God and Man Collide: Why the Hypostatic Union of Jesus Matters

December 6, 2012 § 3 Comments

The Hypostatic Union is the Christian doctrine of the two natures of Jesus Christ: that He was both God and man, perfectly, yet without sin. Below is a talk I gave to our church’s high school group on the topic, exploring the deity and humanity of Jesus through His life and what it means to us. This was part of a series asking “Who is Jesus?”

nativity

Adoration of the Shepherds by Gerard van Honthorst, 1622

Baby Jesus was human but sinless. Contrary to the words of Away in a Manger (“But little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes”), I am certain He cried plenty as all babies do to communicate hunger or some other discomfort. I’m sure Jesus made a mess in His swaddling clothes, spilled His Cheerios, but all without sinning in the process. As any Christian father may attest, children get around to sinning very early, but we know any crying Jesus made was not out of rebellion.

Twelve year old Jesus was still human but sinless. Young Jesus probably played with friends and was educated in the Hebrew scriptures, but wouldn’t have gotten in trouble or disobeyed his parents. Luke 2:40 shows that Jesus was not born with perfect knowledge, but “grew and became strong, filled with wisdom.” Once, after Jesus and His parents were separated for a short time, they found Him in the temple in Jerusalem talking with Jewish teachers. They were astonished by Jesus’ knowledge. Jesus knew His purpose on earth better than His parents did, but He reacted in obedience when asked to come home with them. Gaining wisdom, it seems He had more than the normal share for a young boy (Luke 2:43-49).

Grown up Jesus was human and still sinless. The Bible doesn’t chronicle Jesus’ life from the age of 13 to about 30, when Jesus began His public ministry. His divine nature became very obvious to others who witnessed His miracles and heard His message. Still human though, Jesus had the same physical needs as we do. In the Bible we read that He hungered, thirsted, grew tired, slept, wept, sweated, bled and died. He experienced human emotions like joy, sorrow, disappointment, and anger. In John 2:13-16, Jesus exhibited righteous anger at the farmers’ market of sorts that had formed in the temple. Before he drove out the animals and sellers and money-changers that were desecrating His Father’s house with commerce, rather than launching immediately into a tirade, Jesus paused and “made a whip out of cords”. (vs. 15)

Crucified Jesus was human but sinless as He bore our sin for us. As a human being, He endured all the physical agony that a Roman crucifixion had to offer. But I think Jesus’ divine nature also connected Him to at least two other great forms of suffering.

One was the emotional anguish, for the first time in all eternity, of separation from God the Father as the Father had to turn away from the sin the Son bore on the cross.

Another was something that no one but God is able to do: forgive sin. (Mark 2:7). Considering that God’s omniscience would have allowed Him to re-live every personal offense against God ever committed by everyone for all time, this burden must have been humanly unimaginable. (See post: Why Forgivenes Hurts)

The whole point of God becoming man was to offer Himself, the only perfect atonement, sufficient payment for the sins of man. As man He could die in our place; as God He could forgive sins and fulfill the need for a spotless sacrifice. “God made Him who has no sin to be sin for us.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Jesus experienced everything we experience. Hebrews 4:15 tells us that “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.” Jesus knows and loves you, and is ready to forgive. Can we relate to Jesus Christ? We can, because He became man. Can we worship Jesus Christ? We can, because He was God.
[See my post Did Jesus Really Claim to be God? for an apologetic debate with a Muslim on Christ’s claim to deity.]
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