The Perfect Human

“Far from being invulnerable and superhuman, Jesus is truly and deeply human. He is vulnerable to hunger and weariness. He is vulnerable to fear and anxiety, as the blood, sweat, and tears of Gethsemane demonstrate. He is perfect not because he never tires of the crowd and the work of ministry but because he rightly responds to weariness, withdrawing to desolate places to rest and pray. This is the hidden ground from which his ministry arises.” -Mike Cosper, Recapturing Wonder



What the Humanity of Christ Says about Jesus

“Jesus may have had pimples. He may have been tone-deaf. Perhaps a girl down the street had a crush on him or vice versa. It could be that his knees were bony . . . For thirty-three years he would feel everything you and I have ever felt. He felt weak. He grew weary. He was afraid of failure. He was susceptible to wooing women. He got colds, burped, and had body odor. His feelings got hurt. His feet got tired. And his head ached.” -Max Lucado, “It Began in a Manger”


Illustration: Personal Knowledge

I cam across this story today.

Not only does it illustrate how personal knowledge changes perspective. I couldn’t help but think of the incarnate knowledge, which God the Son, gained of humanity in the incarnation. He went from outsider knowledge of humanity to insider knowledge.

Though it would be wrong to ever suggest God ‘didn’t get us’ before. He certainly gained a special knowledge of humanity in the incarnation which makes Christ an effective high priest for us.

Athanasius, On the Incarnation of the Word of God, Chapter 4, “The Death of Christ”

A Disclaimer on Book Synopses

19. The works that the Savior did in a human body were intended to point fallen man to God. This is equally true of Christ’s death, “Even the very creation broke silence” through darkness, earthquakes, and awe-struck men, confessing “that He Who suffered thereon in the body was not man only, but the Son of God and Saviour of all.” His death was not incidental to his mission, but “the very centre of our faith” and “no less than by his other acts” reveals God to man.

20. Just as the Son alone could (again) make man incorruptible, renew the Image of God, and give knowledge of the Father, so also he alone could pay the “debt” and “settle man’s account with death and free him from the primal transgression.” This is the second reason that the Savior became man, to settle this debt through his sacrificial death in a human body. Through this sacrifice, “He showed himself mightier than death, displaying His own body as the first-fruits of the resurrection.” Athanasius explains that though he already dealt with this theme, it is better and safer to repeat it too much than not enough.

21. Because Christ has died, “we who believe in Christ no longer die, as men died aforetime, in fulfillment of the threat of the law,” and by “the grace of [his] resurrection… we may obtain thereby a better resurrection.” Athanasius then begins to interact with objections concerning the nature of Christ’s death on the cross. First, why could he not have died a more honorable, private death, instead of a public, humiliating crucifixion? If he had died privately, say in his bed, “it would have looked as if He did so in accordance with His [weak] nature.” This would raise questions about his ministry. “How could He fall sick, Who had healed others?” Objection: “Why did He not prevent death, as He did sickness?” Because it was “precisely” in order to die that he was incarnated. Also, “to prevent the death would have impeded the resurrection.”

22. Objection: It would have been better if He had “avoided the designs of the Jews” and death altogether. But this would have been “unfitting.” The Savior “waited” for death because he had come to put an end to it and provide an “offering on behalf of all.” Further, his death was not an “individual act of dying” but the death by which death is destroyed. Athanasius says that “the supreme object” of the Savior’s coming was to accomplish the resurrection for us; so, it would have been “unfitting” for Him to die privately, as though sick, because this would cast doubt on the meaning of the resurrection.

23. If he had hid himself, died privately, and then emerged saying he was resurrected, he would have appeared to be “a teller of tales.” “A secret and unwitnessed death would have left the resurrection without any proof or evidence to support it.”

24. Objection: Even if he must die publicly, why did he not choose a more honorable death and avoid the ignominy of the cross? This would have suggested that his power over death was limited to a certain kind of death, thus casting doubt on the resurrection. So, He allowed death to come to Him in the form of His enemy’s choosing. “A generous wrestler, virile and strong, does not himself choose his antagonists, lest it should be thought that of some of them he is afraid. Rather, he lets the spectators choose them, and that all the more if these are hostile, so that he may overthrow whomever they match against him and thus vindicate his superior strength. Even so was it with Christ.”

25. Meanwhile, Christians ought not to doubt the significance of death on the cross. It was necesary for him to be “hanged on a tree” so that he would bear the curse of sin, break down the wall of seperation between Jews and Gentiles, draw all people to himself, overthrow “the prince of the power of the air” (by dying, hanging in the air), and open the gates of heaven. He did not do these things for Himself, but for us.

Chapter 1          Chapter 2          Chapter 3          Chapter 5          Chapter 6          Chapter 7          Chapter 8          Chapter 9

Athanasius, On the Incarnation of the Word of God, Chapter 3, “The Divine Dilemma and its Solution in the Incarnation (Part 2)”


A Disclaimer on Book Synopses

 11. In creation, humans as creatures could not “of themselves” know God, but only earthly things. But God had “pity” on them, gifting them with a share in His image: the Lord Jesus Christ. This made them “reasonable” and “able to perceive the Image Absolute, that is the Word Himself, and through Him to apprehend the Father.” In the fall, mankind belittled this grace and turned away from God, losing the apprehension of God and becoming idolators.

12. God provided fallen mankind with “safeguards” to help them gain knowledge of the Word and the Father: the works of creation which reveal their Maker, prophets to teach them about God and the impiety of idolatry, and the Law by which they could “cease from lukewarmness and lead a good life.” Nevertheless, men did not lift up their eyes to the truth, like those “reflecting the very Likeness of the Word” should do, but became like “brute beasts.”

13. If God left humankind in this state, it would defeat his purpose in giving the Image and knowledge of the Word to them—as if God made man “for others and not for Himself.” So, God sought to reclaim man and renew his Image in them. The Father sent his Son, “the very Image Himself” to “recreate man made after the Image.” To do this, he had to destroy death and corruption in a human body.

14. Athanasius gives the illustration of a portrait painted on a panel, stained beyond recognition. The artist does not throw away the panel, but has the person come and sit again so his likeness can be re-painted on the same material. Likewise, the Son of God dwelt among humankind so that the image might be renewed in them. Not only this, but the Word dwelt among men, ruined by the “madness of idolatry,” to give them knowledge of the Father, again.

15. The Word dealt with sinful man the way a good teacher deals with his students, he came “down to their level” and used “simple means.” Man had turned from contemplating God to worship creaturely things; so the Word of God “in His great love” became man, moved as men do, and spoke as men spoke “so that those who were seeking God in sensible things might apprehend the Father through the works which He, the Word of God, did in the body.” Through the works he performed in a human body, he ‘eclipsed’ all other human deeds, that “He might recall men from all the paths of error to know the Father.”

16. The Word of God became Man that sinners might “center their senses” on Him and, through Him and His acts, become convinced that He is God. This is why the Word did not immediately offer his body on the cross; “he stayed in His body and let Himself be seen in it, doing acts and giving signs which showed Him to be not only man, but also God the Word.” In sum, the Savior became Man in order to “[banish] death from us and [make] us anew” and “become visible through His works and [reveal] Himself as the Word of the Father, the Ruler and King of the whole creation.”

17. The incarnation is a paradox. “The Word was not hedged in by His body, nor did His presence in the body prevent His being present elsewhere as well.” “At one and the same time– this is the wonder– as Man He was living a human life, and as Word He was sustaining the life of the universe, and as Son He was in constant union with the Father.”

18. Athanasius reflects on the paradox. In eating, drinking, and being born the [ancient] writers speak of the actions of the Word as a Man.  Meanwhile, the actions of the Word as God consisted in sustaining creation and revealing his divinity through the miraculous works he performed as a Man. Though invisible, the Word has always been known through creation. Analogously, now his divinity is veiled by a human nature, but known through miraculous works performed in a human, creaturely body.

Chapter 1          Chapter 2          Chapter 4          Chapter 5          Chapter 6          Chapter 7          Chapter 8          Chapter 9