A few days ago, I wrote about Jesus’ humanity in Hebrews. I’ve been thinking over the last few days about obstacles to taking seriously the humanity of Jesus in Hebrews.
When I taught undergraduates, I routinely encountered Christian young people who were certain that Luke 2:40-52 was not portraying Jesus as learning anything. He was God so he must have been omniscient! The fact that this seems to be the very point of the narrative and that Luke frames the episode by mentioning Jesus’ growth in wisdom didn’t convince them (vv. 40 & 52).
Our hopes and desires are shaped by cultural pressures and social forces and we end up making Jesus in our own image.
There are many ways we do this; here’s just one.
I think the quest for certainty inhibits us from taking Jesus’ humanity with full seriousness.
Because of our situation in a post-enlightenment, post-scientific age, we idolize knowledge. We are frustrated by what we don’t know and what we need to find out. Driven by desires for something like omniscience, we create the image of a superhero who would know everything, have access to all knowledge.
Jesus, of course, must be like that! He wouldn’t be hampered by a need to learn or discover anything.
Further, we all face uncertainties—both in our close relationships and in our experience of the wider culture. We crave certainty. We want guarantees that everything is going to be okay. Driven by desires to escape the contingencies of daily life, we create the image of a superhero who has no doubts about life; one who doesn’t need to navigate the uncertainties of the future the way we do.
Again, Jesus must have been like that!
Shaped as we are by our fears, desires, fantasies, and experiences, it is difficult for us to take seriously the passages in the New Testament that depict Jesus’ human experience. It was very much like ours.
The writer of Hebrews stresses this in several passages in order to encourage his readers to remain faithful. They have a fully sympathetic high priest, one who has fully experienced the stresses, trials, and temptations of life.
He knows all about facing an uncertain future, struggling to clarify calling and vocation, navigating an uncertain world, and striving to remain faithful (Heb. 5:7-10).
The gospel is not that Jesus is exceptional because he isn’t like you. The gospel is not that Jesus is a superhero who meets our fantastical projections. The gospel is not that Jesus was a superhero who wasn’t like you at all.
The gospel is that Jesus fully took on our condition and seriously participated in humanity as we experience it. He was faithful to God unto death and in his death he conquered death itself and the one who held the power of death—God’s cosmic enemy (Heb. 2:14-15).
And the gospel is that we have this Jesus as a sympathetic high priest to call upon. When we pray to God for help in time of need, there’s no eye-rolling on God’s part. The one at God’s right hand knows exactly what life is like and is eager to grant help to his sisters and brothers (Heb. 2:12, 18).
Don’t create a Jesus according to your superhero projections. The biblical Jesus is far better.