Monday, August 18, 2014

Fully Human

I recently completed a paper for my Doctor of Ministry degree (76 pages to be exact…ugh), on the preaching ministry of one of my favorite pastors - Rev. Dr. Earl Palmer.  The assignment, in short, was to pick one preacher that I have respected and learned from over the years, and to try to figure out one singular question - "Who is God?" in that person's preaching.

So, for the last month or so, in addition to starting a new church, I have been transcribing five of Earl Palmer's sermons (incredibly, Earl doesn't write a manuscript, but takes an outline into the pulpit), dissecting them, and trying to figure out who God is, or how God is formed or modeled in these sermons.  And what I have discovered is very interesting.  Earl Palmer embraces a Jesus who is Fully God, and...

Fully Human

Let me explain.  The history of our faith, our historical doctrine as Christians, is that Jesus was and is both "Fully God" and simultaneously "Fully Human.  That is, that Jesus was the very embodiment of God while he was on earth.  Everything about Jesus was God.  As Bible says, "In the Beginning was the Word," and we Christians have always viewed "The Word" as Jesus.  Jesus is God.  And yet, Jesus is also

Fully Human.

How exactly Jesus was simultaneously two distinct and different beings is a mystery.  We humans only understand one form of reality - human-ness.  However, God simultaneously occupies two complete and indivisible characters.  Jesus is Fully God and

Fully Human

As a human, then, Jesus laughed the way laugh.  Jesus felt the way we felt.  Jesus got hungry.  Jesus slept.  Jesus grieved when he lost loved ones or he went through trauma, and Jesus was full of happiness and joy when there was something to be happy about.

Now, what is interesting is that most Christians tend to ignore Jesus' human side, and focus almost exclusively on Jesus' God side.  The way we talk about Jesus is almost always from the angle of the God-side of Jesus.  When we pray, we often pray, "Eternal God," or "Father" or "Savior" or "Dear Lord".  These are God dimensions.  But these descriptors don't always accentuate an equally important aspect of Jesus' being - humanness.

Earl Palmer uses two examples of the human-side of Jesus which are intriguing.  The first aspect is when Jesus is tempted in the desert, at the beginning of His ministry, by the devil.  According to Earl, the three things that the devil tempted Jesus to were essentially to give up his human-side, and be only God.  The three temptations, remember were:

1.  Turn this stone into bread - in other words, don't be hungry, and human.
2.  Throw yourself off of a building - in other words, don't die like humans die when they fall
3.  Have all control of heaven and earth - in other words, take control of the world like a God

Fortunately for us, Jesus says no to all of these temptations.  Jesus fully embraced his hunger, his mortality, and his human inability to take over the world.  The devil was essentially tempting Jesus to deny his human-ness and just to be "Fully God".  But Jesus did not bow to that temptation.  Being human was an important and essential aspect of Jesus' character.  Earl would say that if a person denies the "humanity of Jesus" that is equally as heretical as denying the "Godliness of Jesus."

Palmer would even go so far as to say that Jesus' human-ness occasionally caused him to make mistakes (like all humans do).  For example, Palmer says, when Jesus said that the smallest seed was the mustard seed, that was not true.  There are many seeds that are smaller than a mustard seed (not being a farmer, no seeds come to my mind that are smaller than a mustard seed, except maybe a poppy seed).  Palmer says, "Jesus was mistaken, the mustard seed was not the smallest - Jesus must be human".  To say, according to Palmer, that Jesus made an occasional human error, is not to invalidate His ultimate power or authority as God, but simply to high-light an often overlooked dimension of God's entire being.  Being

Fully Human

I am not sure I entirely agree with Palmer that Jesus could make mistakes, since those mistakes would begin to infringe on Jesus' Fully God-like aspects.  It is possible that Jesus was simply using a turn of phrase when he said that the mustard seed is the smallest seed.  However, Palmer's point does make you stop and think a moment.

Being human myself (and on this Monday morning, after preaching yesterday, feeling particularly human), I find the human aspects of Jesus' character the most comforting, the most accessible, the most interesting.  God seems, at times to me, slightly one dimensional.  God is all powerful, God is all knowing, God is all encompassing.  Humans have flaws, and these flaws are what make Jesus unique among all of the gods that history has come up with before Him.  We should embrace the fact that our God is, Fully God and…

Fully Human

All For Now,

No comments:

Post a Comment