A Brief Reflection from Athanasius’ “On The Incarnation”

As Athanasius defines the nature of the kenosis (self-emptying) of Christ, he does so by interpreting its truth as paradox lived out in the God-man himself: “[Jesus] became visible through His works and revealed Himself as the Word of the Father, the Ruler and King of the whole creation.” Essentially, Athanasius defines the self-emptying of Christ as being an addition of human nature to his divine nature, rather than a subtraction (in degree) of divine nature to his human nature. Even as fully God, Jesus did all that a human being does and goes through in life. Jesus was born of a woman, just like every other human being in all of history. He partook of food and drink, as he needed for his very sustenance, just like you and I do. Jesus had need of sleep like each of us do everyday. And, even as fully man, Jesus did all that he did as God before he was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the virgin’s womb. While in Mary’s womb, Jesus demonstrated his Godness by knitting together his own body. As Jesus walked the earth and performed many mighty works, his body itself was a valuable instrument rather than a limitation. Aspects of the Godness of Jesus, theologians would categorize as attributes. For instance, as the God-man, Jesus displayed his omnipotent divinity as he performed the miracles of opening blind eyes, raising the dead to life, turning water into wine, feeding the five thousand, and more. He did all these such things while in his human body. Even as he slept, sat, or stood in one place, he displayed his omnipresent divinity as well as his omniscient divinity. While being with the woman at the well, he was also present (in another sense) with his disciples as they were getting food to eat. And so, as he also was with them, he knew what they were discussing with each other, as well as what each of them were thinking and feeling within themselves. During all his days, from conception in his mother’s womb to his crucifixion before going to the tomb, Jesus the God-man was governing, sustaining, containing, and giving life to all things as he pleased, without distraction or hesitation.

This Jesus, the God-man, deserves all honor and glory, forever and ever. Amen. Fairly recently, I heard a sermon in which the preacher said that Jesus did all that he did and was able to do, because the Holy Spirit was with him. He prefaced his message by saying that we often tend to emphasize the divinity of Jesus so much that we neglect to emphasize his humanity. I understood his concern. Yet, I came away wondering how could or should we even attempt to divide up the two natures of Jesus at all. I understand that Jesus as fully human who was anointed and helped by the third Person of the Trinity. Yet, I also understand that Jesus as indeed fully God who was anointed, and enjoyed the fellowship with the third Person of the Trinity. It even seems that when someone attempts to emphasize the nature of Jesus that is often neglected, they inevitably, and of course, inadvertently, fail to balance that neglect with a steady emphasis of the other nature, as well.

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