February 1, 2009

Jesus - fully human and fully divine (still)

I received the following question concerning what I have written about the doctrine of the continuing (permanent) incarnation of Jesus Christ:
You state that "Scripture testifies that the incarnation continues - Jesus is (still and forever) fully God and fully human."  Could you please send me the scriptural basis that says that Jesus is fully human right now? I'm happy with the concept that through the incarnation Jesus was fully God and fully human, and therefore his death reconciled all humanity.  I'm happy that after the resurrection people saw him in human form, however, I'm struggling to understand how after the ascension, he remains fully human in human form. That is to suggest that he is in a physical place in a physical form, whereas I thought God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), is everywhere.
Here is my response: 

I’m happy to address your important question, namely: What is the scriptural evidence that the incarnation continues?  I address this briefly in my online article, The Dual Nature of Jesus Christ (click here).  In the article, I reference 1Timothy 2:5:
For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.
“Man” is “anthropos” in Greek, which means human. Paul is making an essential point: the one who continues as our mediator is Jesus, who is human (still).  In other words, Jesus Christ never ceased being human. Or said another way, the incarnation of God in the flesh in the person of Jesus is permanent.

This is vital truth because it explains how Jesus is, as Paul says, the “one mediator between God and men.”  He mediates from the side of man to God as fully human; and from the side of God to man as fully divine. Jesus is unique in this ability because he is still (and permanently) both fully human and fully divine.

How do we know this?  Scripture tells us.  The primary evidence is Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances.  In Luke 24:39 the resurrected Jesus tells his disciples to look at his hands and feet. He proclaims: "It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” 

Jesus, now resurrected, exists in a glorified, resurrection body that is still “flesh and bones.”  He is not a “spirit being” who merely is appearing in the flesh; it says he is flesh.  For example, the resurrected, glorified human Jesus still eats (v. 41). Of course his glorified flesh has properties not seen in his non-glorified (pre-resurrection) body.  And we too shall one day have a glorified human (fleshly) body like Jesus’ (see 1Cor 15). But note that his body and ours will be fully human (still).  

Luke continues in Acts 1 telling the story of how this glorified human Jesus ascends (Acts 1:9); and the angel promises that one day he will return bodily (1:11).

You ask how Jesus, following both his resurrection and ascension, can now be in a spatially limited human body and yet be omnipresent God? That he is both, creates no bigger a problem now than it did when he was both human and divine during his earthly sojourn. This is the miracle and mystery of the incarnation (1Tim 3:16). 

When Jesus was conceived in the womb of Mary, the omnipresent Creator of all stepped into time and space and became fully human while remaining fully divine. So he is both in a human body (and thus limited in time and space) while remaining the omnipresent God who sustains the entire universe. This dual nature of Jesus did not cease when he was resurrected and ascended. 

Jesus remains forever, both divine and human. In his glorified humanity he now dwells in heaven – that dimension of God’s creation that is not now visible to us,  but will one day be united with the physical cosmos we see in a new heave and new earth. And in his glorified human body he will return visibly to earth where all flesh shall see him in bodily form.

So it’s not an either-or proposition. Jesus is not either omnipresent or locally present in a body. He is both omnipresent in his divinity, and locally present in his (glorified) humanity. This is the teaching of the orthodox Christian faith since the beginning—why?  Because this is what Scripture teaches. Sadly, it is a doctrine that gets little attention. But it is HUGE, because our life is in union with Jesus, who, in himself, is the union of God and humanity. Jesus is our mediator as one of us.  In the person of the human Jesus, we have a “place” in the triune life of God (Father, Son and Spirit). 

For a much longer discussion of the doctrine of the incarnation and ascension, including a review of the Scriptural evidence, I recommend reading “Jesus Ascended, The Meaning of Christ’s Continuing Incarnation” by Gerrit Scott Dawson (T & T Clark, 2004).

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