Jesus' Humanity and Your Disciple Making Ministry

Today I have a challenge for you:

I challenge you to name two miracles Jesus did where humans hadn’t essentially done the same thing.

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Ten years ago, I faced the same challenge. I looked at my friend and thought this was going to be easy. My mind raced to the many miraculous scenes in the Gospels. My first response was, “Walk on water.” Not a second went by before my friend reminded me that Peter had done that too. I decided to think more carefully before my next response.

I thought of Him raising Lazarus from the dead, but remembered Paul had raised Eutychus from the dead (Acts 20:7-12) and Peter had raised Dorcas/Tabitha (Acts 9:36-42)

Next I thought of Jesus multiplying food to feed the 5,000. But remembered Elijah had been used to multiply food for the widow and her son (Who he raised from the dead in the same chapter 1 Kings 17).

This was harder than I thought.

Ok, but now I had one.

“What about knowing details of the past and future, such as with the woman at the well (John 4) or Peter’s upcoming denial (Mark 14:31)?”

“The Old Testament is filled with prophets who were given special revelation from God – Joseph, Nathan, and Daniel to name a few.”

One by one I went through all that Jesus had done. He’d healed, He’d driven out demons, He knew the future before it occurred, but the Bible shows us that other humans have done the same things. Finally, I was able to think of one.

Finally, I said, “He died on the cross for our sins.”

“Ok, now what about the other?” my friend said smiling.

Outside of the work He accomplished by His death and resurrection (raised by God Acts 2:24, 32), I’ve yet to come up with a second one. The challenge left an impression. It forced me to consider that Jesus didn’t stand alone in miraculous powers. His life was important, special, and unique, but He lived it as a human.

It’s easy to see Jesus as superman, capable of doing things that no mere human could do. I get it. A cursory look at His life makes it easy to believe since He was able to heal, show mastery over the weather, and raise someone from the dead. He was God and He was human. While I am just human, Jesus was some mix of human and divine. I used to think that made Him very different from the rest of us. It’s just not true. Hebrews 2:17 tells us that He was made like us in every way. Philippians 2:6-7 reveals that He veiled (or set aside) His deity in order to take the nature of a servant—being made in human likeness. Though He could have exercised His deity on earth, He chose not to. I believe there are two primary reasons for this. The first is that He had to be fully human so that he could make atonement for our sins (Hebrews 2). The second is so that He could be an example to us.

In other words, during His life on Earth Jesus chose to never use His “God card”. He never dipped into His divinity to be a disciple or to make disciples.

I rarely wade so deeply into theology on this blog, but Jesus’ humanity is central to our main topic…being and making disciples. If we don’t understand that Jesus was fully human, then we can miss what He accomplished on the cross and His example for us. If we believe that we can’t become like Him then we can’t intentionally make others who are like Him.

My friend, Dann Spader has helped me understand the implications of Jesus’ full humanity. He says it this way: our Christology (understanding of Jesus) will determine our missiology (the shape and scope of our mission with Jesus) which will determine our ecclesiology (our beliefs about the type of disciples the church is called to be and make). In other words, a pixelated picture of Jesus will always result in a blurry picture of the mission He calls us to, and a Christian community that is unclear on who we are to be and what we are to do.

Since Jesus was fully human, He is our example (1 John 2:6, 1 Peter 2:21, Luke 6:40, 1 Corinthians 11:1, Hebrews 2, et al). And since He is our example, we can be like Him. Theologian Ian Thomas captured this concept well by saying that Jesus, “became Man as God intended man to be.”

Since Jesus is our model, then His life defines our mission. The disciples were first called into a disciple making relationship with Jesus. The Jewish practice of a rabbi selecting disciples was for the purpose of the disciple becoming just like the rabbi…and then to become a rabbi who would then teach other disciples. Become like the Rabbi Jesus first, then take on His mission of making other disciples.

Since Jesus is our model and He defines our mission, then His methods should also be emulated. Put another way, if we miss the fact that Jesus is our model, then we will not only miss our mission, but we will also miss the methods that He intends for us to use to accomplish that mission.

The disciples knew exactly how to make disciples when they were released to go. In fact, they were so ready that Jesus had to tell them to wait on the Spirit to come (Acts 1:4-5). Each disciple was immersed in Jesus’ methods of disciple making. They didn’t learn them in a classroom or through some rabbinical curriculum. They were taught how to be and make disciples life on life. They had a model who embodied both the mission and the methods. They waited for the Spirit to come and then had everything they needed (2 Peter 1:3-4).

Unfortunately, most churches are searching for a curriculum and new methods to engage the hearts of their congregants. They seek to connect parishioners to mission by taking spiritual gift inventories and offering ways to serve within the religious system. And they struggle to clearly articulate a vision for who each disciple should become. The fog in the sanctuary transforms into apathy at home.

It sounds simple, but perhaps it was meant to be; Jesus’ full humanity allows us to see that we are to become just like Jesus. He is our model, His mission is to be our mission, His methods are to be our methods.

Indeed, all the resources He used in His ministry are available to us as well; the Word, prayer, the Spirit, and fellowship. Jesus expected that His disciples would do even greater things than He did. And Ephesians tells us that doing immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine is limited by the Spirit’s work in us (Eph. 3:20-21).

So, the reality of Jesus’ humanity challenges me in profound ways. What could God do through me if I surrendered like Christ? What eternal impact could be wrought if I chose to be obedient in the little things?

Let’s find out, together.

Want more on this topic? Read Dann Spader’s excellent 9-page paper on the Humanity of Christ.