Human and divine

Sunday 25th February 2024

Who is the liar?  It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ.
Such a person is the antichrist – denying the Father and the Son.
1 John 2:22 (NIV)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Human and divine

In my ‘quiet time’ this week I was reading the story of Jesus calming the storm (Mark 4:35-41).  It is one of those familiar stories that I almost know by heart.  I have turned to it frequently, not least when leading Christianity Explored, to demonstrate that Jesus has the power and authority of God himself, indeed that he is ‘God on earth.’  He is none other than the only Son of God.

This becomes especially clear when we turn to Psalm 107:23-30, where we read: “They saw the works of the LORD, his wonderful deeds in the deep.  For he spoke and stirred up a tempest that lifted high the waves … Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and he bought them out of their distress.  He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed.”  And then in Mark 4 we see Jesus doing exactly the same and “still[ing] the storm to a whisper.”

I was also preparing this week to preach on the passage in 1 John 2 containing the verse above.  Here John makes it crystal clear that the person who denies the incarnation (that is, that God himself became flesh in the person of Jesus) is ‘the liar’ and even ‘the antichrist.’  This is not merely another valid opinion to be considered, it is a lie to be opposed; it is against Christ.

Several commentators stress how it is possible to have a christology (that is, our doctrine of Christ) which is either ‘too low’ (where he is truly human, but not really fully divine) or ‘too high’ (where he is truly divine, but not really fully human).  And I wondered whether there is a temptation for each of us to default to one or other of these two positions.

I realised that I am often so keen to see the divinity of Jesus that I can miss his humanity.  His divinity is clear from his calming the storm, but his humanity is equally clear in this story.  After all, we are told that in the midst of this raging storm, “Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion” (verse 38).  While we may wonder how he could sleep through a storm like that, what could be more natural and human than to be asleep? After all, God does not sleep (Psalm 121:4) – thankfully.

And it is more than that.  By sleeping, Jesus is demonstrating that he trusts his Father implicitly and absolutely, to the extent that he can sleep peacefully.  He is the only one in the boat who is not concerned by the storm raging round them.  In this he is showing his disciples the kind of calm faith which he wants them to have.

I do not suppose that we will ever plumb the depths of wonder found in the incarnation of Jesus, but let us determine to see Jesus as fully and truly both God and man – always.  As perfect man, let us follow his example in trusting God.  And as perfect God, let us worship him as Lord. 

Yours warmly, in Christ,
Chris Hobbs (Senior Minister)