Jesus the Human Being
This Sunday, with the Christmas celebration winding down, this “first Sunday after” gives us a chance to reflect on what God becoming human means. Usually when we use the term “human” these days it’s in the context of making an excuse like “I’m only human,” or “he or she is only human.” This or that weakness or failing can be explained by appealing to our “humanness.” But when we reflect on the Incarnation, God’s Son becoming human and taking on our human flesh, we’re not talking, like in mathematics, being the “lowest common denominator,” but something quite different.
Our human nature, created by God, is something quite exalted really, made as we are, “a little lower than the angels.” The situation is, however, that we have been brought low by our own willfulness and sin, by hurting and being hurt by others during our lifetimes, so that our exalted nature, except for some saints and prophets or a parent or grandma here or there, has been so wounded so that our exalted human nature is hard to recognize. This puts Christmas and the Incarnation in relief for me. Walter Wink, a New Testament scholar, shares this crucial insight:
And this is the revelation: God is HUMAN . . . it is the great error of humanity to believe that it is human. We are only fragmentarily human, fleetingly human, brokenly human. We see glimpses of our humanness, we can only dream of what a more human existence and political order would be like, but we have not yet arrived at true humanness. Only God is human, and we are made in God’s image and likeness—which is to say we are capable of becoming human.
So if only God is truly human, then we are human becoming. This is the crucial revelation: of who we are as human beings and the task the human sciences, to help us understand, at the greatest depth possible, what it means to be human. Jesus the human being is the norm and goal of the human project.
The Prologue of John’s Gospel: the overture to the significance of Jesus’ incarnation and the rest of John’s Gospel, lays out a pattern, parabolic in nature, of God’s plan: The Word comes down from the Godhead, takes on our human flesh, dwells among us, is rejected by his own people (other human beings), but those who did/do accept him received/receive power to become children of God (truly human). The rest of the Gospel of John shares Jesus’ teaching, his formal rejection and death on the Cross, and the complete vindication of his life and teaching in the Resurrection to new life.
The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness could not overcome it.
We hold on to this truth: the light of Christ in our lives can never be overcome by darkness. A sign of this truth is the Holy Eucharist we celebrate. Jesus us gives us his body and blood and we ingest it and, as Fuerbach, the German philosopher taught, “Mann ist was er isst.” We become what we eat. The goal always is to become human at the highest common denominator, not the lowest. Jesus Christ sets the bar for all people in the goal to be human. For us who are baptized the Eucharist is a major help and grace toward the goal, but people on other paths may reach the goal as well. The Holy Spirit blows where it will. The Good News is that the goal of becoming truly human is clearer and possible since Jesus came among us. Jesus is the Human Being!
Saint Alban Episcopal Mission (English, Anglican Communion) meets for mass every Sunday at 10:00 A.M. (see welcome letter at sidebar) at Casa Convento Concepcion, 4a Calle Oriente No. 41, Antigua, Guatemala.