By Pastor Glenn Pease
An advertisement that was originally printed in the Miner's Magazine as a serious add was later published by the Reader's Digest as humor. The ad read, "Wanted: Man to work on nuclear fissionable isotope molecular reactive counter and three-phase cyclotronic uranium photosynthesizers. No experience necessary." Of course, it was a joke. No one is that unique. On the other hand, how can you find anyone with experience in a field that never existed before?
The New Testament has a similar problem in the spiritual realm. The complex task of saving sinners, and yet remaining just an absolutely loyal to his nature of holiness was God's problem. Of course, it is only a problem from our point of view. In His eternal wisdom it was solved before the world began. The job called for an extremely unique person. He had to be fully man, for only a man could live a perfect human life. If he was not truly man, the life he lived would not be truly human. Yet, only God could insure that such a life could be lived. The paradox is that only God could do what was necessary, but it could only be done as a man. The solution could only be Jesus Christ-the God-Man. All the paradoxes and problems of the relationship of God and man are resolved in Christ who was both.
Robert C. Moyer wrote, "In Jesus divine omnipotence moved in a human arm. In Jesus divine wisdom was cradled in a human brain. In Jesus divine love throbbed in a human heart. In Jesus divine compassion glistened in a human eye. In Jesus divine grace poured forth from human lips." Jesus was the most unique of all men, but not just because He was God, but rather, because He was really man. That is, He was the only complete example of ideal manhood ever seen on this planet. Adam was the only other man who was ever perfect in his manhood, and he fell. Jesus alone lived a perfect human life. Jesus was unique, not just because He was more than a man, but because He was fully a man. He was the man par-excellence.
We need, therefore, to stress His humanity as He did of Himself. His favorite name for Himself was the Son of Man. In the bureau of standards in Washington there is a gold bar exactly one yard long which is the standard by which every measuring instrument in the United States is judged. There has to be one, and only one, final absolute standard. Jesus is that standard in the realm of human life, morality, and character. As deity He was no standard for human life. Only as man did He become our standard and ideal. In the incarnation the human ideal became real.
Herman Horne points out that realism and idealism are combined in Jesus Christ. He writes, "Human nature at its possible best gives us the ideals for man. If we want to know what the ideals of man's complete living are, we must know what human nature is at its best; what it's elements are; what it is possible for each element to attain in its development. Thus the real is the basis of the ideal; the real at its best is the ideal; the real is the actual; the ideal is what is possible for the real to become. Such idealism as this has its feet on the ground; is practical. Idealism without reference to what the real can become is visionary." Christian idealism is based on the real of Christ. Jesus is the example of what the real man can become. He is the ideal which we shall attain, for we shall be like Him when we see Him as He is, according to John.
Meanwhile, it is our task to learn of Him, and strive toward His ideal manhood. Paul said in Eph. 4:12-13 that the gifts of Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers was, "For the equipment of the saints, for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ." He is our standard, and we are to measure up to Him as the goal of all our study, listening, worship, and service as Christians.
O Man of the far away ages,
O Man of the far away land,
More art Thou than all of the sages,
More art Thou than creed or command.
To crown Thee we need but to know Thee;
We need but to live Thee to prove,
For time nor decay can o'er throw Thee-
Humanity's ultimate Love.
Jesus has no competitors in the field of perfect manhood. Hunter Blakely writes, "Men can conceive nothing higher than to be Christ like. It is significant that non-Christians all around the world have been revising the character of their deities with one purpose--to bring them into conformity with Christ. Mohammed is not compared with Buddha, nor Confucius with Krishna, but one in all are brought before the moral masterpiece, and the question has to be answered, is it Christ like?"
Jesus is universal because of the perfect balance of his manhood. He combines in his life and character every type of human goodness. He fits into every age and culture. Whatever goodness is being emphasized in a particular age it will be found exhibited at its best in Jesus. This uniqueness of Jesus in combining every value of manhood in perfect balance can be abused. All men have to do is take one aspect of Jesus and exaggerate it as the whole, and ignore the facts that bring balance, and thereby have a Christ for their cause. W. A. Vissert Hooft, former president of the World Council of Churches, an author of numerous books, gives concrete examples of this abuse.
He writes, "...There is an 18th century Jesus who looks strangely like a dignified free-mason, and a 19th century Jesus, who resembles in all essentials an enlightened democrat of the liberal variety. There is the revolutionary Jesus of the Communist Barbusse, the pacifist of Tolstoy; the militant Jesus of the Kiser. There is the Aryan Christ of H.S. Chamberlain and the "German Christians;" the Jewish Christ of the liberal Jews, the Russian Christ of Dostoievsky. The Indian Christ of Radakrishman. Some of these portraits are better than others. Some are naive or cynical attempts to exploit Jesus for some cause which has no imaginable relation to his message and mission. Others are attempts to honor him by bringing him into the closest possible relation to the concrete realities of our time. All, however, reveal a tendency to use this man for some extraneous purpose which originates, not from him, but from some other source."
It is good for us to be aware of this as we study Jesus. Wherever there is power there is exploitation and abuse, and in Jesus Christ there is great power, for even as a great man, apart from his deity, his influence is great. If you can persuade others that Jesus backs your program and ideas, you have the best possible support. Let us keep in mind, therefore, that Jesus Christ is the perfect man with perfect balance. No cause has exclusive claim on Christ, nor does the advocate of any particular virtue. Perfect balance must characterize any true study of the character and teaching of Jesus.
Take the question of whether Jesus was manly or womanly in character. Some authors will dwell exclusively on his strength and courage. Others will magnify his compassion, gentleness, and loving care of children. Both are right, but both are wrong if they imply their picture is the whole of Christ. Jesus combines in his personality the ideals of both sexes. Perfect manhood must combine the virtues of male and female. How could Jesus be the example and standard for all if he had none of the feminine ideals in his character. Westcott wrote, "Whatever there is in men of strength, justice, and wisdom; whatever there is in women of sensibility, purity, and insight, is in Christ without the conditions which hinder among us the development of contrasted virtues in one person." Failure to keep this balance led to the feminine virtues of Jesus being forgotten in the Middle Ages. Jesus was presented as just and severe. Men longed for tenderness and compassion also, and the result was that Mary was exalted to provide these qualities. Mariolatry could have been avoided had a full picture of Christ been presented to men.
In reaction to the Christ of severity a pietistic Christ was developed. Sentimentalism characterize the Christian, and Christ was made effeminate. Men left the church to the women and children, for they sensed Christ had nothing to offer to fulfill the masculine aspirations of life. We are still suffering from this defective portrait today. A balance view of Christ would reveal he is the perfect ideal of both the masculine and feminine. He redeems the best in both. Christ has done more to lift womanhood to a level of dignity and respect than all the religions of the world combined. We should rejoice that Christianity is a woman's religion, for our mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters are women, and in Christ they can be the best of women. Women feel that no man really understands their feelings, and they are probably right, but Jesus, the unique and perfect man, understands completely.
There is no male and female in Christ, for he combines both in one complete whole. This is why we see women following Jesus, and being loyal to him all the way even through his crucifixion. It is good and wonderful that this is so, but men must also see the masculine Christ. The Christ in our text could make such an impression on the officers sent to arrest him that they were afraid to lay hands on him. When they reported back to the Pharisees without him, their reason was, "No man ever spoke like this man." This is the testimony of his enemies. They said he was the most unique of men. He spoke with such authority, power, and certainty. He was a leader of men and captured the allegiance of strong men like Peter, and zealous men like Simon the Zealot. He offered men a challenge that called for the best that a man can be. Jesus calls all men to heroism. He calls him to take up the cross and follow him.
The history of heroic men is the history of those who have followed Jesus Christ. Our first conviction about the manhood of Christ must be that he was unique. Not only did no man ever speak like him, no man ever lived like him. Grace N. Crowell wrote,
One man alone to change the ways of men!
One humble man to draw the world to him!
Never before, nor will there be again His like-
The stars made fade, and the sun's light dim,
And still no one will walk as once he walked,
Among the lowly, healing every ill,
And still no man will talk as once he talked,
To teach mankind to heed God's holy will.
Never a man like this-no one at all
Moves as he moves within a circling light.
Head-high above all others, straight and tall
He stands, imbued with power and with might.
He is the one, o men, who sacrificed
His life for ours--the loving, living Christ.
It is when we see Jesus as one of a kind in his humanity that we most see the reality of his deity. He was the most unique of men.