Bible Catechism: The Doctrine of Jesus

Question Why did Jesus become human?

Answer Jesus became a human so that He could share in our weakness. He became like us so that He might die in our place, deliver us from sin, and represent us to God.

Scripture Hebrews 2:17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

Explanation| You might be thinking, “We’ve already covered this, haven’t we? I already know that Jesus is fully human.” Well, if that’s what you’re thinking, you’re right. And, I’m glad you know that! But, what we’re looking at, here, with this question is not just that Jesus is human, but why He had to become human. Certainly, as we’ve already seen, the Son has always been (existed), and has always been fully God. And, at a specific time in history, He also became fully human, by becoming a man. But why human? Or, to put it a couple of different ways, why couldn’t the Son simply remain only God, or why couldn’t He have become something other than human? Did He have to become a human in order to do what He did when He came to earth?

Jesus became a human so that He could share in our weakness and represent us to God. God, the Son, became human. And, He became fully human. He didn’t just appear to be human. No, He shared in our humanity “in every respect” that makes us human (see our verse above, Hebrews 2:17). He took on real human flesh, and had real bones and blood.1 He experienced what it means to be human, yet all without sin.2 As the Son, Jesus was born as a baby, grew up as a child, and lived as a man. Why? Our verse above tells us that, He “had to be made like” us that He “might become a merciful and faithful high priest” (Hebrews 2:17). To put it another way, Jesus’ humanity (that He became human) and Jesus’ human experience (that He lived as a human) enable Him to fully represent us before God. I’m using represent to describe what priests were supposed to do. Priestshelped sinful people relate rightly to a holy God.3 And yet, all priests were, themselves, sinful. Not Jesus, though! He, as both God and man, is the only perfect representative for us before God. If Jesus, in becoming human, no longer remained God, would He be any better than all other priests at representing us? No. If Jesus didn’t become human, and remained only God, could He actually represent us? No. If Jesus became something else, other than human, while remaining God, could He rightly represent us? No. Jesus didn’t become an angel.4 And, He also didn’t become a dog (or even an ant, or anything else). He became a human that He might help humans (Hebrews 2:16). And, He lived as a human, that He might ‘share in our weakness.’ Meaning, because of His experience as a human, not just because of His death, He is “able to help those who are being tempted” (Hebrews 2:18). Ask yourself, “If Jesus’ death was the only thing that He needed to do, why didn’t He simply die with all the other babies by Herod’s order?” (Matthew 2:13-18). Yes, the way Jesus died—and also how He lived—fulfilled God’s word. But, throughout His life, He also shows us that He is able to sympathize with our weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15). As important as His death is—and it is—don’t forget that Jesus knows by experience what it means to be human.5

Jesus became like us so that He might die in our place and deliver us from sin. God, the Son, became human. And, He became fully human that He might die for us. Look again at our verse above. He “had to be made like” us “in every respect.” Why? So that He might represent us before God. But how did He do that? Notice the last phrase of our verse— “to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” Propitiation. That’s a tricky word, isn’t it? But, it’s a good word, and it helps us understand not just what Jesus did—He died—but why He had to die and what His death accomplishedPropitiation means a sacrifice that fully pays sin’s penalty. Let me summarize it like this. You and I are sinners who sin. Our sin, no matter how big or small we think it is, is ultimately against God. And, who is God? He is infinite (or, great). So, our sin, which is against Him, is as bad as He is big. Meaning, the bad-ness (or, greatness)of our sin isn’t determined by us, but by who it’s against. Because sin is against God, and because God is so great, then no sin is actually small because all sin is a great offense against a great God. What must God do, then, with our sin? For God to be who He is, He must deal with sin. He can’t ignore it or sweep it under the rag. It must be paid for, but only in such a way that fully accounts for the greatness of the offense. All sin, then, results in a great payment. And, for you and me to pay for the greatness of our sin against God, we would be paying forever. Why? Because we aren’t great like God is. In the Old Testament, God instructed His people, Israel, to sacrifice animals to Him as a picture of what was necessary to pay for sin.6 Yet, even then, it was “impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4). Why? Bulls and goats are animals. And, because animals aren’t human, they can’t fully represent us in our place. Further, because animals aren’t God either, they can’t fully satisfy the greatness of the payment for our sin. But, guess who can? Jesus Christ, the Son of God! God can’t die, yet Jesus, who also became human, could—and did—die for us.7 Animals can’t represent humans, yet Jesus, who is both God and man, could—and does—represent us before God.8 So, Jesus had to become like us that He might die in our place and take care of our sin forever.9

This is what the Bible teaches about Jesus.

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1 Luke 2439 “See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” (See also, John 1:14; 6:51; 19:34-37)

2 Hebrews 414 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

3 Hebrews 5For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. 2 He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness. 3 Because of this he is obligated to offer sacrifice for his own sins just as he does for those of the people.

4 Hebrews 214 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. 16 For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. 17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

5 Isaiah 53Who has believed what they heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? 2 For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.

6 Hebrews 922 Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

7 Hebrews 924 For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. 25 Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, 26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

8 Hebrews 911 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.

9 Hebrews 1011 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. 15 And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, 16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,” 17 then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” 18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.