In the past few days, I’ve been fascinated to think of Jesus as one Person. At first, that sounds like a pretty inane thing to be fascinated by. After all, everyone else I know is only one person apiece, and that doesn’t strike me as the least bit exciting. However, I’ve been thinking about this as it pertains to Jesus’ incarnation.
In Christology, it can be said that there are four main pillars of truth concerning who Jesus is and what His nature is like. They are:
- Jesus is fully God
- Jesus is fully Man
- Jesus has two distinct natures
- Jesus is one, unconfused Person
(In fact, if you’ve been reading this blog for a super long time — and have an exceptional memory — you might notice that we’ve discussed these points before.)
So what is the significance of Jesus being one Person? Why put so much emphasis on something that seems so self-evident?
The theological answer has to do with preventing heresy in the church. We humans have pronouncedly tiny brains compared to the omniscient God of the universe. We can’t fully comprehend Him in His deity. We definitely can’t comprehend the nature of of the Triune God — the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And if we pretend to have begun to wrap our minds around that, we discover that one of those Persons of the Trinity took on (and kept) a human frame, becoming fully Man, just like any of us.
Mental circuits fry at the thought.
However, as humans, we also have pronouncedly tiny inclinations to humble ourselves before the omniscient God of the universe. And as Greek-influenced humans, we have a tendency to try and compartmentalize God into areas we can grasp. We like to be able to sort things out, label things, and then check Him off of the list of “things to understand.”
Yeah. It doesn’t work that way. Funny things happen when we try to apply our feeble attempts at logic to the God who transcends our very existence.
The Church has had to codify the fact that Jesus is one, unconfused Person, because different thinkers can come up with strange ideas as to how He could be both fully human and fully divine. Proposed solutions can look something like the following steps:
- Fact: Jesus is fully God and fully Man.
- “Fact”: It is impossible for one person to fully possess two different natures.
- Therefore: Jesus must not be one Person.
- “Solution” A: The human Jesus is a real man, who has somehow been possessed by the divine Jesus. The two natures cohabit one human frame (much like in a case of demon possession… except with God).
- “Solution” B: The human Jesus is a real man, but is kind of being remote-controlled from Heaven by the divine Jesus. The Garden of Gethsemane would be an example of these two natures duking it out for control of the body.
- “Solution” C: Jesus acted out of His different natures at different times, depending on what the task demanded. So He basically switched back and forth between them as it was convenient. Different things impacted the divine Jesus and the human Jesus in different ways.
- …And other sundry ideas made of fail and wrong-itude.
Besides just being weird, the above ideas have grave implications to our very salvation. For instance, if the divine Jesus wasn’t involved very much with the Cross, then the human Jesus was in no way capable of bearing the wrath of God for us. If God did not become Man, but instead simply inhabited a man, He would be no nearer or more knowable than He had ever been. If the Jesus who died is not the same Jesus who lives in heaven, how is the heavenly one supposed to be actively making intercession for us on the basis of His shed blood (if the other Him actually shed it)…?
So the point is: It’s very important theologically to understand that Jesus is one Person.
However, theology is not to be confined to a dusty collection of snore-inducing books on the library shelf. Theology — which, simply, is “the study of God” — is supposed to impact our hearts on the deepest level. Learning more about Jesus should cause our hearts to fall more in love with Jesus. We must take what we know and turn it into devotional prayer, marveling at the beauty of who He is. It’s no good to be able to recite sound orthodoxy if our hearts are not engaged with the God of whom we speak. We must have a theology rooted in a living faith and awestruck adoration.
So how does thinking of Jesus as one Person affect our devotional life? This is what has been capturing my thoughts for the last few days. The unity of Jesus’ person should inspire wonder and worship, if we truly stop to think about it.
I find that in my own heart, it is still easy to compartmentalize Him too much. I tend to think of how, because Jesus is God, He was able to do things like raise the dead, walk on the water, feed the five thousand, and be transfigured on the mountainside. I think of how, because Jesus is Man, He was able to be born, grow up, get hungry and tired, die, and be raised to life.
Those are all true statements. But they’re not exhaustive ones.
Consdier it. Everything that Jesus did on earth, He did as God. Everything that Jesus did on earth, He did as Man. Everything Jesus will do in the future, He does as God. Everything Jesus will do in the future, He does as Man.
It blew my mind to begin thinking of this. I found myself pondering it, and reversing my usual way of thinking of Jesus’ natures. For instance:
God lay in a manger. A Man had a voice thunder from heaven about Him, “This is My beloved Son.” God fell asleep in the back of a boat. A Man walked on water. God spoke audibly to the multitudes all day. A Man multiplied bread to feed them. God rode a donkey into town. A Man received worship from those along the way. (Note: remembering not to confuse the Persons of the Trinity, when I say “God,” I am referring to the Second Person, the Son, distinct from the Father.)
My mind was already reeling when I got to the Cross.
God washed the feet of humans. God wept in the Garden and sweated drops of blood. God gave Himself up to be beaten, spit upon, mocked, and scourged — and didn’t call fiery judgment down on a single one of His persecutors. God was marred beyond recognition. The crowd chose to condemn God to death.
Can you see that torn and bleeding form hanging on a cross? Do you see the One who is in agony? The One who is thirsty? The One who is looking after His mother in His dying moment?
Yet that’s not where it ends.
Angels showed up at the tomb to proclaim the resurrected life of a Man. A Man showed up in a locked room to a bunch of very surprised disciples. A Man appeared to the two on the road to Emmaus — and disappeared from before their eyes. A Man ascended into heaven for all who followed Him to see.
Do you see that One seated at the right hand of the Father? Do you see the One who ever lives to make intercession? The One who is the rightful heir of all things? The One who will return in great glory and set up an everlasting kingdom on the earth?
That’s a Man.
Jesus is one Person. He never switches “God-mode” on or off. He never switches “Man-mode” on or off. He is both. Always. There is no contradiction or dichotomy in His being. As Man, and as God, Jesus is the Servant of rulers (Isa 49:7). As God, and as Man, He is the ruler over the kings of the earth (Rev 1:5). Everything ordinary and natural, Jesus did, still being God. Everything extraordinary and supernatural, Jesus did, still being Man.
The only fitting response to such a God-Man is to worship and love Him. Surely there is none other like Him. No wonder we will never tire of beholding the beauty of who He is and enjoying the depths of knowing Him.