When on Earth, was Jesus strictly a mortal man with a soul no different than you or me – completely separated from God? On the other hand, was Jesus God in the flesh?
The Word Becomes Flesh
In John 1:14, the gospel author records that the Word became flesh, and Galatians 4:4 records that Jesus came to be born of woman. Philippians 2:7 says he was in the likeness of man. These scriptures do record that He came as a mortal, but they do not claim He put away His spiritual nature. Matthew 1:23 records that Jesus’ name means “God with us,” and, even at the age of twelve, He demonstrates an awareness of His spiritual mission.
Furthermore, Jesus does not deny people from worshipping Him. In contrast, apostles and even angels discourage people from worshipping them in scripture. In Mark 2:1-12, Jesus demonstrates His power to forgive sin – a power reserved for deity. In John 8:58, He refers to Himself as “I AM,” again a designation that points directly toward godhood.
Warring with the Flesh
However, we must be careful not to discount the human nature of Jesus. He experienced our weaknesses and challenges. He was subject to temptation. Why would Satan have attempted otherwise? James 1:13 claims God cannot be tempted by evil, and Galatians 5:16-17 says that our flesh wars with our spirit in terms of desires. Jesus’ spirit would resist temptation, but His flesh was tested the way we are. In Luke 22:28, Jesus calls His disciples those who have been with Him throughout His temptations.
James 1:12 commends any person who is tempted and resists, and Hebrews 4:14-15 claims that Jesus gave us an example of one who could be tempted without caving in. Hebrews 2:17-18 claims He was made like man in every way, suffering and being tempted as we are. What kind of example would that be if His resistance did not require the effort our resistance requires? Satan is subtle and tailors his temptations specifically for each of us as he would have done for Jesus. He overcame, and we can as well. It is disrespectful to our Lord to discount the effort He put into the life He led while on this world.
Jesus made a great sacrifice in His life on this world. Along with the death He experienced on the cross, He gave up Heaven for that time. He put on a body that was both fragile and fallible. However, in all this He retained His godhood and His purity – making Himself the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. He knows what we go through. He understands our problems, and He is in a position where He can intercede for us and offer us the forgiveness we need.
lesson by Herbert Smelser, Jr.