Jesus Was the God-Man, Not the God-Superman

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His moments of doubt and temptation attest that we can follow him through our own.

In many children’s Bibles, the Son of God swoops in like Superman to save the day. In these clearly mythological depictions of Christ, Jesus never fails to say and do the right thing. He handily vanquishes his enemies, while essentially sidestepping the realities of real, enfleshed humanity.

But does this miss something?

As fun as these edited stories may be for bedtime snuggles, they simply don’t reflect the whole story the Gospels attempt to tell. Jesus didn’t come merely to die for our sins. Nor did he come to show off his miraculous superpowers and celestial wisdom. In the history of Christianity, the incarnation of God teaches us that Jesus was born into the fullness of humanity. He was born, in other words, into the complete mortal experience, warts and all.

And yes, Jesus may have had warts. He breastfed as an infant. He learned to walk. And the Messiah—in those awkward teenage years—went through puberty. Why did Jesus have to experience all of that? He did this to free us from the grip of sin and death by entering humanity. As the second-century theologian Irenaeus famously put it, “He became what we are so that we could become what he is.” What Jesus brought with him into our world was his godness, which included a deep trust and faith in his Father; part of what he received from us in his humanness was our ability to doubt—and doubt he did.

Doubt is a real part of human experience. And Jesus was so committed to entering humanity that he dared to enter human doubt as well.

Resilience and determination

The New Testament gives us some insights into this. In the Gospels, Jesus goes into the desert, where he is tempted by the Devil. There, he has to wrestle with the Devil’s …

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