By S.D. Gordon
God's Meaning of "Human."
Jesus is God becoming man's fellow. He comes down by his side and says, "Let's pull up together." Jesus was a man. He was as truly human as though only human. We are apt to go at a thing from the outside. God always reaches within, and fastens His hook there. He finds the solution of every problem within itself. When He would lead man back the Eden road to the old trysting place under the tree of life He sent a man. Jesus takes His place as a man and refuses to be budged from the human level with His brothers.
That word human has come to have two meanings. The first true meaning, and a second, that has grown up through sin, and sin's taint and trail. The second has become the common popular meaning; the first, the forgotten meaning. It will help us live up to our true possible selves to mark keenly the distinction. The first is God's meaning, the true. The second is sin's, the hurt meaning. Constantly we read the effect and result of sin into God's thought as though that were the real thing. This is grained in deep, woven into the adages of the race. For instance, "To err is human, to forgive divine." Yet this catchy statement is not true, save in part. To forgive is human--God's human--as well as divine. Not to forgive is devilish. It is not human to err. It is possible to the human being to err, as it is with angels, but, in erring, man is leaving the human level and going lower down.
To understand what it means to say that Jesus is human we must recall what human meant originally, and has properly come to mean. Man as made by God before the hurt of sin came had certain powers and limitations. His powers, briefly, were, mastery of his body, of his mental faculties, and powers in the spirit realm so lost to us now that we cannot even say definitely what they are. And mastery means poised, mature control, not misuse, nor abuse, nor lack of use, but full proper use. Possibly there were powers of communication between men in addition to speech unknown to us. Then, too, he had dominion over nature, over all the animal creation, over all the forces of nature, and not only dominion, but fellowship with the animal creation and with the forces of nature: dominion through fellowship.
He had certain limitations. Having a body was a limitation. The necessity for food, sleep, rest, and for exertion in order to move through space acted as a constant check upon his movements and achievements. He could not go into a building except through some opening. The law of growth, of such infinite value to man under his conditions, was likewise a check. Only by slow laborious effort and application would there come the discipline of mental powers and the knowledge necessary to life's work.
The Hurt of Sin.
Now, in addition to these natural limitations sin has made other changes. It has lessened the powers and increased the limitations. There has been immense loss in the power over the forces of nature, though now, by slow and very laborious efforts, after centuries, much is being regained. Instead of fellowship there has been an estrangement between man and the lower animals and between man and the forces of nature. All of this has immensely added to man's limitations, though it is true that most men do not know of what has been lost, so complete has the loss been.
The natural limitations have been added to. Sin affects the judgment. It brings ignorance and passion, and they affect the judgment. There results lack of care of the body, improper use of the strength, and ignorant and improper use of the bodily functions. Then come weakness and disease and shortened life, not to speak of the misery included in these and the enjoyment missed. In the chain of results comes the toil that is drudgery. Not work, but excessive work, more than one should do, with less strength than one should have. Work itself under natural conditions is always a delight. But through sin has come strain, tugging, friction, unequal division. The changes wrought in nature by sin call for greater effort with less return. Toil becomes slavish and grinding. Then poverty adds its tug. And sorrow comes to sap the strength and take away the buoyancy. And then man's inhumanity to his brothers and sisters. These are some of the limitations added by sin and ever increasing.
Now, Jesus was human; truly naturally human, God's human, and then more because of the conditions He found. The love act of creation brought with it self-imposed limitations to God. And now the love act of saving brings still more. God made man in His own image. In His humanity Jesus was in the image of God, even as we are. Adam was an unfallen man. Jesus was that and more, a tested and now matured unfallen man, and by the law of growth ever growing more. Adam was an innocent, unfallen man up to the temptation. Jesus was a virtuous unfallen man. The test with Him changed innocence to virtue.
In His experiences, His works, His temptations, His struggles, His victories, Jesus was clearly human. In His ability to read men's thoughts and know their lives without finding out by ordinary means, His knowledge ahead of coming events, His knowledge of and control over nature, He clearly was more than the human we know. Yet until we know more than we seem to now of the proper powers of an unfallen man matured and growing in the use and control of those powers we cannot draw here any line between human and divine. But the whole presumption is in favor of believing that in all of this Jesus was simply exercising the proper human powers which with Him were not hurt by sin but ever increasing in use.
Jesus insisted on living a simple true human life, dependent upon God and upon others. He struck the key-note of this at the start in the wilderness. Everything He taught He put through the test of use. He was what He taught. As a man He has gone through all He calls us to. He blazed the way into every thicket and woods, and then stands ahead, softly, clearly calling, "Come along after Me."
He was a normal man, God's pattern unchanged. All the powers of body and mind and spirit were developed naturally and held in poise, no lack of development, no over development of some part, no misuse of any power, nor abuse, but each part perfectly fitting in and working naturally with each other part.
He experienced all the proper limitations of human life. He needed food and sleep and rest and needed to give His body proper thought and care. He was under the human limitations regarding space and material construction. He got from one place to another by the slow process of using His strength or joining it with nature or that of a beast. He entered a building through an opening as we do. Both of these are in sharp contrast with the conditions after the resurrection. His stock of knowledge came by the law of increase, the natural way; some, and then more, and the more gaining more yet.
But there's more than this. There's a bit of a pull inside as one thinks of this, as though Jesus in His humanity after all is on a level above us, hardly alongside giving us a hand. Ah! there is more. He had fellowship with us in the limitation that sin has brought. He shared the experiences that men were actually having. He knew the bitterness of having one's life plan utterly broken and something else--a rude jagged something else--thrust in its place. But the bitterness of the experience never got into His spirit or affected His conduct. The emergency He found down here wrought by sin affected Him.
He was hungry sometimes without food at hand to satisfy His hunger. He always showed a peculiar tender sympathy with hungry people. He couldn't bear the sight of the hungry crowds without food. He would go out of His way any time to feed a man. He makes the caring for hungry folks a test question for the judgment time. There's a great note of sympathy here with the race. Every night hundreds of thousands of our brothers and sisters go hungry to bed. It was said at one time that the death rate of London rises and falls with the price of bread. If true when said it probably is more intensely true to-day. Jesus ate the bread of the poor, the coarsest, plainest bread. But then, that may have been simply His good common sense.
Jesus got tired. Could there be a closer touch! He fell asleep on a pillow in the stern of the boat one day crossing the lake. And the sleep was like that of a very tired man, so sound that the wild storm did not wake Him up. It was His tiredness that made Him wait at Jacob's well while the disciples push on to the village to get food. He wouldn't have asked them to go if they were too tired, too. Was He ever too tired--over-tired--like we get? I wonder. There was the temptation to be so ever tugging. Probably not, for He was wise, and had good self-control, and then He trusted His Father. Yet He probably went to the full limit of what was wise. Certainly He lived a strenuous life those three and a half years.
Jesus knew the pinch of poverty. He was the eldest in a large family, with the father probably dead, and so likely was the chief breadwinner, earning for Himself and for the others a living by His trade. He was the village carpenter up in Nazareth, an obscure country village. I do not mean abject grinding poverty, of course. That cannot exist with frugality and honest toil. But the pinch of constant management, rigid economy, counting the coins carefully, studying to make both ends meet, and needing to stretch a bit to get them together. It is not unlikely that house rent was one of the items.
The ceaselessness of His labors those public years suggests habits of industry acquired during those long Nazareth years. He was used to working hard and being kept busy. It would seem that He had the care of His mother after the home was broken up. At the very end He makes provision for her. John understands the allusion and takes her to his own home. He must have thought a great deal of John to trust His mother to his care. Could there be finer evidence of friendship than giving His friend John such a trust?
Jesus was a homeless man. Forced from the home village by His fellow townsmen, for those busy years he had no quiet home spot of His own to rest in. And He felt it. How He would have enjoyed a home of His own, with His mother in it with him! No more pathetic word comes from His lips than that touching His homelessness--foxes have holes, and the birds of the air nests, but the Son of Man hath neither hole nor nest, burrowed or built, in ground or tree.
And Jesus knew the sharp discipline of waiting. He knew what it meant to be going a commonplace, humdrum, tread-mill round while the fires are burning within for something else. He knew, and forever cast a sweet soft halo over all such labor as men call drudgery, which never was such to Him because of the fine spirit breathed into it. Drudgery, commonplaceness is in the spirit, not the work. Nothing could be commonplace or humdrum when done by One with such an uncommon spirit.
There's More of God Since Jesus Went Back.
I have tried to think of Him coming into young manhood in that Nazareth home. He is twenty now, with a daily round something like this: up at dawn likely--He was ever an early riser--chores about the place, the cow, maybe, and the kindling and fuel for the day, helping to care for the younger children, then off down the narrow street, with a cheery word to passers-by, to the little low-ceilinged carpenter shop, for--eight hours?--more likely ten or twelve. Then back in the twilight; chores again, the evening meal, helping the children of the home in difficulties that have arisen to fill their day's small horizon, a bit of quiet talk with His mother about family matters, maybe, then likely off to the hilltop to look out at the stars and talk with the Father; then back again, slipping quietly into the bedroom, sharing sleeping space in the bed with a brother. And then the sweet rest of a laboring man until the gray dawn broke again.
And that not for one day, every day, a year of days--years. He's twenty-five now, feeling the thews of his strength; twenty-seven, twenty-nine, still the old daily round. Did no temptation come those years to chafe a bit and fret and wonder and yearn after the great outside world? Who that knows such a life, and knows the tempter, thinks he missed those years, and their subtle opportunity? Who that knows Jesus thinks that He missed such an opportunity to hallow forever, fragantly hallow, home, with its unceasing round of detail, and to cushion, too, its every detail with a sweet strong spirit? Who thinks He missed that chance of fellowship with the great crowd of His race of brothers?
"In the shop of Nazareth
Pungent cedar haunts the breath.
'Tis a low Eastern room,
Windowless, touched with gloom.
Workman's bench and simple tools
Line the walls. Chests and stools,
Yoke of ox, and shaft of plow,
Finished by the Carpenter
Lie about the pavement now.
"In the room the Craftsman stands,
Stands and reaches out His hands.
"Let the shadows veil His face
If you must, and dimly trace
His workman's tunic, girt with bands
At His waist. But His hands--
Let the light play on them;
Marks of toil lay on them.
Paint with passion and with care
Every old scar showing there
Where a tool slipped and hurt;
Show each callous; be alert
For each deep line of toil.
Show the soil
Of the pitch; and the strength
Grip of helve gives at length.
"When night comes, and I turn
From my shop where I earn
Daily bread, let me see
Those hard hands; know that He
Shared my lot, every bit:
Was a man, every whit.
"Could I fear such a hand
Stretched toward me? Misunderstand
Or mistrust? Doubt that He
Meets me full in sympathy?
"Carpenter' hard like Thine
Is this hand--this of mine;
I reach out, gripping Thee,
Son of Man, close to me,
Close and fast, fearlessly."
To-day up yonder on the throne there's a Man--kin to us, bone of our bone, heart of our heart, toil of our toil. He--knows. If you'll listen very quietly, you'll hear His voice reaching clear down to you saying, with a softness that thrills, "Steady--steady--I know it all. I'm watching and feeling and helping. Up yonder is the hill top and the glory sun and the wondrous air. Steady a bit. Stay up with Me on the glory side of your cloud, though your feet scratch the clay." Surely there's more of God since Jesus went back!