Like Jesus Be Human
Last Tuesday my Bible Study looked at the baptism of Jesus in The Gospel of Luke. What struck us about Luke’s account—in contrast to the accounts in Mark and Matthew—is the lengths to which Luke goes to not separate Jesus from the others who were also being baptized. We can’t help but feel that he almost down plays the event: “Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus had also been baptized and was praying…” (Lk 3:21). In contrast to the baptism account in Mark and Matthew where the stage is set for the dramatic inauguration of his ministry, Luke just has Jesus lined up with all the rest of humanity coming for baptism. “Now when all the people had been baptized, and ho hum Jesus as well.” Just another day at the office.
Why does Luke tell it this way? Maybe he was concerned that the Christians in his community were losing touch with the humanity of Jesus. Maybe they were beginning to do what we too often do: treat Jesus’ humanity as different from our own. In order to preserve the special role of Jesus in the church, we make him less human. When we downplay his humanity, this leads us to believe that he really didn’t have the same struggles, temptations, and doubts that we do. Yes, his road wasn’t easy, but we minimize his challenges because we assume he had the right divine stuff to deal with it all.
Luke is also the only Gospel that tells us that Jesus “grew and became strong” (2:40a) and “increased in wisdom” (2:52a). Jesus wasn’t born fully formed; he had to grow and mature.
If we are longing for a deeper connection to God, maybe the key will be a deeper connection to the humanity of Jesus. For example: Rather than assume that Jesus came to the Jordan knowing what was going to happen, maybe we need to acknowledge that Jesus was as surprised as anyone that while he prayed the voice from heaven said, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased” (Lk 3:22). And if a voice from heaven spoke unexpectedly to a very human Jesus, then why wouldn’t we expect that God might unexpectedly surprise very human people like us with the same words when we pray. In other words, can we realize that like all human beings Jesus had to live one day a time trusting that God would provide in ways that had not yet been revealed? He doesn’t know exactly where God is taking him or how God will provide. That is, his situation is the same as ours.
A lot of the heresies in the early Church had to do with losing touch with Jesus’ humanity. Since then the Church has struggled to keep Jesus’ humanity and divinity connected. As John’s Gospel says, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14a). It doesn’t say that he appeared to be flesh, masqueraded as flesh, or was only flesh for a while. God came close to Jesus in his humanity. If we want to connect with God, the best road is to stay connected with Jesus’ humanity. When we embrace his humanity, we learn to embrace our own as the place God will encounter us.