The Master Yeshua is unlike any man who ever walked the earth for the very reason that He is exactly like every other man… and yet, not at all. It’s this fully God/fully man paradox or “dual nature” that has perplexed and frustrated both the faithful and the skeptic since the beginning. The biblical fact of Yeshua’s simultaneous, unmingled deity and humanity is more than just a theological side note or curiosity—it’s at the heart of the message of the Good News. Because without one or the other, He can be neither our savior nor our example. Unless He is both, He is not the biblical Messiah who can save.
The obvious objection to the idea of Yeshua being God is that He is a man—and how can a man be God? Such a proposal threatens the monotheistic concept of there being only one God, as encapsulated in Deuteronomy 6:4,
“Hear, O Israel: Adonai is our God, Adonai is one.”
But the idea of God taking on a physical form in order to interact with humanity has clear precedence in the Hebrew Scriptures. For instance, in Exodus 13 it says that Adonai was the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire that led Israel in the desert. And in Genesis 18 and 19—perhaps a little more relevant to the question at hand—we see God appearing and talking to Abraham as a man. So the idea of God taking physical form in no way undermines or does damage to God’s singularness as the one, true God.
This, then, helps us to at least partially understand the first chapter of Yochanan, which provides the most detailed explanation of how Yeshua can be God. The book opens with the quintessential statement,
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God; this One was in the beginning with God. All things happened through Him, and without Him not even one thing happened that has happened.” (Yochanan 1:1-3)
Yochanan clearly establishes that in the beginning was someone called “the Word,” and this Word was creating all things with God and as God. Then in verse 14, Yochanan tells us that something incredibly unusual happened to this Word. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Based on this passage, then, we find extremely strong support for the idea that Yeshua is God. However, to put it this way would be something of an oversimplification, and even somewhat inaccurate. What we should be able to comfortably come away with from Yochanan 1 is not that Yeshua is God, but that Yeshua is God in the flesh. A man cannot be God, yet somehow, someway, this man is also the Word—who was with God, and who was God.
Paul describes Yeshua’s mysterious dual nature similarly in Philippians 2:5-8.
“…Messiah Yeshua, who, being in God’s form, thought to be equal to God not a thing to hold onto. But He emptied Himself, having taken a slave’s form—having been made in the likeness of men—and in appearance having been found as a man, He humbled Himself, having become obedient to death.”
In other words, Yeshua—being in God’s form and equal with God—was then made in the likeness of men (He was born), and was found in appearance to be a man (He became a human being), because He humbled Himself and emptied Himself of His God-ness. As the man Yeshua, He laid aside His power as God, because He thought to be equal to God not a thing to hold onto. In some ways, Paul’s explanation actually adds to the ambiguity and confusion. But he clears up the question of Yeshua’s deity in verses 9-11, by citing Isaiah 45,
“Therefore, also, God highly exalted [Yeshua] and gave to Him the Name that is above every name, so that at the Name of Yeshua, EVERY KNEE WILL BOW… AND EVERY TONGUE WILL CONFESS that Yeshua the Messiah is Adonai to the glory of God the Father.”
By ascribing to Yeshua what Isaiah says about Adonai, Paul is equating Yeshua’s name and authority with God’s, as well as affirming and asserting Yeshua’s oneness with God as Adonai (in whatever sense that mystery means). So, while maintaining the paradoxical tension between Yeshua’s humanity and deity, Paul implies here that Yeshua will share in the allegiance due only to Adonai, because He Himself is Adonai!
Scripture also speaks about Yeshua’s deity elsewhere, saying in Colossians 1:15 that He is “the image of the invisible God,” and in Hebrews 1:3 that Yeshua is “the exact imprint of [God’s] substantive existence.” But perhaps the boldest, clearest statement regarding Yeshua’s divine nature is said almost in passing in Colossians 2:9, saying that “in [Messiah] all the fullness of the Deity dwells bodily.” This, put so eloquently and succinctly, encapsulates the mystery. Somehow, someway, within the physical person that is the Messiah Yeshua, lives all the fullness of the Deity of Adonai. Though Yeshua is a man, having emptied Himself of that which made Him equal with God, He remains indwelt with the fullness of all who God is—reflecting God’s image, and bearing His exact, substantive imprint.
The Master Yeshua, then, is indeed God in the flesh. He is the Son of God, He is one with the Father, He is Adonai. And this is amazing and glorious not just because it’s true, but because as much as He is God—to whatever extent that unfathomable reality means—He is equally as much a man… a normal, flesh and blood human being, just like us.
But why would God need to enter humanity in this way? And how can Yeshua truly be just a man if He is also truly God?
What speaks most obviously to Yeshua’s humanity is the fact that He was literally born—He had parents, and His mother gave birth to Him. Yeshua’s genealogy, as preserved for us in Matthew 1 and Luke 3, trace His lineage through His father Yosef, all the way back to David, Abraham, and even to Adam. So unless these birth records are a fabrication, there is nothing to suggest that Yeshua isn’t actually and legitimately of Yosef’s physical line.
But what of Yeshua’s miraculous conception from the Holy Spirit (Mt. 1:20)? Does this not imply that His humanity is somehow different from ours? That He is not exactly like us? Well if that’s the case, then we have a big problem. Because not only would that make Him the greatest deceiver of all—having deliberately misrepresented Himself as a man in order to obscure His true, God-man super-human nature—but it would directly contradict 1 Yochanan 4:2, which says,
“In this you will know [the Spirit of God]: every [spirit] that professes Yeshua the Messiah having come in the flesh is of God.”
So, professing that Yeshua came in the flesh—meaning, that He was a human being—says that our spirit is “of God.” To deny Yeshua’s humanity is to demonstrate that our spirit is not of Him.
And while a few difficult passages might make Yeshua’s humanity seem somewhat ambiguous, there are numerous places where He is unambiguously and plainly referred to as a man. One of the best examples of this is in 1 Corinthians 15:20-22, where Paul is comparing Yeshua with Adam, the very first man. The comparison between the two—and the affirmation of Yeshua’s humanity—couldn’t be clearer. Paul says that just as death through sin came through a man, so also resurrection life comes through a man. Just as in the man, Adam, all die, so will all be made alive in the man, Messiah.
And this is why Yeshua needed to be a human being: to be able to stand before God as our legitimate representative, having experienced exactly what we experience. He “shared in [our] blood and flesh” (He. 2:14), He was “made like [us] in all things” (He. 2:17), He was “tempted in all things likewise as we are” (He. 4:15), and He even became “obedient to death” (Ph. 2:8). Only through a real, actual death, could He destroy the one who has the power of death, and deliver us from the slavery of sin. Yeshua needed to be a man “in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Ro. 8:3) in order to qualify as an appropriate sin offering that would condemn the sin in the flesh of men—once, and for all.
The Master Yeshua, according to the Scriptures, is neither half God and half man, nor is He a conjoined, superhuman “God-man,” but both and simultaneously fully human and fully God—each nature distinct, yet inseparable. And we need to believe this not simply because it’s true, or because it’s a non-negotiable fundamental of our faith, but because it’s a matter of salvation. When we don’t accept the truth of the Master’s dual nature, then we’re rejecting the Yeshua of the Bible, and therefore following a different Messiah. Because if Yeshua weren’t an actual man, then he couldn’t truly be our representative, able to genuinely sympathize with our weaknesses, and serve as our suitable, substitutionary sacrifice. But if He wasn’t also and equally God, then he could never pay the price to redeem everyone’s lives from death, something no mere man could ever do—only the man who is the Word… who is Yeshua… who is Adonai.
No man can redeem absolutely a brother—he cannot give to God his life-price. And costly is the ransom of their soul…. But God will redeem my soul from the hand of Sh’ol, for He will receive me. Selah. (T’hiliym 49:8-16, mjlt)
What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below!