This article was written to accompany the ‘The Life of Jesus’ hangout.
- How would you answer this question?
The way many of us think about Jesus can strip him of his humanity. We think of the baby in the manger. We think of the teacher on the mountain. We think of the healer with the lepers. We think of the saviour on the cross and we think of the risen king in glory.
But wasn’t there more than that?
After all, Jesus was fully human (see John 1:14, Hebrews 2:14). So there would also have been the times when he relied on his parents for food, the time that he first shaved, the times that he couldn’t get the hang of a new skill and the times he played games (and sometimes lost).
But does any of that matter?
Often the life of Jesus is ignored. The ancient creeds say that he ‘was born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate’, as though the thirty years in between aren’t worth mentioning (so because you and I were neither born of a virgin nor suffered for the sins of the world, would that make us irrelevant too?). More modern theologians explain that the reason Jesus’ humanity matters is so that he was qualified to die for us. There is truth in this, but the life and humanity of Jesus also matters in its own right.
Jesus did not start his public ministry until he was thirty years of age. Before that he lived as part of a small community, with his half-brothers, mother, and step-dad (who probably died at some point during those years). As he grew up, he learned Joseph’s carpentry trade and worked in the family business. Had you met Jesus when he was 29, you would have met a skilled blue collar worker, who lived with integrity, and was a respected part of a local community.
Four years later, he was standing at the father’s right hand ruling the cosmos.
Jesus is the working boy done good, and here are three reasons why his humanity is important.
It Validates the Everyday
Sometimes Christians can act as though there are certain parts of life that are ‘spiritual’, and everything else is ‘secular’. Church services, home group meetings, and mission trips can be thought of as sacred, but there is no place for God in everything else (or there is no place for everything else in God’s plan).
The life of Jesus teaches us otherwise. Out of 33 years on earth, 30 were spent doing everyday things. Jesus did an ordinary job, ate ordinary meals, lived as part of an ordinary family, participated in an ordinary community, and hung out with an ordinary group of friends.
We don’t need to divide our lives into the ‘God bit’ and the rest. The life of Jesus shows us that it can all be lived for God, both in the everyday and in the particular ministry tasks that we do.
It Validates Human Emotion
Sometimes Jesus got ecstatically happy about things. Sometimes he was amazed. Sometimes he cried. Sometimes he got exasperated. One time he got really, really wound up with a tree.
He wasn’t Mr. Spock.
The humanity of Jesus shows us that our emotion is okay. We’re not meant to respond to everything that comes our way with a stiff upper lip and stoic indifference. Laughing, shouting, crying, celebrating, venting, and marvelling are all part of what Jesus showed us that it is to be human.
Like everything, our emotions can be a force for good or for ill in our lives. The life of Jesus shows us that the key isn’t to get rid of or suppress our emotions. Instead, it liberates us to feel our emotions strongly, and encourages us to channel those emotions rightly.
It Validates the Struggle
Life is hard.
Despite what some prosperity preachers would have you believe, life in this world can involve much pain, suffering, grief, lack, death, sadness, betrayal, loneliness, and rejection.
Often when we suffer we can feel like we are on our own.
Sometimes we can feel abandoned by God. Surely, if we truly had faith then things wouldn’t be so hard? How could God let this happen if he loves me?
The life of Jesus was a life of struggle.
Throughout his life, there was tension with his brothers. He had to mourn the deaths of his step-dad Joseph and his cousin John the Baptist. He was unmarried and without kids for his whole life. During his ministry years, he was homeless and often penniless. He was rejected by popular opinion, betrayed by his friend, let down by his other friends, physically brutalise,d and killed with a humiliating death.
To put it a different way, Jesus has experienced the hardship of human life. He gets the struggle.
He validates the struggle.
“For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” (Hebrews 2:18)
- To what extent does God factor into your perspective of your everyday life?
- What effect does your faith have on your emotional life? Would you want this to change in any way?
- What comfort is Jesus’ humanity when you find life a struggle?