10 Key Bible Verses on the Humanity of Jesus

This article is part of the Key Bible Verses series.

All commentary notes adapted from the ESV Study Bible.

1. John 1:14

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. Read More

ESV Study Bible Notes

The Word continues the opening words of the prologue in John 1:1. Became flesh does not mean the Word ceased being God; rather, the Word, who was God, also took on humanity (cf. Phil. 2:6–7). This is the most amazing event in all of history: the eternal, omnipotent, omnipresent, infinitely holy Son of God took on a human nature and lived among humanity as one who was both God and man at the same time, in one person. Dwelt among us means more literally “pitched his tent” (Gk. skēnoō), an allusion to God’s dwelling among the Israelites in the tabernacle (cf. Ex. 25:8–9; 33:7). In the past, God had manifested his presence to his people in the tabernacle and the temple. Now God takes up residence among his people in the incarnate Word, Jesus Christ (cf. John 1:17). Thus, the coming of Christ fulfills the OT symbolism for God’s dwelling with man in the tabernacle and the temple.

Later, through the Holy Spirit, Christ will make into a temple both the church (1 Cor. 3:16) and a Christian’s body (1 Cor. 6:19). The references to God’s glory refer back to OT passages narrating the manifestation of the presence and glory of God in theophanies (appearances of God), the tabernacle, or the temple (e.g., Ex. 33:22; Num. 14:10; Deut. 5:22). the only Son from the Father. Jesus is the “Son of God,” not in the sense of being created or born (see John 1:3), but in the sense of being a Son who is exactly like his Father in all attributes, and in the sense of having a Father-Son relationship with God the Father. The Greek word underlying “only,” monogenēs, means “one of a kind, unique,” as in the case of Isaac, who is called Abraham’s “one-of-a-kind” son in Heb. 11:17 (in contrast to Ishmael; cf. Gen. 22:2, 12, 16). Thus “only” is a better translation than “only begotten” (made familiar through its use in the KJV).

2. Hebrews 2:17–18

Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. Read More

ESV Study Bible Notes

had to be. Unless Jesus became fully human in every respect (except for sin), he could not represent believers as their high priest. like his brothers. Cf. vv. 11–12, emphasizing Jesus’ human nature. high priest. See also Heb. 3:1–2; Heb. 4:14–5:10; Heb. 6:19–20; Heb. 7:11–10:18; Heb. 13:8–13. Jesus must be human in order to serve as high priest on behalf of humanity. Propitiation (Gk. hilaskomai) conveys the sense of an atoning sacrifice that puts away sin and satisfies God’s wrath (cf. Deut. 21:8; Ps. 25:11; Ps. 65:3; Ps. 78:38; Ps. 79:9; Luke 18:13;).

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3. John 4:6

Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour. Read More

ESV Study Bible Notes

Jacob’s well. The probable location for this well lies in modern Nablus—known in the Roman period as Flavia Neapolis and called in the OT by the name Shechem. This well was once covered with vaulted stone and a Byzantine (4th–7th century A.D.) church. It is quite deep (as described in John 4;11), although measurements have varied over the years (possibly due to debris in the well). It was also at a juncture of major ancient roads and near the traditional sacred site of Joseph’s tomb.

The reference to Jesus being wearied … from his journey underscores his full humanity (see also John 11:35; John 19:28). Jesus’ human nature could be weak and tired, though his divine nature was omnipotent (cf. John 1:3, John 1:10). Sixth hour refers to noon, when it would have been hot and time to rest, and travelers would be thirsty.

4. Matthew 24:36

But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. Read More

ESV Study Bible Notes

In response to the disciples asking, “when will these things be?” (v. 3), Jesus says no one knows, not even … the Son, but the Father only. In his incarnate life, Jesus learned things as other human beings learn them (cf. Luke 2:52; Heb. 5:8). On the other hand, Jesus was also fully God, and, as God, he had infinite knowledge (cf. John 2:25; John 16:30; John 21:17). Here he is apparently speaking in terms of his human nature. This is similar to other statements about Jesus which could be true of his human nature only, and not of his divine nature (he grew and became strong, Luke 2:40; increased in stature, Luke 2:52; was about 30 years old, Luke 3:23; was weary, John 4:6; was thirsty, John 19:28; was hungry, Matt. 4:2; was crucified, 1 Cor. 2:8).

Taking account of these verses, together with many verses that affirm Christ’s deity, the Council of Chalcedon in A.D. 451 affirmed that Christ was “perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man.” Yet it also affirmed that Jesus was “one Person and one Subsistence.” With regard to the properties of his human nature and his divine nature, the Chalcedonian Creed affirmed that Christ was to be “acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved.” That meant the properties of deity and the properties of humanity were both preserved. How Jesus could have limited knowledge and yet know all things is difficult, and much remains a mystery, for nobody else has ever been both God and man. One possibility is that Jesus regularly lived on the basis of his human knowledge but could at any time call to mind anything from his infinite knowledge.

5. John 11:33–36

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” Read More

ESV Study Bible Notes

The Greek word underlying deeply moved, embrimaomai (elsewhere in the NT only in v. 38; Matt. 9:30 [“sternly warned”]; Mark 1:43 [“sternly charged”]; and Mark 14:5 [“scolded”]), means to feel something deeply and strongly. Jesus was moved with profound sorrow at the death of his friend and at the grief that his other friends had suffered. In addition, this sorrow was intermixed with anger at the evil of death (the final enemy; see 1 Cor. 15:26; Rev. 21:4), and also with a deep sense of awe at the power of God that was about to flow through him to triumph over death (in anticipation of his voice summoning the whole world to the resurrection on the last day). In his spirit does not refer to the Holy Spirit but to Jesus’ own human spirit.

Jesus wept. Jesus joins his friends’ sadness with heartfelt sorrow, yet underlying it is the knowledge that resurrection and joy will soon follow (cf. 1 Thess. 4:13). Jesus’ example shows that heartfelt mourning in the face of death does not indicate lack of faith but honest sorrow at the reality of suffering and death.

6. Matthew 4:1–11

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written,

      “‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
            but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,

      “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’
      “‘On their hands they will bear you up,
            lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,

      “‘You shall worship the Lord your God
            and him only shall you serve.’”

Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him. Read More

ESV Study Bible Notes

The temptations are a diabolical attempt to subvert God’s plan for human redemption by causing Jesus to fall into sin and disobedience, thus disqualifying him as the sinless Savior.

Jesus was led up by the Spirit. The Holy Spirit guided Jesus in his earthly life, providing a pattern for Jesus’ followers to be empowered and led by the Holy Spirit (cf. notes on Gal. 5:16; Gal. 5:17; Gal. 5:18).

fasting forty days and forty nights. Jesus’ experience of 40 days of fasting in the wilderness corresponds to Israel’s experience of 40 years of testing in the wilderness (Deut. 8:2–3). Jesus endured his testing victoriously and obediently. Moses also fasted and prayed for 40 days and nights on two occasions (Ex. 24:18; Ex. 34:28; Deut. 9:9, Deut. 9:11, Deut. 9:18, Deut. 9:25; Deut. 10:10; cf. Elijah in 1 Kings 19:8). Fasting was a means of focusing intently on prayer. Forty days is about the longest a human can fast without permanent bodily harm.

If you are the Son of God. Jesus, of course, was (and is) the Son of God, but he refused to be tricked by the devil into using his divine prerogatives to make the trial any easier for himself. Jesus obeyed as a man, as the representative for all who believe, so as to “fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15) on behalf of his people.

Then the devil left him. Jesus resisted the devil by standing firm on God’s Word, setting an example for his followers (cf. James 4:7; 1 Pet. 5:9). angels came and were ministering to him. Their ministering probably included much needed physical sustenance. All of heaven knew the significance of Jesus’ initial victory in this cosmic battle.

7. Philippians 2:5–11

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Read More

ESV Study Bible Notes

Emptied himself has occasioned much controversy. Greek kenoō can mean “empty, pour out” or also (metaphorically) “give up status and privilege.” Does this mean that Christ temporarily relinquished his divine attributes during his earthly ministry? This theory of Christ’s kenosis or “self-emptying” is not in accord with the context of Philippians or with early Christian theology. Paul is not saying that Christ became less than God or “gave up” some divine attributes; he is not even commenting directly on the question of whether Jesus was fully omnipotent or omniscient during his time on earth. Nor is he saying that Christ ever gave up being “in the form of God.” Rather, Paul is stressing that Christ, who had all the privileges that were rightly his as king of the universe, gave them up to become an ordinary Jewish baby bound for the cross. Christ “emptied himself” by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men (roughly equivalent phrases). While he had every right to stay comfortably where he was, in a position of power, his love drove him to a position of weakness for the sake of sinful mankind (cf. 2 Cor. 8:9, “though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich”). The “emptying” consisted of his becoming human, not of his giving up any part of his true deity.

It is remarkable enough that God the Son would take on human form (Gk. schēma, “outward appearance, form, shape,” a different term from morphē, used in vv. 6–7 for “form of God” and “form of a servant”) and thus enter into all the vicissitudes of a broken world. But Jesus went much farther, becoming obedient (cf. Rom. 5:19) to the point of death, even death on a cross. Crucifixion was not simply a convenient way of executing prisoners. It was the ultimate indignity, a public statement by Rome that the crucified one was beyond contempt. The excruciating physical pain was magnified by the degradation and humiliation. No other form of death, no matter how prolonged or physically agonizing, could match crucifixion as an absolute destruction of the person (see note on Matt. 27:35). It was the ultimate counterpoint to the divine majesty of the preexistent Christ, and thus was the ultimate expression of Christ’s obedience to the Father.

While Christ now bears the divine name Yahweh (“Lord”), he is still worshiped with his human name, Jesus, since it was in the flesh that he most clearly displayed his divine glory to the world. This astounding union of Jesus’ divine and human natures is reinforced by the allusion to Isa. 45:23 in the words every knee should bow … and every tongue confess, which in Isaiah refer exclusively to Yahweh (cf. Isa. 45:24: “Only in the LORD … are righteousness and strength”). The fact that these words can now be applied to God’s messianic agent—Jesus Christ is Lord—shows that Jesus is fully divine. But the worship of Jesus as Lord is not the final word of the hymn. Jesus’ exaltation also results in the glory of God the Father. This identical pattern is found in 1 Cor. 15:23–28: God gives Jesus messianic dominion over all creation, and everyone will one day rightly give praise to him as their Lord. But when his kingdom reaches its fullness, Jesus does not keep the glory for himself. Instead, “the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all” (1 Cor. 15:28). Even in his exaltation, Jesus remains the model of loving service to God.

8. 1 John 4:2–3

By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. Read More

ESV Study Bible Notes

By this you know: John establishes a doctrinal standard, specifically a Christological one, for testing spirits (see v. 1). If a spirit (or a person moved to speak by such a spirit) does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, that spirit or person is misleading God’s people. Apparently many false teachers were saying that Jesus only “appeared” to be human. This was probably based on a false idea that the material creation was inherently evil and therefore physical bodies were evil.

every spirit that does not confess Jesus. That is, whoever refuses to acknowledge that Jesus is God the Son, “who has come in the flesh” (v. 2). Anyone can talk about Jesus and even believe that he lived on earth, as other religions, cults, and philosophies often affirm. But unless such people affirm both the full deity and the full humanity of Jesus, they are not truly “confessing Jesus,” but, as John states in unequivocal terms, they are under the influence of the spirit of the antichrist.

9. 2 Corinthians 5:21

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. Read More

ESV Study Bible Notes

This verse is one of the most important in all of Scripture for understanding the meaning of the atonement and justification. Here we see that the one who knew no sin is Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 2:20) and that he (God) made him (Christ) to be sin (Gk. hamartia, “sin”). This means that God the Father made Christ to be regarded and treated as “sin” even though Christ himself never sinned (Heb. 4:15; cf. Gal. 3:13). Further, we see that God did this for our sake—that is, God regarded and treated “our” sin (the sin of all who would believe in Christ) as if our sin belonged not to us but to Christ himself. Thus Christ “died for all” (2 Cor. 5:14) and, as Peter wrote, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree” (1 Pet. 2:24). In becoming sin “for our sake,” Christ became our substitute—that is, Christ took our sin upon himself and, as our substitute, thereby bore the wrath of God (the punishment that we deserve) in our place (“for our sake”). Thus the technical term for this foundational doctrine of the Christian faith is the substitutionary atonement—that Christ has provided the atoning sacrifice as “our” substitute, for the sins of all who believe (cf. Rom. 3:23–25).

so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. This means that just as God imputed our sin and guilt to Christ (“he made him to be sin”) so God also imputes the righteousness of Christ—a righteousness that is not our own—to all who believe in Christ. Because Christ bore the sins of those who believe, God regards and treats believers as having the legal status of “righteousness” (Gk. dikaiosynē).

10. John 19:28–30

After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. Read More

ESV Study Bible Notes

The reference to Scripture being fulfilled builds on John 19:24, most likely in allusion to Ps. 69:21: “for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink” (cf. Matt. 27:34, 48; see also Ps. 22:15). The sour wine (Mark 15:36) Jesus is offered here was used by soldiers to quench their thirst and is different from the “wine mixed with myrrh,” a sedative that Jesus was offered (and refused) on the way to the cross (Mark 15:23). Hyssop was a plant classified in 1 Kings 4:33 as a simple shrub that could grow from the crack of a wall. It was used for the sprinkling of blood on the doorposts at the original Passover (Ex. 12:22).

Jesus received the sour wine, probably to moisten his parched throat in order to be able to proclaim a loud cry of triumph at the end of his suffering. It is finished proclaims that all the work the Father had sent him to accomplish (cf. John 4:34; John 9:4) was now completed, particularly his work of bearing the penalty for sins. This means there was no more penalty left to be paid for sins, for all Jesus’ suffering was “finished” (see Heb. 1:3; Heb. 9:11–12, Heb. 9:25–28). The term gave up, which emphasizes the voluntary nature of Jesus’ self-sacrifice (see notes on John 2:19; John 10:17), echoes the description of the death of the suffering servant in Isa. 53:12. His spirit does not mean the Holy Spirit but Jesus’ own human spirit, which he voluntarily released from his body that it might return to the presence of God the Father (see Luke 23:43, Luke 23:46). His spirit would remain in heaven with the Father until it returned to his body at his resurrection “on the first day of the week” (John 20:1).

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