How Can Jesus Be God And Human At The Same Time?

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    Understanding exactly how God became human is tied in directly with understanding the Trinity. We are left with two truths that must be held in tension: Jesus was fully God and fully man. John 1:14 crystallizes this: ¡§So the Word became human [literally, ¡§flesh¡¨] and made his home among us.¡¨ As one writer put it, this verse ¡§contains the risk, the scandal, and the gospel of the Christian faith: [the word] became [flesh]ƒ| The center of God¡¦s life and thought entered the depths of our world and took up its form, its flesh, in order to be known by us and to save us¡¨ (Gary Burge in William D. Mounce, Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar, 1993, p. 71).

    All right, so how does this work? Jesus humbled himself and took on the form of a man. Although he remained completely divine, he limited himself to human flesh. These limitations are obvious in the sense that Jesus as a human could only be in one place at one time; thus he limited his ability as God to be everywhere at one time. He also limited his knowledge in that he stated he did not know the hour of his second coming (Mark 13:32). However, moving in the power of the Spirit, he read the hearts of people, knew the past of the Samaritan woman (John 4:17), and saw Nathanael sitting under the fig tree (John 1:48). From this we can see that God was clearly not limited to the human person of Jesus Christ. But the Word, or the second person of the Trinity, limited himself to a human body in the incarnation (from the Latin en, ¡¨in,¡¨ and carne, ¡¨flesh¡¨). Philippians chapter two sheds some more light on this when it tells us that Jesus ¡§gave up his divine privileges ¡K and was born as a human being¡¨ (Phil. 2:7).

    Giving up his divine privileges also meant submitting himself to death, and not just any ordinary death: a criminal¡¦s death, a public death, a humiliating death, and an excruciatingly painful death. All this because the price of human sin is death (Romans 6:23), and humans have to die for their sins just as criminals have to pay the consequences of their crimes¡Xunless someone steps in and serves time for them. In our case, we owe more than some time in jail¡Xwe owe our lives. So Jesus stepped in. He took our form because a human has to pay the price for human sin, and it has to be a perfect human. But as we are all too aware of in our lives, there is no perfect human. Well, there¡¦s just one: Jesus. He is the perfect human, who is perfect because he is God. So he has to be human to save us, and he has to be God to be the perfect human who could stand in for the sins of the whole world.

    And while I may never entirely be able to get my head around how the Trinity works, or how Jesus as the God-man works, both of those tensions pale in comparison to trying to get my head around the kind of love that would come and die for my sins when he could have just washed his hands of the whole affair. Now that¡¦s something to ponder . . .

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