No Mere Superman

When Jesus was a baby, did he soil his undergarments? As an adolescent, did he cry? When he was full-grown, was he ever angry? No disrespect is meant by these questions, but they do point out the full humanity of Jesus, without in any way reducing his full divinity. And they show that it was entirely fitting for the second person of the trinity to enter our world as a baby, who developed physically into a mature man. Such an entrance shows us that Jesus really was “one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). He cried, he got dirty, and he grew, even as we do, and yet he alone did so without any moral defect: sinless and perfect was our Lord even from his birth.

Hollywood does a nice job depicting the preternatural hero. For example, in a memorable scene from The Man of Steel, Superman descends from the clouds and hovers above a gathering of mere, but powerful, mortals who are awed by his presence. The movie opens with his special birth. He is depicted throughout as apparently perfect. The messianic overtones are clear.

Had Jesus entered the world by descending from the clouds as a fully formed man, perhaps we would be tempted to see him as something other than human. Jesus entered the world as a baby, though surely even his birth is unique, as it should be. After all, he alone was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus is different from our culture’s self-styled heroes: he is not an alien or even one from among men, but the divine Son of God. He is fully human – yet without sin – and fully divine, and came to save us from our sins, which he alone can do.

What more can we say about Jesus? Jesus no doubt cried on the first Christmas morning, and on some of the days of our Savior’s life that followed. As he matured, he also grieved, felt just anger, laughed, and pitied the pitiable. In a word, Jesus felt.

Why is it important to know that our Lord had feelings? First, it shows that he was fully human. He identifies with us in every way, except without sin. He was truly man just as we are. Second, it shows that his love for His people was full of emotion. His love wasn’t unfeeling. It didn’t consist in actions devoid of empathy. For instance, he wept over Jerusalem because of its impending judgment (Luke 19:41); he was full of joy at the thought of being in union with his disciples (John 15:11, 17:13). While Christian tradition associates Jesus with sorrow, and sorrowful he was, he was also full of joy in the Holy Spirit (Luke 10:21).

“’It belongs to the truth of our Lord’s humanity’, wrote B. B. Warfield, ‘that he was subject to all sinless human emotions.’ This has been strongly emphasized in Protestant theology, particularly by John Calvin. ‘Christ’, he wrote, ‘has put on our feelings along with our flesh.’” Donald MacLeod adds: “His passions [emotions] were sinless and regulated by moderation” (MacLeod, The Person of Christ, 170-1).

Our Savior is a feeling Savior. He experienced feelings appropriate to a baby, a toddler, an adolescent, a teenager, and a young man, all without a shred of wrongful thought, desire, or action. When he was in the garden in his last days, he experienced deep agony knowing his end was near, and that he would soon bear the just, excruciatingly painful condemnation of the Father. His birth, as with his life as a whole, looks forward to his death, resurrection, and ascension. That’s why he came: he loved his people enough to save them from sin and death and judgment. And save them he has.

Mr. Geoff Sackett 
Dean of Students
Guest Lecturer in Theology and Philosophy
Reformed Theological Seminary, Washington, D.C.

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