Perhaps the most basic Christian question is, “Who is Jesus?” It was this question that Jesus Himself asked His disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” (Luke 9:18-20). Since Jesus is without doubt the most central figure in Christianity, discerning His identity is of paramount importance. The most basic answer to this question is that Jesus is fully God and fully man in one person. Let’s explore each of these three aspects in sequence.
First, the Bible says that Jesus is truly God. John 1 is the classic statement to this effect. There Jesus is called “the Word” who was with God in the beginning, and who Himself is “God” (John 1:1). Paul expresses the same point in Philippians 2:6, where he says that Jesus was “in the form of God” and possessed “equality with God” before coming to earth as a human.
Second, the Bible unequivocally asserts that Jesus is truly man. Numerous passages in the Gospels present Jesus doing the things that are suitable for a man to do rather than for God to do. For example, Jesus was thirsty (John 4:7), His spirit was troubled (John 13:21), He wept (John 11:35), and, most importantly, He died on the cross as a common criminal. Each of these activities are something that God in Himself would not be capable of because He does not have a body, and does not experience need or lack like human beings do.
So we have here two basic principles that initially appear to be at odds with one another. Jesus is truly God and Jesus is truly man, begotten from God the Father in eternity as the Son of God, and born of the Virgin Mary as an infant in a stable in Bethlehem. But how can both these statements be true? We might be tempted at this point to resolve this dilemma by supposing that Jesus was sometimes doing God-like things, and sometimes doing human-like things. In other words, at times He was God and at times He was a man. That might help to alleviate the apparent contradiction of supposing that someone can be both God and man.
The problem with this idea is that it runs up against biblical passages that speak about Jesus as God doing human things and about Jesus as man doing God-like things. One example of this is Paul’s statement that “the rulers of this age . . . crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Corinthians 2:8). Being crucified is something that only a person can experience, but only God would be called “the Lord of glory.”
The Scriptures teach that Jesus is God and man at the same time and in a single person. He is not divided into two separate individuals, but is now and always will be both God and man. And the wonderful truth is that He is both of these things for us, as the perfect mediator between God and humanity.