Seeing Jesus–>Following Jesus needs specifics. God has designed us to understand our lives through the senses God has given us–seeing, hearing, smelling, touching tasting. Jesus himself entered the world of human senses and felt human needs. Throughout the Gospel we find Jesus at tables dining with people. The Jesus at table showed us a number of things, but Jesus was at the table because he got hungry.
In the story about Jesus’s temptation (Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:12; Luke 4:1-13) both Matthew and Luke tell us that Jesus experienced hunger. It was in his state of hunger that the first temptation he experienced–the temptation to turn stones into bread–really was a temptation. If he were not hungry, it would not have been a temptation. It would have been a dare. Jesus lived a real human life. His sweat glands worked just like yours and mine. His taste buds sent the same signals to his brain that our taste buds sent to ours. He needed food and water to live.
One of the earliest challenges the early church faced came from a religious group called Gnostics. There were various Gnostic groups and their beliefs differed from one another, but among the things they believed most consistently had to do with the problems with human flesh and the physical world. They didn’t believe that a good God made the physical world. They didn’t believe that the true God would become human flesh. An early Christian writer named Irenaeus described the preaching of Saturnus–a Gnostic teacher–in the late Second Century. “Saturnus presented it as a truth that the Savior was without birth, without body, and without form” (quoted in A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs, p. 306). Irenaeus went on to explain that Saturnus had a radically different proclamation of the cross–that Jesus and Simon of Cyrene magically traded places and Simon died in place of Jesus, “while Jesus himself took the form of Simon and stood by and laughed at everyone” (DECB, 306). True Christian faith resisted the denial of Jesus’s physical incarnation then and must continue to resist it now.
Jesus was truly human and only a truly human Christ can empathize with us. Jesus was truly human and only a truly human Christ can reveal to us our ultimate goal and destiny as God’s people. In 1 John 4:3 we read, “Every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God.” The Jesus we encounter at the table is a physical human being who needed to eat. Matthew explained that when the devil had departed from Jesus, “angels came and attended him” (Matthew 4:11b). I hope they remembered to pack a lunch–Jesus needed to eat.