11.12.2011

The Authentic Humanity of Jesus Christ V

Manna from Heaven

John 6:38:

For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. ESV
Heaven and The Throne of God:

Heaven is where angels abide and where believers will one day dwell. It is also the abode of the Almighty God. In Jewish thinking Heaven is where God dwells (Deut. 4:36, 39; cf. Luke 11:2, Acts 7:49). To the Hebrew writers Heaven holds the throne of God and was where prayers are answered. Jewish people have long looked to heaven in prayer. Jesus would actually appear strange to His Jewish contemporaries if He did not recognize or even participate in such facts. Additionally Richard Bauckham suggests:
“God's servants may be said, by his permission, to rule some things, as earthly rulers do, but only God rules over all things from a throne exalted above all things.”(1)
Angels and other heavenly beings do not sit on God’s throne. They serve at his side. Christ is no sidekick in God’s program rather He is the True God (1 John 5:20) visible to the mortal eye. God’s throne is a position reserved for God only and yet the New Testament writers do not hesitate to place Jesus in this exalted place. This motif is all throughout the book of Revelations or John's apocalyptic writing. However, we see the transcendence of Jesus over all things as God in that it is He who sits upon the one throne of heaven. In Revelation 5:5-7 and 7:17 the Lamb is on the center of the throne. In Revelations 1:7-8, 4:2 and 22:4-4 the One on the throne is Jesus (Revelation 4:2, 8; 1:7-8, 11, 17-18; 22:3-4). No angel or created being occupies the cosmic throne of Heaven but the True God.

"came down from heaven"

In John 6 Jesus miraculously feeds five thousand people and walks on water. He then begins to tell them that He is the bread of life (6:35) and that He “came down from heaven” to do the will of the Father. These statements reveal the mission and divine origin of Jesus in the physical realm. As we shall see, they do not prove that Jesus is a separate person from God who is an additional divine person who sits on the throne of Heaven either. As we have seen there is only one throne. One Lord. One God. Such imagery is expressly unipersonal since only one person typically sits on a throne at a time. Throughout Scripture God is even described metaphorically as unipersonal as well (Psalm 27:8, face; Genesis 6:8, eyes; 2 Samuel 22:7, ears; 2 Samuel 22:9, nostrils; Psalms 29:3, voice; Ezekiel 28:6, heart; Isaiah 52:10, arm; Acts 7:55-56, right hand; Luke 11:20, finger). Even metaphorical imagery can tell us something about the Oneness of God.

The use of the bread as a metaphor can refer to His identity. He said that his flesh or the bread came down from heaven (6:51, 58). Jesus no more means that His flesh literally came down from Heaven than He means that they should literally eat His flesh. Jesus said the He is the “living bread that came down from heaven” (cf. 6:38, 51). Here Jesus speaks also of the “manna” that had come down to feed the Israelites. The manna did not pre-exist in heaven but miraculously appeared by God Himself. The source of the manna was God and not any earthly cause. The human flesh of Jesus did not literally descend. This is not literally true since as we have clearly seen that Jesus descended from David and Abraham (See Matthew 1; Luke 3; Romans 1:3; John 7:42; Acts 2:30).

Perhaps in some sense Jesus is letting those around Him know that God is the author and source of His birth or Incarnation which in Biblical terms can clearly be understood as miraculous. G. R. Beasley-Murray concludes that in John 6:38 “Herein lies the reason for his “descent,” i.e. for his Incarnation”(2) Such a verse seems to imply Incarnational language. It can be inferred that John would be aware of Jesus being born of a virgin and called Immanuel (Isa. 7:14; Matt. 1:23; cf. Isaiah 8:8, meaning God with us). Although those who knew Jesus knew Him to be genuinely human Jesus seems to be teaching them that the source from which He came is not earthly. Jesus would not have the biological contribution of a male parent in a virginal conception. Instead half of Jesus’ chromosomes had to have come from God miraculously. Jesus came through the womb of a woman as do all human beings but John also informs us that the life of Jesus is the life of the Father (John 5:26).

Michael Servetus noted in 1553 that here “the trifles of our trinitarians were not known to anyone at that time.”(3) This is important because Jesus’ language does not suggest He pre-existed as a second divine Son person with the Father nor more than it meant His flesh pre-existed in a divine state. Instead Jesus speaks enigmatically of his mission and His identity. Jesus is not the Incarnation of one person of a Trinity but the Incarnation of all the identity, character, and personality of the one God (Colossians 2:9). As to His eternal deity, there can be no subordination of Jesus to anyone else, whether in essence or position. Instead, Jesus makes the Father visible to the mortal eyes of men (John 12:45; 14:9-10).

While Jesus walked on earth as God Himself Incarnate, the Spirit of God continued to be omnipresent. As God manifest in the flesh Jesus can say “I came down from heaven”. His flesh came down from heaven in the sense that it was of a supernatural, divine origin. Yet as God in the flesh He can say “I came down from heaven” in reference to His eternal, uncreated deity. Servetus also notes:
“the Word of God has descended from heaven and is now on earth in the flesh of Christ...Whatever is beyond the flesh and blood is both from and in heaven. Not only was Christ from heaven, but he even brought heaven itself to us...”(4)
"him who sent me"

In 6:38 we also read “...the will of him who sent me...” Trinitarians will suggest that by the use of “him” and “me” here we have two divine persons--God and Jesus. Here they do not imagine human persons but entities existing in some spatial relationship with independent minds and processes. How does one omnipresent person or mind keep from bumping into the other omnipresent person or mind? Such a thing certainly begs many questions. The Unitarian will go one more step past the Trinitarian here and suggest that the use of the pronouns indicate that Jesus is not God but rather completely separate and other. Oneness believers recognize the “him” as a referent to God and the “me” as indicating the Son, God manifest in flesh, but recognized as the He who was beaten, bruised and crucified. In essence, God is aware of Himself existing as both human and divine. As mentioned prior the physical and mental limitations of the Incarnation have a profound impact. Both Trinitarians and Oneness leave this verse believing that Jesus is God.

Jesus, like any human being, is able to communicate with God from His human consciousness, while the divine nature was also manifest in His human consciousness. God was able to communicate with Him on this same basis. Luke 2:52 from the NASB notes: “And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” Even though Jesus was the very wisdom of God (I Corinthians 1:24) He was able to increase in wisdom, because He was also human. 

God is a person or personal spirit being and Jesus is a person. This however does not necessarily mean God and Jesus are two separate or different persons. God is unlimited in His person and being. Jesus is God manifest in the flesh and therefore is God’s divine Person and Word Incarnate (John 1:1, 14). Jesus is the One who is fully human and fully divine(5) and there is nothing logically contradictory with Him being so. The Word nor Wisdom of God are separable from God but are indeed His Word and Mind. Jesus is the expressed image of the Father’s being (Hebrews 1:3).

6:38 clearly presents a grammatical distinction between two personal pronouns. It may be just as accurate to say “the will of God who sent me” also. That a personal pronoun has to always mean only a theological or philosophical definition of the word person is erroneous. A pronoun could just as easily include the idea of being here since all persons have being. This is why the Unitarian or Socinian will say that Jesus is only a human being completely other than the being of God. If the use of personal pronouns prove a person then here we have two personal beings distinct from each other and not simply metaphysical persons united in God’s being. If they are divine persons then the question is begged still. What kind of divine persons do not know certain things? Are subject and sent? How does it make sense to say that God is sent? Is this what Jesus meant when He said that He was also sent? What exactly do you mean by person?

The grammar shows two distinct personal pronouns. A grammatical personal distinction. Of course, this does not amount to two persons in the sense that is popularly thought of today. Somehow the Trinitarian will walk away with the idea of two persons who are merely distinct but not separate. Two person who are not distinct in being but yet somehow share that same being. The only way they can arrive at such a conclusion is to read theology a priori into the grammar. If the theology is correct this should be no problem but as I have suggested it only begs the question.

Third Person Pronouns:

If we were to use the presence of third person pronouns as a method to determine the number of persons in a sentence or that they mean someone else other than the one speaking then there is a problem. If that is true then Jesus must not be the Son of God. Consider John 3:16 which we dealt with in a previous post:
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. ESV
The pronouns "he"; "his" and "him" are all third person pronouns. If some count personal pronouns or third person language as a way to determine how many divine persons we are dealing with in such references then Jesus is not the Son. One cannot count personal pronouns only to arrive at divine persons. If third person language means another person then that would also mean Jesus is not the Christ (Luke 24:46,47) nor is He the Son of Man (Luke 9:58; Mark 13:27).

Typically pronouns can be shown by their context to indicate one or more persons or things. This is especially true of two nouns who are human beings (Peter and John). This language works well in human to human discourse. However, if one understand Jesus to be God then the nouns "God" and "Jesus" are not completely congruent with a typical person to person relationship and is therefore unique. The context and what we know about the nouns “God” and “Jesus” help us determine the reading of the text. Jesus makes it plain that there is something very unique about His relationship to God and therefore it probably alludes typical expression. 

In His Incarnate existence God came to be conscious as man. To know and act as man. He came to experience and live according to all the limitations and realities to which all human beings are subject. God experienced life in a human way, not merely in His human nature, but through His human mode of existence, because Christ's humanity was God's humanity by virtue of the Incarnation. It is completely appropriate then for Jesus to act and be thought of according to His humanity in distinction from His uncreated and eternal deity.

In the following posts we will examine more what it means for Jesus to be fully human and fully God. 


NOTES:

1) Richard Bauckham. Jesus and the God of Israel: God Crucified and Other Studies on the New Testament's Christology of Divine Identity (Kindle Locations 332-333). Kindle Edition.

2) Beasley-Murray, G. R. (2002). Vol. 36: Word Biblical Commentary : John. Word Biblical Commentary (92). Dallas: Word, Inc.

3) Servetus, Michael. (1553) Restoration of Christianity : An English Translation of Chistianismi Restitutio. (pg. 24-25) The Edwin Mellen Press

4) ibid. pg. 25

5) I recommend this article by Oneness scholar Jason Dulle, M.A. on The Dual Nature of Christ.

Adversus Trinitas

"...unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins." (John 8:24 ESV)