November 3, 2016

Human, Too
Luke 2:40, 52

I suspect my childhood Sunday School teacher was not surprised to discover that I became a preacher. According to her, I was already making deep theological inquiry even before I started school.

Mrs. Heath was my preschool Sunday School teacher. Back then, we called that class the “Beginner’s Class,” and much of the early information I got about Jesus came from Mrs. Heath.

One day, when I was making a visit back to my home church, Mrs. Heath told me about a conversation she had with me when I was probably 4 or 5 years old. She said she was telling the class that, at one time, Jesus was a little child just like us. And in the middle of her lesson I popped a question she would not soon forget. As she was holding the picture of the little boy Jesus I asked, “Mrs. Heath, did Jesus ever pee in his pants?” See I told you I was a profound theologian, even back then.

To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure whether my question was asked in sincerity or whether I was just being a smart-mouthed brat, but regardless of my motive, the question is really a significant one. So I’ll ask you. Do you think Jesus ever peed in his pants?”

Now if that question bothers you, let me clean it up a bit, because the question I asked as a child is one that theologians have debated for years. The real question is this: Did Jesus walk this earth as a real human being or did he just pretend to be human?

Throughout history, Christians have had considerable difficulty seeing Jesus as fully human. Just look at religious art. Jesus is rarely pictured as a real human figure. Typically, he’s picture with a halo or an aura surrounding him, and sometimes his feet don’t even touch the ground.

But I believe the gospel writers wanted us to understand that Jesus was an honest-to-goodness, real human being. Yes, I believe Jesus fell down and skinned his knees when he was 3 or 4 years old. I believe he had headaches and heartburn. I believe he thought girls were pests when he was 8 and thought they were angels when he was 15. And yes, to answer my earlier question, I even believe Jesus peed in his pants when he was a little boy.

I think that’s what the gospel writer, Luke, was trying to say in Luke 2, verses 40 and 52. Listen to these texts: And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him. . . And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.

Yes, as the Bible paints the picture of the child Jesus it paints him without the halo or the aura. It paints him as a real human being.

Now you may wonder why Jesus’ humanity is all that important. So in the next few minutes let me share with you why the humanity of Jesus is significant for you and me.

The first reason is this. The humanity of Jesus is important because it took a real human being to translate to humans what God was really like.

Last Sunday, Pat and I ate lunch at the Asian House in Jefferson City. It’s a restaurant run by a Chinese family. The waitress who took our order was the owner’s teenage daughter and when she brought out our menus she was pretty matter-of-fact when she asked us what we wanted. But soon that changed. Pat asked for chopsticks and then I translated, “Wooman quitzizt,” which is Chinese for “we want chopsticks.”

Immediately our server’s face brightened up, and for the rest of the meal we had a completely different relationship with our young Chinese server. Why? Because we had come to her in her own language.

Before the birth of Jesus, humans had a hard time speaking “God language.” We really didn’t understand what God was like. Most of the time humans thought God was unapproachable, harsh and punitive. But when Jesus came to earth, he translated God into our human language. Seeing God as a human being helped us understand what God was really like.

Listen to what Jesus says to Philip in John 14:8-9: Philip said to Him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us." Jesus said to him, "Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father."

Yes, when Jesus came to earth as a human being he put God into a form you and I can understand. Instead of being an aloof deity that cannot be approached by humans, Jesus showed us that God is a loving father who opens his arms to prodigals, harlots and tax collectors. Instead of being a punitive god, anxious to punish the unrighteous, Jesus reveals to us a forgiving God who seeks not to condemn but to save. Instead of being a god who is constantly demanding, Jesus reveals to us a God who is ready to sacrifice his best because of His love for us.

Yes, when Jesus came to earth as a human, he translated God to us in a language we could understand.

But there’s a second reason why Jesus’ humanity is so important. The humanity of Jesus is important because it took a real human being to reveal to humans how they should live.

As most of you know, I enjoy the game of golf, and over the years, I’ve read numerous articles explaining how to swing the club, how to stroke putts and how to play the game. But you know what, rarely has my game improved because of what I’ve read. Most of the improvements to my game have come from watching Bruce, a good friend of mine with whom I regularly play golf. You see, Bruce is a scratch golfer, and by watching him, and by trying to imitate what he does, I find ways to improve my game.

You know how I improve my life as a human? I watch another human. I watch the human Jesus and see how he lived his life; and then I try to imitate him and do what he does. I know how to pray because the human Jesus showed me how to pray. I know who to treat my enemy because the human Jesus showed me how to treat my enemy. I know how to treat the poor because the human Jesus showed me how to treat the poor. I know how to handle pain and sorrow because the human Jesus showed me how to handle pain and sorrow.

Paul stated it very simply as he writes to the Christians at Corinth. In 1 Corinthians 11:1 he states, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” Yes, Jesus’ humanity is important because it took a real human being to reveal to humans how they should live.

But last of all, Jesus’ humanity is important because it took a real human being to show humans the real truth about death.

Time and time again, I read these words from 1 Thessalonians when I conduct a Christian’s funeral. Paul writes, We do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.

I love what Paul says about death. He says, “I don’t what you to be ignorant about death.” And what is it that erases our ignorance? It’s the death and resurrection of a human named Jesus Christ. He’s the one who has taught us the truth about death.

Do you realize that prior to Jesus we humans had no example of life after death? Abraham died and though his followers believed he would live again, no one ever saw him. Moses died and while his followers believed God took him to heaven, no one had any proof. And even though Elijah was translated into heaven without death, no one believed it would happen to them.

But then came Jesus, a person who was fully human, a human who suffered, bled and died just like the rest of us. Then came Jesus, a human whose death was certified by the officials of Rome. Then came Jesus, a human who was entombed and embalmed after his death. Then came Jesus, a human who died - and lived again, a human who promised that we, too, will live again.

Yes, because the human Jesus experienced death and lived to tell about it, I can face death and believe I will live again, too.

Since I turned 65, my annual physical always includes a test of my memory. Shortly after I walk into the examining room, the physician’s assistant will say, “I’m going to give you five words. I want you to remember them, and later in this exam I’ll ask you to repeat them.”

That always scares me. You see, my memory has never been good and when put under that kind of pressure, I fear I’ll fail the test.

But, the physician’s assistant doesn’t know I have an ace in the hole. You see, Pat’s annual physical is about a month before mine. And when she comes back home from her physical she tells me the memory words. Therefore, when I go in to face the memory test, I can face it with confidence because I know the words of somebody who’s already passed the test.

You know what? I face death the same way. I don’t have to worry about death because I’m acquainted with another human who has already passed death’s test. Jesus Christ, the human, has shown me that death is not the end of human life, that death is only the next step to the life promised by God.

So I don’t have to worry. Because one human died and lived again I know I can die and live again, too.

So I ask, again, the question with which I began this sermon. Did Jesus pee in his pants when he was a little boy?

I believe he did because I believe he was a real human being. And while my question may seem silly, it cuts to the heart of all you and I believe.

You see, we do not worship a God who is simply in the heavens. We worship a God who came before us in human form. And because of Jesus’ humanity, we’ve learned how to live as humans, and how to die as humans, and how to relate to a God who walked this earth in human form.

Thanks be to God for the gift of a human Jesus.