Our Perfectly Human Hero

A long time ago, a baby came to earth, sent from above by his good father. He was given to a couple who weren't asking for him, and he was aware from a young age of his incredible power. As he entered manhood, he sought to use it for the good of humanity. 

He had an almost indestructible body, and ridiculous physical strength. His only nemesis—kryptonite. Clark Kent sure looked like a human, but in order to save us he actually had to be something more. He had to literally be Superman, his quasi-humanness a connection to us but also a pedestal lifting him above us. He continues to be an iconic hero in America and around the world.

We flock to superhero movies every year, sensing our human frailty, longing for someone awesome. For those of us with exposure to Christianity, we may think of Jesus as an ancient Jewish Clark Kent, a God wrapped in a better version of human skin here to save us. But what if the opposite is actually true: that Jesus came to earth fully humanly frail, because that was the only way to save us.

There are many places that communicate this, but Hebrews 2:5-18 depicts it clearly.

If comics assume that we need a hero, the Bible underlines and highlights it. But in the Scriptures, we’re not just the defenseless crowds of Metropolis—we’re also Lex Luthor wreaking all the damage. This is implied by the way Ps. 8 is used in Hebrews 2. Originally it was a poem about how God had given them responsibility to care for the whole world--in spite of how tiny and mortal we are. As God’s deputies, our job was to protect, cultivate, and rule Creation. Our glory would consist in joyfully fulfilling this role in right relationship with the one who made us. But sadly, that’s not what we’ve done. We’re wrecking the world that has been given to us.

Even worse, we’re wrecking ourselves, and each other. We find ourselves often overwhelmed by desires to do what God has forbidden: with anger that wants revenge, with lust that wants pleasure apart from sacrificial care, with greed that wants security over community flourishing. We find ourselves wounded by others, scarred. Sin is something in us, and something we do, and something that is done to us. We desperately need a hero. And that hero had to be human.

Why? First, God designed the world to be run by humans. He was showing something about his power and goodness: that if a frail thing like a man or a woman relied on God alone, that person would have what it took to rule justly. Second, the penalty of the failure was death, as is required of high treason. Humans had failed, and human death was required. You can’t pay a real debt with Monopoly money.

This is what Jesus came to do: to be the perfect God-trusting human, and to provide the human death justice required. So the author of Hebrews applies Ps. 8 now to him: he’s the one made a little lower than the angels, with everything in subjection under him. In the gospels, we see how Jesus gave up so many of his rights as God: his right to be everywhere at once, his right to perfect knowledge, his right to super-human strength. He lived as a human relying on the Holy Spirit, and he was always obedient. He didn’t cheat, he was tempted in every way. He really passed the test.

And then, of course, his death was real, because he was actually human. His flesh was able to bleed, and did. Able to feel pain, and did. Able to die, and did. As Hebrews 2:17 says, he was made perfect through suffering, perfect as in complete.

But the heart of Christianity is that Jesus isn’t dead. He is risen! He is risen indeed. And he lives forever—as a human. His time on earth changed him forever. He will always have a resurrected human body, forever identifying with us. Hebrews 2:11 says he is not ashamed to call us brothers. No, he is proud of us! He is glad to be ἐξ ἑνὸς πάντες with us, variously translated as having one source, one family, one Father.

Jesus is at God’s side now, as a human, serving us faithfully. Notice verse 17 describes him as our faithful high priest, which only a human can do, because a priest must be a representative. And touchingly, verse 18 states that is because he has experienced not just temptation but real human suffering in that temptation that he is able to help us. He gets it. He gets us.

When God created humanity, he had such glorious things for us in mind. We were made for greatness, but we threw it away. But God didn’t throw us away. We had dishonored him, and dishonored ourselves, but Jesus honored us by becoming one of us. He became the glorious, Spirit filled man so that we can become glorious, Spirit filled humans ourselves. He is our perfectly human hero.