Yesterday, we examined how Jesus was fully divine. He is, as Isaiah prophesied, Mighty God (Is 9:6). Yet, as we saw earlier, Jesus is also fully human. Trying to wrap our minds around the very essence of Jesus as both Jesus and God quickly seems like an impossible task, yet God calls us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength!
As difficult as it may seem to comprehend the person of Jesus, there are times when certain ideas about him can lead us astray. There are bad views of Jesus’ divinity. Today, we’ll theologically nerd out to see how influential Christians have tried to reconcile Jesus’ humanity and divinity in ways that just don’t quite get it right. In doing so, we’ll receive a guide to keep us closer to who Jesus really is.
Apollinaris (315–390) taught that Jesus had a human body but not a human mind or spirit. Instead, Jesus’ mind and spirit were the divine nature of the Son of God while his body remained human. So, Jesus’ body was human but his mind was divine.
The problem with this view is that Apollinaris believed only our human body needs salvation, not our minds. Christ’s redemptive work is not only for our bodies but also for our minds. Hebrews tells us that Jesus, “had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people (Hb 2:17, emphasis added).”
Jesus needed to be truly and fully human in every respect to save us, which includes his mind!
Nestorius (386–450) taught that Jesus was two separate people, a human person and a divine person, in one body. In a way, the physical Jesus was possessed by the divine Jesus.
The problem with this view is that scripture never refers to Jesus as anyone more than a single person. It speaks of him, not they. We never see dialogue, interaction, conflict, or agreement with the “two persons” of Jesus anywhere in the Bible. Never do we see the Gospel writers telling us that Jesus did one action in his human nature and another action in his divine nature as though they were to separate identities.
Even though Jesus has two natures, he is still one person.
Eutyches (378–454) taught that Jesus only had one nature, which was a mixture of his human and divine natures. God placed Jesus’ two natures into a cosmic blender and the result was Jesus’ “new” nature. An example he used was placing a drop of ink in a bowl of water. The result is not fully ink nor fully water, but a new mixture of the two.
The problem with this view is that Jesus is neither fully human nor fully God. If Jesus is neither fully human nor fully God, then (as with Apollinarianism) he could not truly represent humanity as a man nor could he earn salvation for us as God.
At the end of the day, when it comes to the dual natures of Jesus it may simply be something we’ll never fully grasp! Christians have pondered what if means for Jesus to be fully human and fully divine for ages. Each time a new idea arises, we always come back to the mystery that is uniqueness of Jesus – the fully God, fully human savior of humanity.
Now, if Christians throughout the ages have been thinking about Jesus’ person, what must the disciples must have felt as they came to the slow, growing realization of who Jesus truly is. We’re discussing him hundreds of years removed, but they had access to him face-to-face! Yet, in the end, each one yielded to the paradox of Jesus’ humble majesty in worship.
As reflection, think about each devotion we have gone through so far. How does studying the person and work of Jesus sharpen your understanding of him and enhance your worship of him?