Jesus Christ True Man

Author: Pope John Paul II

In his General Audience on Wednesday, 27 January 1988, the Holy Father sought the testimony of Holy Scripture on the true humanity of Jesus Christ. 

1. Jesus Christ, true God and true Man: he is the central mystery of our faith and is also the key-truth of our Christological catechesis. This morning we propose to seek the testimony of this truth in Sacred Scripture , especially in the Gospels, and in the Christian Tradition .

We have already seen that in the Gospels, Jesus Christ presents himself and makes himself known as God-Son , especially when he declares: "I and the Father are one" ( Jn 10, 30), when he attributes to himself the name of God “I am” (cf. Jn 8, 58), and the divine attributes; when he affirms that "all power in heaven and on earth has been given to him" ( Mt 28, 18): the power of the final judgment over all men and the power over the law ( Mt 5, 22. 28. 32. 34. 39. 44) which has its origin and its strength in God, and finally the power to forgive sins (cf. Jn 20, 22-23), because even having received from the Father the power to pronounce the "judgment" end over the world (cf. Jn5, 22), He comes into the world "to seek and save what was lost" ( Lk 19, 10).

To confirm his divine power over creation , Jesus performs “miracles”, that is, “signs” that testify that together with him the kingdom of God has come into the world.

2. But this Jesus who, through everything he "does and teaches" bears witness to himself as the Son of God, at the same time presents himself and makes himself known as a true man. The entire New Testament and especially the Gospels unequivocally testify to this truth, of which Jesus has a very clear knowledge and that the Apostles and Evangelists know, recognize and transmit without any doubt. Therefore, we must dedicate today's catechesis to collecting and commenting, at least in a brief outline , on the evangelical data on this truth , always in connection with what we have previously said about Christ as true God.

This way of clarifying the true humanity of the Son of God is indispensable today, given the widespread tendency to see and present Jesus only as a man : an unusual and extraordinary man, but always and only a man. This characteristic tendency of modern times is in a certain way antithetical to that which manifested itself in various forms in the first centuries of Christianity and which took the name of “docetism” . According to the "twelve" Jesus Christ was an "apparent" man: that is, he had the appearance of a man but in reality he was only God.

In the face of these opposing tendencies, the Church firmly professes and proclaims the truth about Christ as God-man : true God and true Man; a single Person —the divine of the Word— subsisting in two natures, the divine and the human, as the catechism teaches. It is a deep mystery of our faith: but it contains in itself many lights.

3. The biblical testimonies about the true humanity of Jesus Christ are numerous and clear. We want to regroup them now to explain them later in the next catecheses.

The starting point here is the truth of the Incarnation: “Et incarnatus est”, we profess in the Creed. This truth is expressed more clearly in the Prologue of the Gospel of John: " And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us " ( Jn 1, 14). Flesh (in Greek “sarx”) means man in particular, which includes corporeality, and therefore precariousness, weakness, in a certain sense expiration (“All flesh is grass”, we read in the book of Isaiah 40, 6 ).

Jesus Christ is man in this meaning of the word " flesh ."

This flesh —and therefore human nature— has been received by Jesus from his Mother, Mary, the Virgin of Nazareth. If Saint Ignatius of Antioch calls Jesus “sarcophores” ( Ad Smirn ., 5), with this word he clearly indicates his human birth from a Woman , who has given him “human flesh”. Saint Paul had already said that “God sent his Son, born of a woman” ( Gal 4, 4).

4. The Evangelist Luke speaks of this birth of a Woman, when he describes the events of the night in Bethlehem: “While she was there, the days of her delivery were fulfilled, and she gave birth to her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and lay in a manger” ( Lk 2, 6-7). The same Evangelist tells us that, on the eighth day after her birth, the Child was subjected to ritual circumcision and "they gave him the name of Jesus" ( Lk 2, 21). On the fortieth day he was offered as the "firstborn" in the Jerusalem temple according to the law of Moses (cf. Lk 2, 22-24).

And, like any other child, this " Child grew and became strong, full of wisdom " ( Lk 2, 40). "Jesus grew in wisdom and age and grace before God and before men" ( Lk 2, 52).

5. Let us see him as an adult, as the Gospels present him more frequently. As a true man, a man of flesh (sarx), Jesus experienced weariness, hunger and thirst. We read: “And having fasted forty days and forty nights, he at last was hungry” ( Mt 4, 2). And in another place: “Jesus, tired from the journey, sat down by the well... A woman from Samaria came to draw water, and Jesus said to her: give me a drink” ( Jn 4:6-7).

Jesus therefore has a body subjected to weariness, to suffering, a mortal body . A body that in the end suffers the tortures of martyrdom through flogging, crowning with thorns and, finally, crucifixion. During the terrible agony , while dying on the cross, Jesus utters his "I thirst" ( Jn 19, 28), in which is contained a last, painful and moving expression of the truth of his humanity.

6. Only a true man has been able to suffer as Jesus suffered on Golgotha, only a true man has been able to die as Jesus truly died. This death was verified by many eyewitnesses, not only friends and disciples but, as we read in the Gospel of John, the same soldiers who "coming to Jesus, seeing him already dead, did not break his legs, but one of the soldiers He pierced his side with his spear, and immediately blood and water came out” ( Jn 19, 33-34).

“He was born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried ”: with these words of the Creed of the Apostles the Church professes the truth of the birth and death of Jesus. The truth of the Resurrection is attested immediately afterwards by the words: “ on the third day he rose from the dead ”.

7. The Resurrection confirms in a new way that Jesus is true man: if the Word to be born in time “became flesh”, when he rose again he took on his own human body. Only a true man has been able to suffer and die on the cross, only a true man has been able to resurrect . Resurrecting means coming back to life in the body. This body can be transformed, endowed with new qualities and powers, and in the end even glorified (as in the Ascension of Christ and in the future resurrection of the dead), but it is a truly human body.. Indeed, the risen Christ gets in touch with the Apostles, they see him, they look at him, they touch the scars left after the crucifixion, and he not only talks and entertains with them, but even accepts their food: “ They gave him a piece of roasted fish, and taking it, he ate before them” ( Lk 24, 42-43). In the end , Christ, with this resurrected and already glorified body, but always the body of a true man, ascends to heaven, to sit "at the right hand of the Father."

8. Therefore, true God and true man. Not an apparent man , not a "ghost" ( homo phantasticus ), but a real man . This is how the Apostles and the group of believers who constituted the early Church knew him. So they spoke to us in his testimony.

We note from now on that, as things are, there is no antinomy in Christ between what is "divine" and what is "human" . If man, from the beginning, has been created in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gen 1, 27; 5, 1), and therefore what is "human" can also manifest what is "divine", much but this could have happened in Christ. He revealed his divinity through humanity , through an authentically human life. His “humanity” served to reveal his “divinity”: his Word-Son Person.

At the same time He as God-Son was not , therefore, "less" man. In order to reveal himself as God he was not obliged to be "less" man. Even more: by this fact He was “fully” man , that is, in the assumption of human nature in unity with the divine Person of the Word, He fully realized human perfection. It is an anthropological dimension of Christology, about which we will speak again.

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