The Lord Jesus Christ of Nazareth: fully God, fully human. The Word of Yahweh became flesh and was a tabernacle of presence among men. Jesus is the son of God, son of man, perfect in every way, the one human in all human history to successfully and perfectly carry the image of God, fulfilling the purpose for which God created mankind. He atoned for mankind in a glorious and sacrificial act of propitiation, opening the gates of freedom and peace, and redeeming us to our Creator. He intercedes for us and rules all of creation, seated at the right hand of God. All this was foretold by ancient prophets, at times with unlikely or surprising details, all of which were fulfilled in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.
That is a concise summary of what I believe about Christ, but what does it all mean? I will aim to explain the above by breaking it down into five topics: the hypostatic union, the virgin birth, His ministry and teaching, His death, burial, and resurrection, and finally His disciples and ongoing eternal rule. Note that I will be using the past tense in many cases, as a reference specifically to the years that Jesus physically dwelled on the earth.
The hypostatic union is a theological term to describe the unique dual nature of Jesus. It refers to the fact that He was both fully God and fully human, simultaneously. Colossians 2:9 states this concisely: “For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body.” (NLT)
Jesus walked the earth as a biologically human man, born with flesh and bones and every other physical, mental, and emotional aspect of a human. He ate and drank, talked and had relationships, traveled, grew tired, and slept. He felt love, compassion, sorrow, and anger. (John 1:1, 1:14, 2:15-17, 4:6, 11:33-35, 13:21, 19:28, Luke 2:7, 2:40, Matthew 4:2, 4:11, 8:10, 26:38, Hebrews 2:17, 4:15, 5:7)
Divinity & Holiness
Christ’s humanity is what He had in common with us. What made Jesus fundamentally unique among humans was His divinity and subsequent power, authority, and holiness. He was a physical, human manifestation of Yahweh, the creator and sustainer of the universe. He has always existed, even before His birth on earth. (John 1:1, 8:58, Colossians 1:15, 2:9, Hebrews 1:3, Matthew 1:23, 3:3) As such, He spoke and taught with divine authority (Mark 1:22, Matthew 10:1, 21:8, 13:54, 21:13, 22:23-33, 46, 28:18), acted with divine power, including the power to forgive sins (Matthew 4:23-24, 8:3, 8:5-17, 9:2, 9:23-26, 14:32, 36, Mark 5:30, Luke 6:19, 7:14, 49, John 1:29, 1:47-51, 8:11-12), and lived a divinely blameless life. (2 Corinthians 5:21, Hebrews 4:15, 1 Peter 1:19) His holiness corresponds to His divinity; being God implies being holy (1 John 1:5, see theology proper on the holiness of God), and only a God-man would ever have the capacity for self-sustained holiness. (Romans 3:23, 3:9-12, 2 Chronicles 6:36, Isaiah 53:6, Micah 7:2-4, 1 John 1:8, 10, Mark 10:18, Luke 18:19) Jesus was the first human to demonstrate sinlessness, overcoming the deceit and temptation of the evil character who drove the tension of evil from the first pages of scripture. (Matthew 4:1-11)
Paradoxical Unity of Distinct Entities
The hypostatic union is somewhat enigmatic, as is the doctrine of the Trinity as a whole, in that we as “only” human, cannot fully comprehend or imagine an existence like Christ’s. (1 Timothy 3:16, John 6:38, Matthew 26:39, compare Mark 13:32 and John 21:17) That said, both human and divine natures were definitively united in one man. (1 Timothy 2:5, John 10:30, 12:45) Furthermore, His union with the Father is something that we are even called to emulate! (John 17:20-26)
The divinity of Christ may be His defining feature, but the manner by which He came into our world was no less unprecedented (and has yet to be repeated). He was born naturally of a woman but was conceived supernaturally by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of a virgin woman. (Matthew 1:18-25, Luke 1:27, 1:34-35, 2:7, Galatians 4:4)
Ministry and Teaching
Around the age of thirty, Jesus began preaching about the kingdom of God and calling for repentance. (Luke 3:23, Matthew 4:17) Wherever He went, He performed miracles which displayed His divinity and ministered to those who would receive him; particularly, the poor, lonely, sick and rejected. Meanwhile, He taught and discipled those whom He called to follow Him. (Matthew 4-25, Mark 1-13, Luke 4-21, John 1-17, Acts 10:38) He went beyond the teachings of any previous prophet or leader, in that He claimed to be the long-awaited Messiah, who was prophesied to conquer sin and death and restore the kingdom of God on earth. (John 4:25-26, 5:17-18, 13:13, Matthew 16:15-17, 26:63-64, Mark 8:29-30, 14:61-62, Luke 9:20-21, 22:70) He demonstrated extraordinary understanding of scripture. Though old testament laws and teachings are vast and complex, Jesus made the radically simple statement that all of it can be summarized by two commandments: love God, and love others as yourself. (Matthew 22:35–40, Mark 12:28–34) Furthermore, Jesus claimed that He came to fulfill all the requirements of the law. (Matthew 5:17-20)
Death, Burial, & Resurrection
Eventually, Christ’s pointed criticism and condemnation of sin, corruption, and hypocrisy among the religious leaders incited outrage and indignation. This led to a conspiracy and plot to kill Him. (Matthew 26:1-5, 26:14-16) He was arrested in the middle of the night and was accused of blasphemy for His claims of divinity (Matthew 26:47-56, Luke 22:70, John 5:18). Pontius Pilate, who adjudicated the trial, found Him innocent of any wrongdoing and tried to spare His life. (Luke 23:13-16) However, the people who hated Jesus were so insistent that He was beaten mercilessly, mocked, and nailed to a cross to die. (Each of the gospels contains this entire account in varying detail) Jesus allowed himself to suffer everything they subjected Him to, and ultimately allowed himself to die. (Matthew 27:50, John 19:30)
At the moment of His death, the earth shook, the sky was darkened, dead people came back to life, and the veil in the temple was miraculously torn completely in two. (Matthew 27:51-52) Such a dramatic reaction from creation itself and the Jewish holy place was a confirmation of Christ’s claims (recognized by those present), as well as a signifier of a shift in God’s relationship with humanity. The veil previously acted as a barrier between God’s presence and mankind. Jesus made that barrier unnecessary and took on the role of high priest for all mankind. He, being a holy and blameless sacrifice, took on the sins of the world and conquered death itself so that we might have salvation through Him. (John 3:16, Hebrews 4:14-16, 1 John 2:2, 1 Peter 2:24, 3:18, 2 Corinthians 5:21)
Jesus’ lifeless body was placed and sealed in a tomb. (Matthew 27:57-61, Mark 15:42-47, Luke 23:50-55, John 19:38-42) There it remained for three days, after which He resurrected, and the stone sealing the tomb was supernaturally removed. (Matthew 28:1-5, Mark 16:1-6, Luke 24:1-5, John 20:1-9) Jesus once again walked the earth, and He appeared in the flesh to His closest disciples and friends, as well as many other witnesses. (Matthew 28:1-9, Luke 24:34, 24:39, John 20:14-16, 20-27, 1 Corinthians 15:6-7, Acts 1:3)
It is important to avoid an unbalanced view of Christ’s dual nature. Denying either his deity or his humanity would result in an unscriptural understanding of Jesus, who would not have credibility, authority, or saving power.
Since the earliest days of the church, there have been wrongful, heretical views regarding Christ. Ebionitism, for example, posited Christ as a normal man who received the spirit of God when he was baptized. Arianism declared Christ as the first born of Creation, created from nothing before time began, and denied distinction within the Godhead. Apollinarianism departed from Christ’s total humanity, attempting to explain the unity of God and man. Such views are contrary to scriptures such as previously cited and have been condemned as heresy.
Great Commission & Ongoing Rule of Christ
Jesus had many followers, and there were twelve in particular whom He chose to be His closest disciples, the apostles. (Matthew 10:1–4, Mark 3:13–19 Luke 6:12–16) After His resurrection, Jesus gave them some final teachings but explained that He was leaving them under His authority and mission, to be passed on to all who would accept it. He promised to send the power, guidance, and comfort of the Holy Spirit, through whom they were to spread the good news of what He had done, from their hometown to the ends of the earth. (Matthew 28:16-20, Mark 16:15-18, Luke 24:44-49)
The apostles saw Him ascend into heaven to take His place as ruler of the world. (Mark 16:19, Luke 24:50-51) Since then, Jesus has remained living and active, though His interaction with humans shifted. He now uses all His people through the power of His Spirit (the subject of ecclesiology and pneumatology). Notably, He did explicitly appear to some after His ascension: to Stephen during his trial (Acts 7:55-56), to Paul on the road to Damascus as a blindingly glorious light (Acts 9:3-5) and to John as a transfigured humanoid being. (Revelation 1:12-18) He is depicted as being seated at the right hand of God, playing an active role in the rule of the universe and the salvation of humans. He is our king and high priest. (Romans 8:34, Ephesians 1:20, Colossians 3:1, Hebrews 1:3, 8:1, 10:12, 12:2, 1 Peter 3:2, 3:22, Revelation 3:21, Matthew 22:44, Acts 2:3)
Jesus came as God incarnate. He existed as completely human and completely God—one person in the triune Godhead, possessing two distinct and essential natures. Living as a sinless human, humiliating himself to walk among a corrupt people on a fallen earth, he provided a perfect sacrifice for the redemptive atonement of all mankind. He was tempted, tested, and tortured to the extent or beyond that which I will ever experience. Nevertheless, he submitted to the will of the Father. He demonstrated the fruits of love and taught the meaning of truth. I strive to live according to His teachings and example of how a human should live and interact with his friends, neighbors, and enemies. Christ is the cornerstone of our faith. Let us seek, serve, and praise Him always, rejoicing in the great love, mercy, and freedom He gave us, as we pass it on to all who will receive it.