In this article we look at the other side of the amazing truth that Jesus is both divine and human. Already, thinking about Christ’s divinity, we saw that unless Jesus was truly and wholly God, he could not bridge the gap between fallen humanity and world and God our heavenly Father. That only God in our humanity and flesh could undo the consequences of human greed, lust, hatred and other terrible wrongdoing. Only he could totally transform lives and usher in a new and better Kingdom of gracious Love; indeed an earthly Kingdom that he had always planned and longed to establish for the rest of time. A Kingdom that truly reflects the life of Heaven itself. Note the Lord’s own prayer: “Our Father…”. Just pray it now if you will, or at the end.
Now we must look at another vitally important truth, that unless Jesus was also fully and wholly human, he could not truly represent and speak for us; actually show the kind of life he longed for us to have, and take whatever steps were necessary to rectify the brokenness and hurt in our humanity and world. Even as we shall see, giving his very life for us in loving Sacrifice. That in every respect he was just like each one of us, with a real flesh and blood body, mind soul and spirit; and knowing all the pain, limitations and privations that we experience. And our hopes and longings too, yet without the sin and flaws that make up our humanity (See Hebrews 4:14-16). He is truly Friend and Brother in our flesh and nature; a sure Companion and Guide for life’s journey of faith; also in its discovery and learning, and its sicknesses, trials and challenges too. So he may indeed be called Redeemer & Saviour and lovingly accepted. With secure promises he will never fail us or let us down.
It means thinking about the Church’s belief in the Virgin Birth; that Mary the human mother of the incarnate Jesus, conceived her Son not by a human agency – her espoused husband-to-be Joseph – but by the power of the Holy Spirit of God. It’s an article of faith attested by the Gospel writers who had been close to Mary herself, had heard her life story and knew that what she claimed rang wholly true to her life of utter devotion to her Son, which had its real pain and sorrow too. She had nothing to gain by making up some kind of strange fiction; in fact only the doubts and scorn of neighbours. Even Joseph found it hard to accept until his trusting prayer was answered by God. (See Matthew 1:18-21).
Some Christians however over the years have doubted this belief, saying that if Mary and Joseph had had their son in the ordinary human way Jesus could still have been the world’s Redeemer. That God’s power is such that a Virgin Birth was not necessary! For them this is just beautiful story, myth or legend and not historic fact, though nevertheless containing an important message, that in the human Jesus of Nazareth, God was at work reconciling all to the Father. There have always been those who could not accept the full divinity of Christ, claiming that the human Jesus, a truly great teacher and prophet, was adopted into a special relationship with the Father, but was not divine from all eternity.
The very first Christians however, and certainly the physician-historian St Luke (whose accuracy in Gospel writing is second to none) really did believe the truth of the Virgin Birth. So from the earliest days it was enshrined in the official Creeds of the Church. It was seen as underlining the belief that Mary, though plainly surprised, yet in faith and trust freely gave her body to be home for the Eternal Son of God. She accepted that the Holy Spirit would make the conception possible.
Every ordinary human birth is always wonderful, even miraculous. Yet the birth of Jesus, the very “Son of the Highest”, must surely be the greatest miracle of all. (See Luke 1:30-32). It was a divine not a human wisdom and plan. So we can recite the Nicene Creed with confident faith, just as we can accept the reliability of God’s holy Word of Scripture. God does not mock or deceive us, nor lead us astray! And this belief affirms that God is God, and can display his power in whatever way is necessary to show that perfect Love which is his (for he can do no other); and so work out his good purposes. All his work is for the best good of the whole creation, and for all people whom he loves with infinite care and tenderness, and without exception! (Note 1 Timothy 2:3-6).
Having looked at this miracle of Christ’s actual birth, we have also to think about the other Gospel miracles of which the most outstanding will always be the Resurrection of Jesus. They deny full human understanding of course, for they are beliefs which ring true far more in human experience than in any purely human logic or reasoning. They make powerful meaningful difference to our innermost hearts and feelings, to the depths of the human soul and spirit, and how in consequence we live our lives. And they do require acts of pure faith, a great leap forward, a trust in what has been shown to be true countless times over in the experience of others.
All this the Gospel records show decisively and with certainty, as do the moving stories of the Acts, the Epistles, and Church history century after century. And though they are issues of faith, they are altogether rational, do not oppose good common sense, nor do they conflict with the scientific mind and approach to truth.
The question now is what do we make of the other though minor miracles? Our era is a scientific age and rightly critical. Everything is tested and scrutinised. And there may well be straight forward natural ways now of understanding some of the Gospel miracles described there as supernatural happenings. New Testament scholars do have differing views here.
Modern medicine and psychology certainly see much of what is described as demonic possession and such like as mental illness or other human disorders. But for many of the miracles there can be no other explanation than that of something outside and beyond an everyday natural explanation. There we see the human Jesus at work displaying a strong trust in his Father, showing us that amazing things can be done if we have sufficient trust! And we should never just think of miracles as the work of the divine part of Christ’s nature. Indeed it’s a mistake to see any division in the life of Jesus, a split between his two natures of divinity and humanity. Jesus is One Person, not two!
God has certainly given us wonderful minds to think with, to reason and to question, even to have doubts; all a necessary part of the journey of faith. And we should let the Gospels speak their own distinctive compelling and wonderful message, knowing that we will never get to the bottom of many of the questions we are bound to ask. John Henry Newman made a thoughtful comment once: “Sanctified imagination is the highway to faith”.