Biblical Interpretation from Someone with no Training in Biblical Interpretation
Often times (including on this blog) we Christians like to focus on how Jesus is Lord. And that’s great, because it is important for salvation to establish that (and good for our relationship to remind ourselves of his position). However, that wasn’t the only aspect of Christ; in fact, one of the most amazing features of the Lord was that he came down and became human. Again, it’s easy to think of Jesus as God wearing a human suit. But that wasn’t the case, the Lord Christ was all God and all man. So for today, the Holy Spirit gave me some inspiration to share with you some ways from the Bible that we can see Jesus’ humanity- and in fun clickbait list format!
God is omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent and a few other omnis that I can’t remember off hand. The point being is that he is a perfect being without weakness. But things were different for Jesus when he walked the earth- for one he had to actually walk to get places. And after all that walking, God in a Bod got tired:
So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour (John 4:5-6).
We frequently get the idea that Jesus was like Superman, sure, he looked like a normal guy, but he was completely invulnerable.
Well, according to Scripture, that’s not the case. Jesus got tired, he got hungry, he got thirsty. He had the same kind of frailties that we have as we walk about our daily lives. And that was probably because…
Christ our Lord was born just like everyone else here on earth. He didn’t spontaneously appear, he didn’t come from a space ship, nor did he descend from heaven with great peals of thunder (though Scripture suggests he’ll do that last one in the future). No, Jesus took up a woman’s womb for the full gestation period and then had an icky splashy birth that we don’t read about because nobody likes to talk about the non-beautiful things that actually happen during childbirth. Instead the Bible describes it like this:
While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn (Luke 2:6-7).
Now, to be fair, there was some heavenly activity in this one, as Mary had been impregnated by the Holy Spirit (in a non-sexual way). But either way, Jesus came out the same way you and me did.
And, Jesus went out the same way we all do, death. This one was even more surprising because when we think of God we assume one of those omnis covers not having to die- and it does. But Jesus wasn’t just God, he was also man; and therefore, like man, he had to die:
About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabacthani?” –which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.”
Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”
And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit (Matthew 27:46-50).
Jesus died, and it was a big loud painful death so that it left many witnesses to testify of it.
Jesus wasn’t superman (as already established) and he wasn’t a robot either. He had feelings too, and when those feelings got hurt, he did what we all do and cried. Check it out:
Jesus wept (John 11:35).
We often get the idea that the Lord was this cool, stoic dude handing out proverbs left and right- but that wasn’t the case. When he wasn’t feeling his best, the Lord Jesus let the waterworks flow and wasn’t even ashamed of it- that’s more human that I am!
Fear is basically how humanity functions on earth. We fear poverty so we work, we fear the pain of hunger so we eat, and we fear wrath so we clear our browser histories after using the computer.
But fear is a feature that we assume showed up after the fall, thus being something that God should be immune to. Then again, we also assumed the Lord was immune to death, but apparently that wasn’t the case. Jesus feared too, he actually feared death just like the rest of us do in fact. When he was coming near his death Jesus did what almost everyone does: he panicked. Scripture records:
He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:37-39).
Now, I don’t want to distract from the point of this verse, which is that Jesus still obeyed God in the face of death- but it should be noted that he was doing this with hugely conflicting emotions. Jesus knew what he had to do, but when the time came, he started wondering if there was a less awful way to do it. Some try to deny Jesus fearing the cross, but consider the passage and the emotions and the brutal death that awaited him. No, even Jesus can be afraid, and he was.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, our Lord also could laugh- something which we very frequently forget during solemn church services. Many Christians, especially really “devout” ones seem to think that life should be lived seriously and filled with enduring pain. But that’s not actually the precedent that Christ and his followers set in the Bible. These were people who went around, telling jokes, pulling pranks, and in general enjoying life as they preached the gospel of the Lord- actually one of the thrusts of his preaching was the freedom that God offered his people in their lives.
One of my favorite passages of Scripture captures this as Jesus plays off of the rather caustic Nathanael with some lighthearted sarcasm; winning him over:
Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote –Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.
“Come and see,” said Philip.
When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.”
“How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.
Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you”
Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel” (John 1:45-49).
There is no way that Jesus was being 100% serious in his description of Nathanael. Rather, he was noting that Nate used #nofilter humor, and then in turn Nathanael kept the joke going by suggesting that Jesus was right on the money. This was a humorous exchange they put on for the people before Jesus wowed Nathanael by proving that God has a sense of humor (but still is God and can do cool Godly things).
You know, sometimes you just aren’t feeling it, and when that happens others feel your non-divine wrath. Other times, you’re in a great mood and nobody can get you down. And sometimes, you don’t really know how you feel; and the results people get from you are equally mixed. Surprisingly, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was not immune to this sort of thing either:
And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.
At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”
“You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’”
But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering” (Mark 5:25-34).
At the time of this healing, Jesus was busily on his way to revive a dead girl, then someone came up and extracted power out of him. Jesus, rather than continuing on, suddenly whipped around and started demanding to know who did it. Now, if you read the passage with no emotion, it might be hard to catch, but try putting some life into the text and you’ll notice that it’s a bit strange that Jesus was so adamant to know what was going on- to the point that his disciples even try to calm him down. But, just as quickly, calmed down and went back into the Jesus mode we know and love.
But that wasn’t the only time that Christ broke character and dropped the peaceful hippy preacher image. One time he went from zero to “Holy crap we’re back in Exodus” in about two seconds:
When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!” (John 2:13-16)
The sight of the Temple caused Jesus to turn his anger up to eleven and even craft a makeshift whip to drive the point home that he had gone into rage mode. Justified? Sure. Terrifying? Totally. Human? Absolutely.
Nobody ever really talks about this in the church but there’s a reason the Jews had trouble accepting Jesus in his day- it’s because he was a gang leader. We usually thing of Christ and his disciples as they are in pictures, a deity and living saints somehow surrounded by an aura of light as they traverse the countryside.
…Yeah, that’s not what it looked like back then. Jesus was probably pretty on the level, but his posse consisted of dirty fishermen, traitors (tax collectors), and zealots (people who wanted to kill the Roman government). And I’m not even talking about Judas, we don’t know what his background was. This was a roving band of the lowest dregs of society that was slowly becoming an army of people ready to full on revolt against Rome. These people didn’t wash their hands:
Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!” (Matthew 15:1-2)
They ignored laws and cared not about what or when they ate:
At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:1-2).
And they kept their gang growing by finding other lowlifes to hang out and drink with:
While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” came up and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?” (Matthew 9:10-11)
Did all of these things have reasons? Absolutely, and they’re covered extensively in every form of media from every pastor on earth. But strip away what we know now and think of how all of this must have looked back then. Jesus and his friends were less of a traveling revival band and more of a group of degenerates.
But we know that behind the dirty, nasty, ugliness of that group of degenerates was a man of love and a God of peace and freedom for all who call on his name. But sometimes it’s fun to peak behind the veil and remember that the human side of Christ was on constant display in his time. Jesus lived life too, so we can be confident that he can help us in our lives as well. May the name of the Lord be praised.
Rock on Jesus!