How Can Jesus Be 100% God + 100% Human?
Q: You have said the Bible does not teach a mixture of divine and human natures. Could they be joined in such a manner that it would be possible for Jesus Christ to die as both God and man?
It is hard for me to believe these two natures were united in such a manner as to allow only the man in Jesus Christ to die. It is said the Son of God became flesh so he could suffer death for all men. Did God fail?
You have also said that Jesus was and is God. “He always was God and always will be God,” you once wrote. If the man in Jesus died and the soul of man was commended to God in heaven and the body of Jesus went to the grave, where was the God in Christ? Jesus Christ could not have been God at the moment of death.
A: God is altogether different than we are—holy, perfect, eternal, omnipresent, etc.—in all of his attributes he is non-physical. He is all that we are not. Only in the incarnation do we find God coming to be with us.
The nature of Jesus—fully man and fully God—is that he is God by nature, human by birth. Jesus is equal to the Father in his divine nature, essence, attributes and character—but as human he is subordinate to the Father.
Jesus was unique in that he alone, of all who ever lived, was both God and man. The New Testament teaches the unified deity and humanity of Christ—fully man and fully God in one person—that’s what we mean by the incarnation—God being born in the flesh of the Virgin Mary.
It might seem that Jesus Christ could not have been God at the moment of his death. But he was fully man and fully God. As fully God he could not die, for that is propositional—God can’t die. It is also propositional that all humans die. When God came to us in the human flesh, voluntarily laying aside divine attributes in order to humble himself, his death, as a human, was inevitable. All humans die. But God does not.
Thus it was the human Jesus who died. Jesus said (recorded in the second chapter of John’s Gospel) “Destroy my body and in three days I will raise it up.” He could say that, and he did that, because he was fully man and fully God.
Understanding and grappling with the nature of our Lord is one of the most fundamental things that a human can do—and it is part of coming to know him—and something that we all need to do, not just once, but continually. It is part of the reason why we celebrate his birth and his bodily resurrection, for these events annually remind us that he is greater, he is bigger, he is sovereign, he is more than we are! Thank God for that!