The unanimous witness of the New Testament Christians throughout the ages is that Jesus is God and human.
Jesus encompasses full Divinity beyond the limitations of scientific measurement or death. And Jesus encompasses full humanity, living within a very particular historical context. Here it’s important to note the words of womanist author Jacqueline Grant: “The significance of Christ is not his maleness, but his humanity.”
Athanasius of Alexandria’s great written works were defenses of the true Deity and true humanity of Jesus. This is Christianity’s starting point. The Nicene Creed (primarily the work of Athanasius) affirms Jesus was “of one being with the Father (God)” and that Jesus “was made man (human).” So, for Athanasius and the Nicene bishops Jesus is fully God and fully human. The point the Nicene bishops failed to clarify is the relationship between the two.
What does it mean for Jesus to be God and human? What does that look like? These profound questions affect all Christian theology. Early Mystics knew the vital importance of these questions, so they carefully answered them. Their elegant answers are the focus of the chapter six of Healing The Divide.
The Gospel of John states, “And the word became flesh and lived among us….” (John 1:14). In what sense, then, should we say the Word became flesh? The Gospel of Matthew gives us the word Emmanuel, meaning “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). Again, what does it mean for God to be with us? In Colossians Paul writes “In Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” (Colossians 2:9, NIV). Colossians says Jesus is God in human form. Again, what does it mean for the fullness of the Deity to live in bodily form?
Things get confusing quickly. For sometimes the human Jesus wielded the power of God, like when Jesus cursed the fig tree (Mark 11:12-14). That’s probably what I would do if I wielded the power of God. On a bad day I would curse fig trees and anything else in my way. Other times Jesus’ Divinity seemed to wield his humanity, like when he calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 8:23-27) and when he healed the sick. So much spiritual power poured through Jesus that if someone touched the hem of his garment they came away whole (Mark 5:25-29). Yet there’s no way to spell out: “Okay, this time Jesus’ humanity is at work and this other time Jesus’ Divinity is at work.”
In Norman Mailer’s Gospel According To The Son, Jesus says “I had said ‘it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven,’ yet from the other side of my mouth, I had, if only for an instant, scorned the poor.” I’m not in agreement with Mailer’s statement, but I appreciate his paradoxical treatment of Jesus.
Throughout the Gospels here’s constant creative tension between Jesus’ Divinity with a capital D and his humanity with a lower case h. For the Alexandrian Mystics these two aspects of Jesus are a moving target–a dynamic we will never pin down. And we can never say definitively, “here is where the humanity ends and the Divinity begins.” They are an incomprehensible unity, a non-dual essence, a dynamic whole!
Merry Mystery! Merry Christmas!