The Letter to the Hebrews has a good bit to say about the humanity of Christ. It was written to Jewish disciples who were under pressure to renege on their commitment to Jesus and return to strictly Jewish ways (10:19-39). After a magnificent opening showing the supremacy of Christ to Moses (and everything else), He begins the letter by showing how Jesus is “as much superior to the angels as the name He has inherited is superior to theirs” (1:5ff). As the Son of God, Jesus is above the angels who mediated the old covenant. Therefore, Jesus and His covenant (7:22, 8:6ff) are to be followed rather than Moses and his covenant.
1. Jesus’ humanity means He became vulnerable. But the writer is just getting warmed up. As the Son of God, Jesus not only shared in the nature of God, He was also fully human. It was important to understand this in order to appreciate how He saved us, but also how He can sympathize with and understand our struggles as our high priest (2:17).
To begin talking about Jesus’ humanity he speaks of how Christ “was made lower than the angels for a little while . . . so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone” (2:7). It’s not only a nice rhetorical turn that Jesus goes from “superior to the angels” in 1:5 to a little “lower than the angels” in 2:9, but it’s true! Unlike the angels, Jesus became mortal. He was hungry, thirsty, and tired. He experienced suffering and ultimately death. In short, He was human and completely vulnerable. This was necessary for Him to become the sacrifice for our sins (2:10).
2. Jesus’ humanity means He identifies with disciples as family. Jesus’ vulnerability is also the gateway for entering into the intimacy of a family relationship with Him. In v. 11, the writer tells them, “Both the One who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.” So, Christ’s humanity provides the means for identity and intimacy.
3. Jesus’ humanity means He frees us from the fear of death. He goes on in v. 14-15 to speak of how Jesus “shared in their humanity so that by His death, He might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.”
You’ll notice that “death” is spoken of three times here. We have Jesus’ death, Satan holding the power of death, and humanity who are held in slavery by their fear of death. Jesus died to break Satan’s power over death. Because He lived a perfectly righteous life, Jesus alone could say that Satan had no hold over Him (John 14:30), stood condemned (16:31), and would be driven out (12:31). Concerning Jesus, Peter would say that “God raised Him from the dead, freeing Him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him” (Acts 2:24).
Because death had no power over Jesus, it has no power over those who belong to Him. In Him, there is no condemnation (Romans 8:1). The fear of death has been relaced by the assurance of life (1 John 5:13).
4. Jesus’ humanity means atonement has been made. “For this reason He had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that He might make atonement for the sins of the people” (v. 17). Jesus ultimately destroyed Satan’s power death by making atonement for our sins at cross. God did through Him what we could not do for ourselves. But since atonement involved a perfectly righteous life and death, it would not have been possible without the humanity of Jesus.
5. Jesus’ humanity means He is a faithful and merciful high priest who can come to our aid when we are tempted. “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted” (v. 18). As the song goes, “There’s not a friend like the lowly Jesus!” He’s been where we are. He gets it. He understands. And He can do something about it!
As you can see, the humanity of Jesus is staggeringly important teaching. Take it away and there’s not much left to our faith. This is why toward the end of the first century when Gnosticism was settling in and one of its variants was that Christ really didn’t take on flesh, John fires off what we know as 2 John to combat this heresy. He says this:
. . . many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch out that you do not lose what we have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take them into your house or welcome them. Anyone who welcomes them shares in their wicked work. (2 John 7—11)