the mystery of godliness: [Christ] was revealed in the flesh." He was manifest in the flesh. Hebrews 2:14, I love this one. "Since the children share in flesh and blood." [That's you and me.] Since we do, "He Himself likewise also partook of the same." Why? So "that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil." What we have, what I want you to see in this text is, what we have, He took of the same. Hebrews 10:5, "… when He comes into the world, He says, '... A BODY YOU HAVE PREPARED FOR ME….'" [speaking of Christ.] Hebrews 10:10, "We have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." Jesus was human. He had a body just like you have a body. It could be touched.

He also had a soul. He didn't just have a body. It wasn't that Jesus was the Son of God and came down and indwelt a body. He also had a human soul. He was fully human. He had every component, every element of human nature that you and I have. He had both the material part, the body; and the immaterial part, the soul. Notice what these texts say. Matthew 26:38, He said to His disciples [You remember that night of His betrayal.], "… My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me." Mark 2:8, "… Jesus [was] aware in His spirit that they were reasoning…." [against Him] in their hearts. And He was aware of it in His spirit, in His immaterial part. Luke 23:46, "… Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, 'FATHER, INTO YOUR HANDS I COMMIT MY SPIRIT.'" The immaterial part of Me, My body, is going to die here on the cross, and it's going to hang here until Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea come and take the body down and put it in a tomb; but now as I die, into Your hands I commit the immaterial part of Me. John 12:27, now My soul has become troubled." John 13:21, "When Jesus had said this, He became troubled in [His] spirit."

All of these words that are used in these texts are used of the human soul and the human spirit, that immaterial part. By the way, they're used interchangeably. Don't think of soul as one thing and spirit as something else. They're used interchangeably. We looked at that in great detail when we looked at the nature of man, so, I won't take you back through that. But don't think of them as separate things. They are merely synonyms: the soul and the spirit. So, Jesus has the elements of human nature. He had a body, and He also had a soul.

In addition, Jesus had the sinless weaknesses that you and I have. The key word here is the "sinless" weaknesses. He experienced the weaknesses that come with being human, with being a creature. Matthew 4:2 says that "after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He ... became hungry." Now I'm sure He became hungry before this. At least I do. But the point is He became hungry.

Matthew 8:24, there was this great storm, you remember, on the sea, so that the boat that He and the disciples were in (were covered with waves) was covered with waves, "but Jesus Himself was asleep." He needed rest. God, the Psalm tells us, neither slumbers nor sleeps. God doesn't need sleep. So why was Jesus asleep? It's because He was fully human. He needed it just as you and I need it. I must admit, this is one part of my humanness I wish I didn't need. I would love to use those hours profitably for something other than sleep, but, alas. John 4:6, the incident with the Samaritan woman. Jesus, after the journey from Jerusalem, "wearied from His journey, was sitting thus by the well." He was tired and thirsty from the trip to get to Samaria and to get to the well there, Jacob's well. You understand this. You experience this every day. And so, did our Lord. He understands. He knows what it's like to have heavy responsibility.

And by the way, if I could take you back in time in the Lord's life, these things were true (when He was still) before His ministry while He was still living the normal life that you and I live. We studied that a few weeks ago. And I love that period of Jesus' life between when He became a man, a son of the Law at 13, and when He started His ministry at 30, because somewhere in that period of time Joseph died, and Jesus became the man of the family.

And so, He was earning bread for the family. He was working every day like you and I work. He was leading the family. In the Jewish family, when the father died, the oldest son became responsible for that home. And so, Jesus was teaching them and leading them. He became a father in a sense. So, He felt the weight of those daily pressures of earning enough and working hard enough to make a living to support this family. He knew all of the weariness that comes with the responsibilities of being human.

John 19:28, "After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, [Here He is on the cross.] to fulfill the Scripture, said, '[I'm] thirsty.'" That statement on the cross reflects not only the recorded Scripture, but it reflects His humanness. God doesn't get thirsty. He was human, and He had the weaknesses that go with being human.

In addition, Jesus is repeatedly called and assumed to be a man. You go through the gospel accounts, nobody doubts this. There was nobody in the 1st century saying, "I wonder if He's a man or not?" This was clear to them. John 1:30, "This is He [John says] on behalf of whom I [have] said [John the Baptist], 'After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.'" He's most unusual man, because He lived before John the Baptist, even though He was born after John the Baptist, six months later. But, He's a man.

John 8:40, "But as it is, you are seeking to kill Me [Jesus says], a man who has told you the truth." Jesus calls Himself a man. John 20:15, "Jesus said to her, 'Woman, why are weeping? Whom are you seeking?'" Here Mary Magdalene supposes Jesus to be the gardener. He was a man like every other man. He probably was the gardener. That's what she assumed. So, Jesus was assumed to be, was called and assumed to be a man in all of the contexts in which you find Him. Even Paul, in his ministry at Athens, said to the Athenians, "[God] has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness [He'll do it] through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead."

Here's the amazing part. Jesus not only "was" human, He "is" human, and He "always will be" human. For eternity Jesus will always be the God-man. He will always be fully human, just as you and I are fully human. Because in the future, as a man as well as God, He will judge the world. First Corinthians 15, "For since by a man came death [That's Adam.], [also] by a man [that is, Jesus] came the resurrection [from] the dead." "The first man is from the earth, earthy [That's Adam.]; the second man [That's Christ.] is from heaven." First Timothy 2:5, "For there is one God, and one mediator ... between God and men, the man Christ Jesus," Paul says. He's called and assumed to be a man.

He had human names. He was called "Jesus". That's His Greek name. That's the anglicized version of His Greek name. In Greek it's "Yesus", very similar to Spanish. Spanish, of course, grows out of, (many of the words grow out of) that language. But it comes from the Old Testament. "Yesus" comes from the Old Testament "Joshua, Yeshua", which means "Yahweh saves." You remember the angel told Joseph this is what He was to be called. In Matthew 1, he said I want you to call Him "Yesus". I want you call Him "Yeshua", because "He will save His people from their sins." It was a human name, albeit with a mighty message. He was called a Son of Abraham. He was called a Son of David. So, Jesus was entirely human.

But I want you to turn with me to one passage that I think drives it home. I'm not going to study it in great detail, because we did this when we studied Philippians. But I want you to turn with me to Philippians 2:5 - 8, because here the humanity of Christ is described as I think it is really nowhere else in all of Scripture. In Philippians 2:5, Paul is not making a great doctrinal treatise here; instead, he's making a practical application. He's saying I want you to emulate the attitude that Jesus had. Now let me tell you the attitude He had when He became one of us. "Who, [verse 6] although He existed in the form of God." Although He existed in "morphe" of God, the exact representation of God, He did not regard that equality with God a thing that He would hold on to at all costs. Instead, He "emptied Himself".

By the way, the word "but" that begins verse 7 is in the Greek text a strong adversative: "but," on the other hand, instead of clinging to what He was by nature, He "emptied Himself." The verb "to empty" is "kenoo", from which we get the theological word "kenosis". This one Greek word has caused a lot of trouble through the years, because it raises an immediate question. If He emptied Himself, what did He empty Himself of? There have been some terrible, even heretical, answers to that question. Some of them are well intentioned answers, like Wesley's poetic expression in the wonderful hymn And Can It Be? I have a hard time singing that Jesus emptied Himself of all but love, because I don't believe that.

There are primarily two wrong views of what Christ gave up in the incarnation. He emptied Himself (one view says, the Kenotic view), says He gave up certain divine attributes. In other words, He just stopped certain attributes. And He gave them up and didn't practice them at all while on the earth, especially His knowing everything, His being everywhere present, and His being all-powerful. This is a denial of the deity of Jesus Christ. Listen carefully to the statement I've written here on the Power Point, if at any moment in time or eternity Christ became anything less than God is, then He ceased to be God. It's impossible. Hebrews 13:8 says, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday ... today and forever." His person doesn't change.

During His earthly life the Scriptures are very clear that Jesus did exercise His omnipresence. He was aware, if you read John 1, of that disciple sitting under the tree, you remember. He knew about it. He exercised His omniscience. He exercised His omnipotence in many of His miracles. So, that view is clearly a wrong view. The other view is the view of Anselm, and that is that Christ acted like He didn't possess any divine attributes. That one frankly makes no sense at all.

The orthodox doctrine of the Kenosis, of the emptying of Christ, is that He surrendered absolutely no attribute of His deity. So, what did He give up? What did He empty Himself of? Well, in the incarnation Christ emptied Himself in two very specific ways. First of all, He veiled His preincarnate glory. He veiled, He covered, the glory that He has with the Father before He came into the world. You remember His prayer in John 17? He says Father, the time has come, I want You to restore to Me the glory that was Mine before all of this happened. He veiled His preincarnate glory. By the way, He didn't do that entirely. There were a couple of times when He sort of let the veil slip away. You remember the transfiguration when He let the veil slip away and the disciples saw Him in His glory. But overall, in the incarnation He emptied Himself in the sense that He veiled His preincarnate glory.

And secondly, He voluntarily restricted the use of some of His divine attributes. In other words, (let me put it differently), Jesus willingly chose not to constantly exercise certain attributes. For example, He never used His omnipotence, His all-power as God, for His own comfort and ease. He could have. But He didn't. He chose to suffer all the inconveniences of His day. Imagine living back then. Imagine how hard that would be for us, knowing the conveniences we have today, to go back and live in the 1st century. Well, imagine if you're God. But Jesus didn't cheat. He didn't use His power to get Himself around the limitations of the 1st century. The most obvious example of this is when Satan tempted Him to make the stones into bread. He could have done it, just spoken a word, "Stones are bread." Wonderful, fresh, bakery bread. But He didn't do it.

When a long journey was required of Christ, He didn't just zap Himself there, until after the resurrection when He did it for specific purposes. But prior to that He walked. He journeyed on an animal. He didn't just speak a Mercedes into being. He didn't cheat. He didn't survive living in the world by constantly using His power as God to make His life easier. He used His power often, didn't He? But He only used it when He was directed by the Spirit, and He was performing those miracles that were essential to His ministry and to His message. If you read some of the noncanonical writings of the life of Christ, they have Jesus as a boy sort of playing with His powers for His friends and their enjoyment, doing ridiculous things. Jesus didn't do that.

All of those things are involved in what Christ gave up. But while those things are true, that's probably not what Paul means in Philippians 2. You see, you have to interpret "kenoo" in the light of the context of Philippians 2. Because of that, a couple of translations have translated it like this. The King James says, He "made himself of no reputation." The NIV says, "he made himself nothing." This word "kenoo", "to empty," is often used in secular Greek to describe pouring something out. I think that's how it's used here. It's just a simple metaphor. It means Christ poured Himself out. Well how did He do that?

Well, the phrases that follow explain how He poured Himself out. They define and explain how He emptied Himself. Look at verse 7. You'll notice, after He "emptied Himself," there are three participles: "taking the form," "being made," and (verse 8) "being found." Those three phrases define what it means that Jesus emptied Himself. He captures the condescension of Jesus Christ.

He took the form of a bond servant. By the way, the word "bond-servant," (as John told us when he was here it isn't) it doesn't exist. There is no such Greek word as "bond-servant." The word is "slave". He took the form of a slave. Christ emptied Himself by taking the form of a slave. He didn't disguise Himself as a slave. He didn't look like a slave. He took to Himself the nature or characteristics of a slave. What does that mean? I think D.A. Carson has put it well: "Almighty God, the second person of the Trinity, entered the world as a nobody, the lowest, as a slave."

And then he goes on to explain in the next phrase, "Being made in the likeness of men." Christ took the form of a slave by being made in the likeness of men. This word "likeness" is an interesting word. He says He was made in the "likeness." There's a similarity. Christ was similar to us, but He was not exactly like us. The similarity was He was fully, completely human. He became everything that we are. But the difference was He didn't have sin, and He never ceased to be equal with God at the same time He was like us. So, He was like us in the sense that He was fully human, but He was unlike us in that He was without sin and that He was also God at the same time. Made in the likeness of men. Jesus was a real man, not merely in the form of man.

Then he goes on to say, "Being found in appearance as a man." "Appearance" is the Greek word from which we get the word "schematic". It speaks of the outward form, that which something is recognizable for what it is. Christ was not only fully human, but everybody who saw Him immediately concluded that He was, in fact, a man. He was born in the usual way. He had a physical body. He grew up in a family, the oldest of at least seven children. His brothers are listed for us. There were four of them. And it says He had sisters, so there were at least two. Till you add Jesus, and you have at least seven children. He had human parents who cared for Him. He grew and developed as other children grow and develop. He probably worked from at least 13 to 30 years old in Joseph's business as a carpenter. He's called a carpenter in the New Testament. He got hungry. He got thirsty. He was tired. He needed sleep. He felt pain. He experienced external solicitations to sin. And He died. Everything about Him pointed to the fact that He was exactly like all other human beings. He was in appearance as a man. He was a genuine man.

In fact, He was so much a man that His enemies scoffed at His claims to be God. Think about that for a moment. They believed He was a man. They just didn't believe His other claims to be God. And He had to repeatedly explain His deity even to His disciples on the night of the Last Supper, because His humanity was very believable. He was found in appearance as a man. He was fully human.

Now why does this matter? Why does it matter? It's very important. Scripture tells us that Jesus had to be human for several reasons. As we conclude our time together tonight, let me just give them to you for you think about. This is why it matters. Jesus was made a man, He became man, first of all, for revelation; that is, to reveal God to us and to reveal God's truth to us. I love the passage in John 1, where it says, "No [man] has seen [the Father] at any time; [but] the only begotten God [that is Christ] who is in bosom of the Father, He has explained Him."

The Greek word there for "explained" is "exegeted". Jesus Christ, in His humanity as He came and lived among us, as He "dwelt among us" as John 1 says, He came and revealed God to us. He explained God to us. And He revealed God's truth in the gospel. He said, everything the Father tells Me, that's what I'm telling you. He had to become human and live among us to truly reveal God to us and to reveal God's truth in the gospel.

He also had to become human for salvation. Not only for revelation but for salvation. He had to do it to rescue us from the fear of death. I read that verse to you a moment ago: because the children partook of flesh and blood, He also had to partake of the same, so that He might rescue those who were in slavery all their lives to the fear of death.

But I want you to turn to Hebrews 2. Because in Hebrews 2, after He says that in verses 14 and 15, He says this in verse 17, "Therefore, [Christ] had to be made like His brethren." Literally, He was obligated, it was necessary, that He "be made like His brethren in all things." In other words, He had to be just like us. Why? "So that." Here's the reason. "So that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God."

And here's the bottom line. Here's why He had to become a faithful high priest: in order "to make propitiation for the sins of the people." That word "propitiation" is a word that means "to satisfy the wrath of God." You see what the writer of Hebrews is saying? Jesus had to be made like to us. He had to be human to become the perfect high priest and to become the perfect sacrifice for sins. That was God's way. That was God's standard. It had to be life for life, human life for human life. The blood of an animal could never atone for sin, Hebrews says, but a body God prepared for Christ. Humanity God prepared for Christ, so that an innocent human, the God-man, could die in the place of the guilty. He had to do it to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

A third reason He had to become like us is for illustration, illustration. That is, to illustrate what life should be and how it should be lived. Hebrews 12, just over a few pages. He's described in an interesting way. We're told that we're supposed to run the race. And then he says, we're to do it, verse 2, we're to run the race of the Christian life "fixing our eyes on Jesus." And he calls Jesus "the [pioneer] and perfecter of faith." The word "author" there is the word "pioneer, trailblazer". Jesus is the pioneer and perfecter of faith. So, as you run the race, as you run your Christian life, keep your eyes fixed on Jesus. Think about Him. Think about His choices. Think about His life. And let Him be the example, the illustration about how life ought to be lived.

And finally, He had to become human for association. To really associate with us by taking on our humanness, He can be our high priest before God. Verse 17, remember, back in Hebrews 2? "He had to be made." He was obligated to be made like His brethren, "So that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest." Merciful, compassionate toward us. Faithful, trustworthy to fulfill His duty to God. Look at Hebrews 4, Hebrews 4:15. Here's why it's important that Jesus is human. Verse 14 says,

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but [we have] One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Jesus, as God, understands everything that you face. But so that He could truly associate with us, so that He could personally experience it, He became everything we are except for sin. And not only to associate with us in this life, so He can help us in this life, but to associate with us forever. Look back at Hebrews 2:10,

For it was fitting for Him [that is, Christ], for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings. For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father; for which reason [Watch this.] [Jesus] is not ashamed to call … [us brothers and sisters].

He is one of us. He chose to associate Himself with us in history past, today, and to associate with us forever. To be what we are. There is nothing you and I will face that Jesus Christ doesn't understand, both as God in His omniscience, and as the human that He is and was. He is a faithful and merciful high priest.

So what? Why does it matter that He was human?

For revelation: He reveals God, God's truth and perfection to us.

For salvation: He rescues us from death, from the Law, from our sin, from its penalty, and from His own coming wrath against sin.

He had to be made like us for illustration: to give us an example to follow.

And for association: To understand us in time, and to be one of us forever. What a wonderful Savior we have in Christ.

Let's pray together.

Our Father, when we think that Jesus, who was in every sense equal with You, didn't cling to, didn't hold on to that, but willingly and voluntarily gave it up for us knowing what He would face, knowing what He would endure, He still purposely gave it up for us, Father our hearts are overwhelmed with gratitude. We thank You for Christ. We thank You, O Lord.

O Lord Jesus, we thank You that You were willing for our sakes to become poor, to become what we are except for sin, to face all the weaknesses that we face, to endure life in this world as we endure it; to live for all of those years before You began Your ministry just like we live, working and caring for a family, facing all of the responsibilities that we do, so that You could reveal God to us, so that You could save us, so that You could set an example for us, and so that You could be one of us forever.

O Lord, we are overwhelmed. Help us to love You, to follow You with all of our hearts, to live our lives for You and not for ourselves.

We pray in Jesus name, Amen.