Jesus as Fully Human (Advent Part 4)
Last week we explored the implications of Jesus being fully God and its nature as good news. In particular, we looked at how God’s full indwelling with us acts as a sign of God’s complete and total commitment to relationship with us and the rest of God’s creation. The good news of Jesus’ full humanity also concerns our relationship but God but highlights a different aspect of it. Specifically, Jesus’ full humanity means that we may look to him as the model of who we are to be as humans.
While this may sound like a familiar theme, the Christmas season brings its practical implications to the forefront in an ever-challenging manner. During the Christmas season we see clearly how Jesus did not come as a human born to wealth, prestige, or power. He lived as a refugee in his infancy, his family fleeing politically motivated violence from King Herod. He lived in a backwater town, and even during his ministry he described himself as not even having a place to lay his head. In other words, Jesus’ whole humanity was in solidarity with the lowly and the oppressed. Jesus’ humanity does not reveal that we are to be a people concerned with power and prestige but instead to be concerned with the poorest and downtrodden. We are to be a people who lift one another up even as Jesus lifted up the lowly. We are to tear down barriers even as Jesus did, to participate God’s ever-widening embrace of all peoples. And the good news of Jesus’ full humanity is that this is actually possible for us. For whatever Jesus did, he did so as a full human. We as fellow humans may follow in his footsteps, to “be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). This is an idea that John Wesley referred to as Christian perfection. This does not mean that we will be totally perfect in the way that we often think of it as a static and final state. Wesley instead looked to how the Orthodox church defined perfection as an ever-growing love and conforming to Jesus’ example, a dynamic process that takes place over the whole of one’s life.
This is, of course, a daunting task. And indeed it is impossible on our own. But that is where the other part of Jesus’ full humanity comes in. You may recall from the blog post two weeks ago a quotation from Gregory of Nazianzus: “that which He has not assumed He has not healed; but that which is united to His Godhead is also saved.” Essentially what that means is that Jesus’ full humanity, and its union with Jesus’ divinity, heals and purifies the whole of human nature. In the gospels we often see Jesus touch people who are considered unclean and, rather than being made unclean, he makes them clean. The early Church applied this principle to the whole of human nature. Jesus lived a complete and total human life from its beginning to its end. In every phase of life Jesus united humanity with his Godhood and restored it. So we, who share that human nature, may experience total healing and salvation, being enabled to grow in God’s grace. For we, “seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another, for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18). This work of the Spirit is enabled by Christ uniting humanity with divinity, by healing our wounds and tearing down every barrier between ourselves and God’s redemptive desire. In Jesus’ humanity we see who we are meant to be, and it is because Jesus was fully human that we may trust that God will lead us into who we are meant to be. Because of what Jesus did as one of us, we may be united to him and become who we were always meant to be: a people created to love and to be loved. And so as we reflect on Jesus’ birth, on God dwelling with us, I invite you to remember that wonderful truth. It was for love that Jesus came. Love for you, for me, for all of us. That is indeed good news.
 For more on this subject, see John Wesley’s sermon A Plain Account of Christian Perfection. (http://wesley.nnu.edu/john-wesley/a-plain-account-of-christian-perfection/)
* Cover photo: Theotokos by Anna Schumann (2022)