A couple of weeks ago I preach on Mark 1:21-39, specifically highlighting that the gospel of Mark is giving us a picture of what a typical day would have been like for Jesus. I wanted us to remember that as much as Jesus was divine he was also human.
In the sermon I used Irenaeus' idea that in the incarnation Jesus accomplished the "work of recapitulation," which I said had to do with Jesus passing through ever stage of human life. This is important because it reminds us that salvation doesn't just come through Jesus' death and resurrection but also His birth. That God is with us in the flesh is a part of the salvation story that we tell.
Since then I have wanted to clarify this a little bit because I think I left some things out. Obviously no one can say it all in one sermon.
So, with the help of N.T. Wright, who I think says it about as clearly and concisely as anyone around (Brit's are so dang good at brevity!), I would like to add some clarification to the humanness of Jesus and His work of recapitulation.
And I am totally paraphrasing Wright so feel free to correct me in the comments with actual quotes.
Basically God has an "Adam" problem that He decides to fix through "Abraham." Adam symbolizes the entire human race and Abraham symbolized the chosen people of God (The Hebrew people, Israel). These are key people for Paul in the book of Romans. In Adam sin, death, and corruption have marked God's creation and it is through Abraham and his descendents that God decides to fix/redeem the creation.
God writes His character onto a particular people so that through them the whole world would once again bear God's image and share God's character. Abraham is called to be a blessing. This is about holiness and love. Through Abraham God would restore Adam, through the particular God would restore the whole. Some are elect but only for the sake of inclusion, not for the sake of exclusion. Election is for the life of the world. Remember that!
But along the way God begins to face an Abraham problem. His chosen people aren't faithful. Now God has two problems: He has a creation problem (Adam), in that His main goal is to restore the original intent for His creation, which is to bear God's image and to share in God's character, to keep and till the earth, to cultivate, create, build, produce, and govern this world as God's vicegerents (Wright's word). And now He has an Abraham problem in that the people who were supposed to be a microcosm of God's character (love, holiness, justice, peace, forgiveness, mercy) look and act just like everyone else in the world. The creation is still corrupt, marked by all kinds of Sin and death.
And not only that, God's own character is on the line because He has entered into a covenant with a particular people (Abraham, Israel) and they are not reflecting God's image/character very well. This begs the question that if they are not faithful then what does that say about God? How can we trust God?
So, in order to deal with these two problems, God comes to us in Jesus. Jesus fulfills the call of Abraham to be a blessing to the nations and in doing so fulfills the call of humanity to keep and till the earth, to bear God's image, to share in His character. Humans were to bear that image, not just the chosen people. But it was through the chosen people that God chose to restore His creation, and specifically humanity's capacity to bear the image of God. God wrote His character in small on Abraham (one small nation) so that it would spread to Adam (all other nations) and that this has happened in Jesus. Jesus was faithful as a Israelite and, thus, as a human, He bore the image of God, He shared in God's character, which means blessing for the life of the world.
So back to the sermon. This means that it's not enough to say that Jesus passed through every stage of human life. We can poke too many holes in that by saying, "but Jesus was a male, so what about females? Are they not saved because He didn't pass through every stage of life as a female?" Or, "He was Jewish so what about Americans?" Or "He never lived to be eight years old, so what about the elderly?" Recapitulation is not about making Jesus' existential experience of the world exactly like ours.
The idea of recapitulation is more about humanity's capacity once again to bear God's image once again, to share in God's character, to fulfill our call as governors of God's creation.
Of course, there is a whole other side to this regarding Jesus' divinity, which we also have to confess to be true.
But I wanted to make a point to saying something about the necessity of His humanity as it relates to the story of God we read in the bible. I hope this clarified some what I was trying to say in my sermon about the humanity of Jesus.