The Humanity of Christ

I ran tech for two showings of The Passion of the Christ tonight, and I think it may be impossible for anyone to come away from that movie without lots of theological thoughts and questions racing through their mind. Yes, Mel Gibson took some fair liberties in his movie, adding scenes which have no Biblical basis and adding many lines in the movie which have no scriptural reference. But you just can’t make a great movie using only the gospel accounts of the Crucifixion, not because it isn’t a story worth telling but because there just isn’t enough “script” to cover two hours worth of movie. And let’s give Mel a little bit of credit here for doing a great job at keeping the movie mostly scriptural, with a distinct lack of politics and personal beliefs that no one else in Hollywood could have done, or at least would have done. So with the understanding that movie is just that, a movie, and not a historically accurate film, let’s delve into some good, old-fashioned theological discourse.

It sounds funny to say, but it’s my opinion that in the ‘boyfriend Jesus’ era we currently live in, we have somehow managed to forget both the humanity and the divinity of Christ, and particularly have forgotten he was both at the same time. I’m not sure how to describe exactly what we view Jesus as, because human or divine seem to be the only two choices, but I honestly am going to go with somewhere in the middle. In recent years, Christians have decided to relate to Jesus more on the human level, thus the awful phrase “I’m dating Jesus” that was common for a few years, and is now more commonly made fun of. We talk about Jesus being our buddy, a friend who hangs out with us, and emphasize the personal relationship with him that a Christian enjoys. We also have our moments where we see him as the Son of God, particularly around the Easter season. These are the times when we talk about the miracles Jesus performed, how he raised himself to life on the third day, and how he sits at the right hand of the Father. We do the best we can, but in the end we fall far short of a true understanding of Christ.

Our human intellect lacks the ability to conceive a being as both fully man and fully God, and in our inability to understand how 100% and 100% don’t add up to 200%, we end up with a skewed view of our savior. We neglect his humanity when we consider his life on Earth nearly 2,000 years ago, and we also neglect his deity when we consider him as our personal savior today. Today, my aim is to focus on the humanity of Christ during his time on earth, to be followed later by a focus on his deity both then and now.

My favorite scene in The Passion is the one with absolutely no Biblical basis whatsoever. In it, a mid-20’s Jesus is busy working as a carpenter, building a “tall table” for a rich man in the city. Mary comes out to tell him lunch is ready, and the two have an exchange about why the table is so tall. Then Mary, like any good mother, makes Jesus take off his dirty apron and wash his hands before coming into the house to eat. The humanity of Jesus has never been more evident to me than it is whenever I watch this scene. We focus so much on his ministry years that we completely forget about his life from the ages of 12 to 30. But the truth is that these exchanges happened for most of his life, despite the fact we are not privy to any of them through scripture or specific historical documents. It’s imperative to remember that Christ was indeed fully human. He did the things that normal people did in their day. To draw the modern picture, Jesus came to church on Sundays with everyone else, he worked a 9-5 to support his family, he would have enjoyed going to Starbucks with friends or playing on the church softball team or going to the art museum. By most standards, he would be just like the rest of us. And it’s important to remember that, because the work that Christ accomplished is reliant on the fact that he was not only fully divine, but also fully human.

The more I dwell on his humanity, the more real he becomes to me in the present. Simple things that make perfect sense when you think about them, you’ve just never thought about them before. There was probably that one meal Mary made the Jesus didn’t like. He studied scriptures as a boy not because he was special, but because all good Jewish boys did–Jesus went to school. When he was a teenager, he probably went exploring in the hills with his brothers. You get my point. When we remember the full humanity of Christ, what he did for us on the cross is just that much more astounding. A man, a human just like you or me, willingly gave up his innocent life and paid the ultimate price for the sins of the entire world.

My challenge is to focus on the humanity of Christ over this Easter weekend and throughout the next few weeks. When you do your devotions and Bible studies, focus on the man Jesus when you do them. Think beyond just the words written and imagine the context of each verse. What was Jesus feeling? How did it make him feel that he was constantly called a liar and a blasphemer? When we read the gospels looking through the lens of Jesus’ humanity, it puts a whole new perspective on the scripture. A more accurate perspective. A perspective that makes Jesus more real to me than saying he’s my buddy ever will. 2,000 years ago, the man Jesus was put to death on a cross. 2 days later, the man Jesus was alive again. Fully divine. Fully human.