One Person – Two Natures

We’ve been considering Matthew 1:18-25.  As much as this passage tells us about Mary and Joseph, the central figure is still Jesus.  Now I would like to focus on what Matthew is conveying about Jesus. 

yeshuaprayershawlIn communication the story as he does, Matthew is subtly by decidedly telling us that Jesus was unique in that He was both the only begotten Son of God and simultaneously the Son of Man.  It is called by theologians the “hypostatic union,” that is, not a mixture of divine and human natures, but a confluence of the two natures that made Jesus fully God and fully man. 

How could this possibly be?

          1.       JESUS, THE SON OF GOD

Matthew carefully shows that Jesus was NOT the biological son of Joseph.  Notice that in the lineage which takes up the first portion of this chapter, the format is uniform —this man begat that man, then that man begat this man …— right up until the end.  At this point, the language shifts:  “Jacob … the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ. ” Matt. 1:16

Note how Matthew goes out of his way to avoid saying that Joseph begat Jesus.

Luke does the same thing:  “Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry. He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph… ” Luke 3:23

Notice what he is saying and what he is not saying.  Everyone may have supposed that Joseph was Jesus’ father.  For all human intents and purposes, that may have been so.  Joseph raised Jesus from birth.  But even though that is how things appeared, it was not the biological reality. Biologically, Jesus was the Son of God, conceived by the Holy Spirit.

Jesus could not have been Joseph’s son practically, since Mary conceived when she was apart from Joseph.  Nor could He have been Joseph’s son logically, given Joseph’s reaction.  But most importantly, Jesus could not have been Joseph’s son theologically.

Why?  Because no one could save us from sin who was himself sinful and therefore in need of salvation.  In other words, to save us from sin, one must be sinless.  To be sinless, one must be free from both actual sin and from original sin.  That is, our Savior not only had to live a sinless life, He had to be free from the guilt of Adam’s original sin, and thus He could not be descended from Adam.

The language of Scripture makes very clear that while God has adopted multitudes into His family, He has only one “begotten” Son.  Jesus is the “only begotten Son of God,” free from any taint of human sin and thus able to save us.

Now at the same time Matthew so carefully defines Jesus’ Father, it is also clear that Jesus was “born of a woman.”  Jesus possessed not only the nature of God through His Father, but the nature of humanity through His mother.

                   2.       JESUS, THE SON OF MAN

Jesus may not have been Joseph’s biological son, but He WAS the biological son of Mary.  This is also of great theological significance.  Why?  Because just as only God could remove our sins in any legal or forensic sense, only a man could remove them in a practical sense.

Consider for a moment the sacrificial system of the Old Testament.  An innocent lamb would represent the guilty sinner, and die in the place of a person.  But everyone recognizes that this could never be more than symbolic.  After all, it was a lamb which was sacrificed, not a human.  That lamb had no choice in the matter, this death was forced upon it.   This is why the blood of bulls and goats could never truly take away sin.

But Jesus was different.  Here was a man, one of us, who willingly offered himself as a sacrifice.  This is the point Paul makes in 1 Corinthians 15:21-22:  “For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. ”    1 Cor. 15:21-22

Christ was not a son of Adam, he was a second Adam.  And just as Adam was fully human, so Jesus was fully human.  Everything that was lost in Adam’s sin was regained in Christ.  All that Adam wrecked, Jesus restored.

It is because of this unique way in which the nature of God and the nature of man converge in one person, Jesus, that He is the fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14: “Behold the virgin shall be with child, and shall give birth to a Son, and His name shall be called Immanuel.”

We will talk more about this name next time, but for now, think of how this union of God and man makes Jesus our Immanuel – God with us.

Father, I know my own nature all to well.  When I think of it, I find agreement with Paul: “O, wretched man that I am.”  I praise Your Name for a plan of salvation so incredible that you would become one of us in order to redeem us.

gkr1996 posted at 2009-12-9 Category: Uncategorized