Jesus was both a physical man and also the Son of God. But not everyone believes that. There was a problem with a false doctrine in the first century described in 2 John 7 “For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.” This is apparently referring to the Gnostics. They believed that the world was divided into the physical and spiritual realms. The created, material world (matter) is evil, and therefore is in opposition to the world of the spirit; only the spirit is good. Since Jesus was obviously good, many of the Gnostics believed that Jesus was only a spirit and not a physical man. While the Gnostic doctrine is not common today, there are many who would like to deny that Jesus was physically here on the earth. Why is it important for us to believe that Jesus did come in the flesh? Let us look at some of the reasons why a physical Jesus is important.
The Bible tells us that Jesus was born of the virgin Mary in Bethlehem. When He was eight days old, he was circumcised. After Mary’s days of purification were completed, He was presented at the temple. Luke 2:22-25 “Now when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, ‘Every male who opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord’), and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, ‘A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.’” Luke 2:40 “And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.” When Jesus was twelve years old, we find Him discussing with the teachers of the Law in the temple (Luke 2:41-50). Afterwards, He returned with His parents. Luke 2:51-52 “Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them, but His mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” Since His father was a carpenter, Jesus also worked as a carpenter until He began his ministry at about the age of 30 (Luke 3:23). If Jesus did not come in the flesh, none of this description of His early life would be meaningful.
Jesus was tempted after His baptism. Matthew 4:1-4 “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, ‘If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.’ But He answered and said, ‘It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’’” If Jesus were not physical, He would not have been hungry after fasting. If He were not truly hungry, there would have been no basis for the tempter to tempt Jesus into making stones into bread. We read that the tempter continued to tempt Jesus. There were many situations where Jesus might have been tempted to sin. But through all of His temptations, Jesus didn’t sin. Speaking about Jesus in Hebrews 4:15-16 “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Since Jesus came in the flesh, He was tempted and can sympathize with us when we are tempted and can give us grace to help in time of need.
Many of the things during Jesus’ ministry would not have the same meaning if He had not come in the flesh. He ate with tax collectors and sinners. He touched many to heal them. In one case, He spat on the eyes of one who was blind and put His hands on him to heal him. He was tired and fell asleep on the boat. He walked on the water and encouraged Peter to also walk on the water. The apostle John made it clear that he was with a physical Jesus, the Word. 1 John 1:1-3 “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life — the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us — that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.”
If Jesus had not come in the flesh, He would not have suffered as He did. In the Garden of Gethsemane, He sweat like great drops of blood (Luke 22:44). He went before the Council. Matthew 26:67-68 “Then they spat in His face and beat Him; and others struck Him with the palms of their hands, saying, ‘Prophesy to us, Christ! Who is the one who struck You?’” Then He went before Pilate. John 19:1-3 “So then Pilate took Jesus and scourged Him. And the soldiers twisted a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and they put on Him a purple robe. Then they said, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ And they struck Him with their hands.” And then they nailed Him to a cross until He died. After He was dead, one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out (John 19:34). If Jesus was not physical, there would have been no suffering and there would have been no blood; without the shedding of blood, there is not forgiveness of sins (Hebrews 9:22).
If Jesus were not physical, He would not have been physically resurrected. But after He was resurrected, He appeared to his disciples and showed them His hands and His feet where He had been nailed to the cross. He even ate a piece of broiled fish and some honeycomb. The physical resurrection of Jesus is important to us. 1 Corinthians 15:16-17 “For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!” Since Jesus was resurrected, we can have hope of our resurrection.
My encouragement to you is to praise God for physically sending His Son to the earth. Appreciate that it is very important that Jesus Christ came in the flesh.